If you are considering a life after work living in South East Asia, one of the key decisions is whether you choose a city or coastal lifestyle. Both bring a different, but equally exciting dimension to retirement living.
Many don’t want to leave behind the energy and variety of city living. We look to delve deeper into what you can expect choosing a vibrant city in South East Asia as your new home, whether it’s Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi or Singapore.
Retiring abroad gives an exciting opportunity to mix with different cultures and discover new experiences. There will naturally be times when a familiar taste of home will be welcome. Retirement villages offer a community of like-minded people that have similar, often international backgrounds and interests. In addition, cities across Asia have a significant range of expat social groups like Meetup.com. Some are based on nationality and others based on common activities like hiking, sports or theatre.
Many cities also have a network of private members clubs that cater for the expat community. Some may require an introduction from an existing member or simply annual fees. There are also extensions of international organisations and clubs like Rotary International, present in major Asian cities. Volunteer groups are also an excellent way to connect with other expats in your city and expand your network. Most of these groups and clubs are easily found online. Once joining a group there is no end to the number of new friends to meet and events to partake in.
Asia is a food lovers paradise at all ends of the spectrum, but most especially in its cities. While Tokyo has reigned supreme with the most Michelin starred restaurants over recent years, both Singapore and Hong Kong feature in the top 10 in 2019. Foodies have rated Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as food destinations for some time. More recently we have seen the emergence of the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam, as key contenders for exciting gastronomic experiences.
Street food is a key feature in all Asian cities. Food carts and markets are available most hours of the day and night. While many consider street food and food courts typical of cheaper, less sophisticated options, cities in Asia will turn that idea on its head. Individual vendors specialise in a couple of items and perfect them, often garnering a reputation in the process. Singapore saw the first Michelin star awarded to a street hawker in 2016. So there is lots of incentive to explore your culinary options both at and below street level.
The ingredients in South East Asia inspire many to take up cooking lessons and experiment with the vibrant flavours and spices so synonymous with the region. Lessons are widely available, but it’s always good to join a social group or get recommendations from other expats. This will ensure you get the real authentic experience and avoid tourist traps. If local flavours and spice is not to your liking, the cities offer a variety of cuisines to cater to every need. Selected supermarkets stock a wide range of products from other countries. You will inevitably be able to get your hands on HP sauce, Vegemite or Heinz ketchup alongside imported products, including fruit and vegetables, to complement the quality local produce.
Arts and culture
Asian cities are rich in religious, political and cultural history. This is evidenced across the region, giving lots of opportunity to indulge in your passions in each city with its unique perspective.
There are hundreds of exquisite galleries to explore, like the National Arts Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok and a variety of more quirky specialist spaces like the KULT Gallery in Singapore, which features street art and installations.
If history is more your style, hundreds of sites and museums tell the story of Asia’s local and international past. Visit the Battle Box in Singapore, located in a once secret bunker in WW11 or the Vietnam Military History Museum in Hanoi, to discover the experience of the first truly modern war.
The cities of South East Asia are a melting pot of religions with strong influence of Buddhism, Muslim and Christian beliefs driving daily life, rituals and holiday festivals depending on the country. Exploring your city will give a deep understanding of traditions and philosophy, with the opportunity to experience some of the most vibrant festivals in the world including the likes of Songkran, the world’s largest water fight.
The big cities see an endless stream of international music artists, theatre productions and lifestyle and trade events. Their large convention centres are often destinations for some of the world’s premier showcases. You will never be short of events to visit. Or if the desire takes you, join in the passion for dance, craft and art the region is so famous for.
One of the key benefits of being based in a major Asian city, is the exceptional access and transport links. Most have easy-to-use, cost effective public transport. Buses, trams, underground and trains link key areas of any city. Many Asian cities are very warm for much of the year, so walking may be limited in some places or at certain times of the year. App based taxi services are common, making language and payment discussions much simpler. Bicycles, motorbike taxis and tuk tuks are prevalent in many cities. They are highly convenient, if not a little adventurous, when needing to avoid the typical traffic jams.
The international airports are major hubs giving access to key cities across the globe. The proximity of countries in Asia provides endless opportunities for quick getaways to amazing sites and adventures. From anywhere in South East Asia, trips to explore the amazing temples of Angkor Wat, shop the world renowned Orchard Road, dive the pristine waters of the Similan islands or a visit to the bridge over the River Kwai, are just a couple of hours away.
If you are living in an Otium retirement village, they will look after your local transport needs through a regular shuttle service. They will also be able to assist with any plans to venture further out, to ensure you get the quality and value expected.
With the warm climate, outdoor activities and facilities are popular. The Asian cities host some of the key stops on the sporting circuits for triathlons, marathons and World Championships due to their world class facilities and hospitality. Enjoy such spectacles as the Singapore Grand Prix, the Rugby Sevens or participate in the Halong Bay Heritage Marathon.
The region is synonymous with health and wellness. There are plenty of opportunities to learn yoga, indulge in spa and beauty treatments or take a spiritual retreat. The cities are well placed and a weekend trip to some of the best beaches and holiday spots in the world call regularly.
City living in South East Asia has something for everyone. With large international communities and relative ease if you speak English, they offer a blend of unique cultured lifestyle experiences. Most of the services and products you could desire are available in the major cities. With exceptional weather, quality food and entertainment, world class facilities and endless items to tick off your bucket list, it’s easy to see why retiring to a city in South East Asia has its appeal.