The Huff Post 50 posted a blog article with the title “The world’s top 10 retirement havens for 2013”. In part 1 of the article it listed the top five places, and these are in order of ranking – Coronado, Panama; Languedoc, France; Ambergris, Belize; Cuenca, Ecuador; and Chiangmai, Thailand. It is the last-named place that caught my eye as I was then touring Chiangmai with some good friends.
Reasons for Huff Post to select Thailand in the fifth position include the cost of living as it is “arguably the cheapest place in the world to live well”, and health care “which is both very good and very cheap”. Chiangmai is the city of choice because it is already home to more than 17,000 foreign residents; it enjoys a more temperate climate than other parts of Thailand and is an area “rich in history with a distinctive culture”.
Chiangmai is an agreeable place
Chiangmai does indeed have a rich history. It was founded in 1296 as the new capital of the Lanna Kingdom, replacing Chiangrai. With the decline of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiangmai lost importance, was occupied by Burmese in 1556 and became formally part of Siam (the old name of Thailand) in 1775. Although Chiangmai people do speak Central Thai, among themselves they speak a Northern Thai dialect. Chiangmai is the hometown of Mr. Thaksin, the former Prime Minister of Thailand ousted in a coup in 2006 and whose younger sister, Ms. Yingluck, is the country’s current Prime Minister.
With regard to the cost of living, Chiangmai is like the rest of Thailand in that it offers a range of options. There are world-class hotels and restaurants that charge international prices and there are local facilities and services that are really cheap. And this is what makes Thailand an attractive country to visit and live in – there are so many choices. Chiangmai is full of flower parks and has many Buddhist temples (known in Thai as wats) the best known of which is Wat Phrathat, which is located at Doi Suthep, the main hill of the area. The chedi of this wat (see featured picture) is normally taken to be the symbol of Chiangmai.
Taking everything into account, I would agree with the Huff Post 50 that Chiangmai is one of the great retirement places in the world. It does offer a good climate and an agreeable lifestyle at affordable prices.
Retirement should not mean disengagement
What is bothering me, however, is the concept of retirement and the criteria for selecting retirement places. I appreciate the idea of living well on little money (according to the article – on a monthly budget of US$1,100 in Chiangmai), and being able to afford eating out and such leisure activities as golf. But the criteria for selecting these retirement havens tend to focus on an agreeable lifestyle at affordable prices. The assumption is that people would “retire” and do very little.
I wonder what places would be selected if another criterion ‘continued engagement and contribution to society’ were to be included in the selection process. Retirement should not mean disengagement with life and society.