Asia . Cheap ? Not bloody likely.

In the quest for on-going employment I have had to seriously  consider whether we actually stay here in Cambodia and continue to battle cyclical retrenchments or whether as a family we make a break for new pastures and better opportunities for everyone. One thing I do better than anyone is network and my recent efforts have turned up very real career opportunities in Singapore,Laos,Myanmar and Vietnam. The first thing I have done as each possibility has presented is jump on Google and research a few basic fundamentals that I would need to take into account before any decisions were made. I use a pretty simple group of indicators : Income Tax. Rent. Cost / Quality of education and health cover,cost of a case of Beer. ease / cost of owning a car,choices for weekend leisure and can we take the dog?.

If I absolutely must leave my beloved Cambodia to avoid ending up a crawling the kerb like a pathetic, grizzled and bitter old English teacher working for minimum wage, the countries I think I would like to relocate to first to last and the basic reasons are these ;

1. Myanmar; Being touted the next big land of SEA Opportunity, those that can get in there and start working and networking should reap the benefits longer term. Everyone I know who lives in Cambodia and has been there raves about Myanmar and says its like Cambodia used to be before the development took over and ” I would move there tomorrow if something came up”. Ashamed Disclaimer; I have never been there.

2. Singapore: OK so this choice might shock a few people. Whilst everyone I know who lives in Cambodia and has been there says “Singapore? Shoot me first!”…. perhaps they are not being spoken to about the same opportunities on the same money that I am. Lets put the cost of living aside…Singapore of course would be no funky Cambodia for sure but maybe after 6 years wading through the grime here, Singapore’s clean efficiency might appeal. Its green spaces would be great for our kids and it would represent an opportunity to stash some serious money. Ashamed Disclaimer; I have never been there.

3. Laos: Apparently Vientiane is a sleepy backwater with 3 bars and a country town feeling. Sounds kind of ideal to me. Ashamed Disclaimer; I have never been there.

4. Vietnam: I love Pho noodles but I cannot for the life of me get my head around living in HCMC, living in a high rise building and dealing with even worse traffic than here . Hanoi maybe. Ashamed Disclaimer; I have never been to either.

OK so let’s move on to the cost of living as per my indicators and what Google is telling me;

Income Tax.

Myanmar: Seems like it is 35% at the highest rate. Having paid no tax for several years I can honestly say THAT SUX but the company I am talking to is offering a tax free salary and a housing allowance paid in £

Singapore: 20%

Laos: 20 -24%

Vietnam: 35% top rate. SUCK!


Myanmar: There are good articles here and here that outline the boom Myanmar has and is currently experiencing. Seems like everyone wants a piece of the pie and maybe we are all too late! Websites with property are thin on the ground and trying to figure out the bloody currency is a nightmare. Another issue for Myanmar as it zooms ahead is the struggle to keep the lights on. By the World Bank’s estimation, a scant 13% of the population has access to the national power grid. Even North Korea and East Timor boast higher rates. Those fortunate enough to have electricity contend with exasperating, near-daily blackouts – a bit like Cambodia when we got here in 2006.Thank god I have weaned us all off AC.

Yangon, Myanmar $900pcm

Singapore: Hold on to you bloody hat. Average, landed houses (i.e. with a garden) about 30 minutes commute on the MRT from downtown will set you back SNG$5000++ a month. I have a made up there paying $9000 a month. Have a look at Google maps and see how small Singapore is. Supply. Demand. Simple as that. Failing that you can rent a condo in a complex with pool, tennis,gym etc but that’s still going to set you back $3000+ pcm.

Laos: Here is the great news! Laos it seems is the land of milk and honey when it comes to renting a house. There are many houses from $400pcm ++ to choose from AND unlike Cambodia where style gets bypassed, Laotians actually build a really nice house! If you have $1200….you are renting a stylish palace on the Mekong River.

Vientiane, Laos. $700pcm

Vientiane, Laos $1000pcm

Vietnam: HCMC is more spread out than a Subiaco whore during Fleet Week. If you want to live in a villa in An Phu it’s going to cost you $2500++pcm. Other than that you can go look in district 7 for a Khmer style shop house and that will run you $700++pcm. You think our shop houses are skinny? Far out…Vietnamese can work with a 3m wide site. No shortage of high rise condos with pools etc but I don’t think I could do it.

Cost / Quality of education.

Myanmar; Expensive

Singapore: Retardedly hideously super maxed out expensive. However…it IS possible to get your kids into decent Singaporean schools if you are lucky. They are not expensive and discipline is the name of the game which is not a bad thing. You can also apply for Permanent Residency which gives you all sorts of price breaks but it then means your son has to go do 2 years of service. Have you ever seen the reality show “Every Singaporean Son” ? If you have….you will understand me when I say I think Angus would be better off serving time with the French Foreign Legion.

Laos; Expensive and no mid tier selections.

Vietnam; Expensive and no mid tier selections.

Looks like its home schooling for the kids after all……

Cost / Quality of Healthcare

Myanmar: Shite.

Singapore: Excellent but costly.

Laos; You pay for what you get but it isn’t great.

Vietnam; Excellent and moderately priced.

At the end of the day I am not overly worried about this aspect as most companies will offer Health cover for family and I.

 Cost of a case of Beer.

Myanmar: About $8 a case  Whooooooooot !

Singapore: $80.fucking.dollars. could drive a man NOT to drink.

Laos: The famous and awesome Laos beer is so cheap up there you can wash dishes with it. Double WHOOOT!

Laos Beer. Possibly one of the worlds best…

Vietnam: Cheap

Ease / Cost of owning a car.

Myanmar: What the fuck? A new land cruiser costs $200,000? No motorbikes allowed. Apparently its getting better but  a clapped out 15 year old Camry still costs near $20,000

Singapore: Double what the fuck? A 5 year old Subaru Outback costs $80k? Motorbikes a real option

Laos: Doable but still a tad expensive.

Vietnam: Get a scooter.

Choices for weekend leisure.

Myanmar: Insane beaches, mountains and rivers. I’d say there is plenty to do however without a car its buses all the way. You could always stay home ans smoke opium all day.

Myanmar – the Jewel of Asia

Singapore: Due to its tiny size, I reckon you could get island fever on Singapore. The great news is there are parks and reservoirs galore, biking tracks, Malaysia is a day trip, Indonesia is a 2 hour boat ride and Thailand a short flight. Not only that…Singapore has FISHING with GT and BARRAMUNDI in the bloody ocean right off the east cost of Singapore.!

Laos: Again…..excellent topography should mean plenty to do. I cannot believe that tubing in Vang Vien is the only thing available. The dirt biking must be insane up there and for sure the rivers would have fish.

Vang Vieng,Laos ; Idyllic.

Vang Vieng,Laos : Backpacking retards.

Vietnam: Just Google image Ha Long Bay. Stunning spot on the UNESCO WH list. I hear Hanoi is great and there are beach resorts as well, though I don’t know how easy it is to get out of HCMC on a Friday afternoon.

Ha-Long Bay, Vietnam: World Conservation site

China Beach, Vietnam

Can we take the dog?.

Myanmar; No worries

Singapore: Big worries. Apparently the place is pretty dog UN-friendly. German Shepherds need to be muzzled and on leash in public at all times and many locals don’t like dogs due to the fact the Muslim faith says dogs are dirty etc. Which means we would need a good garden *doink* see…RENT !!

Laos: No worries

Vietnam; They’d eat her.

So there you have a quick rundown of that I have gleaned over the last few weeks. Which all makes me realise how lucky we really have it in Cambodia. Rent can be dirt cheap, cars and motorbikes are dirt cheap and easily bought and sold, the medical situation isn’t too bad but not ideal, plenty to get away to on the weekends within a couple of hours, beer is cheap, the people are great and really….the traffic isn’t so bad etc. The two real downsides here are cost of education and work uncertainty and they are very real worries for me.

Your thoughts ?

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9 Responses to Asia . Cheap ? Not bloody likely.

  1. CATHERINE says:

    WE should pay you $$$ for such à good presentation! And no PPT slides too, that’s worth extra $$$!

  2. gavinmac says:

    That $700 pm house in Laos looks very nice. I went to Vientiane once. It was dead boring.

  3. Deb says:

    You asked! I’d be wary of the political situation in Myanmar. With a young family and a dog, if it turned nasty it could be tricky getting out. My family almost relocated to Singapore a few years ago, but the decider against was highschool education. (primary school was great). I don’t like Singapore, I find it souless and sterile. It felt a bit like living in a theme park. Vietnam I’ve only visited once and liked the feel off, but I gather the Cambodian people aren’t too fond of the Vietnamese, how would Lak feel about it? Laos is land-locked but I hear the people are great (I haven’t been there, but my son has twice and loved it for all the same reasons he loved Cambodia). Any chance of taking a short trip to any of your destinations to get a feel for them?

    • Deb…..we will most likely head up Singapore in early November and if needs be then of course we’d be visiting other destinations before deciding. The more I think about Laos the more I like the sound of it but i just fear it might be a career backwater.

  4. gavinmac says:

    Wait a minute, if you move to another country, how many in laws could you take? Only a half dozen or so?

    I think you are best off trying to find something else in Cambodia. Just because the last couple of jobs didn’t work out long term doesn’t mean the next one won’t. You’re happy in Cambodia, the family is happy, if you can find something else there you should stay there, even if it doesn’t pay as much.

    • Ha gav
      I forget to mention taking family and nanny were also part of the research plans :-). I hear what you are saying and agree mostly but i still have ambition and i still have good earning years in me. My concern is continuing to battle out here and i deny myself both. I’ve been in panic mode but I’m more resigned now to letting Buddha take care of things !

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