Ah, life in a tropical paradise. It’s the stuff of dreams, but what’s it really like for those who live in a tropical idyll? Three Australians share their experiences of living in “paradise”.
Ubud \ Bali
Made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is known for its rich greenery, yoga retreats and artistic community. Yet resident Petra Kamula wasn’t looking for paradise in Ubud – just a cheap place to live while she drafted a novel.
“The country surprised me,” she says. “I am particularly enchanted by the lush jungle landscapes around Ubud, and the vibrant complexity of Balinese Hinduism, which is very integrated into day-to-day life.”
Petra made the move from Sydney 18 months ago and now works as a consultant for co-working space Outpost. She says she loves Bali for its “close-knit, community” of creatives and entrepreneurs.
There is also, of course, the fact of cheap rent. “You can get a lot for your money,” says Petra. “A beautiful joglo house and garden among jungles and rice fields, with all the comforts of home.”
Petra says it’s possible to find a decent one-bedroom home in Ubud for between $600 and $800 per month, while a stunning villa would set you back around $2000 – $3000.
But it’s not all sunshine and coconuts. Apart from a shortage of cultural attractions such as theatres and galleries, pollution is a serious problem in Bali.
“It also lacks the efficiencies we might be used to at home,” warns Petra. “You’ve got to be pretty vigilant against health risks like Dengue fever, and road accidents.”
Port Douglas \ Queensland
Having lived in Port Douglas for 43 years, interior designer Janet Mackay is no stranger to paradise.
Although she has spent time living in the city, Janet says she’s most comfortable among the rainforest, beach and other natural wonders of Port Douglas. “There’s an ambience here that I just haven’t found anywhere else,” she says.
“Its natural beauty – we get a bit complacent about it – but you only have to walk down to the beach at six o’clock in the morning and see the sunrise and you think, my gosh, this is an amazing place to live.”
Yet Janet is also quick to say, that when you work in Port Douglas, “You could be working in Sydney or Melbourne because the task is still the same.”
And while much of Australia is enjoying a hot, dry summer, Port Douglas is experiencing a wet season: high temperatures, high rainfall and mould.
Janet, who lives in a four-bedroom, four-bathroom villa that she and her partner built, says house and rental prices in the area are rising after a development boom.
She estimates that more than half the locals rent and, while the median weekly rent for a two-bedroom house is $350, she says the market is competitive.
Cebu \ Philippines
When Michelle Fiegehen was sent to Manila from Sydney on a three-month business trip in 2013, she never imagined she would wind up running three businesses and living permanently on a tropical island.
Michelle rents a large house for around $4000 per month, which is located in a gated community and comes with its own private tropical garden
She says one-bedroom apartments are available for rent in the city centre for as little as $490 per month, but Michelle stresses the need for good security in the Philippines.
“Living in a safe community and having a driver are a necessity for me because crime is an issue.”
Other issues include very high power bills, unreliable internet and electricity services, congested roads and a lack of fresh produce.
Yet there are also plenty of reasons to love life in Cebu, she says.
“Expats are expected to support the local community, so domestic help is standard,” says Michelle. “It’s not exploitation – it’s how millions of workers are able to support their families.”
She also counts the strong sense of local community, the ability to meet people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and proximity to other Asian countries among the perks of living where she does.
“I can visit Hong Kong, Japan or Thailand for a long weekend,” she says. “I’m also much closer to Europe than I was in Australia.”