I saw a little article on MSN titled “Retire overseas on $1,200 a month”. I always like to read this type of article mostly to see what is used as criteria for deciding a location is a good place to retire. This piece was mostly about decent places to live that would be affordable if you are receiving a monthly $1200 check from social security.
Chiang Mai was the second city on the author’s list. As she said, it’s a city that has been discovered by thousands of expats. Whether that makes it a good choice is a matter of opinion (I don’t like it) but if you want lots of services tailored to expats (read overpriced) then you might go for it.
In small fluff pieces like this you can’t expect a lot of detail so I won’t pick on it much for overlooking the awful truth about Chiang Mai air quality, which is that dry season burning by villagers and farmers results in a choking haze of smoke trapped in the valley where Chiang Mai is located. During those months the air quality is worse than the much larger and more polluted Bangkok.
But the author should get the basic facts straight. Chiang Mai is not the second largest city in Thailand as she says, at least not by population. It is around number 5 or number 7, depending on which year population estimate you use. Even if you discount the cities close to Bangkok as really just Bangkok suburbs you still have Udon Thani, Chonburi and Korat well ahead of Chiang Mai in size.
I thought Penang, Malaysia was an interesting choice. Urban Malaysia is definitely ahead of Thailand when it comes to technology and infrastructure. But mentioning Malaysia as a medical tourism destination without mentioning Thailand which is far and away the leader in this part of the world is a rather glaring oversight. The author says that Malaysia is also determined to become a “first world” country by 2020. That wouldn’t be good news for retirees since that means costs will rise to first world levels as well.