Dude you cannot possibly go wrong in Thailand if you have no western wife you can soon get a Thai girlfriend which is as good as a wife. I have traveled, lived and worked in a lot of countries around the world but nothing comes close to being as good as Thailand if you are a guy on your own and have time to spare. So long as you can enjoy a completely different way of life and culture without getting upset by their different way of looking at life you will be fine.
You can stay in any city cheaply even if you go to a good hotel, 1200 Bhatt for a great hotel in Pattaya and even 400 Bhatt a night for a perfectly acceptable place there. In the other cities it is cheaper still. Even Bangkok you can easily stay in a nice place for 1500 Bhatt.
Finding apartments in BKK you can just wander into a suitable looking block and ask what they have. The web based apartment companies in English tend to be a bit overpriced, but the Thai ones (you will need help) are much cheaper. A good apartment in Bangkok starts at 8000 Bhatt a month plus water and electricity for the A/C which can be up to 2000 Bhatt a month. I would not recommend buying a place because of the 30 year lease problem, lots of scams, the economics and you get stuck if you need to move.
If you are worried about keeping you cash safer then Singapore is nearby with excellent banks used to multi currency international accounts – no chance of your US funds being frozen if they are not in the US
Don’t expect any of the girls to show you their home town because despite the image they will not want to be seen in their village with a farrang until they think you will marry them because they will be seen as used goods once you turn up there.
You can fly around Thailand easily and cheaply, the buses are cheaper but without a Thai to help you they are too complicated because almost no one will speak English in the ticket offices. When you arrive in town it is worth a trip to the local farrang bar where you will be able to get lots of info. Many of the farrang bars have web sites, and often they will be near the main hotel in town. You can get all western foods you need in the supermarkets and all the other needs in the department stores. Outside of BKK you can live for peanuts, when I am in our village home I can live on $2.00 per day for food.
I love Thailand I spent a number of years in Bangkok and also some time in Songkhla but better opportunities for my line of work called in other places so like a lot of guys I live in Thailand and work elsewhere. I am not ready to retire so I keep traveling but home is Thailand now. Good luck stay open to new attitudes and you will love Thailand