Tag Archives: British Columbia

Pre-Penang Progress Report

With a million thanks to our incredible relationship manager in Kuala Lumpur, I’m happy to report our Malaysian bank account is open ahead of our arrival. Defying conventional wisdom by accomplishing this from overseas, we’ve eliminated one major concern and can now concentrate on finding a place to live without worrying about financial issues. Flying directly to Kuala Lumpur on June 30th, we meet with our banker the next day where he’ll present us with checks, an ATM card and a credit card application form. Staying one extra day to catch up on sleep, we’re then off to Penang two days later where we’ll stay at the Copthorne Orchid Hotel for 11 nights while looking for a condo rental. Proving my research paid off, we opened a premier account in the USA a few months ago, giving us the go ahead to open overseas accounts before arriving. Granted you need the right relationship manager and ours was a referral from an old contact on the now defunct MM2H forum. Oh, and the KL to Penang flight on Air Asia was $19.50 USD.

imageConcentrating on getting a place to live, we wrote another one of our old contacts and she referred us to a local property agent who has a stellar reputation. Contacting her by email, she wrote back less than 10 minutes later and agreed to show us properties and drive us around the area as soon as we arrive next weekend. Reading up on the process, it seems a bit lengthy and costly by our standards with property agents wanting one month’s rent as a fee and landlords demanding upwards of two to three months rent up front as security deposits. Wishing to cover all the bases, we decided to look at third-party owners looking to rent properties directly which could potentially save money.  Finding no shortage of availability, we used the forum on InterNations and found a few possibilities. Setting up meetings the following week, we hope to wade through the process relatively quickly without getting ripped off. Of course, our ethnic advantage should help and we even booked a meeting with a European business owner dedicated to helping expats. Continue reading

Night and Day

Having spent a week in British Columbia and a week in Alberta, I’ve observed how different the two provinces are. Part of the problem with living in Canada is you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Aside from higher taxes in exchange for socialized health care, a GST that raises the price of your Starbucks latte by about 89 cents and the metric system that’s not completely used in consumer products, certain things are strikingly different depending on where you live in this enormous country. In the spirit of the now defunct David Letterman show, here’s my Top 10 List of differences between Alberta and British Columbia.

I shortened it a bit.

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The Ethnic Advantage

Haggling is not my thing. Come to think of it, almost all white people I know are not very good at this very important skill. Usually unable to bargain the way people in markets around the world do every day, North Americans get accustomed to paying “sale” prices only when TV and media tell them there’s a sale.  Knowing how important negotiating prices is when  travelling throughout Southeast Asia, I was initially concerned but realized we have an undue advantage that I call “The Ethnic Advantage”. As any white guy married to an Asian will attest, marrying an Asian woman comes with certain benefits not available to Caucasian couples. Almost everything you can buy in Asia comes with a “foreigners price” and a “local price” . Being armed with an Asian wife often means getting prices somewhere in the middle even without haggling.

imageUnexpectedly, a perfect example of the ethnic advantage arose right here in South Surrey, British Columbia at a local cellular store. Needing accessibility to a wi-fi connection while staying at Diane’s parents old-fashioned and Internet-less home, we shopped around for a “no contract” plan that we can cancel after one month. Using  our friend’s old IPhone, we learned of a plan with Bell, one of Canada’s leading cell providers, that allows unlimited Canada wide calling and texting and 10 Mb of data for only $65 per month in exchange for using a Saskatchewan phone number. Satisfying our data needs as well as having an emergency phone while making the 900 mile drive across the province, we went into the local store and explained our situation to a middle-aged Chinese employee. Already having an advantage over the obnoxious kids that work at American cell kiosks and usually have knowledge of absolutely nothing, we expected we’d get what we need with the Chinese guy.

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What is this wet stuff?

Knowing the unseasonably beautiful weather wouldn’t last because this is Canada, Diane and I spent some time walking around over the past few days enjoying the amazingly green lush trails of South Surrey, British Columbia. Spoiled by long days at this latitude, when it’s nice in BC it’s spectacular. Climatically speaking, this is one of the highest growing zones for plant life and even the smallest seed will likely turn into some sort of beautiful blossom. Never knowing this part of the province existed, South Surrey is a suburban enclave that resembles where we just lived only greener and featuring modern two-story houses that are about 50 years newer than anything in Walnut a Creek. But all good things come to an end and as I awoke this morning, I stepped out on the patio and a heavy rainfall jolted me, even though it was nowhere to be found in the Yahoo weather prediction for the greater Vancouver area. After about four days of rain in one year living in drought stricken California, it felt like a new experience

The easy life

Enjoying a snooze on the patio

Undaunted, Diane and I are meeting the first blog contact of our newly retired life this morning at a local Starbucks. Coincidentally, she’s a young Canadian woman who recently travelled to Vietnam and Indonesia, visiting almost all the places I’m sure we’d want to explore and she happens to also be staying with friends in the area.  We also bought plane tickets yesterday from Vancouver to Kuala Lumpur via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Airlines. Scheduled to leave on June 29th at 2:00 AM, the flights are similar to the San Francisco flights to Asia only much fuller due to the heavy Chinese population in Western Canada. An email conversation with our amazingly cool banker at HSBC Malaysia confirmed an appointment upon arrival for us to open our local bank account and explore downtown KL for one day as tourists before heading to Penang to search for an apartment. Having been contacted earlier this year by a sales rep from the Novatel KL City Centre Hotel interested in offering us discounted rates in exchange for a plug on the blog, I’m hoping to take him up on the offer.

Celebrating a second retirement party for Diane, our gracious friend hosted a barbeque last night with mostly healthy items like chicken, grilled veggies and salmon. Enjoying the perfect late afternoon sunshine that looks like it will never arrive after nine hours of dreary low clouds, everyone enjoyed the marinated meats and veggies while I watched game five of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Third round.  Expecting hockey withdrawal to set in after a while, we planned on staying in Canada at least until someone hoists the Stanley Cup overhead before leaving for a county where ice is found only at hawker stands serving chendol.  For anyone that cares, the New York Rangers lost in a shutout to the Tampa Bay Lightning despite having the home ice advantage.

Using today as a transition, it’s time to do some laundry, pack for another 900 mile drive across the province albeit with gas prices 40% higher than the last trip, and spend a night in Jasper, Alberta before heading to Edmonton. Exemplifying the craziness of Canadian weather, the forecast is 27 degrees Celsius for those next two days with abundant sunshine followed by 9 degree plummet with rain coming for the weekend. Remembering that Canadians spend their first summer long weekend camping in the snow, the temperature usually skyrockets up right as everyone heads back to work and this year was no different. Hoping to catch a morning in the most gorgeous hot springs you’ve ever seen without needing a winter coat and umbrella, we plan on staying one night in a hotel before squatting at Diane’s parents house for a while.

imageSo the first week of house squatting has come and gone in the blink of an eye and it’s time to waste some more time further east. Unfortunately our friend’s cabin in the lake an hour outside of Edmonton is already being occupied by another squatter whose house is apparently under construction making it highly unlikely we’ll be enjoying any serenity through cabin life anytime soon. Very disappointed, it looks like we’ll be acting like newly married kids staying at the parents house because we can’t afford to go anywhere else. Comfortable enough, this is not my first preference but adapting to unexpected situations is clearly part of being an Experimental Expat so I suppose this is an early lesson.  Hoping for some sunshine, cheers for now from Western Canada

Quick postscript:

Having constructed this unpublished post before our above referenced meeting, I wanted to give a huge plug and enormous thank you to Jordan for meeting us today. Along with her friends Ben and Mark, Jordan generously offered almost three hours to share some information about her trip, blogging and life on the road. Promising we’d stay in touch and help promote each other’s blogs and interests, I want to share a link to her awesome blog covering the trip to Southeast Asia that covers the adventures she enjoyed overseas. Titled The Travel Years,  Jordan’s story is well worth your time. Please pay it a visit. A more insightful post about the advantages of meeting blog contacts will follow but since we’re heading out on the road tomorrow, I’ll revisit the topic when I can devote more attention to it.

Calling any expats in Malaysia willing to help us negotiate the first few weeks in July; Please use our contact page to connect or share whatever you can as comments 

House Squatting Part Deux in Beautiful British Columbia

Insisting we spend the last night as Bay Area residents in our empty house, Diane got her way as we slept on the California King one last time. Getting perhaps an hour of sleep with a 725 Mile drive to come, anxiousness overwhelmed me as I watched the clock about every six minutes, drifted off for a bit and finally felt relieved as 5AM approached. Exhibiting the first example of leaving my comfort zone, we drove our 2002 Honda CRV all the way to Washington State with the check engine light on. Assuring me it wasn’t a mechanical issue, our awesome “jack of all trades” neighbor used a small diagnostic checker the day before to assess the problem. Indicating a “knock sensor” malfunction, I took his word and hoped it was in fact related to emissions and the worst thing that would happen was poor gas mileage. (I didn’t notice this; it drove like a dream as most Hondas do for many years)

imageArriving in dreary Portland before rush hour but late enough to take advantage of the carpool lane, we whizzed by after two gas stops and a lunch break at McDonalds. (Disclaimer: the only time I ever eat the worlds most unhealthy fast food is on driving trips although I will try it once in Malaysia). Deciding it was best to stop about an hour out of Seattle’s nightmarish traffic, we checked into a Best Western Premier in the picturesque industrial town of Chehalis. With everything we own now stuffed into the CRV including two boxes of vital records, two suitcases, two duffel bags, three small bags for “transit” through Canada and a backpack, we thought it best to haul it all up to the room. Fortunately the hotel had a luggage cart and an elevator. Using Yelp as a guide, we found a nearby restaurant with a lot of home cooked food and the hotel staff confirmed it was the best in town and told us they send all their guests there. Tired and hungry, we drove the 1.5 miles even though my legs needed a break after an 11 hour drive.

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