Friday, April 8, 2016

Unexpected Surprises in a City With Rents of $335 a Month

Unexpected Surprises in a City With Rents of $335 a Month
By Eoin Bassett
The woman takes two wiry black hairs from a vial and dips them in water. She then puts them on a sheet of white paper. The stuff of forest magic lines her stall: powders, dried fruits, shriveled nuts...slender feathers and strange leathery objects. The hairs curl upward on the paper. Two earnest men look on. She is telling a fortune with those, I'm not quite sure.
It's Sunday in this laidback, tropical city. Families trundle strollers past stalls of gamelans (a percussive instrument), curved knives, mulberry tea, and squishy sea creatures kept moist in tanks. It's all here: dogs, cats, chickens, carved totems, and a slick little man with a headset selling miracle cures.
This street is famous for this weekly market, but you won't see many white faces. Expats here are a discreet bunch. You won't find the social clubs and lively art and restaurant scene of this country's other popular retirement destinations.
But this city has much to offer. And there are foreign retirees here. English is widely spoken, people are friendly and curious, and more than half of the province is forest, much of it protected national parks. Elephants, orangutans, fruit bats, gibbons, clouded leopards, and crocodiles...3,000 types of tree, 15,000 species of flowering plant...extensive coral reefs...spend your days exploring nature and your evenings at the movies or dining on the waterfront promenade.
Costs are low. You'll rent from as little as $335—that's short term and flexible—and added to that your monthly costs range from $600 to $1,500 depending on the lifestyle you chose.
This city won't wow you with architectural wonders. From some angles, it looks like the set of a 1960s Bond movie. The waterfront promenade is pleasant though, and you'll find traditional craft shops painted pastel yellow. It's a walkable place. But as temperatures average 83 F year-round, a good tip is to discover the shortcuts through the many air-conditioned malls.
These malls house all the big brands, gourmet coffee shops, and food courts you could want. A visit to the food court in one of the popular malls is particularly worthwhile. Apart from the wide range of good eats at low prices (I had lunch for two bucks) you'll find a long balcony with views of the ocean and the islands offshore.
Rentals are easy to find. I saw several buildings around town dedicated to serviced apartments. Close to the waterfront you can rent by the day or the month in one building where online rates start from $550 a month. But my contact told me you can get a place there for as little as $335 if you come in person. And that includes electricity and water. Buildings are shooting up around the city. I viewed one small apartment for sale at $80,000.