Test-Driving a Hua Hin Retirement…Rent Free

At the end of 2015, my wife Jacqueline and I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We planned to spend a good chunk of the year exploring our new hometown and making the most of the great climate, friendly locals and easy access to fresh, vegan-friendly food. We also knew that the low cost of living in Chiang Mai would allow us to save enough money to spend a few months of the year travelling.

Then an email from International Living gave us the inside-track on housesitting, the perfect way to eliminate our accommodation costs as we explored new destinations. From there, our travel plans really took off.

Our first stop was Hua Hin, on Thailand’s southern coast. As we settled into a beautiful, private, three bedroom, two bathroom property, set amongst tropical gardens, we knew we were on to a winner. A magnificent pool and pavilion with an outdoor kitchen area completed the dreamy picture. The house was in a secure, gated community and just 10 minutes from the heart of downtown Hua Hin with its lively mix of restaurants, bars and markets.

We were sharing our Hua Hin home with six cats and would start our day getting breakfast for them and then ourselves. The cooler morning temperatures made it the perfect time to sit by the pool and bask in the gentle sunlight…and occasionally pinch ourselves, hardly believing where we were!

We’d potter about in the garden, sweeping up the leaves, watering pot plants and keeping the pool clear but any more onerous tasks were taken care of by the regular cleaners and gardeners. The biggest decision we had to make each day was whether we would spend the day soaking up the sun relaxing by the pool or would we explore somewhere new on the scooter (provided by our hosts) or perhaps savour lunch at a local seaside restaurant…or all of the above…

The royal resort town of Hua Hin is just three hours’ drive south of Bangkok on the Gulf Coast and somewhere we had always wanted to visit, having learned of its glowing reputation as an expat friendly location. One of the reasons we were so keen to travel was to explore possible locations to retire to long-term and Hua Hin was high on our list. And here we were, checking it out in style without having to pay a cent for our accommodation.

We explored the town and its beach and took some time to find hidden coves away from the tourist trail with rustic cafes nearby, where we would sit under colourful umbrellas with a cool drink and tuck into a delicious local curry or Pad Thai for just a few dollars.

We also took a trip to Wat Huay Mongkol temple, a complex featuring lush greenery, a lake, waterfalls, streams, bridges and gilded pavilions. Located 15 kilometres west of Hua Hin, it’s also home to an enormous statue of one of Thailand’s most revered monks, Luang Phor Thuad. Sitting serenely atop a huge mound, the statue is 12 metres tall and 10 meters wide and attracts people from all walks of life who come to pay respect to Luang Phor Thuad and to ask for blessings of good luck, health, fortune and happiness.

Returning to our welcoming Hua Hin home at the end of a day’s sightseeing, and knowing it wasn’t costing us a cent to enjoy it, Jacqueline and I certainly felt fortune had smiled upon us. And, having discovered housesitting and all the opportunity it brings, we knew the adventure was only just beginning. Next stop…Hong Kong…

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