Retired expats hate long weekends. Right when we felt like Penang Island was almost always our own personal space, Hari Raya arrived and the end of Ramadan brought thousands of visitors to our little resort town. While totally unnoticeable if we stay in our condo, walking around a town with limited sidewalks and bumper to bumper traffic in both directions proves challenging at times. Leaving to go anywhere by four-wheel vehicle is even worse. Unused to the throngs of young people flocking to all the beaches and crowding all the food stalls, we decided to spend the day in Georgetown since we had a potential meet-up scheduled for that evening anyway. Unfamiliar with the scope of traffic in resort areas, Diane and I never travelled on long weekends in either Calgary or San Francisco because her two-hour daily commute proved enough and I certainly didn’t want to sit in long stretches of traffic. During her nursing years, she picked up overtime shifts and I simply hung around the house. Disclaimer; the featured picture is not actually Malaysia but I used it to add emphasis: it us from somewhere in Southeast Asia
Becoming early retirees changed our attitude a bit and we figured there might be fewer people in Georgetown than Batu Ferringhi since there’s no beach to speak of in the UNESCO Heritage area. Experiencing our first crowded bus adventure quickly changed our attitude about leaving the condo for three days the next time a long weekend rolls around. Hopping on The 101 route sometime around the noon hour, the bus was full and barely had room for us to move, let alone be comfortable. While not as insane as buses in India, the pleasant and fast trips we’ve enjoyed came to an abrupt end as more people piled on until he finally stopped picking people up. Although the stench was not as bad as I remember my New York City subway commutes, the bus still whipped across the turns and we became sandwiched in for almost 40 minutes. Wondering where they were going and why most of the town was leaving, we passed Tesco and not one soul moved nor did anyone ring the bell at the major mall shopping areas or anywhere else for the next fifteen minutes as the bus passed all the places we expected people to exit. Finally half the bus emptied out somewhere between Komtar and the end of the line so we hopped off at the next stop.
Apologizing for the delay between posts, Diane and I are waking up to our first morning in the new condo. Actually, only one of us is awake which brings me to one of my first points that’s very different from our old life. Nobody in Malaysia gets up early, everything starts agent 8 AM and only the unfortunate souls forced to work in the ungodly morning hours are up. Starbucks doesn’t open until 8 which means I am the first customer in the door and I even found one location that brews actual “brewed coffee” albeit if I wait about 10 minutes since they’d never brew a pot unless some crazy American somehow requests coffee that’s not an espresso based drink. Of course the whole milk option is sure more flavorful than creamer and they usually pour me a little cup on the side as they slowly get used to the white boy who stands at the door waiting for his Morning cup of java. Actually, the incredibly great Starbucks that just opened here in Batu Ferringhi is about a mile walk from the condo so now I’ll be drinking Nescafé and enjoying faster WiFi speeds as I enjoy the view and update the blog.
View of the pool
Making the process of moving even simpler than we thought it could be, our incredible property agent showed up right in time, drove us to the condo and we met the owner, a feisty Chinese woman who came all the way from Johor in the southern part of Malaysia just to meet us. Having already read the relatively simple tenancy agreement or TA as they call it, we spot checked a few amendments, signed three copies which then have to head over to be “stamped” by the official powers that be, and they quickly ran through the semantics like the two car parks (that we don’t need since we have no vehicle), how to pay the rent (simply set up the landlord in as payee and do automatic debits from the checking account) and showed us where the management office and pool area are. Spending about another hour chatting, our new landlord seemed eager for us to stay as long as possible and asked if we’d stay forever. Laughing, we said we have ten years on the MM2H but we’d have to see how things progress. An hour later, the WiFi installer came by after calling us two days ahead of his appointment, asking if he could come now and spent less time than it takes for an American “service person” to even walk in the door to complete the entire process. (The topic of efficiency in Malaysia is for another post; from what we’ve seen, they counter everything we read about slowness, laziness and actually remind me of America in my childhood when customer service was not an oxymoron). The package comes with broadband service at 8 Mb and 17 free channels of useless TV for about $45 USD, not really unreasonable but one of the only expenses priced closer to western standards.