It’s not the usual destination to live as a millennial expat. In Thailand, you can generally expect a crowd of backpackers, honeymooners, families, or really (really) old expats.
We’re 24 & 34.
A couple keeping that Australia-New Zealand partnership strong.
We met in Sydney, Australia (my home), where we lived and worked in the inner-city and lower North Shore.
We, still, are at a time in our lives where adventure is high on the priority list. Corporate life, we’ve been there, we’ve done that, and it’s not for us.
Our ten-year age gap may confuse some, but for us, it’s pretty clear that we operate on the same wavelength.
Thailand… but why? I get it. I asked (my now) fiance the same question. I wanted Vietnam, it captured my heart in 2012 and the way of life seemed more my speed. Plus, cafe-heaven.
The more and more we talked about it, I couldn’t let my partner’s dream to train Muay Thai just slip.
We didn’t just leap into life in Thailand. First, we travelled from Sydney, Australia to my fiance’s hometown (and our future home) of Wellington, New Zealand. We spent a month there, ate way too much cheese, drank in craft beer pubs almost everyday, and played with our niece and nephews until we were well and truly exhausted.
Then, we stuffed our lives into two 20kg Kathmandu backpacks to spend a few (expensive) days in Singapore before travelling by bus to Malaysia where the digital nomad life really begun.
From Malaysia, we saw Sri Lanka for the first time. The trains, the bridges, the wildlife, the beaches. We loved it.
For my Christmas present, my fiance booked us in for a 14 day trek to Everest Base Camp, Nepal. Umm… what? Yeah, not my idea of a holiday. But, here’s a spoiler alert: it changed my freakin’ life in more ways than one, although that’s a story for another day.
By the end of that, we were ready for Thailand. Oh so ready.
So… back to the why. I’m comparing our lives here, to our lives back in Sydney, and you may get a sense of why we packed up our entire existence to spend 6 months in Phuket, Thailand.
Rent in Thailand
If you didn’t already know, Phuket is the most expensive part of Thailand, but even then, it’s nothing compared to Sydney.
Sure, we could have battled the way of life up in Chiang Mai or Pai to save a few dollars, but Phuket was calling for one reason: Muay Thai.
Still, the rent was remarkably cheap here. And yes, it’s cheaper to rent through an apartment than it is to simply board through your gym or guesthouses.
Let’s put this in perspective. In Sydney, we lived in Redfern. A now much-gentrified suburb of inner-Sydney, but it’s got a bad rep… and during the weekday, it’s kinda sketchy. But for us, we loved the vibe and how close it is to the city. Oh and that ‘bad rep’ means that rent is cheaper than other parts of the city that are literally 500m-1km away.
We’ll take the grit & the grime of the 2016 over the ‘posher’ suburbs and their hiked up price tags.
The numbers. So, in Redfern, we lived in a split-level one-bedroom, one-bath apartment. We had two balconies, but our bedroom was right on the main road (i.e. I didn’t sleep for two years). No natural light. No actual bathtub. The kitchen blended into the living room, but not in a good way.
We paid ~$475 per week, excluding bills. Around $2,000 a month.
In Phuket, we have a one-bed, one-bath again. This time, it’s furnished. Kitchen is smaller, but somewhat more functional. But we NEVER cook here (see below). The building has 24/7 security. An incredible POOL. Oh, and we don’t have tiles, which I hate with a fiery passion. We have one tiny balcony, but a view of the Big Buddha (a Phuket must-see travel attraction).
We pay ~14,000 baht per month, including electricity and water. Around AUD$600. That’s $150 per week for two people. We paid that in board at my parent’s house. So yeah, it rules.
Food in Thailand
We don’t cook in Thailand, which I miss, but also the cost of food in the supermarket is so high you’d have a heart attack if you come from Sydney.
All the vegetables are pre-packaged. ALL OF THEM. Unless you’re at a market, of course. In the supermarket, you can’t just get a tomato or a capsicum without 3 others and handing over the equivalent of AUD$10. It’s absurd.
What you can do though, is head to a cafe (even a Western cafe), and grab a huge feed for around $4-$8 for two. Some of the cheaper, Thai-run places, can serve you an instant coffee and a bowl of muesli and poached eggs on toast for around $3. Steal.
Lifestyle in Thailand
Chalong, where we live in here in Phuket, has a base of an incredibly health-focused community. Mainly due to the Muay Thai gyms, as it’s a popular one-month holiday destination for fitness junkies. On ‘the Soi’ (meaning street in Thai), you can find everything you can in Surry Hills in Sydney. Fresh juices (at $2-3, rather than $9+), avocado on toast, chia seed protein shakes, vegan pancakes… whatever you fancy health-wise, they’ve got it.
We LOVE living a healthy lifestyle, but in Sydney, it’s barely convenient when the cafes are expensive and so are the health food stores (I’m looking at you, About Life).
Healthy, to us, in Sydney is tofu, beans and vegetables. Simple, delicious and wholesome. In Thailand, we can go out for sweet potato vegan pancakes every morning and not even be close to breaking the budget.
Besides the food factor, we have access to a fitness community that is inspiring and encouraging. You can regularly be training next to a UFC fighter in a weights class, or kicking the pads with a Muay Thai-known master. Pretty cool.
Beaches. We live on the east coast of Phuket. A short drive south and we’re at Nai Harn (my favourite beach in Phuket), or if we continue around the island, we’ve got Kata Noi, Kata, Karon, and even Patong, on display.
After finishing a session around 3.30pm, with the sun still out, we can jump on our scooter and zoom around for a beach dip.
Which brings me to motor-travel… in Sydney, I don’t drive. In fact, I’ve never driven a car. Why? Well besides cars being a big hunk of gas-guzzling junk (I’m sure I’ll change my mind one day), they’re completely unnecessary with Sydney’s public transport system. It’s far from perfect, but I could get from A to B with a swipe of my Opal card pretty easily.
In Phuket, we rent a scooter that means we can bypass traffic and see so much more of the island than we could if we were renting a car. If you come to Phuket, don’t rent a car. You won’t get anywhere.
Travel in South East Asia
Being in such close proximity to the rest of South East Asia, and with visa rules, we’ve had the ability to see more of Asia. Quick trips to KL are always fun, and seeing Vietnam again was a blast. And, we’re SO close to home.
In June-July, I was really missing life in Sydney, which may seem contradictory to this post, but you can’t replace friends and family overseas. I was able to book a direct 8 hour flight back to Sydney for a few weeks for under $250 and fly back when I felt ‘ready’. It’s such a great place to live when home really isn’t too far away. Basically, it doesn’t take 24 hours and all your money to see your family if you need.
The Wrap Up
If you’re thinking of packing up your life and moving to ANYWHERE in SE Asia, here’s why you definitely should:
▽ Cheaper rent and more bang-for-your-buck
▽ You never have to cook again
▽ A healthy lifestyle is much easier to lead
▽ Access to beaches and new travel destinations
▽ Zooming around on a scooter, without the hassle of traffic
▽ Home is on your doorstep, should you want / need to go home
Go out and live your dreams (in Phuket, Thailand).