Exploring expenses in Phuket…Only a few more stories from our cruise/tour on the Viking Mekong River Cruise…

There was enough food here to last a week.  Check out the amazing total cost below!

As we live in many countries throughout the world its impossible not to imagine what it might be like to live permanently in the particular country as a retiree. Are prices reasonable? 

Check out the size of the fish and steak portions. Tom was craving peanuts adding a few packages to the stash.  The brats in the bottom right of the photo are gluten, grain and sugar free.

Is good health care available? How are food prices both at the markets and dining out? Are prices for housing and utilities affordable for those on a fixed income? Fuel prices? Vehicle ownership? Insurance? Satellite or cable TV and Wi-Fi? It goes on and on, the usual expenses for daily living for those who settle in one location must bear on a daily basis.

 Using this app to convert the Thai baht (THB) 3,803.25, we discovered we’d only spent US $109.38.  We were shocked to say the least. (See the photos of everything we purchased).

For many seniors living in an assisted living facility, nursing homes and certain senior complexes, many of these expenses are factored into an often outrageous monthly rate.

Our cost of living observations begins the day we arrive in any new location and continue through the day we depart. Unfortunately, the rent we pay for a vacation home is not necessarily a good barometer for rents one may pay as a permanent resident. 

We purchase so many items, it took several photos to include all of it.

Vacation homes often include all the above expenses, except food and transportation and, may include some form of household help as is the case here in Rawai, Phuket with cleaners coming twice a week to clean and change the bedding and towels.

Free range eggs, beef and celery rounded out our purchases. 

In most locations, our first exposure to the cost of living is when we shop for groceries. However, we aren’t necessarily educated on our first foray to a grocery store when on that first occasion we usually spend as much as 50% more than when we’ll shop in future weeks to replenish our food supply.

The fresh produce department is packed with locally caught treasures at reasonable prices.

That first trip includes staples such as laundry soap, sink soap, bar soap, paper products, insect repellent, cleaning supplies and other household goods we may seldom replace during the one, two or three month stay.

Looks like Sam’s or Costco, doesn’t it?

Its the second grocery shopping trip, usually a week after we’s arrived when we’ve become more familiar with locally available products that we can shop, as you do, for weekly groceries getting a better perspective of what it would be like as an expat or retiree.

Row after row of frozen foods.  We don’t buy much in the way of frozen foods when most contain additives.

When two days ago, we walked into Makro Food Service store, located within minutes of the vacation rental, we knew we were in the right place.  As we perused the aisles, starting with the produce department, we immediately began loading up our cart. 

Little neck clams. 

Typically, Tom pushes the trolley while I select the items. When we’ve found everything on our list in the produce department, he brings all of it to the weighing station to be priced and receive a sticker.  It’s an efficient system we’ve mastered over these past years. 

We weren’t able to determine which type of seafood this might be.

In our old lives he rarely grocery shopped with me. When we were still eating fruit (5 years ago) he thought watermelon was US $.09 if including a page of Holiday gas station stamps. When we started shopping together after leaving the US, he was shocked at what he thought was high prices while I was excited to see how much less groceries are in other countries.

Squid, yet to be cleaned.

Over these past almost four years, he’s become familiar with some prices, but not as I have with my innate fascination with food and its pricing. As we made our way through the Costco-like aisles and with our growing grasp of the Thai baht (THB 1000 equal US $28.75) as opposed to the US dollar, I was pleasantly surprised over the prices.

(Photos from this point are those from the Mekong River cruise/tour, although the Phuket story continues on).

The sign as we approached the brick factory by sampan boat.

We tossed every item from our lengthy weekly grocery list (on an app on my phone) into the trolley after first deciding on our meals for the week based on availability and quality of a variety of protein sources. 

Upon entering the brick factory we had to walk over planks and rough terrain. Once inside it was an easier walk.

Generally, we don’t allow prices to dictate our purchases. Only consuming one meal a day plus an evening cheese plate snack, we find we can choose almost anything that strikes our fancy and stay well within our monthly food budget.

Most of the employees in the brick factory are women.

We’d include the entire receipt from Makro but its written in the Thai language which uses special characters that aren’t easily translated.  Instead, for today’s purposes, we’ve included a photo of the total on the amount charged to our credit card when we checked out.

It was toasty inside the factory especially this close to a kiln.

When Tom placed all the loose items in the trunk of the car, I used my phone’s app to calculate the total bill, shocked by how little we spent for the amount we’d purchased. I even went as far as counting all the items when we got “home” thinking they must have not charged us for half the items. 

Rice as shown here is used in the brick making process.  It was very dusty as we toured the facility.

The receipt was indeed accurate prompting us to take photos of the items we purchased before putting everything away to share with you today. How could we not share this? This isn’t the first time we’ve done this, nor will it be the last. 

We couldn’t imagine the hard work required of these employees in such a heavy duty and hot environment.

Are we going to experience “price shock” when we visit the US in a little over nine months? It’s entirely possible when at that point we’ll have been gone for almost five years.

First the kiln is filled with the clay bricks and the kiln is sealed.  Then the fire is started to maintain the heat.  Depending on the size of the kiln, it can takes weeks for the bricks to cure.

Could a retiree or expat live comfortably in a country like Thailand? It’s too soon for us to make such an assessment but we did see many people from all over the world shopping at the market, hearing a variety of languages and dialects that indicated our presence in this village is not so unique after all.

Our guide let us enter inside a still warm kiln.

It appears the produce is pesticide free based on the insects I’m encountering when washing each item (using the bottled water only). The steak Tom had last night definitely was grass fed (we’ve learned to detect the difference in grain fed as opposed to grass fed beef). My salmon fillet was fresh and moist and couldn’t have tasted better. 

Tom took this photo of the vent at the center top of the kiln.

Tonight, Tom will have freshly cooked steak again and I’ll have yellow fin tuna. Our sides will include a huge salad with homemade dressing, fresh whole sautéed portabella mushrooms, buttered green beans and hard boiled eggs, a perfect meal by our standards. More on cost of living in Phuket as we experience more during the next month…

Neatly stacked tiles ready to be transported.

As we continue to wind down our Mekong River cruise/tour, today we’re including photos (sorry that they’re interspersed with Phuket photos above) from what proved to be an interesting visit to a brick making factory in Sa Dec. Situated on the banks of the river, we arrived by sampan boat and walked up an easy ramp to the property. 

As much as a variety of brick making supplies were littered about the facility, it was very organized.

We still have a few more stories to share over the next several days.  Looking forward to continuing to see our loyal reader/friends here each day. 

Our sampan was waiting for us to finish the tour of the facility and moved the boat close to the shore so we could take off once again.

Enjoy the weekend as we roll into August.

Photo from one year ago today, July 30, 2015:

This enormous Banyan Tree in Port Douglas, Australia reminded us of the tree across the street from our condo in Honolulu. For more photos, please click here.

Comments and responses Exploring expenses in Phuket…Only a few more stories from our cruise/tour on the Viking Mekong River Cruise…

  1. worldwidewaftage Reply

    Tom here,

    When I want to compare prices I check out McDonalds, Marlboros, Courvoisier, gas/fuel, and donuts.

  2. Jessica Reply

    Honey, that's a guy thing! Hahahaha. Please don't consider the Malboros but an occasional McD, donut and Courvoisier are fine with me!

    Lots of love,

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