Adventures in Smartphone Shopping

October 12, 2017

My electronic retail experiences in Thailand have usually had some combination of random weirdness, salespeople lying blatantly, after carefully checking the features of a display model being told there is no more stock except the display model, etc. I wasn’t looking forward to buying a new phone.

On day 2 in Portugal, I managed to step on the earbud cord while moving self and phone from chair to bed. Earbuds survived, the headphone jack hasn’t worked since. Knew the phone I wanted was current version of my mute 2 year old phone. Knew I wanted a warranty valid in Thailand, so waited until jet lag wore off before buying one in Hua Hin.

Samsung made it difficult (with tongue in cheek). Where once there was one model, now there are four variations: Core, Prime, Pro, Plus (say that fast 3 times). Samsung’s website price for the Pro was 10,900 THB (~330 USD), but a promotion for the month of October dropped it to 9,900 (~300 USD). All the stores I checked had the 10,900 price, except 1 of the 2 official Samsung stores. I was wary because the 9,900 price was on a sign at the shop entrance, while the display model was the only one that didn’t have a price tag. First thing I did was ask. Answer was 8,900 (~270 USD). I didn’t understand. Didn’t have to because I’ve long since learned the meaning of the common expat one size fits all explanatory phrase: ‘This is Thailand’.

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2016: What a Wonderful Year

January 2, 2017

When deciding when to begin early retirement, a major concern was not running out of money before taking the long dirt nap. The flip side was running out of time, physical or mental capabilities with enough bank left to have done or bought things earlier if I hadn’t been concerned about running out of money before taking the long dirt nap. That’s circular. No worries. It motivates me to just get on with things.

The best part of last year was my heart attack wasn’t fatal. The adventure started at 2:30 one morning in June with the cliche of waking up with my chest in a vice. Banged on a neighbors door for a ride to the ER where they stabilized me before a 135 mile lights and siren ambulance ride to Bangkok. Ever been wheeled straight from an ambulance into a surgery where a squad started working the moment the gurney came to a stop? It was both a major relief and, upon later reflection, concern why they needed so many people. Five subsequent nights in the Cardiac ICU gave me a clue.

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They discharged me on the 11th day with instructions that included exercise. I obeyed.

Ten weeks later it was no big deal to do 3 miles in an hour without rests. That’s been my personal standard for minimum level of fitness for decades. That got boring, so I shortened the walk and added trips up, across, down and back over a pedestrian bridge. Built up to 20 minutes with 2 up and downs on each end before crossing. Yesterday for the first time since June, I did the hill I’ve always used before travel to get in shape for – wait for it – stairs and hills. My rule of thumb has been I’m ready when 5 laps is an effort but not unpleasant or a problem. Yesterday 3 laps met that standard. Could have done more but was concerned about sore muscles (my glutes hurt today). I’ll be ready for the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb(1) in March.

As for the money end of things, it’s great. The Social Security administration deposited my first benefit payment 3 days ago. IRA balance is 117% higher than retirement at the end of 2008 during the global economic shit storm. The non-IRA account, which had to last until I could access the IRA without penalty in 2014, should last until the end of 2017, despite some spending this year on expensive stuff I didn’t need. Details in the upcoming annual Cost of Living post.

Haven’t looked at my bucket list for years. Now seems like a good time.

(1) Top of the bridge is 440 feet above the water. Said to be a nice view. It would be fun. Then I saw the price. IS THIS SOME KIND OF JOKE?! Well… I could afford it. Then I realized it’s high adventure for some people, and thus worth it. I’ve been to 11,800′ in a hang glider, so the price-to-wow ratio of the bridge climb is unappealing. Even without that experience, I doubt I would have done it because cameras are not allowed.

 


It’s a nice day for a light wetting

April 15, 2016

If I only had a waterproof camera…

Yesterday in Hua Hin was the first and only day of public celebration of Songkran. Privately, Thais join their families in a celebration that involves water. Publicly, people throw it at each other. Like most expats, I did it once. Enjoyed the fun, didn’t like the malicious aggressiveness of packs of drunk young males.

This year I went out in the morning, stopping to be a target for the kids standing in front of their homes and shops while some adult kept watch over them. A few were mystified why I didn’t try to avoid, others happily flung and squirted water.

Approaching one shophouse, I could see a little girl, maybe a yard tall (I call them yardlings), while near her was a bucket with a lump. That lump was a boy’s head. He was small enough to sit in a bucket that came up to just below his shoulders, in water up to his ribs. Armed with a bowl about 4 inches across, he was so excited his first throw missed. I moved closer. Frantic now, his second effort was in line but aimed too low. I squatted, his third fling hit home. His joyful reaction was priceless. So were the smiles on mom and dad.


My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2015

January 20, 2016

The tl;dr version: 1) Cost living of depends on how one lives (duh), so long explanation below, 2) Many costs are steady across the last 3 years, except 3) Spending spikes are explained, 4) I’m living well within my means, and 5) I like spreadsheets,

Values shown are average cost per month in US dollars at the then current exchange rate.

2015 Cost of Living for Blog

The bold values in the graph show I splurged on travel in 2013, Camera and lenses in 2014 and Income taxes in 2015. How are taxes a splurge? I made a Roth IRA conversion for 2 reason. One was my beneficiary will have more options after receiving a Roth IRA than a regular one. Shoulda also done it last year, but so it goes.

Categories with notable cost swings were Medical and Shelter (rent). Besides varying need for medical care, I changed insurance, and, of course, premiums increase with age. The higher cost of Shelter in 2013 and 2015 was from staying 3 months in Chiang Mai while still paying rent in Hua Hin.

A frequent question on expat forums is how much does it cost to live there. Including a lifestyle description with such a question usually gets better answers because the only meaningful answer depends on how one want to live. One should also ask the expats in different towns because costs may vary substantially. There is easily a 50% difference in Thailand between the cost of living in areas with non-trivial sized expat populations.

Before I retired my lifestyle included far fewer toys, gadgets, upgrades, alcohol, expensive entertainments and luxuries then my peers. Except for my splurges, such a lifestyle fits right in with many of the pension drawing single men here.

At my age, 61, medical costs add up. I’m insured by a French firm for 100% hospitalization in Thailand and 7 other SE Asia countries. Out patient care is out of pocket. For stays of less than 7 weeks* outside that area, it covers urgent care 100% both in and out-patient. Meds for 3 chronic conditions runs about $20 a month.

Hua Hin is one of the most expensive places to live a western style life in Thailand. I have a BIG furnished studio apartment with A/C and hot water. One could rent an unfurnished 2 story row house for less than I’m paying.

About 40% of meals come from one or more of the markets: Super, fresh (Thai), and the expensive place with foreign imports for those with a monkey on their back and just can’t live without Oreos, certain brands of cheese or beer, etc. The rest of the meals range from vendor stands to places frequented by those here on a golfing budget. About once a week I eat in the tourist district, usually for my favorite eggs-based breakfast.

It would have cost me much less if I’d purchased a motorbike instead of having a monthly rental. I rented because of the hassles of ownership, because I could afford to, and it allowed putting off the big hurdle of getting a license until I decide to stay here. I now have a license and know I’m not going to stay in Thailand year around, so I continue to rent.

I Run the A/C at 27C (80.6F) from one hour before going to bed until I awake. During the hottest months of the year A/C is often on at 29C (84F) in the mid to late afternoon, until it’s cooler to go outside or open the balcony and windows. Hot water for shower use is just enough to prevent initial shock during the hot months, most of the time in winter. Both of these temps are one degree lower than past years. Don’t know if the thermostat has a problem, I’m less heat tolerant, or it’s just trading money for more comfort.

Entertainment is nerdy or low cost: Photography, photo editing, learning more about both photography and photo editing, being an internet omnivore, walking on the beach, exercise, hanging out over coffee or watching sports that I’m not interested in bars while conversing with blokes who show signs of intelligent life.


Bombings and Increased Security

August 19, 2015

Well that was a surprise. It will be interesting to see who’s responsible.

The first site is 200 feet from the Skytrain line I use most often when in Bangkok, but far from a station. The other is a pedestrian bridge I crossed on my only visit to a camera store. Never had a reason to return.

The only mall in Hua Hin has plenty of CCTV cameras but they added one in time for opening this morning. Now after entering the parking garage, motorbikes are funneled into a narrow passage barely 1 bike wide. Walking speed should ensure a good image. Those wearing helmets must remove them. I’ve read but haven’t seen that cars entering must open their trunks. Men with mirrors on wands check the car’s underside.

I’d planned to visit the US Embassy before my Sept. trip for their notary* service. Four of the cities on my trip (Vienna, Ljubljana, Zagreb and Budapest) have US Embassies. Visiting any of them would be easier than going to Bangkok. Safer too?

*In Hua Hin there is no problem finding a lawyer who is also Public Notary. The form will go to a government office in the US. It requires the Embassy notary.


The Best Part of the Rainy Season

August 13, 2015

Guess what time it rained:

Cha-am is the nearest town to Hua Hin.


I’ve Never Seen This Flavor Instant Ramen

July 31, 2015

Last week, while looking for the instant ramen brand and flavor I like, something small and green on the bottom shelf caught my eye. Not just any green …



Green Curry green. Whoo hoo! I love green curry but stopped eating it after developing chronic stomach acid issues. By controlling how much curry powder goes in, it’s been no problem. Not the greatest tasting green curry, but I’ve had worse.

The many instant ramen flavor varieties include all the best known Thai dishes, or at least the ones that translate well into noodles and broth. Ramen is one of the foods I keep stocked for rainy days. For some reason the pork flavored ones go best with canned fish, though maybe that’s because I never use more than 1/4 of any flavoring packet, then drain most of the broth before eating.