Thailand a pleasant place for retirees

Thailand has been ranked No 9 on the World's Top 10 Retirement Havens for 2013. The low cost of living and value entertainment spending has lead to this achievement, although it has scored low in special benefits for retirees.

Published in the International Living Magazine, the annual retirement index is based on information gathered from expatriates and is reached taking several issues into account, including the cost of living, health, climate, real estate, special benefits, retirement infrastructure, entertainment and amenities.

"We considered a vast range of data points, from the average humidity to the cost of a taxi. And keeping costs in mind, we examine real estate prices, rentals and utilities like water, electricity, and cable TV. We looked at costs for groceries, eating out, even specific medical procedures. We also take into account discounts given to retirees on travel, taxes and entertainment. This includes flights back to the retirees' home country," stated the magazine on its website.

According to the Thai Tourism Department of the Tourism and Sports Ministry, about 2,000 tourists applied for a long-stay visa (valid for a year) last year, up from 1,775 the year before. Most of them were European and Japanese tourists.

The ministry also plans to expand the targetted group of long-stay tourists to cover Chinese and Korean by offering more information and directional signs in their languages.

Eligible applicants who want to apply for the non-immigrant (O-A type) visa must be over the age of 50 and not have the intention to work in Thailand. They must also have at least 800,000 baht in a bank account for at least three months or a monthly income not less than 65,000 baht, a medical certification and a letter of no-criminal record verification.

Visit www.mfa.go.th/main/en/services/123/15385-Non-Immigrant-Visa-%22O-A%22-(Long-Stay).html.

Malaysia is the only Southeast Asian country to make the list, coming in at No 3.

Ecuador ranked numero uno, on account of its pleasant climate, which offers mild and spring-like weather all year round, best valued real estate, a national healthcare system and monthly spending as low as $900 (27,000 baht), excluding rental fees.

The second country is Panama, which scored high for its friendly people and weather. The fourth country is Mexico followed by Costa Rica, Uruguay, Colombia, Spain and Malta.

Cherry flowers in full bloom

The road leading to Doi Inthanon National Park is dotted in pink with Wild Himalayan cherry flowers in full bloom, a little later than usual. Normally, the cherry blossoms bloom close to New Year's Eve. Highway 1009 leading to Doi Inthanon is lined with the cherry blossoms.

More pink flowers in bloom can be seen at Khun Wang by the end of

January. Khun Wang Agricultural Research Station is on highway 1284, 16km from the headquarters of Doi Inthanon National Park. The photo was taken in early January at Inthanon Lady's Slipper Orchid Conservation Project on Highway 1284.

In the mood for love

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) plans to promote Thailand as a romance destination during the month of love.

From February 1 to 28, honeymoon couples or lovers who will land at Suvarnabhumi International Airport will receive gifts, as well as a new guidebook showing 14 romantic destinations in the Kingdom.

TAT will join hands with the Airports of Thailand to open a fast track lane (normally reserved for business and first class passengers) for couples, while special booths and gimmicks will be set up at the airport for lovers to take pictures and learn more about romantic packages in the country.

The campaign is expected to attract 10% more tourists compared to the 1.8 million visitors in February last year.

New hotel on the beach

Starwood will open Vana Belle in Koh Samui on January 20.

Located on Chaweng Noi Beach, Vana Belle features 80 suites and villas with private terrace and pool for each room. Also provided are spa, fitness centre, outdoor pool, complimentary wi-fi and a retail shop.

According to the hotel, 'Vana Belle' means beautiful forest, which is also the hotel's concept. It uses a verdant landscaping of lush greenery to make the hotel look lively and to offer privacy for guests.

To mark the opening, Vana Belle is offering an Escape into Luxury package including daily breakfast, a 2,000 baht credit for dining in the resort each day of stay, and double Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest program. Rates start from 18,000 baht a night.

Visit www.luxurycollection.com/vanabelle.


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