Malaysian Math

Having figured out most of our Malaysian bill payment chores, last month we received our first electric bill. Unclear why they print certain utility bills only in Malay when almost everything related to business is in English, we figured it’s because the utilities are state-run and it wouldn’t look good printing bills in a language other than your own. Describing the process to us before we signed the lease, our property agent told us online bill pay was probably the best option so I used my little security token and logged on. Attempting to add a payee, I scrolled through the list of available options and happily, I found Tenanga Nasional on the list of thirty odd choices. Uncertain what the account number was, I Googled every line of the bill and typed “in Malay” after each one and surprisingly, I deciphered it thanks to the translation skills of the greatest American company ever. Breaking down each line and assuming the important lines were near the top, I determined the bill read as follows:

The Amount to be paid (straightforward enough)
Arrears ( I assumed this meant “previous balance”)
Current Charge (assumed that meant electricity used in the current bill period)
Rounding (no cents used for payment purposes: convenient enough)
The Total Bill (assumed it meant total of the above)

Right underneath the above lines, there was a darker shaded area with lines that translated into the following

Previous bills (this had a date of 14.07.2015 and a cash amount of RM 4.25)
Final Payment (same amount but dated 18.07.2015)

Uncertain what that part meant, I assumed it had to do with the previous tenant which in our case hadn’t lived there since the spring so perhaps the small balance due was the amount of electricity used during our showings in early July. Since our tenancy began on July 15th it seemed reasonable that the last payment would’ve been made by the landlord or property agent and covered a period ending around our occupancy date Calculating the bill, it came to about $80 USD which didn’t seem unreasonable since we sleep with air conditioning. Using the bill pay function, the bank debited the ringgit from our account and it all seemed fine.


The other day the next bill arrived. Maybe we are missing something so help us out. Listing the previous month’s bill as a credit, they the somehow added the current month’s charge to the negative number that represented what we owed (and paid) last month and came out with a credit balance because the amount of energy we used in August was RM 76.66 less than in July (And this makes sense because we were in KL for a week in August finalizing the MM2H so that explains the lower energy consumption).


Although I haven’t been to university in over 30 years and I’m no math scholar, it seems logical that you don’t calculate a current month’s charges by adding/subtracting the amount paid in the prior month to whatever the current charges are. According to this method, they gave us 30 days of free electricity because we happened to use less than we used in the prior month. Alternatively, had we used 10% more and the bill was RM 338.30, it appears we’d be paying only RM 30.75 since they seem to be giving a credit towards the current month based on what we paid the month before even though that was the amount payable. Wow. What a great system. Confident I would’ve flunked math in this country we showed the entire bill to our property agent who came back with something to the effect of “it must be a credit from the prior tenant” despite the obvious facts to the contrary. If you understand something we don’t, by all means please enlighten us.

imageStill contemplating the new math, we met up with some new friends the other day and decided to try Ferrenghi Gardens, the only luxurious restaurant in Batu Ferrenghi (excluding the Shangri-La’s in-house choices). Rated as the number two restaurant on TripAdvisor despite being much nicer than the number one choice (The Living Room), it’s the only place we’ve visited in the country that gave complimentary free water and placed proper linen napkins on the diners. (Keep in mind we’re early retirees and can’t afford tie and shirt luxury). Featuring three dining rooms, a large courteous staff and bathrooms with real paper towels, it’s a nice once in a while treat but contrasts quite a bit in a town filled with street vendors that roll their portable carts down the street at 1:30 AM and unpack their goods in and out of boxes seven days a week. But that’s what makes this “developing” nation interesting. Placing a luxurious restaurant worthy of any big city on the same street with open sewers and stray animals roaming around is a fascinating concept not found in Walnut Creek, California.

Exemplifying Malaysian ingenuity, the waiter knew exactly what to do when the electricity went out as they were bringing out our dinners. Before we could even get around to using our IPhone lights, he brought out a hand-held studio light that resembled a miniature version of a Hollywood movie set. Once we identified which dinner belonged to who, the other waiter brought out small mini flashlights and we dined mostly in darkness sand the little flashlights. Oh, the other side of the street was fine.  You gotta love Malaysia.


As for the food, Ferrenghi Gardens is absolutely the best choice for quality meals in Batu Ferrenghi. With an ample choice of Western, Chinese and Malay dishes they had something for almost any taste from insanely priced Wagu beef (RM 750) to moderately priced seafood, chicken and stir fries. Having not had a decent piece of salmon since leaving the cold waters surrounding Vancouver, I decided to give it a go. Cooked to perfection, the large sized plate came on top of incredibly sweet veggies and potatoes drizzled with mustard sauce that easily justified the RM 52 price tag.


Usually staying away from satay as an appetizer due to the minuscule sized portions they serve at food courts, they surprised us with a huge platter big enough for four to share and was a bargain at RM 18.


Rounding out our meal was a plate of sizzling beef that was juicy and tasted like a mix between black pepper sauce and mild Malaysian sambal. Easily as large as the other beef dishes and cheaper than prime cuts of steak (several choices are available), the meat was tender and well worth the price of RM 45.


Rarely seeing scallops or feta cheese as options in Penang, I jumped at an appetizer that had both on one plate. Expectedly small, they were still delicious and they decorated the large plate with lettuce, radish, a tomato or two and some cucumbers but at RM 29, it was still worth it to a scallop lover. Additionally, they brought out grilled bread that was apparently complimentary and that added a nice touch to a rather luxurious restaurant. Thoroughly enjoyable and nice to know that they built one place for residents of Batu Ferrenghi with no cars, it’s not something early retirees should be indulging in weekly but it is an excellent occasional choice for residents living way out here that want to splurge.

Our next noteworthy adventure comes in November when we’re planning on visiting Hua Hin, Thailand and journeying there by train. Conveniently placed right across from Georgetown in Butterworth, Train Number 36, known as the International Express, departs Butterworth daily at 2 PM and arrives in Bangkok the next morning. Only two hours south lies Hua Hin, a non rowdy beach town that seemed like a good hopping off point. With various national parks filled with wildlife including the last place where elephants roam free in Thailand as well as a beach nicer than the development stained stretches of coastline in Penang, we figured it would be an easy way to begin traveling without breaking the budget since we hope to make it last 40 years or more. Thanks for reading and especially those of you who would like to meet us while visiting or searching for a potential future retirement destination. We are always happy to indulge and meet new friends. Cheers

Please share if you know any good Penang cuisine that’s off the main drag.


6 thoughts on “Malaysian Math

  1. jerry

    Be happy with the credit and the simplicity of your bill. In Canada, we have
    1. debt retirement charge (due to debt to restart an outdated nuclear station)
    2.regulatory charge ( to administer wholesale energy to retailers to you}
    3delivery charges (deliver electricity from various power station to hydro corp)
    4clean energy benefit (???using sources of clean nuclear)
    5global adjustment (combination of wholesale, retail, electricity generators)
    remember the north east america blackout )
    6 3 or more sets of time use of kw/ manual/ or meter reading box
    (Remember exploding meter reading box.
    7. just incurred a couple of billions digging a hole for station which is cancelled
    will have a new charge term soon

    just be happy your rate is so low

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      We know all about Canadian bills and remember why we can’t retire there at least for now. However if you could experience what 80 million humans are living in right now thanks to third world illegal burning by Indonesia your praise your bill and be thankful for living in the developed world

      I won’t talk about the haze in the blog for fear of getting censored and kicked out of the country but I can say that’s not livable and if you think North American leaders are corrupted by power u should try breathing a smoldering forest fire for two months every year.


  2. ersatzexpat

    I wish the company would give me free electricity – I pay over RM500 a month (but we are a family of 5). I pay at the petrol station by the way – I can do all my bills there, charge the ‘phones, top up my motorway toll, get parking coupons etc etc they are a bit of a one stop shop. I have found the internet payments a little temperamental (ie you can log in only to be told there are no payments permitted for some reason or another). Would love to hear about the train – the flights are just so expensive but we are debating driving to Bangkok…..


    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      The train is a very convenient way to visit Thailand, KL and Singapore if you don’t mind a few extra hours of travel time. For $120 USD we can go to Thailand. The traffic in Penang is insane due to a small island being inundated with thousands more cars than the island can support so getting there can take90 minutes anyway which makes the train better for us. As for internet payments, they are confusing to set up but mine seem to work for electric and Internet so it’s still more convened et than waiting on line to lay a bill which is something I remember from my childhood 40 years ago


  3. Gabi

    Wow, you certainly did a good job with that bill! It’s good they use latin characters otherwise it might have been a problem 😀 looking forward to your Hua Hin adventure, I have never been there!

    Liked by 1 person


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