Pattaya Retirees: Lucas Vanlaar

Lucas Vanlaar has received some hard knocks in Thailand, but remains a firm fan of the country.

“Between a rock and a hard place”

PATTAYA, Thailand – At 76, Australian retiree Luke Vanlaar (born in Holland) has been settled in Jomtien just over a year. Philosophical by nature, he takes the trials and tribulations of his past with resignation and acceptance. Just over 10 years ago, he met the Thai girl of his dreams, got married and went to live in Bangkok in a spacious residence shared with her seemingly affluent mum.

At first everything went swimmingly, then the warning signs appeared. Mum said she had a bad debt of one million baht with a Chinese loan shark which, of course, Luke paid off. Then came the total renovation to the Bangkok residence, the total hit to his pocket being around 7 million baht over the next few years. The finale came in 2023 when the Thai wife announced Luke was too old to be married to her as she conducted an affair with a Thai boyfriend she had known since the age of 18. The final straw was the death of his much-loved young Thai stepdaughter when Luke wasn’t even invited to the cremation ceremony. The following day he left for Jomtien.

Luke, once a highly successful businessman with a golden salary according to his Linkedin contribution, now survives on 30,000 baht a month (less than US$1,000) after he has paid for modest accommodation and regular hospital payments for a stress-induced, second heart attack earlier this year. Luke’s story, of course, isn’t novel yet he remains cool and collected about his past choices. “You have to go with the flow,” he says, “and I must take some responsibility for a failed marriage.” This was actually his second marriage, the first being in Australia and enduring for 34 years before the final parting.

So why are Jomtien and Pattaya the final residential result? “It’s all the little things which make life here comfortable even if you are on a low budget,” he says. “Great choice of restaurants, friendly people, lots of young women and, in my view, a much smoother immigration service than in Bangkok.” Luke is a serious motorbike rider and gets round the area much more comfortably than those of us with a reliance on four wheels.

He doesn’t feel the need to join expat clubs or fill in the mornings playing golf. Here’s a guy content with his own company at least some of the time. Having suffered two heart attacks in this decade, he follows the DEAD proposition: Diet, Exercise, (No) Alcohol, (No) Drugs (aspirin OK). Asked if he’s not just a little disappointed with the last 10 years of Thailand, Luke replies, “No, it’s the slings and arrows of life and, in my mid 70s, I find Thailand grows on me day by day.”