Too Big to Fail

As any one of my Facebook followers can attest, it’s not often I praise the U.S. Government for anything. Allowing for one exception, however, I’d like to personally thank them for the multi trillion-dollar bailout of AIG, the world’s largest insurer. Deemed “too big to fail”, they bailed AIG out of bankruptcy back in 2008 and now it thrives all over the world as a result. Expressing personal thanks to the taxpayers, Diane and I conveniently reaped the benefits by obtaining medical insurance this week. Normally not needing insurance in a country with inexpensive healthcare, one of the “Stage 2” requirements of finalizing our MM2H visa is purchasing medical Insurance that covers hospitalization in Malaysia for a one year minimum. While this may seem easy enough, Malaysians follow rules to the letter and the immigration ministry is quite specific about what they need to see as proof. Since we lIve in Penang on a fixed income, we don’t have extra days to waste waiting for a company in Kuala Lumpur to issue a policy so we decided to shop around ourselves.

spotted on the way to the insurance office

spotted on the way to the insurance office

Presented with several choices, I stumbled across Allianz, another big financial firm,  who happens to have an office in downtown Georgetown. Familiar with the company name from my financial services background, we walked into the office and asked about obtaining insurance. Unfortunately, they said they can’t issue a policy for MM2H holders without seeing the conditional letter of approval that’s in Kuala Lumpur, a few hundred miles away. Although we can use a Malaysian company that Joy-Stay recommends for its applicants that need help, the process is so tedious it becomes impractical. Including back and forth emails about height, weight and medical conditions, a doctor’s appointment, a report from said doctor, more emails back and forth, a fee and an annual premium twice as high as bigger companies, we decided to try AIG. Additionally, we’re in the country on a 90 day visitor visa so we really need to get the MM2H process completed soon. Choosing to travel back to KL late next month, we also have to go for a quick medical exam that Joy-Stay sets up, travel back to our bank to set up the fixed deposit and then meet our agent at the ministry’s office of immigration in Putrajaya. Easily one of the most tedious visa processes on earth, we really just want to get it done and not think about it for ten years. That’s where the “too big to fail” mantra helped out.

Walking into the comfortable downtown office of AIG in a beautiful historical building near the  UNESCO Heritage Area, they asked us to take a number even though we ever the only people in the small office with four employees. Following instructions, we sat down but then the computer generated system instantly called our number, allowing us to sit down where we were to begin with and chat with Janice, one of the friendly AIG sales agents. No longer surprised because as I’ve alluded to, Malaysians follow rules and procedures and don’t make exceptions, I was almost resigned to giving up and using Joy-Stay’s rather expensive Malaysian option. Fortunately, AIG wants almost anyone as a client and Malaysians go out of their way to help so within a few minutes, Janice made it work. Describing the benefits of an inexpensive policy and handing us one form to fill out with only a few very generic medical history questions, all it took was a passport and a credit card to secure medical coverage for the basement bargain price of less than $300 USD. Thanks American taxpayers.

With insurance taken care of we strolled around Georgetown a bit and stumbled into an awesome little Indian bakery. Family owned, the super friendly proprietors told us the store’s history and let us sample some delicious products. Agreeing to plug them, we highly endorse My Bread Cafe in Little India.

Stopping for lunch always proves challenging with eight million great things to eat but right across the street from AIG was a little shop selling only roast duck and pork and some blasé soup. Missing Cantonese style food, we couldn’t resist and ordered 1/4 duck that satisfied but was smaller than the portions we got spoiled by in North America, but then again many Chinese are as fat as white people in our home countries so it’s probably for the better anyway.


With no specific direction we wandered aimlessly until we found the tourist information center and picked up some brochures that helped give us a sense of direction. Not really focusing on specific places yet, we didn’t care because everything in Georgetown was interesting. Here’s a few random shots.

Deciding to find the place that sells tickets for events at the upcoming Georgetown Festival, we headed towards Armenian Street, one of the more popular areas for tourism. Sandwiched between everything else are a host of old Chinese temples that helped shape Penang’s history. Many were owned or occupied by “clans” or large wealthy families that ran secret organizations. Equally as impressive as any Buddhist temple or Mosque, many were recently remodeled and we stopped to look at two of the larger ones:

Known recently for its street art, Georgetown is home to a host of murals that adorn the walls of building all across the city. Although you can study the maps and hit every street and each mural, it was really hot so we just walked down a few streets and found some very impressive ones.

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Topping off a successful afternoon, we spotted an “ice ball” stand and enjoyed one of Malaysia’s oldest and most famous icy treats. Similar to a snow cone, this version is better because the shape of the ice and the infusion of flavors allows you to enjoy taste past the first two or three bites. Additionally, it melts faster making it easier to eat. Well, maybe that’s because it’s hot. Unlike the boring flavors  we grew us with, the Malaysian version features mangoes, lychees and other tropical treats.

Settling into our new lifestyle, we haven’t yet developed a daily routine although we do visit the wet market for eggs and fruit once a week. Believe it or not we already have our first confirmed visitor arriving on August 8th. An old female friend of mine that I haven’t seen in 20 years, she happened to be visiting Thailand and decided to pop in for a four-day visit. Playing tour guide when we haven’t yet figure out what to do can be challenging so we’ve picked out some major attractions we’ve had no time for yet and set aside those days to have fun being local tourists. Planning a hike to Monkey Beach and a visit to Penang Hill the hard way (hiking up), we also bought three tickets for a dance performance that’s here for the Georgetown Festival so life is sounding pretty fun these days. Wishing I had more time to post, time just flies by so that’s it for now but please stay tuned for more and thanks for following along.

Comments and visitors are always welcome !!


8 thoughts on “Too Big to Fail

  1. giriloka3

    What made you choose Penang as compated to Kuala Lumpur to live in? I would assume KL would offer more things to do, more expat socialization, and greater transportation options. What does Penang offer that KL is lacking?


    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      We don’t like big cities. Penang is a wonderland plce with more than enough things to do including festivals, cultural events, dance performances, all the great food you could ever ask for, easy transportation where needing vehicles is not really required, less traffic than KL, much better weather without that valley smog that reminds me of Los Angeles. Penang also has the tropical rainforest in our back yard with the national park ten minutes away as well as Penang Hill which offers hiking and relaxation at temperatures much cooler than the rest of the island. It’s not that Kl lacks anything. We are suburbanites and have lived in the shadow of Calgary, San Diego and San Francisco in large houses for too many years to immerse into urban culture. We usually like the second biggest market and that’s what Penang is.

      Another big difference is the large Chinese population and since Diane is Chinese, this makes us feel more at home and we relate to the universal Chinese values that often help us with daily things like contractors, asking questions or ordering food. Not that we don’t love the Malaysians because they are also great. Another big factor is the beach. The city is very confining and we like to be around the water but not in a small beach community where you’re limited to water sports every day. Penang is like the Bay Area to us because it offers rainforest, beach, urban and ease of travel with the airport much closer and smaller than the very inconvenient KL airport. Although we’d love to meet more expats, we are very independent and are used to having a small circle of friends so we don’t freak out if there’s a limited number of social contacts here.

      Hope that answers the question.


      1. giriloka3

        Perhaps America should outsource Obamacare to overseas countries. Seems dumb that Americans pay over $500 per month each for medical insurance.


      2. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

        You don’t want Obamacare nor does any sane nation on earth. Trust me on that. And don’t get me started on what’s dumb in America: I promised Diane I’d keep politics and negativity out of the blog


  2. pareddownlife

    Don’t you love it when they worship the free-market turbo-capitalist economy – so, no government intervention… except when they decide to save some corporation!



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