Turquoise waters lap the white-sand beach fringed with casuarina trees. There are no jet skis or banana boats here; just a few stand-up paddle boarders and a kayak or two. There’s not a beach lounger in sight, just some mats and towels strewn in the shade. The birds are singing in the trees and I’m lazily considering getting a massage in these idyllic surroundings.
I am on Nai Yang beach. This is a secret part of Thailand’s biggest island—Phuket—just off the southeast coast in the Andaman Sea. It has everything a tropical island should—diving, fishing, breathtaking scenery—it’s also big enough to boast five hospitals, dozens of seaside towns, and over 25 beaches ranging from the secluded to those bustling with tourists.
Around a sixth of the 600,000 people living on Phuket are expats from all over the globe. It’s also a hotspot for holidaying foreigners. The international airport has flights to just about anywhere in the world, including the U.S., England, Germany, and China.
This is exotic island living with all the familiar conveniences of home, making it an easy transition if you decide to retire here. Most of Phuket’s expats live on the western and southern portions of the island where the infrastructure is just like that of any Western country. And the best part of having it all here is that everything is ridiculously affordable. A general doctor’s visit is $8 and a dental cleaning is $12. A massage at an upscale spa is about $7. A movie ticket is only $4…
Dozens of white-sand beaches fringe the island…roaring waterfalls tumble down jagged rocks… national parks are a nature lover’s paradise…Taoist and Buddhist temples and Buddha statues are common…colorful local markets…award-winning golf courses (only $75 for 18 holes)…postcard-worthy lookout points… You’ll never be bored here.
If you feel like getting off Phuket, there are 32 other little islands at your doorstep to explore. Or just drive over the Sarasin Bridge to the mainland and check out the neighboring Phang Nga Province, where you’ll find some of the most exquisite landscape on earth. Phuket is the kind of island that’s big enough to explore and get off the beaten path, while still living in a well-trodden one.
Another of the benefits of moving to Phuket is that, while it’s tropical and exotic, it’s easy living. It’s not so different that you will have culture shock—and it has all the amenities you might need, which adds to its expat popularity.
Food is cheap, delicious, and there are plenty of international options. Rents are affordable even for those with a smaller budget—$585 per month will get you a two-bedroom townhouse in a quiet neighborhood. Couples report living well on around $2,265 a month.
If you want to party, it’s certainly an option here. Phuket is a pretty big place—220 square miles—so getting away from it all is easy; pull off the road towards the ocean and you can explore some small deserted cove. Rent a scooter and find a narrow dirt path to ride down and you’ll find a hidden temple, in all its gilded glory, at the end of it…
When you’ve worked up an appetite, the local cuisine is world-famous—and delicious. But, if you just want a steak or a cold beer with fellow English-speakers, that’s here for the taking too. There’s also fresh seafood markets where you can pick the local daily catch and have them grill it right there with a delicious ginger and lemongrass sauce. There’s also lots of restaurants and cafés to choose from, so when it comes to dining options, like everything else on offer in Phuket, you’ll be spoiled for choice…
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