Affordable Living and Laidback Atmosphere in Koh Phangan

Name: Brian Gruber
Age: 61
From: California
Living in: Koh Phangan, Thailand

“I love this island,” Brian Gruber says of his new tropical home. “I can be alone when I want to be, but have everything I need at my fingertips. I take regular yoga lessons, but can also enjoy more hedonistic pleasures. The reggae bar near my home has live music every Friday night, for example, or I can go to the west side of the island for a more upmarket meal.”

For Brian, home is the Thai island of Kho Phangan, a place of golden-sand beaches, tropical rainforest—and highly affordable living.

“Rents start at around $200 for a simple bungalow and go all the way up to $1,500 for an upmarket apartment or condominium,” he says. “You can buy street food for $1.50, but I prefer to eat in restaurants. In general, lunches cost me around $3 and dinner around $4. That includes delicious vegan or vegetarian food.

“I went out to dinner with friends the last time I was in California. The bill came to $100 each. Here on Kho Phangan, I can eat just as well for around $10, and that’s at an expensive restaurant.”

Kho Phangan is just half an hour by ferry from one of Thailand’s most popular tourist islands, Kho Samui. In terms of lifestyle, it is half a world away. A smaller island, it still has all the amenities Brian wants. “It has kind of a hippie vibe,”

Brian says. “The laidback atmosphere is infectious.”

That’s not to say Brian doesn’t still lead an active lifestyle. He loves to go swimming in the warm, clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand, and he continues to work. He holds workshops, does consulting work, and is conducting a writing workshop with another author who lives on the island.

Before the move, Brian enjoyed a successful media career. As his 60th birthday approached, he started thinking about a sea change. “I decided to take a chance and do what I wanted to do,” he says. This involved traveling to South America, the Middle East, and across Asia doing research for a book. His last stop was in Cambodia. Then he remembered an island off Thailand he had visited six years previously.

This led to his return to Kho Phangan. He hasn’t looked back.

“Here on Kho Phangan, I have more freedom than I would have in the States,”

Brian says. “I’m free to go swimming when I like and free to pursue work that is interesting to me. I’m also free to go out for lunch and dinner every day.

“I loved the life I had, but it was time for fresh exploration and experience, and I have little interest in returning to my past cycle of high stress, high expenses, in an intensely money-focused culture.”

What’s next for Brian? He is considering getting a retirement visa but is holding off for now. His current visa expires every three months, and he’s still not sure he wants to stay in Thailand indefinitely. “It’s not the only slice of paradise in Southeast Asia,” he says. “But for now, it’s my slice of Southeast Asian paradise.”

Editors Note: Thailand offers some of Southeast Asia’s best retirement spots, from vibrant university cities like Chiang Mai to beach-town paradises like Koh Phangan. And all at an affordable price…you can rent an ocean-view bungalow for $225 and on a budget of just $1,800 a month—just $59 a day—a couple can live quite comfortably. Find your perfect spot in “The Land of Smiles” as well as everything you need to know to start your overseas adventure there in our jam-packed report Amazing Thailand: How To Enjoy a Luxury Retirement for Less In “The Land Of Smiles.”