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What it’s Really Like to Live a Part-time Retirement in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a Single Woman—International Living Australia

March 16, 2019 Lifestyle News No Comments Email Email

What it’s Really Like to Live a Part-time Retirement in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a Single Woman—International Living Australia

A new report from the editors of explores the enjoyment of having the best of both worlds in retirement—mixing part-time living between Australia and overseas in Thailand.


Jillian Ross, 67, has the best of both worlds. She splits the year between living it up in her apartment in Chiang Mai and her home in Melbourne where she indulges in the city’s cultural offerings. She rents out her home in Australia, when not there.

Sitting at a restaurant, in a top resort just a few blocks from her home, Jillian says, “Isn’t this gorgeous. The shade and the cool breeze, listening to the water feature and watching the river. It’s the perfect tropical experience.

“I live in Melbourne for six months each year and have a lovely lifestyle. It’s a great place, except for the cost of living,” she says. But when Jillian retired from her career in nursing, she realised she needed more in her life.

“Most of my long-term friends are younger and still working. I found making new friends my own age quite difficult in Australia.”

Jillian set off to look for a retirement destination outside of Australia. “I had been planning for several years to live six months each year in Thailand, originally on Koh Samui, but after a trial run there three years ago, I found it too boring. For me Koh Samui was great for a holiday but not to live, especially as a single, senior female.”

Jillian discovered housesitting as way to test drive her retirement destination and ended up doing a housesit in Chiang Mai in a suburb around 30-minutes’ drive out of the city. It was this housesit that changed her life completely.

“I was staying way out of town in Hang Dong and just for entertainment started researching real estate as it is one of my interests. Over the time I was in Chiang Mai I decided that it was a great place to live and condos are very affordable,” she says. “I then came across The Astra Condo complex in Changklan Road. So I bought one!”

This upmarket one-bedroom apartment cost $120,000 and is in a prime location close to the Old City and the Night Bazaar.

“It is like a 7-star hotel. It has luxurious, six-metre-high ceilings, exquisite decorations, funky chandeliers and beautiful designer velvety sofas,” she says. “It blows your mind with its gold paint and royal blue accents. It is totally over the top but lovely. And it was five times cheaper than an apartment in Melbourne.”

Although there is a $104 monthly strata fee, Jillian’s bills are inexpensive. “My electricity bill was $12 for this month and my water bill was $2.50.” Jillian’s friends back in Melbourne cannot believe it, especially when compared to their gas bills that go close to $500 in winter.

But the best news is that when Jillian is staying in Melbourne, she is renting out her apartment in Thailand for $1,250 per month, which she regards as very helpful pocket money.

As a single woman living it up in Chiang Mai, Jillian has found it very easy to make friends.

“What I have found is that people are more open. Partly because they have come for the same reasons: to establish new lives and new networks.

They are more social here and they extend a hand of friendship,” she says. Not only that, but Jillian keeps busy and packs a lot into her week. “I go to Thai language school every morning as a part of my social activities. I want basic communication with the Thai people as soon as possible.”

“I get massages, I’m involved in the Geeks Club, an IT group, which is predominantly male in its tone which is great as my world is mostly female. I’m in a scrabble club, I go to an expat ladies’ lunch and I also go to the expat club breakfast,” she says. “And a friend and I play mahjong. I’m thinking about making that group bigger and then that we can run it through the expats club.”

Experiencing a successful expat life takes a certain attitude. “I think it’s important to give and support the system,” says Jillian. “The more things that people offer, the more activities to become involved with.”

If you are thinking about Chiang Mai as a retirement destination, this is Jillian’s advice: “Come over for a visit for two or three months to give yourself time to see if you like what it offers. Get out and about, talk to lots of people and check out various areas to live.

“Think about renting for 12 months before buying. Thailand is very different to Australia and it’s not for everyone, but for those of us who can cope with its quirkiness, it’s a great change of lifestyle.”

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