If you’ve seen the T.V. show House Hunters International on HGTV, you know it follows people who are going in search of new homes around the globe. From pint-sized apartments in Tokyo to rambling farmhouses in the French countryside, the program really showcases what homes are like in many different corners of the world.
Last week, I moved to Thailand. Since my mom likes nothing more than to peer into other cultures via watching House Hunters International, I thought it would be fun to create my own version of the show for her to see. I decided to share it here too should you be interested in what it’s like to find a house in Southeast Asia. Enjoy!
Welcome to this very special edition of House Hunters International!
Today, we’ll join a young couple, Leslie Patrick and Steve Moore as they search for their dream house on Koh Yao Noi, a remote island in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of Thailand. Steve and Leslie fell in love with the laid back pace of the island two months ago when they were vacationing from their then home in South Korea.
Leslie and Steve are full-time writers and journalists, currently working on editing their first novels, so a quiet island retreat is precisely what they are seeking.
Their budget is $300 per month. They don’t need much, but insist upon having wifi which they need for their writing and research. Also, since they are on a tight budget, they would prefer to have a kitchen with a fridge so they can do their own cooking. An ocean view would be ideal, but since the beach is only a five minute motorbike ride from almost anywhere on the island, they will compromise a beachfront property to achieve a lower price.
Let’s get started!
Upon arrival at house number 1, the couple spots a giant lizard sunning itself on a fallen log outside, and thus they nickname it “Lizard House.”
Lizard House seems to have potential at first glance, even though it’s not within walking distance to a beach. It’s an actual house, with separate rooms, instead of the one room bungalows so prevalent on the island. They enter the house with high hopes. But when they step though the door, the house is dark and somewhat dingy. Leslie immediately has a bad feeling when she imagines all the creatures that may be lurking in the shadowy corners. Steve is impressed by the large kitchen complete with gas stove and enormous refrigerator, but Leslie can’t help feeling wary as she eyes a tiny pink gecko darting along the kitchen floor.
A back door leads out to a swampy mangrove forest which Steve thinks is a definite negative as it is surely home to some of the island’s mosquito population.
Lizard House has no wifi, but the owner informed the couple that it could be easily installed for about $100. The rent is $215 per month which is definitely within the couple’s budget. But can Leslie live there knowing she’s sharing a garden with massive lizards? Will Steve choose the giant kitchen even though he may be eaten alive by mosquitos?
Down a small road brimming with tropical flowers and lazy cats, house number two is situated right on the water. Built in the bungalow style with one large main room and a large bathroom, house number two is not exactly what the couple has in mind. However, when they step onto the back porch and discover the ocean at their feet, their hearts beat a little faster at the possibility of making this place their new writing retreat.
They note that there are no cooking facilities, but a small fridge is on hand. They are told that there is wifi from the main house, but upon testing it, it didn’t work. Leslie is skeptical, but Steve is loving the breeze from the ocean. Despite the fabulous waterfront location, Steve notes that it’s not at all a swimming beach, but more of a muddy bay. He is disappointed that he will not be able to go running on that beach. Rent is a mere $165, which makes house number 2 very tempting despite it’s negatives.
Leslie remembered seeing a sign for a house for rent on the other side of the island, so they jump on their motorbike. Sure enough, the proprietor of a small travel agency shows the couple through the back door of the shop, through a patch of grass where two giant geese guard the entrance to the most beautiful Thai house the couple has ever seen.
Built high above the ground from burnished wood, the “Goose House” has Steve and Leslie ooh-ing and ahh-ing from the first glance.
The door opens onto a large, bright living room. Polished and shining, Leslie feels that there will be no creatures lurking in corners here. Though stuffy at first, once all the windows are opened, a cooling breeze wafts through the home. Two bedrooms, a large bathroom and a pantry/storage room ensure that there will be plenty of space for them to spread out. But do they need so much room for just the two of them?
Steve exclaims in delight when he discovers that there is a full kitchen complete with stove and fridge, but it is outside, under the house, This set up is very common in Thailand, as the tropical weather makes cooking a sweaty activity. Also, it helps with keeping creatures out of the house–needless to say, Leslie is especially fond of this style kitchen.
The wifi connects right away and seems very fast. The house is close to the main village, and also close to the dock where they can catch the boat to Phuket if they need an escape from the laid back island life or to do some grocery shopping at a store other than 7-11. There is no view or nearby beach to speak of, but will the kitchen make up for it? At $496, Steve and Leslie aren’t so sure.
A side note on house #3, aka the Goose House
At dinner that evening, Steve and Leslie meet a foreign couple named Stephan and Dora. They are the owners of the popular Yao Noi restaurant, Je T’aime. Steve explains that he and Leslie have just moved here and are looking for a house. He mentions the goose house as a candidate. Dora’s face clouds as she explains that she and Stephan almost rented that house the year before, but there was a problem with the contract, so they backed out. Then, she said that the owner of the house threatened to kill her and Stephan. Thus, Steve and Leslie decided Goose House was definitely not worth it.
Down a road that leads to the couple’s favorite beach on Yao Noi, Leslie had a good feeling about house number 4 from the start. Stone steps led to a wide front porch looking out over verdant jungle and the well-manicured garden. Chickens scuttled about, and a cat stretched in the surrounding grass.
Large windows ensured plenty of light in the cozy living room and office areas, overlooking the front porch and jungly hills beyond. They were thrilled to find the home fully furnished. There was even a couch, which they hadn’t seen in any of the other homes. Steve could immediately picture himself sitting there in the morning drinking his cup of tea. Meanwhile, Leslie loved the large bedroom with a substantial mosquito net over the bed. “Nothing can crawl through that,” she thought.
Steve found the kitchen to his liking, fully stocked with utensils, pots and pans. With a fridge, freezer and stove, Steve could already envision cooking many a meal in this house. With baited breath, they asked about wifi. Yes there was and yes it worked. And then, another big gulp before they asked about the price of this, their perfect house. The kind Thai owner, Mr. Sem, informed them that the price was 10,000 Thai Baht, or $330-including ALL utilities. At only $30 over their intended budget, they knew that this would be the house for them.
Steve and Leslie moved in to their new home the following day during a tropical deluge.
It’s been nearly a week and the couple are settling in to their new home nicely. They have seen two geckos, two cockroaches and a handful of mosquitoes, but they feel certain that these are rare yet inevitable occurrences when living in the tropics. Steve has hung a hammock on the front porch for Leslie, and she has spent countless hours already reading and napping in the afternoon sun.
They love to wake up to the sounds of the muezzin calling the prayer from the mosque down the road, walk into town to buy fresh eggs from the local food shop and revel in the fact that they can now call this island paradise their home.