Asia boasts some of the most cost-friendly places in the world to call home. Pockets of India, Vietnam and Thailand can feel amazingly affordable to newcomers. Retirement in Asia is sure to be full of exotic experiences and unexpected adventures. For some people, the culture shock is thrilling and invigorating, while others might be intimidated by the cultural differences.
The best places to retire in Asia include:
— George Town, Malaysia
— Bali, Indonesia
— Da Nang, Vietnam
— Udagamandalam, India
— Chiang Mai, Thailand
— Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo
— Da Lat, Vietnam
— Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
— Hua Hin, Thailand
— Taipei, Taiwan
Retirees in Asia have access to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Here’s a look at 10 of the best retirement lifestyle options in Asia in 2019.
George Town, Malaysia
The Pearl of the Orient is one of Southeast Asia’s most livable destinations. Low costs are a big part of the appeal. Health care is excellent, foreigners are welcome and the country is safe and stable. Thanks to George Town’s colonial past, English is widely spoken. Life here is both traditional and 21st century, and the city is exotic and comfortable. Beyond the high-rise apartments of modern George Town is one of the best preserved old cities in Asia, and almost on the city’s doorstep are stylish seaside settlements with palm-fringed sandy beaches and a backdrop of lush rainforest.
Bali enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world. The jungle is lush, volcanoes rise into the clouds and terraced rice fields cascade down the valleys. Multi-tiered Balinese temples adorn even the smallest villages. The ocean, never far away, offers world class diving, surfing, snorkeling, parasailing and other water sports. In the city are bars, dancing, discotheques and dining options from excellent street food for a pittance to white glove and five-star experiences. On the southwest side of Bali is the small town of Sanur, an unpretentious suburb of the larger city of Denpasar. Quiet and laid-back, Sanur feels far removed from the crowds of tourists who flock to Bali for vacations and honeymoons. Sanur can be a top choice for indulging in a five-star luxury lifestyle on a three-star budget.
Da Nang, Vietnam
Vietnam’s third-largest city, Da Nang, manages to be forward-thinking and provincial at the same time. The roads and architecture are modern, but most of the businesses are still family run, with almost no big international brand names, fast-food joints or coffee shop chains to be found. This is a fast-moving city of skyscrapers, bridges and malls with a palpable entrepreneurial spirit, energy and enthusiasm.
Cool weather, wooded hills and plenty of freshwater prompted the establishment of a hill station, which served British officials as a summer resort during India’s colonial period. Udagamandalam’s natural beauty continues to draw visitors. Perched at 6,000 feet above sea level, the average temperature here is 58 degrees, a refreshing contrast to the rest of steamy southern India. The town is endowed with botanical and rose gardens, parks, lakes, a golf course and several historic buildings dating to the early 1800s. The best way to get the lay of the land is to take a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which slices through the surrounding hills and offers a glimpse of terraced tea estates and the strawberry, plum and peach cultivation the area is famous for. Udagamandalam, popularly known as Ooty, is a compelling option for a quiet hill country retirement on a small budget.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Since the 1800s, the Thai city of Chiang Mai has been luring expats from the west with its low cost of living, great weather, rich history and distinct culture. The heart of this city, founded in 1296, lies within its old city walls, where ancient and modern Buddhist temples coexist with residential and commercial neighborhoods. Modern Chiang Mai has grown beyond the ancient walls and offers mega malls, multinational grocery and department stores and other trappings of 21st century living. The biggest advantage of retirement in Chiang Mai is the low cost of living and affordable health care. A couple can live here comfortably on as little as $1,200 per month, and you can see an English-speaking doctor for $20. The biggest downside can be air pollution during the annual burning season, mid-February through mid-April, when local farmers burn their fields. Many expats travel outside the country during these months.
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo
Kota Kinabalu is one of the world’s most livable beach cities. KK, as it’s known, is safe, clean, peaceful and organized. The population of 800,000 enjoys access to every amenity, brand name, food variety and entertainment option you could want. KK is also lively, vibrant and modern. The biggest practical advantages are the affordable cost of living and the high standard of health care provided at a low cost. Kota Kinabalu is small, walkable and less than two miles from end to end. Life revolves around the water, and retirees can fill their days snorkeling, diving, boating and ferry hopping from the city center to neighboring islands.
Da Lat, Vietnam
Perched at 1,500 meters in the Lang Biang Plateau, Da Lat was discovered by 19th century French colonists seeking respite from the heat and humidity of city life in Vietnam. Da Lat is abundantly green, with lake views reminiscent of an Alpine ski town. The atmosphere is tranquil and contemplative. French bourgeois architecture was imported in the form of grand hotels, villas, rose gardens and churches to create a city that became known as Le Petit Paris, complete with its own miniature Eiffel Tower. Da Lat is popular among Vietnamese tourists, especially newlyweds. The city’s greatest appeal is its eternal spring climate, and temperatures average 62 degrees year-round. Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer of coffee, and much of this comes from the Central Highlands around Da Lat.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, in the heart of the Malaysian peninsula, is a city of contrasts. The shining stainless steel Petronas Towers, two of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, anchor a signature skyline. Air conditioned malls sell everything from handcrafted batik clothing to Tiffany jewelry. In the shadows of this ultramodern setting, less than a 20-minute walk from the city center, life in the ancient Malay village of Kampung Baru carries on as it has for centuries. Roosters roam freely and monkeys swing from tree to tree. Foreigners are genuinely welcomed in this former British colony. English is the language of commerce, required learning for all Malaysian children and the primary spoken language for many Malaysians. Health care is first rate, public transportation is state of the art and efficient and the tap water is safe to drink. Beautiful beaches are a short drive or flight away, and cool mountain retreats can be reached in less than an hour.
Hua Hin, Thailand
Hua Hin, stretched along a sheltered beach on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, has good year-round weather and a large foreign community. A retiree can afford a high standard of living, including days on the city’s golf courses and regular dinners out at first-class restaurants, on a modest budget. The standard of local medical care is good, and you’re less than three hours from Bangkok, which boasts some of the region’s top hospitals. Housing options include modern condos, beachfront homes and modern gated communities. The big foreign community connects through reading clubs, festivals, cycling clubs, soccer leagues, wine tastings and darts tournaments. Hua Hin is an inviting place to retire that is also the summer home of much of Thailand’s royal family.
Taiwan’s capital city is a hyper-efficient and high-tech Asian metropolis. The area is building a reputation for innovation in everything from its award-winning Mass Rapid Transit and light rail systems to the touchless technology found throughout its public spaces and its approaches to tackling environmental issues. At the same time, remnants of the past are everywhere. Architectural and cultural landmarks scattered around the city remind you of the island’s many phases of history. Taipei’s culture is best experienced though its cuisine. From night markets bustling with food stalls to high-end eateries, Taipei is a culinary wonderland that impresses even the most pretentious foodie. This safe, clean, well-organized and interesting city has all the appeal, infrastructure, amenities and comforts of the region’s A-list destinations like Singapore and Hong Kong — with one big difference. The cost of living in Taipei is within the reach of most retirement budgets.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group.
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