Read Any Good Books Lately?

As dawn broke on another hot hazy sunshine morning in drought stricken Malaysia yesterday, I threw on my gym shorts quickly and headed down to the condo gym. Attempting to get a decent workout in before the unbearable heat, I’ve forced myself to wake up in the darkness, gulp down some coffee and hit the elliptical machine while it’s still reasonably cool. Now reaching over 115 days with temperatures in the mid 30’s (mid 90’s Fahrenheit), the comfort level remains horrible as Southeast Asia’s hottest winter on record continues, leaving our bodies in a state of perpetual dehydration and dryness. With three hours of relief last week, a rare rain event came rolling through Penang but only lasted an hour or two, leaving the grand rainfall since January 1st in the neighborhood of six hours for over three months. Understanding what it must feel like to a thirsty wild animal in the Serengeti desperate for rainfall, we’ve spent most of our recent days on the sweaty balcony or searching for air-conditioned event worthy of the long walk down to the bus stop.

imageFortunately, Southeast Asia’s best book sale came rolling into town last week for a ten-day run that’s always worth a visit. Billing itself as The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, the semi-annual event is held in a large hall of Penang Times Square, one of the local malls easily reachable by bus. Always escaping something, last year we attended during the middle of Asia’s worst haze since 1998 and it felt like the entire island was there. Deciding to go on a weekday this time, the crowds were smaller than the Sunday rush but there’s still hundreds of people taking advantage of the bargains and incredible discounts.

Not really expecting to replicate many enjoyable experiences I had at Chapters and Indigo book stores (Canada’s largest book chains) during my longer than expected bouts of involuntary unemployment, I was pleasantly surprised at the cornucopia of mainstream books from mostly North American and European publishers. Organized by topic and displayed on large tables, cooking enthusiasts seem poised for the time of their lives with over five tables of every style from Arabic to Zambian and everything in between. Given how nobody cooks in most Southeast Asian countries, this surprised me and although tempted, it’s insanely too hot to cook in our kitchen anyway so I moved on. Priced amazingly low, books cost what they should at this event, usually marked down 50 to 80% from the highly unreasonable manufacturers suggested price making most $20 to $30 books somewhere between 5 to 20 ringgit.



Admittedly, I haven’t read nearly as many books as I’d hoped during our first nine months of early retirement due to a variety of reasons from lack of a quality serene beach to my hatred of electronic books. Although we did secure a library card in Calgary last spring that gives us unlimited access to a world of e-books from Calgary’s above average public library system, there’s something about holding a brick and mortar book that’s unmatched compared to holding a device. Obstructing my vision, Malaysia’s extremely bright skies make outdoor reading on a device almost impossible anyway for someone with limited vision in one eye (I’m legally blind in my right eye but hate self-pity and don’t believe in pulling in readers through “poor me” stories so I’ve never posted about my condition). Impressed by an array of non-fiction and current political events including a variety of American social commentary, it’s obvious Malaysians are more educated about American politics and lifestyle than the throngs of idiots wasting their votes on a doomed run for the presidency by the world’s biggest egomaniac.

Dedicating my day to browsing while Diane perused dozens of different topics from travel to popular fiction, I swore I wouldn’t waste any cash on books that ultimately sit on the shelf anyway and with another move planned to Thailand next year, it seemed like a reasonable decision. But this sale isn’t your average discount rack sell off like many mall kiosks we’ve seen since arriving in Malaysia. Although I’ve never actually bought one, I love browsing enormous coffee table books on various topics from architectural masterpieces to newspaper headlines covering the last century. Of particular interest are sports books and last year I spent hours thumbing though a large picture book about every major league baseball stadium ever used in America. As a quasi-Canadian married to an Edmonton native, it’s no surprise my favorite sports books revolve around hockey. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled on an awesome picture book detailing every Winter Olympics since inception. Shown below, the book featured pullout collectible souvenirs from each event through the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

Enhancing our enjoyment of an afternoon out of the blazing heat, they play continuous streams of U.S. pop and rock music from many genres including some unusually cult bands like California’s Cake to Taylor Swift’s most popular hits. Before I knew it, Diane finished strolling and we made our way up to the cashier. Naturally, I defied my pledge and walked away with three books on varying topics that I’d love to read as soon as I find the right time and place. Taking Master Card and Visa, using our US dollar credit card still saves us money despite the recent unprecedented 15% drop in the US dollar versus the Malaysian ringgit so we wound up buying eight books for a total of $20.55 USD. Valued at over $135 if you go by the cover price, the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale is an amazing steal and is one of the few events in Penang not to be missed for anyone who enjoys reading. On the way out, be sure to visit their impressive collection of American memorabilia that brings back memories for old farts born before 1980. Venturing to other countries in 2016, the company plans future expansion but we hope they keep prices low and we’re looking forward to returning during 2016’s version of the ridiculous event known as The Haze Season. 

Heading home on Uber, the driver played LITE FM, the clear station of choice in Penang. Completely contrasting the sadly stereotypical view exhibited by many Americans that couldn’t ever place Malaysia on a map, most radio stations in Penang play the same music Diane and I listen to on American based pop stations via IHeartRadio hosted by air personalities like Ryan Seacrest. Despite being a moderate Muslim nation, Malays like Western culture as much as Europeans, Australians and anyone else despite the ignorant brand of populism being touted whereby xenophobic misogynist candidates have voters convinced that “they’re all terrorists that need to be banned from entering America. Glad we’re among the eight million worldly American citizens living outside the homeland, at least we don’t have to worry about moving in the unlikely event of a lunatic presidency. Thankfully, Trump just hit a 70% unfavorable rating that includes men, women, old, young, gays, blacks, Latinos and even 53% of registered republicans. Reassuringly, this article easily shows why the GOP is already doomed in November unless they reverse course and nominate someone sane in July. (see below picture)


Returning home later that day, we made our daily trip to the condo pool where we find ourselves spending most afternoons in between trips,. (Our next adventure begins April 19th when we visit Myanmar for three weeks). Making an unusually close range visit, the dusky leaf monkeys that live all around the area decided they wanted the delicious light green leaves on the trees surrounding the pool area. Placed high on the hill five stories up, the surrounding area remains jungle and we usually see the monkeys from a far distance. Determined to eat only what lied right next to the pool, we spent about an hour observing a large troupe of adorable clown faced monkeys chowing down. Probably my favorite part of living in Malaysia, the wildlife presents a unique opportunity to see tame monkeys and unlike aggressive macaques, dusky leaf monkeys are vegetarians with no interest in whatever food humans have to offer and they’re just friendly enough to enjoy up close without feeling intimidated. Great entertainment !!

Hoping the heat wave breaks eventually and normal rainfall returns, we’re growing accustomed to intense heat even though it’s not much fun. Visiting Myanmar towards the end of their hottest month, we’re not expecting much relief in the newly formed democracy but at least it can’t feel much hotter.

Cheers from hot, humid and parched Malaysia.


4 thoughts on “Read Any Good Books Lately?

    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      We use our US dollar credit card as often as possible just like we did in the USA but it’s totally dependent on the exchange rate. When we arrived and set up our bank account we made a large transfer so we’d have about a year of living expenses including rent in ringgit. The rate was 3.7613 but the ringgit crashed heavily versus the USD after that and the rate went as high as 4.45 so it saved us a lot by using the card because HSBC Premier accounts get a rate almost identical to the traders rate and charge no foreign transaction fees. The USD has since been hammered but still remains at about 3.88 so as long as it stays above 3.76 it a makes sense for us to use credit whenever possible new we have to use ringgit to pay the rent and we use cash for small things and food courts who never take credit.

      There are no issues with credit cards in Malaysia and they are taken in almost every brick and mortar store and restaurant as well as envy hotel.


  1. jerry

    Trump will beat Ted Cruz in Republican race in the voters count. Much as I dislike Trump policies, I do not think Republican establishment should use dirty tactics to replace another nomination other than Trump. The individual with the most votes win, Jerry meandering with delegates count or disqualify the voters make the system undemocratic. NHL playoff begins on Wednesday but no Canadian teams qualify for playoff this year. 😦


    1. rodi (Rob and Diane) Post author

      With all due respect, you are completely wrong and there are NO DIRTY TACTICS going on other than Trump’s ignorance. Like almost all American voters you do not understand how it really works. The voters DO NOT CHOOSE THE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE. You are voting to place pledged delegates in the column of your candidate of choice. And every state has the right to decide how many delegates get awarded based on the popular vote. Pennsylvania’s vote is almost 100% useless because 54 of the 71 delegates go into the convention UNBOUND despite who wins. If you read up, you’ll see that even if he wins all 17 congressional districts by vote, many of those 54 have already stated on the record they will not support him. As for Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota and states where he won but will not get the majority of the state’s delegates on the first ballot, this is called politics.

      Trump is UNQUALIFIED because the system was set up for the very reason he won’t win the nomination without 1,237; it’s designed so the voters get a say but can’t let some nutcase Fascist simply waltz in based on rallies, rhetoric and an ignorant citizenry that doesn’t know how things really work. The government is not a business which is why no non-politician ever wins. Like Al Gore’s book, this is an inconvenient truth for Trump supporters. The party, not the plurality, choose the nominee. It’s been that way for 160 years and will not change. Politics is about insider games not loudmouth bullshit, hatred and xenophobia. Presidents need to work with ALL the establishment politicians, many of which will still be in office long after each presidency. No voters have been disqualified anywhere; that was Bush tactics. Even now, Cruz is in California knowing that Drumpf can’t sweep all 95 delegates in New York and will easily win all 5 states on April 26th. So he’s already so far ahead where it will count the most. Getting shut out of all 34 delegates in Colorado due to incompetence is proof and Trump even admits it, albeit by being immature and claiming “unfair”. Wahhh.

      That makes NO DIFFERENCE. Do the math. Trump loses Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska and can only get 2/3 maximum delegates in Oregon, Washington and New Mexico, all states that DIVIDE THEIR DELEGATES PROPORTIONATELY despite how many idiots think a 55% popular vote means “he wins”. So even with automatic wins in New Jersey and West Virginia, the only two remaining “winner take all” states he can get, that means Indiana and California ultimately decide if he gets an automatic nomination, not 10 million more sore loser voters. And if you read even more, you’ll find out that like Wisconsin, Indiana is as good as lost with its midwestern values and evangelicals so Trump probably only gets 12 to 15 delegates there out of 57.

      By no means am I supporting Cruz but the bottom line is this: Trump is being outsmarted. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m in favor of a complete overhaul of the entire antiquated obsolete system including dumping the electoral college so popular vote counts for something. But that’s not for this blog. I will do anything in my power as a decently skilled writer to educate as many as I can despite the state of populism. I can show you facts by educated non partisan individuals in various fields of life that disavow every single statement he’s made as incorrect, both financially and practically. And living in SE Asia only helps me understand his total lack of knowledge about anything in this crucial region. The fact that the angry white working class is willing to overlook all the facts and turn a blind eye to horrible consequences of a Trump presidency is beyond sad but thankfully his 70% disapproval rating will render the nomination as useless anyway in November. Meanwhile, while you watch the NHL, please do some research on how the political nomination system works.



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