A visit to Lake Chapala, Mexico

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An alternative to Pattaya for Expat living.  Such a place was the topic at the Sunday, May 13, meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club.  Fellow expat Wilson Fletcher gave a presentation about such an alternative; Lake Chapala located in Mexico. Wilson said that he wanted to share what he learned on his recent visit there.  As with many of us, he was looking for somewhere to escape during Songkran.  In doing so, he came across “Focus on Mexico.”  This is a program established by a Canadian couple that holds seminars in Lake Chapala on living in Mexico; particularly Lake Chapala. Their fee includes accommodation, seminars on living in Mexico (Lake Chapala in particular), and tours of the area; an eight day program. Their website is: http://www.focusonmexico.com/.

Pattaya City Expats member, Wilson Fletcher gives a presentation to PCEC about an alternative to Pattaya; Lake Chapala located in Mexico.Pattaya City Expats member, Wilson Fletcher gives a presentation to PCEC about an alternative to Pattaya; Lake Chapala located in Mexico.

He said that what he found could be summed up in that popular expression, “same same, but different.” Wilson proceeded to provide some highlights about Lake Chapala. First, he mentioned that although there has been a lot of publicity on the violence of the drug wars in Mexico, this generally involves drug gangs settling differences among themselves and is not reflective of what you will find in much of Mexico. Lake Chapala is located about 50km from Guadalajara, which is Mexico’s second largest city. Lake Chapala is accessible from there by one road.  It has beautiful scenery being surrounded by mountains and the climate is considered by National Geographic to be the 2nd best in the world.  The Lake is located about 5,000 feet above sea level and can be quite cool at night; with daytime temperature dropping rather rapidly when the sun goes down.

Roy Albiston conducts the Open Forum, where questions may be asked and answered on the many aspects of life in Fun City, and in Thailand.Roy Albiston conducts the Open Forum, where questions may be asked and answered on the many aspects of life in Fun City, and in Thailand.

The Lake Chapala expat community was originally established by hippies who set up an art colony there.  Although there are still some artists in residence, it is now a fairly large resort community with many foreign residents; mostly Americans from the North (USA & Canada).  On entering Lake Chapala, Wilson said that what he observed on his entry was more likely to be found in the north rather than in Mexico – a large Wal-Mart store, a Starbucks, and local cinema featuring English language films.

Some of the things he learned in the seminars were that the Mexican government welcomes foreigners. Unlike Thailand’s 90 day reporting, holders of a resident type visa in Mexico only visit Immigration once a year for 5 years and none after that period. Housing is modern and available with some condominiums, but many housing estates. A difference between Mexico and Thailand is that foreigners can own real property and receive bank loans of 5, 10, or 15 years. Houses generally cost a bit more, around 150 to 200 thousand US dollars. They appear to be well constructed and most have their own water filtration system. Real estate taxes are around US$200 per year. Fuel prices are much lower as Pemex is a state owned company that pumps, refines, and distributes all petroleum products, including Butane which is used for cooking and heating as it is cheaper than electricity.

PCEC Board member David Garmaise speaks about another scam to watch out for, during the Open Forum part of the meeting. Roy Albiston looks on.PCEC Board member David Garmaise speaks about another scam to watch out for, during the Open Forum part of the meeting. Roy Albiston looks on.

Being a resort area, Lake Chapala offers many forms of entertainment including golf courses, boating and other recreational diversions. However, he said they did not have a “Walking Street” or anything similar. Another factor to consider is that it is easier for a foreigner to work in Mexico as the government wants their investment and hiring of Mexican citizens. He mentioned that because of bureaucratic paperwork and import duties, most expats purchase their vehicles in Mexico.  Also, he noted that except for a few large motorcycles, there was a general absence of the smaller motorbikes that are in abundance here in Thailand.  Overall, Wilson found his visit was worthwhile – will he be moving there? He said, “no,” at least not in the foreseeable future, but it is nice to know it is available if he should so choose.

Wilson concluded with the showing of the “Mexico Myth Busters” (produced by Focus on Mexico and available on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSnDBowJmWk).

Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg then updated everyone on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the always interesting and lively Open Forum where questioned are asked and answered about expat living in Thailand; Pattaya in particular.

The Pattaya City Expats Club meets every Sunday at the Amari Orchid’s Tavern by the Sea Restaurant. Read more about the Club’s activities on their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.