- Real Estate
Buying a 'Piece of Paradise' in Tropical Asia
The Bungalow, Garden and Pool
2 homes in Paradise!
Having two homes in a tropical paradise must be most peoples’ idea of heaven, but it’s not if you've got no money!
My husband and I had dreamed for many years of retiring to a tropical paradiso somewhere in Asia but never thought we’d end up with two dream homes, neither of which we could sell when we needed the capital! You would think that somewhere out there someone else would also want a ‘piece of Paradise’ wouldn’t you………………………..?
We’d spent many happy holidays dreaming that one day we would be able to live in an exotic setting. Sri Lanka was always our favorite destination for holidays, followed closely by Thailand. Eventually our decision was made for us when the Sri Lankan government stopped allocating residency permits to foreign nationals. So our searches turned to this beautiful country of Thailand and we duly sent out scouts to reconnoitre the land from north to south, east to west, finally pulling up in a tiny hamlet some 25 miles south of Pattaya and 4 miles from the beautiful Gulf of Siam (or Gulf of Thailand as it’s now unromantically called). The holiday dream had finally become a reality and we descended upon these hallowed shores in 2006, closely followed by all of our worldly goods packed tightly in a Hapag Lloyd container. We’d bade a fond farewell to dear old England, cold weather, work and a our family without a backward glance. We were going to live the life!
The transition was incredibly smooth and we drifted gently into a blissful, dreamy, hedonistic life without a care in the world. We had all the money we needed, a house that was paid for and a way of life that was not extravagant, but was certainly not to be compared with what we’d left behind. Bliss at every turn. And this part I’m definitely not underestimating. It’s nothing short of breathtaking to be able to live in perpetual sunshine with the most divine food, fantastic friends and neighbours, extraordinary scenery, fresh clean air, a marvelous garden and a magic swimming pool, to name just a few of the rewards of choosing Thailand.
The downside came through listening to too many good peoples’ advice. We’re not exactly naive youngsters but we were initially persuaded after buying our original home, to buy the piece of land in front of it, for a host of good reasons:
‘Make your money work for you’.
No-one can build in front of you and obscure your lovely view of the lake’.
Oh, I’d love a pound for every exhortation we received on that theme! But ‘Caveat Emptor’ dear friends, caveat emptor !!! We bought the land initially so that we could have a large garden – I’m a passionate gardener and for years had proudly grown my own veggies and fruit in England. It was easy. But my dismal efforts in the tropics proved frustrating to say the least and once again, the good people came forward with ‘sound’ advice:
‘Waste of time growing your own veg, you can buy them at quarter the price in every local market’.
And this proved to be very true, the up side being the freshness of everything and the very fact that it is all grown locally. Because these good people live on the very minimum they also are not going to waste good money on expensive chemicals, so you know that even if your veg and fruit have a tinge of chemicals they’re very, very diluted. People actually go out and pick the caterpillars and insects off by hand. This is their livelihood.
So, we now have a quarter acre plot growing abundant weeds at the most brisk rate!
‘Make that land work for you! Don’t just leave it there doing nothing’. Our mentor astutely suggested.
‘What do you suggest then?’ we dutifully asked.
‘Build another house, it'll make you a nice little profit!'
So we did.
And it didn't!!
It was very exciting watching all the details from conception through the architect and onto planning. Then came the build itself! Wow! Derek had worked for a construction company for many years before they went into farming and he went back to his original work. There’s not a lot he doesn’t know about the business – in England that is! Bit different in Thailand. No Health and Safety regulations to hinder you for a start. Should one of your workers accidentally fall off the scaffolding 20 metres off the ground and kill himself, the maximum you’ll pay in compensation is around £3,000. The fact that he’s got no safety equipment and is up there in flip-flops is neither here nor there. And its no good supplying the equipment – they’ll have sold it within the hour!
We watched the footings go in; the concrete being poured; the steel reinforcement going into the concrete; the brickwork; the pipework; the electricity etc, etc. And we watched in amazement as many of the heavily clad people turned out to be women! And they work alongside the men without hesitation. Many of the workers proved to be husband and wife teams and the most delightful people ever. They lived in temporary accommodation on the farm at the back of our house, so we got to know them really well, and still keep in contact with a few, which is a great source of pleasure for us. Most of them are from farming families in the north of Thailand and come south for 10 months of the year for the construction work in order to support their extended families. In November they go home to take in the rice harvest and plant for next year. Most have children who stay with their Grandparents – an idyllic way of life for the kids. I speak as one who was brought up by my adoring Grandmother and I think I had the best of all worlds. I’m a great advocate of Grandparents bringing up the grand-children. Much more patience for a start………………… but that’s another happy story for another day.
The building finally emerged like a
beautiful butterfly from its chrysalis.
We were so proud of it. The roof
architecture has taken in a lot of the traditional Thai background and must
have been a nightmare to sort out. The
interior has large open rooms with 3 large bedrooms and shower rooms. The large English fitted kitchen has the most
delightful view across to the temple mountain and from the lounge / dining room
the airy windows reveal more mountains, trees and the lake. The swimming pool is a pleasure and the whole is within its own walled garden.
We had so much fun when we furnished the place and landscaped the garden. I’d never had a clean slate to work from before and treasured each and every moment spent placing palms, fruit trees, shrubs and flowers. And later, garden ornaments and patios.
What more could anyone wish for but this most beautiful of homes we fondly thought.
In the first year we certainly did have many, many viewers, but these were generated from the passing public reading our sign on the garden wall, not by the seven estate agents we’d placed it with, or the adverts we placed in the golfing and sailing magazines, and newspapers in the UK. By 2008 the recession had bitten deeply, and the political situation in Thailand capped any thoughts of European, Antipodean, South African, American or any other people wanting to buy. We were saddled with the upkeep of 2 homes, 2 large gardens and 2 swimming pools. Hard work? Ask my long suffering husband!
But despair not dear readers. One day at our gate we found a pair of happy Germans looking for a countryside retreat to rent. They’ve now been in residence for 18 months and love the place as much as we do. But we so wished that they would have considered buying the place. That apparently is not the Continental way of life, they rent, full stop!
So, from a tale of woe has come many wonderful and unexpected delights, starting with the lovely builder Vichai who gave us so many excellent workers and friends; to the architect whom we’ve been able to pass on other work to; to our delightful German neighbours who’s love and care of the place is evident.
But to sell the beautiful place is our ultimate goal!
No-one could have foreseen the dreadful recession which has seen our pension reduced by 40%. We should have been more upbeat about the internal politics of Thailand though – how many coups in the last 60 years? Something like 25 methinks. But with little violence – the Thais are essentially a peace-loving nation and would rather get on with their lives without too much aggravation. Hence, foreign people are not prepared to part with their hard earned cash if the country is seen to be so unstable. Sadly, that is not the case, and where we live you truly would never know what is happening in Bangkok unless you followed the news closely. We have family living in Bangkok and many friends across the country who all say the same – the whole situation is invariably spiced up by the media to make a good story. And we have to live with it!
Trying to be inventive about raising some capital this year has now seen my dear Old Fellow Derek returning home to the UK for three months to fill the coffers a little by working. He is as I write, just finishing three and a half months of contract harvesting for a local Wiltshire farmer, and although he's really enjoying the experience, he's not entirely sure this was what his retirement should have been……………………………
So, if there are any good people out there
that read this sorry tale, and who would love a home in paradise, please let us
know. We’d be delighted to sell it to
you – bungalow, garden, swimming pool and local resident dog. And excellent neighbours of course!!!