Tag Archives: holiday season

Shopping spree

As 2017 progresses into its first full week and the temperature here in arctic Edmonton hovers around a seasonal minus twenty Celsius, my body says it’s desperately time to get outta Dodge and get back to the comforts of heat and humidity. Plagued with a three-week head cold, cracked dry skin, sore lips, caked up nose, tired bones and bundled up in double wool socks, vests on top of down coats, warm gloves and a hat, I’m longing for the comforts of shorts and t-shirts again. As much as I love Canada and will always call it my second home, there’s no denying that Canadian prairie winters really suck. Fortunately, when you sell a house in California an don’t need to buy another one, it’s relatively easy to become an overseas expat in a hot nation for about fifteen years.

23 kilogram limit: mostly food

23 kilogram limit: mostly food

Financially speaking, although we spent about six hundred bucks more than our thirty-day budget, we bought a cornucopia of quality brand name products at Boxing Day sale prices that end almost all our shopping needs for a year or two. Including about twelve Nike Dry fit t-shirts, two pairs of name brand hikers good for the jungle, new Ecco and Keens sandals, a new fanny pack and toiletry kit for travel and deodorant that actually works in the humidity, the shopping aspect is worth three flights, two layovers and almost 20 hours of flying time. Also horribly inconvenient for me since I’m legally blind in one eye, there’s only one brand of contact lenses that work well for me in any environment.

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The Big Blemish

Realizing it takes about a year’s commitment to fully grasp living in a new environment, Diane and I are about half way through and have just added New Year’s Day and any associated long weekend days to the list of times to get the hell out of Batu Ferrenghi. As the third entry to this dubious list that includes the horribly overcrowded Hari Raya holiday and the unlivable “haze season”, we’re experiencing the stupidest and most obnoxious event we’ve come across since moving to Penang. After a relatively quiet New Year’s Eve that featured a few minutes of fireworks at midnight, about 10,000 Malay teenagers came roaring into town on intentionally noise-modified Yamaha motorbikes in what’s obviously some ridiculous organized event clearly designed to disturb every resident, disrupt the most lucrative tourism season of the year and drive half the local businesses to close.

Naturally, 80% of them take over the Sri Sayang serviced apartments directly across the street from our window. Knowing there’s also annual motorcycle gang gatherings in the USA in places like Daytona Beach and Sturgis, South Dakota, I’ve got nothing against organized events and expats are visitors that shouldn’t judge local customs, cultures and events. Having said that, this event is so disturbingly loud and disruptive it’s ridiculous enough for me to write about. Unlike normal events where participants actually do something, the idea of this one seems to be:

Go out in unorganized groups of anything from 10 to 100 at any time of day or night, rev up the putt-putt engines as loud as possible, disrupt the already choked roads, spew countless amounts of poisonous exhaust fumes into a country already plagued by haze and daily bouts of never ending burning and not really go anywhere. Drive a few blocks. Stop and eat. Throw garbage on the street. Wait five minutes and repeat all weekend long.

Sounding like life on the NASCAR race circuit, living through this for three days is so annoying we’re counting down the minutes when they all go back to school and work. Scores of aimless youths obviously think this is fun. Unfortunately, all their parents forgot to teach them that civilized members of society don’t throw garbage everywhere. Setting up a tent that’s monitored by about two people, the streets outside our condo are a cesspool of festering food containers, plastic bottles, toilet tissue and mounds of other litter that’s creating a haven for rats, mice and who knows what else. Since the two or three adults at the little table by the tent appear to be wearing military uniforms, I guess they condone turning the town into a pig sty.


Realizing most Malaysians are law-abiding and very nice, this “festival” puts an enormous blemish on Malaysia in the eyes of western foreigners and they should be ashamed of this. Friendly with a local bar owner, our neighbors tell us the local business community hates this event and common occurrences include groups of kids ordering food and drink and then refusing to pay, using their large numbers as a defense mechanism. Strolling through town, you’ll notice lots of gated up restaurants and businesses because nobody wants to deal with thousands of unruly kids interfering with their daily commerce. Thankfully, their religion prevents them from boozing it up and there’s no guns in Malaysia. Seeming almost like what residents described to us as an election year tactic designed to cause trouble in the largely opposition state of Penang, the mostly Chinese state government can’t possibly approve of this so either there’s something suspicious or they all go away for the weekend. More likely they turn a blind eye like almost everyone does in Asia.

With no visible police presence, the kids parade up and down all day and night and apparently add little or nothing to the local economy. And nobody sees anything wrong. Excuse my snobbish overtone but speaking for my entire condo, this type of event will never attract foreigners and since this country builds nothing but million dollar luxury high-rise units despite less than 1% of its citizenry ever being able to afford one, this type of event clearly diminishes the chances of Malaysia ever becoming “fully developed“. Not a fan of Harley Davidson  biker crowds, I can assure you when they hold large gatherings in the USA, they patronize the local businesses, try not to disturb the residents and other tourists and leave the town relatively spotless. If they didn’t they would no longer be welcome and law enforcement wouldn’t tolerate it. Clearly the opposite, this ridiculous gathering appears to be a rite of passage for bored Malay teens and it’s very disruptive, disrespectful and just plain annoying. Score one more for Thailand.

Hoping they end this putt-putt gathering some day, I’m sure it’s just another one of the many “inconveniences” of living in Southeast Asia and like the continuing destruction of habitat, never ending burning and everything else that makes Asia what it is, I guess “home for the holidays” is the what’s on tap for the 2016 holiday season. Plagued with two weeks of standstill traffic, stuck in town because of it and now being forced into air conditioning and closed windows like another haze season, we recommend skipping Penang and perhaps enjoying Phuket or Bali for your year-end vacation.

On the bright side, we leave for our work exchange in Australia in six days and hopefully spending four weeks in a G8 nation will make it easier to return to the never ending surprises we experience as expats living in Southeast Asia.

Happy 2016.


The photogenic side of cold

Reflecting back on our last holiday season spent in the cold, I’m glad we’re back and even happier that the sweltering tropical heat is merely months away. Having spent one week in Edmonton, Diane’s home town, and one week in Calgary, our home for six years, visiting with family was cold but fun. Experiencing relatively average or even above average Canadian winter temperatures while most of America was sweltering in a brown Christmas, the real cold came in for the last few days and reminded us how much the cold sucks.

dogsAs the photographer for our blog, Diane brought her new camera which hasn’t seen much use other than sitting on one of the many pieces of furniture marked for sale due to our upcoming move. Although many people in Canada spends much of the holiday season indoors due to the cold, we always find time to walk along the River Valley Trail. Edmonton’s premier (and only) scenic attraction, winter walks along the frozen North Saskatchewan River always reveal something beautiful and this trip was no different. With only 88 days until we file for the MM2H visa and less than that until our house is up for sale, this is no doubt the last time I reminisce about cold for some time.

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Top 12 foods NOT found in Malaysia (Please send)

Celebrating the spirit of the holidays, Diane and I are suffering through our last freezing cold Christmas while visiting her family in the arctic cold environment of Edmonton, Alberta. Delivering news of our upcoming move to Malaysia to her parents, it seemed only natural to experience ice and snow, break out heavy parkas and remind ourselves one more time why Canadians move to the tropics and not vice-versa. Separated from technology in a wireless house reminiscent of the old days (the 1990’s), I scheduled this post thinking everybody loves to eat around the holidays. Although Penang has Southeast Asia’s best cuisine, I started thinking about the things we will likely NOT find anywhere in Malaysia.

 New York's most famous Neurotic Jew

Woody Allen:
New York’s most famous Neurotic Jew

Sadly, most everything on the list is also not available in Northern California, at least not in its palatable form. Realizing that native New Yorkers celebrate their own original version of food, I compiled a list of 12 lip smacking delicious foods found only at a (non-existent) Kosher/Italian New York style hawker stand. Unclear if that would fly with so much incredibly great other stuff and since the MM2H visa prohibits most forms of employment income, pictures and memories are no doubt the closest I’ll get until my next trip back to Brooklyn.

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