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- Population: 92,477,857
- Capital City: Hanoi
- Climate: Tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)
- Time Zone: UTC+7
- Language: Vietnamese
- Country Code: +84
- Location: Southeast Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
In International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2015, we ranked and rated the 25 best retirement havens in the world. You can stretch your dollars in any of them and live better than you can back home—for less. But the ﬁve below offer the lowest cost of living and come out on top in the Cost of Living category in the Index.
Seven years ago, I sat in a sparkling high-rise in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, waiting to meet with the managing director and chief investment executive of VinaCapital, Andy Ho. From the window on the 17th floor, you could look out and see huge infrastructure and commercial real estate projects all over the city. “Have you ever been to Shanghai?” Andy asked. “We, too, are building a whole new city. When you come back in five years, you won’t recognize this place.” He was right. Consider the Bitexco Tower, the crowning glory of the Ho Chi Minh City skyline. It rises 68 stories and has a stunning observation deck cantilevered off the 49th floor. When I was looking out Andy’s window in VinaCapital’s Sun Wah Tower, it wasn’t there.
Orchids, roses, coffee, and vegetables grow in the valleys around. You’ll find high-end resorts and world-class golf, but the beating heart of the town is the Central Market where hawkers wearing conical non la hats sit beside tubs of live fish and crabs, or in front of tables loaded with pungent durian fruit, shoes, and clothing. An average temperature year-round of 57 F makes Dalat a tempting option for some expats, but for most, it’s a place to spend a bit of time exploring the hill villages and escaping the humidity and heat of the lowlands. If you choose to live here, then consider a place on the outskirts of town, which is a lot prettier than the center and makes for better views of the mountains.
Vietnam has plenty to offer expats, including some of the best beaches in Asia, an extremely warm and friendly population, low costs, wonderful weather, and cultural and natural splendor unsurpassed anywhere else in the region. From its colorful and energetic cities to its lush, tropical rainforests teeming with exotic plant and animal life, Vietnam has become a magnet for tourists and an exciting destination for adventurous expats. In this month’s cover story we guide you through some of the country’s most appealing destinations, reveal how incredibly affordable it is, and provide a quick guide to retiring here part-time…
It’s a tropical night. Families and friends throng the café terraces along the waterfront. Everyone can see the Dragon Bridge. It’s lit a brilliant orange and designed to look like a dragon flying across the Han River. If you turn up at 6 p.m. any evening, you’ll see fireworks pour from its mouth. Cross it and you’ll find neighborhoods where expats rent for as little as $400 a month just a few blocks from miles of sandy beaches. The city of Da Nang is my first experience of Vietnam. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I really didn’t expect what I found…
Imagine a morning walk that takes you along a winding path shaded by towering pines. Nestled in the woodland around you are homes with pleasant gardens, flower-filled pots and bougainvillea-draped walls. A few minutes is all it takes to reach the low-slung dunes. You pause on top to take in the view: 18 miles of brilliant golden sands fringing the warm tropical waters of the South China Sea. About 10 miles out are the Cham Islands, a biosphere reserve where you can dive on coral reefs and explore the ancient ruins of the Cham civilization.
For some, home is a place on a map or a house filled with memories and possessions. But for others, home is much more portable. Dan and Char Marshall are among a growing number of U.S. couples who have traded in a stationary retirement for one much more mobile and exotic. Semi-retired, they have been exploring South America for the last 11 months. In that time, they rented a car for seven weeks to explore Chile; trekked in Patagonia; lived and cruised for one month in the Galápagos; hiked over a mountain pass to Machu Picchu; taken kitesurfing lessons; swam with baby sea lions… and the list goes on.
The best estimate points to a world population several billion larger than today’s just a few decades from now—Earth may host 9.6 billion people in 2050, according to the United Nations. This population growth is all going to be a strain on Earth’s already stretched-thin resources. So how do you invest in a world like the future we seem to be hurtling toward? A world of rising population and increasingly scarce resources?
Semi-retired and up for adventure, my wife Char and I have been traveling in South America for the last 11 months. We’ve rented a car for seven weeks to explore Chile; trekked in Patagonia; lived and cruised for one month in the Galápagos; ridden horses into a remote valley similar to Yosemite; hiked over a mountain pass to Machu Picchu; attended a gaucho festival (cowboys showing off their stuff); explored a remote Peruvian jungle; hung out in a grass shack on a beach; learned to cook Peruvian food; taken kitesurfing lessons; swam with baby sea lions; and cheered at soccer games.
Nha Trang lies on southeastern Vietnam’s Nha Trang Bay, about 275 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a popular Vietnamese vacation destination, with more than four miles of beaches. And it’s home to 400,000 people, including hundreds of expats. The city has a tropical climate, with high temperatures ranging from 82 F to 91 F and lows in the high 60s F. Best of all, Nha Trang has a long dry season, which runs from January to August. It experiences its heaviest rainfall in October and November. Mountains surround three sides of the city, and a large island just off the coast shelters Nha Trang during heavy storms.
Affectionately nicknamed the “Rose of the North,” Chiang Mai is Thailand’s charmer; a laidback, yet vibrant, university city famous for its many Buddhist temples, culture and good food. The warm climate, low costs and excellent, modern infrastructure have attracted expats in big numbers, and that includes thousands of retirees from all over the world.
It’s impossible to keep Jo Thomson, 62, and her husband Marc Brand, 63, in one place for long. For them, living the “good life” means bouncing around the globe to hidden corners of the world that some of us only dream of visiting. For many years, they’ve had a particular interest in the delights and mysteries of Southeast Asia, and they’ve found a remarkable home base from which to explore the region: Nha Trang, Vietnam.
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, Steve Mueller didn’t have much exposure to Asian culture. Only after he moved to the Hawaiian island of Oahu to work in telecommunications was Steve exposed to the culture that came to fascinate him. “Moving to Hawaii was a shock, but in an intriguing way. I lived smack in the middle of Chinatown and loved trying all the food on offer.
I happen to think that I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world. Not only do I live in Malaysia, a beautiful country on so many levels, but also I love what I do. I travel at will, pretty much at the drop of a hat. I’ve enjoyed complimentary meals and hotel upgrades along the way.
Asia beckons for many reasons. Tropical islands with white-sand beaches, lush rain forests filled with fragrant blooms, tree-covered misty mountains, and—if you’re more a big-city type—some of the most frenetic cities on earth, a heady mix of the ultra-modern and exotic traditions.
In the U.S., there’s a simple reason why our medical bills are high: Going to the doctor costs more. Perceptive, I know. But it’s the truth. If we dump the unions, the politics, Medicare, government and any other hot button from our discussion, we’re left with the simple yet disturbing fact that Americans pay more for services than patients elsewhere around the world—even in similar “first world” economies. Lots more.
Thomas O’Neal had never been to Malaysia. In fact he hadn’t been anywhere in Asia, which made his sudden decision to move to the tropical island of Penang a brave one. “I figured that I’d take a chance and move lock, stock, and barrel. I could have just visited but where is the fun in that? After just a few months here I love it. It’s home for me now. New York has changed over the years and although I’ll always be a New Yorker I needed to travel.”
Thanks to the location independence my career provides, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of making a living from some truly amazing locations all over the world. Places like the top deck of a ferry crossing the Gulf of Thailand at sunrise…in the sleeping cabin of a night train on the way to Sapa, Vietnam…in a pub on Dublin’s Temple Bar…
One advantage of living in Europe is that cheap airfares make the rest of it so accessible. I’ve just got back home to Ireland after an unofficial three-day jaunt to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This tiny country holds the title for the highest per capita consumption of wine in the world, so there was a good reason to go bar-hopping.
Sunsets over the Seine, croissants on the terrace, and lunch or dinner at the corner brasserie…life in Paris is as good as it sounds, and you can try it out for a lot less than you think. Just ask the folks living a “roving retirement,” many of whom make the City of Light a yearly stop.
There’s always room for wealth creation. Despite the world’s economic woes, the number of people with $30 million or more in net assets rose by 5% globally last year. And according to the Frank Knight Wealth Report 2013, over the next 10 years there’ll be a 50% rise in the number of people breaking that barrier.
Southeast Asia is adventure travel at its most exotic. Each day brings new sights, smells, tastes, and experiences. Cultural encounters, too. The Bangkok taxi driver who asked to borrow my glasses (he thought they’d help his eyesight)…the former head-hunters of the Iban tribe who still live in traditional longhouses in Borneo…the sing-along with locals in a Filipino karaoke bar.
So there I was, on the back of a motorbike flying down the Vietnamese highway at nearly 80mph. On one side of me, the sun was setting over the distant jungle and vast Mekong river. On the other, farmers were clearing their rice paddies. Coming to Vietnam was one of my best decisions. Ever.
If you want to see real economic growth, get a taxi through Hanoi at rush hour. Every day, millions of residents of the Vietnamese capital weave their way through the city on newly-bought Chinese and Japanese motorbikes and scooters. Twenty years ago, bicycles were the main form of transport.
Vietnam might not be on most people’s list of ultimate travel destinations, but if my trip to the Southeast Asian nation was anything to go by—it should be. Amazingly friendly people…deep, colorful history…tropical climate, great value for your dollar—and there is an endless list of exotic things to see and do. One of my favorite stop-offs was the city of Hue (pronounced Way).
White sands, the scent of spices, the call of the east. Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines are so much more than exotic vacation spots. Enticing expats and retirees from around the globe, these fabled lands of South East Asia still beckon with the promise and rewards of an exciting life overseas.
Live Large for Less on The Exotic Islands of South-East Asia is the best resource available to help you get to know this paradise that is South-East Asia.
Even though I’ve been a freelance copywriter for over six years now, have lived and worked in over a dozen countries, and use words to make a full-time living, I fear I won’t be able to put into words what I recently saw with my own two eyes. I’ll fully admit it. Right now. That’s because, quite frankly, I’ve never, ever seen or experienced anything like I just did last month.
Greetings from Quito, Ecuador. In a few moments, I leave for the north coast. This is Ecuador’s nicest stretch of coast. We have the opportunity to buy lots here with monthly payments of $500 or less. Because of the new highway we’ll reach the coast by 9.30 a.m. or so. In time for morning ceviche on the beach.
I’m looking forward to seeing the improvements in the coastal highway that runs south to Canoa since I last visited. I’ll send you my full report soon on the infrastructure developments and improvements at the Jama Campay project.
In fact, while the year is winding down…my travel schedule and deal pipeline is filling up. These are exciting times.
Columbus landed in the Dominican Republic in 1492—the same year he “discovered” some of the other Caribbean islands. Like those other islands, the Dominican Republic is ringed by white sand beaches and coconut palms. Unspoiled towns boast stone churches and candy-colored home facades.
As much of the world pays attention to growth prospects in China, we identify another country that remains under most investors’ radars and yet is one of the best performers in terms of stock market gains.
Stand on a street corner in Hanoi and sooner or later a Mercedes-Benz, a Porsche or a Lexus will glide past. Twenty years ago, this place was all bicycles. Now it’s all scooters and imported cars.
What I’m about to say may sound overly simplistic. But as an investor you want to put your money where the growth is. And right now the growth is not in America. It’s overseas.
Investors who bought into the Chinese growth story early have done spectacularly well. Over the past five years the iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index (NYSE:FXI), an index that tracks China’s 25 largest companies available to international investors, is up almost 110%. Today, a “little China” has emerged. And it promises to make investors equally dazzling returns.
The big news this week is the bailout of Ireland by the European Union and the IMF. Ireland’s problem is straightforward: the liabilities of its banks exceed the assets of the state. Put simply, the country is broke.
A lot of folks are still confused about the direction of the markets. Nothing strange about that. These are confusing times.
Vietnam is a place that gets me excited. In the capital Hanoi, the sights, sounds and smells assault your senses all at once. Of all the cities in the 32 or more countries that I’ve traveled to, Hanoi is my top pick for a city trip.
Have you always wanted to go crazy with coriander? Or daydreamed of a love affair with limes, but never quite knew what to do with them? Find out more in this month’s Travel Press Talks…
“I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States of America, do declare that said national emergency still continues to exist and pursuant to said…”
The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist calls it an “emerging China.” Citigroup calls it “the New Powerhouse of Southeast Asia.” Major multinationals like Intel and Ford are lining up to invest: Vietnam is back on the world stage…this time for all the right reasons. Mention Vietnam today and, for Americans, it still stirs up painful […]
The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist calls it an “emerging China.” Citigroup calls it “the New Powerhouse of Southeast Asia.” Major multinationals like Intel and Ford are lining up to invest: Vietnam is back on the world stage…this time for all the right reasons.