J.D. Gruen had never lived by the sea, but when he first set foot in the Thai resort town of Ao Nang he knew a retirement by the water was what he wanted. “I love it here,” says 70-year-old J.D. “I prefer small-town life. Even though there’s busy tourist areas here it’s still friendly and everything I need is within reach: supermarkets, computer shops, electrical shops and good Western and Thai restaurants.”
Lying about 780 kilometres south of the country’s capital, Bangkok, Ao Nang, in southern Thailand’s Krabi province, is a beauty, from its limestone karsts stretching into the sky to its sparkling clear ocean.
“Ao Nang’s not dwarfed by skyscrapers or packed with crowds. The tallest building here can’t be more than seven storeys,” says J.D. “And it’s not fast-paced like Pattaya or Phuket either. Life is laidback here—just the way I like it.”
Having retired from the computer industry, J.D was looking for a more affordable spot to call home. “My biggest motivator for retiring abroad was the cost of living back home,” he says. “It’s just too expensive.”
Here in Thailand, J.D. lives comfortably on $2,276 a month, which includes his rent. “This is not bare-bones living,” says J.D. “Western food at the supermarket can be costly, so it’s best to go to the local markets that have just about every vegetable or herb that you could want. The seafood is so fresh it often crawls and wiggles.”
He has taken the time to learn a little Thai and it has paid off. “Learning the basics is not overly difficult with just a little effort,” says J.D. “The Thai people appreciate any effort you make to learn their language and culture. And when you make a Thai laugh, they are your friend forever.” Many of the area’s locals call him “Lung Joe” or “Uncle Joe”, an indication of just how welcoming Thais truly can be.
J.D. spends his Sunday mornings volunteering with Trash Heroes, a big group of locals and expats who clean up the area’s beaches. It’s not just a great way to meet people; it’s also a group that does a lot of good for the local environment.
“To me, one of the best parts of living here is being free from all the bureaucratic nuttiness and layers of regulations and ordinances that make life so confining and sterile back home,” says JD.
“Here, no one is on my front porch telling me that I cannot plant a bush or paint my house a certain colour. I’m retired and living well on my income; I can breathe freely and live a better life.”