And especially why Northern Thailand.
To be clear, ending up living in Thailand for nearly fifteen years was for me more the outcome of random events than the culmination of a well executed plan.
No country is perfect in every respect and Thailand has of course its own set of problems, I am talking from the perspective of a foreigner who has settled here. This is just my personal experience and I don’t expect everyone to agree 100%.
The people are very welcoming to new arrivals, especially to those who show a basic understanding of Thai culture and do not try to impose their own values on them, they are very tolerant and resourceful. There are marked differences of course, like in any country, depending on people’s education and background, so some awareness of who we are talking to is very helpful.
The landscape is very varied, from the stunning karst formations and crystal clear waters of Phang Nga Bay, the endless rice fields of Eastern Thailand, to the mountainous tropical rainforests of the northern provinces, there is something for almost everyone.
The climate is very warm most of the year, but this means that food grows in abundance, no heating is required and accommodation can be made comfortable without great expense. One of the reasons I am keen on agroforestry for example is because thick shade alleviates the need for airconditioning to a very large extent.
Building regulation is light, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Anyone with his own land is free to build pretty much anything with not more than two floors without any interference from the local authorities.
Money still goes a longer way in Thailand than in more developed countries, even if things are not as cheap as they have been in the past. Life outside of downtown Bangkok can still be made to be quite inexpensive. As foreigners who don’t officially work here, we are not of interest to the tax authorities, outside of visa obligations and the odd traffic fine. It is still possible to use mainly cash, and it is easy to keep money outside of the banking system.
Farmland is not cheap anymore but, because of the absence of a winter season, it is much more productive and therefore less is needed to support a family who wants to be independent and grow most of their own food. One’s hands would be very full with an acre or so.
Northern Thailand is where most Thais would like to retire to, apart from a few smoky hot weeks in March, the heat and humidity is not as overwhelming as further south. It is a mountainous region, so cooler weather can be found easily and water is plentiful even in the dry season in most places. The North has a reputation for a slow pace of life and the Lanna culture is still alive and well.