Recently someone posed a question about why we chose Penang instead of KL. Sounding like the obvious choice is the big city with all the socializing and things to do, I’d like to discuss the issue by example. Although we are still in transition and haven’t finished buying everything we need and still have to spend a week in KL next month to complete our MM2H visa, we are anything but bored. Penang has over 50 different “tourist” attractions to explore including the UNESCO Heritage Area, interesting museums highlighting Chinese, Malay and historical aspects of the island, a national park ten minutes from our house, an amazing array of cuisine ranging from spicy to mundane and everything in between, festivals all year-long, art, dance and comedy performances at different venues, a wonderful botanic gardens with free admission and Penang Hill which is 2,400 feet above sea level and offers respite from the heat. By the way, we think the island weather beats the valley smog anyway. Varying from day-to-day, we’ve seen everything from sunny and hot (beach days), overcast with intermittent sunshine (perfect for walking and exploring), rain that never lasts all day and usually comes in the middle of the night, spectacular sunsets, smoke (the crappy part but not so bad this year) and breezes that allow limited use of air conditioning.
Citing examples, on the last weekend of every month there are free guided walks offered in various places and we took advantage of two of them in the Botanical Gardens. Organized by a native Penangite, the Saturday morning walk was a detailed explanation of some of the different gardens including a visit to the wild orchids and descriptions of native and non native trees and plants seen throughout the park. Everyone on our walk was local and like many places, was very uninformed about the beauty in their backyard. Deciding we’d enjoy the evening walk even better because it highlights the rainforest trail and it’s cooler at 6:30 PM than 9 AM, the walk would cap off our Sunday. Taking advantage of another event earlier in the day, we hopped on the bus and visited the Little Penang Street Market held in the last Sunday of every month. Enjoying some cheesy but harmonious live entertainment, homemade food and interesting memorabilia, it was decidedly different from the generic street fairs they hold every year throughout the Bay Area and the vendors are a hundred times friendlier and interesting than grumpy California merchants who are always angry at life because they can’t make a living selling artsy stuff that nobody buys.
As a miscellaneous post script for any Americans thinking about MM2H, the Malaysian Ringgit just hit a 17 year low versus the U.S. Dollar. Although there is reasonably justifiable cause for concern with the current financial scandal that’s basically ruined all hope for Malaysia’s lofty goals of fully developed status by 2020, politics is not something expats should ever discuss so let’s just say that at $3.81 MYR for every USD, anyone can afford to move here and at the moment we use Our U.S. Dollar charge cards which are giving us better rates than the cash we converted for our first few months of living expenses.