Tag Archives: Malayisa

Life After Haze

Almost like it never happened, the horrible annual event known as The Haze feels like a distant memory as the skies returned to normal in Penang. Almost magically, the air quality went from crappy to acceptable to excellent in a matter of days. Seemingly like a two month bad dream, monsoon rains in Indonesia finally arrived and doused the memories of stinky disgusting smoke almost as fast as it arrived. Unfortunately, that puts an end to the story for another year and one of the planet’s biggest environmental issues the quietly fades into another statistical anomaly. Knowing nothing will ever change, I was almost hoping it might stay until Christmas and ruin the Westerners annual Christmas vacations in Phuket which would surely garner massive attention in the Western media. Instead, Indonesia apologizes for nothing, remains one of the fastest growing economies on earth, continues to poison 80 million of its citizens and neighbors annually and everyone in the developed world enjoys millions of inexpensive products made from Indonesian sourced palm oil. Oblivious to the problems that seem like third world issues, the effects will surely be felt by future generations that will look back and wonder how their ancestors chose complacency and profits over sustainable agricultural policies. Having suffered through this insanity, I’ve done my small part to share what I can with anyone interested and I offer one last article that’s really worth reading entitled “Indonesia is Burning: So why is the World Looking Away?”. 

Ironically and perhaps even a result of the smoke particles trapped in the air, the skies over Batu Ferringhi for the last two weeks are producing spectacular cloud shows rivaling the best sunsets one could imagine in places like Hawaii or The Caribbean. Seasonal October rain comes almost daily since the haze dissipated but often its overnight, leaving the mornings fresh and clean. Remembering why we chose our condo for its beautiful views despite the level of crappy internet service that recalls the days of dial-up services (look it up, people; it wasn’t that long ago), it’s nice to see the horizon again.

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The Stuff Arrives

Writing my first post from a PC since leaving California six months ago, our 29 boxes of goods finally arrived (barely) about a week ago after a long and arduous journey that began in Walnut Creek, California eight weeks prior. Having been transferred from one container to another and changing vessels in Shanghai and Singapore, our cheaply made U-Haul boxes were so tattered, ripped and moist they practically fell apart when I lifted into them into the elevator. Typical of most things in the USA, good quality has disappeared from moving boxes and has deteriorated to a point where you might as well keep your personal stuff at a relative’s house or storage locker because the flimsy excuse what passes as cardboard is ill-equipped for longshoremen, ocean journeys and tropical environments. Should you want to ship a “less than container load” (LCL) overseas, allow about two months from door to door and perhaps look beyond the local U-Haul store for your boxes.

imageFinancially speaking, it wasn’t all that bad but be aware you pay one fee to the shipping company in your home country and then pay a series of extra fees to local logistics agencies once your shipment arrives. Varying by country, it’s best to research the fees ahead of time to avoid surprises. We used a California-based shipping company that offered pick up service at the storage locker for a few hundred dollars. Charging a minimum fee of $490 for 4 cubic meters and adding on miscellaneous dock, customs and logistics fees, we paid $1,080.00 USD in early September and forgot all about it for the next eight weeks. For those unfamiliar, 4 cubic meters is about 45 standard medium size boxes. Utilizing only about 60% of that with 29 different sized boxes including six mirror/art boxes and the original computer and printer boxes, we suggest documenting the contents of each box carefully on a spreadsheet to ensure compliance with customs regulations. Like everything in Malaysia, they have lots of rules and regulations but your “forwarding agent” always finds a way to bypass everything and get you your stuff quickly. (Ours wanted an extra 50 ringgit on top of his fee claiming he had to buy the customs guy lunch and cigarettes in exchange for only opening one or two boxes for physical inspection).


For the benefit of anyone interested in shipping personal goods to Malaysia, here’s what to expect. Tracking the last vessel and knowing its estimated arrival date will save time and effort. Receiving very little information, this was difficult due to the trans-shipment changes at each port but basic marine traffic schedules are available online if you know the original vessel. Our “bill of lading” was a minor document with only basic information about the logistics company in Penang and we found out the address and phone number they gave us was two years outdated so check this ahead of time.

Dealing with both a logistics company and a “forwarding agent”, the first agent is responsible for off loading your boxes into a storage locker and ours allowed only four days of free storage before incurring extra fees. Known as Vanguard Logistics Company, the fee was 420 ringgit (about $100 USD). The second and more complicated stage involves the forwarding agent, whose job is to facilitate customs clearance and delivery from the warehouse to your door. (His fee was 1,350 ringgit, about $450 USD). Although ultimately friendly and easy to deal with, they’re almost all of Indian descent and often hard to understand so its best to know the process going in. Although you can use any agent, Malaysia is a country where “knowing a guy” is the norm so the logistics company will probably already assign your shipment to their favorite contact. But they’re more than happy to change to someone else if you’re unhappy with the service or fees. Making much ado about nothing is typical Malaysian business practice so naturally, our forwarding agent insisted on meeting us at the condo to “inspect what’s involved” (meaning gauging how much money we’d be willing to part with for extra services like hauling the stuff upstairs). Learning our condo only allows deliveries until 5 PM, he spent a half hour running through the difficulties of “getting customs to clear this” by the fourth day after off-loading but ultimately the stuff showed up on one of those Malaysian lorries that look like Nicaraguan military junta vehicles. Ask if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to answer if I can.


Malaysian rules are relatively simple regarding imported personal effects. Claiming they physically inspect every individual CD, video and any other media based artifacts to make sure it complies with local censorship rules, we didn’t include any so it was irrelevant. For all electronics items, you need to note the make, model, serial number, place of manufacture and voltage/wattage. Only computers, printers and peripherals made for sale in the USA are sold with an option for 220 volt usage anyway so this list will probably be short. Finally, items purchased within the last six months are subject to duty fees so we suggest not using any original boxes that look like they might fall in this category. The biggest issue was the flimsy boxes that fell apart and are now thoroughly useless. Realizing that buildings in developing nations use all concrete and no drywall, it’s almost impossible to hang anything without ruining the walls with electric drills so most of our art went into the storage room. Although they do sell ridiculous little hooks with four small nails to pound into concrete, they usually bend into oblivion rendering them useless. Another fun Malaysian issue is how they claim to need “electricians” to upgrade the crappy lighting that most owners install when renting. Usually unskilled workers from neighboring countries, they wanted lots of extra cash to give us ample lighting in our bedrooms so we decided to set up the PC next to the balcony which makes typing more fun than sitting in a dimly lit “computer room”.

So Experimental Expat life continues after the worst two months of haze since 1997. Having wasted almost two months mostly indoors, it’s time to get outta here anyway. Utilizing Airbnb for the first time, we’re off to Thailand next weekend. Splurging for five nights at the Anantaslia, a mid range hotel in the beach town of Hua HIn, we’re travelling by overnight sleeper train on the express voyage known as Train 36 that originates across the strait in Butterworth and hopping off three stops before the train’s destination in Bangkok. Priced at RM 105.90 one way (about $24), it’s a good bargain and we’ve never done that before so it should be fun. Following five nights in Hua Hin, we’re off on a 10 1/2 hour bus ride to Chiang Mai where we’ll stay one week at a suburban three bedroom house and one week near the old city in a one bedroom condo that has a pool and gym. Hopefully the sunshine follows and we’ll be checking out Chiang Mai to see if that’s the next place to live once the inevitable haze season returns. Thanks for following.

Please keep the haze issue alive and share the article above or better yet, boycott a company that carries Indonesian sourced palm oil. 


Choking expats seeking the sky


Currently reading an unbelievable API (air pollution index) number of 252, Penang Island today is completely crippled with smog levels that not even Singapore or Beijing sees very often. Somehow claiming “they’ve been caught off guard”, all schools are closed indefinitely, flights are either delayed or cancelled and you can’t even hear any motorbike noise which basically means the island’s population may as well be dead. It’s been 18 years of illegal slash and burn practices one country over so I guess I’m not understanding why they think climate change somehow won’t affect them in drought years, especially with a highly publicized and strong El Niño event happening, but the only official information is a blurb telling residents to “stay indoors”. For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the API, levels under 50 are healthy and over 200 is basically hazardous to step outside. Indonesia remains in the mid 450s every day and many parts read “999” because the developers of the machinery  that measures air quality probably pegged it impossible to ever break 1,000. For expats caught in the middle like us it means another day of sitting in the living room wasting energy although the smoky stench occasionally creeps through the air conditioning vents anyway.


Although it may have been better to pay the exorbitant storage fees and keep our 29 boxes of personal goods in the California storage locker, it’s too late now as the vessel arrives Saturday. Having paid the logistics company today, we expect delivery sometime next week through a “forwarding agent” so there’s nothing we can do but stay indoors all day and bear witness to an environmental situation that western minds couldn’t possibly wrap their heads around. Working out in the air-conditioned gym is almost impossible because the air stays off when it’s unoccupied, allowing the soot and stench to creep through the windows and under the door. Understandably, nobody in the rest of the world sans a small community of Greenpeace advocates and scientists pays much attention to a problem that doesn’t really seem important and many long-term expats tell us we should just leave since we have freedom of mobility. But those who follow this blog know how long and hard it was to get the MM2H visa thanks to a host of hurdles involving banking secrecy rules and tedious procedures so it’s not as simple as just picking up and leaving. Mostly it’s discouraging and admitting it’s not going to work for our lifestyle is not an easy thing to accept. But nature can’t fix this, rain is nowhere on the horizon despite Malaysia’s status as rainforest country and G8 leaders are not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring for help battling the wildfires. If this happened in California, CNN would be going bat shit covering it 24/7 and federal funds would free up to address the emergency. Southeast Asian nations live by different standards so all I can say is keep this in mind when considering an expat retirement destination.

Now back to the Amazing Mets game.


The Pho Failure

Known for its reputation as a foodie haven where dozens of styles mix and match, Penang misses the boat entirely on one count as far as I’m concerned. With all the amazing noodle soups including Hokkien Mee, Laksa, Wanton Mee and various others, trying to find a simple bowl of Vietnamese Pho is like searching for water in the desert. One of my favorite styles of food, Vietnamese is unknown and sadly lacking everywhere in Penang. Unsure why a nation so close to Malaysia remains absent from the local cuisine, I’ve seen bizarre food outlets like “authentic Mexican cuisine” a handful of places calling themselves “New York style” pizza and “western style” pub food where they don’t understand that only Europeans put mayo on burgers and fries. Desperately looking for my fix of Bun Rieu, salad rolls, vermicelli noodles and grilled pork served with that delicious simple Vietnamese sauce, I recently scoured the Internet and came up with a whopping three choices when prompting Google for help. Ruling out the first option, a place known as No Eyed Deer because they serve only an average tasting bowl of Pho for weekend brunch, that didn’t leave much more considering the island has over 8,000 choices for food.

imageNoticing one of the remaining two eateries was near the strangely named Penang Times Square Mall, we saw there was an annual book fair across from a hilariously named hotel (see the picture) so we asked our favorite neighbors if they wanted to make a day trip that included lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Known as Huong Que, we drove up the umpteen circular levels one drives up in Penang to get to the parking area of the mall’s garage and found our way back down five levels to the street. (I’m unsure why engineers decided that the top four floors of every mall should be dedicated to parking but I know they tend to be empty because there’s usually a “premium” basement level parking option. Most pMalaysians would rather shell out a ringgit of two than walk an extra fifteen steps). Crossing the street in the world’s most pedestrian friendly nation (sarcasm intended) took some skills that car-less expats like us eventually pick up like holding your hand up and running between packed traffic. Entering the small restaurant we found about six small cramped tables for four with little stools designed for people even shorter than me. Seeing that every employee was of Malaysian descent and understood zero about anything Vietnamese, the initial vibe wasn’t the best.

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Phase Two Begins

Approaching the end of our third month in Penang, we celebrated our 15th anniversary last night with Peter and Idy, our awesome neighbors and good friends. Choosing the Penang location of Sushi Tei, a Singaporean chain that was excellent in KL, we perused the 31 page menu but sadly the service and quality was not up to par compared to The Big City. Coming to the end of our third month as Experimental Expats in Penang, the honeymoon phase appears to be over as daily life slowly creeps in. According to everything we’ve read about being expats, most people love the beginning because everything is new and exciting. Usually too busy focusing on what’s new, contemplating what you’ve really done is difficult while figuring out your new surroundings. Having settled in relatively easily, we’re now approaching that dreaded second phase where many expats take a hard look at what they’ve done and begin to crave the comfortable surroundings of their old home. While I’m not remotely ready to pack the bags for California (or Canada), especially since the financial markets shaved a big chunk off our assets since this summer, we are noticing some things that clarify why we’re able to live overseas at one tenth the cost of developed nations.

Citing an example, our internet service usually works but not at the standards we’re used to. Often unable to stream movies during the evening, there’s only one option customers this far out on the island and unfortunately, it’s not the better of the two companies. Providing wifi,  land line we never use and a host of useless TV channels that no westerner has any interest in, we installed the bundled service that provides the strongest capacity. At only 8 Mb, you can’t really expect perfection. (Comcast, our old provider in the USA, provides about 30 Mb for the most basic broadband service). Often needing to reboot the modem, the solution to frozen internet service reminds me of my early cubicle life in the 80’s, when the answer to every issue from the IT guy was always “Did you reboot your PC?“. Seeing that a reboot didn’t work one day, we had to call for service. In Malaysia, this means the service guys call you anytime they happen to be around and expect you to drop everything and run home. Scheduling appointments is not really an option and we’ve seen that specific people service  “unreasonably far” service areas like ours in Batu Ferringhi. (For the record, our town is 5 kilometers from the more populated parts of the island.)

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Experimental Tour Guides- Part One

Seeming longer than four days, our first stint as tour guides in our newly discovered expat haven came to an end as we texted our favorite Uber driver and sent Jamie on her way back to the airport. (Here in Penang, there’s no Uber drivers way out by us so we use a personalized driver that usually comes or sends a friend and then we request the Uber ride when they’re in range. LIke most things in Malaysia, drivers go out of their way to accommodate.) Having a visitor so soon after arriving turned out to be fun because it felt like we rediscovered the island all over agin. Because Malaysia is such an easy place to become an expat in terms of adjusting we almost felt complacent already and they haven’t even stamped our MM2H visa. Fresh off a few days in Thailand, Jamie immediately felt the difference between the neighboring nations and really appreciated the unobtrusiveness of Penang’s laid back island environment. Spending some time in Bangkok and Phuket, she liked the beaches but hated the “in your face” attitude of Thailand and was ready for some relaxation and immersion.

imageUnfortunately, peace and quiet wasn’t part of my itinerary and I planned to use her time her as an excuse to do some things we’ve meant to do anyway. Hiking to Monkey Beach was high on my priority list so we hopped on the 101 bus, headed the other way and got off ten minutes away at the end of the line. Never attempting to use this blog as ether a “travel” or “foodie” blog, I wouldn’t attempt to describe things in a TripAdvisor review format. Instead, I’ll just write about experiencing a relatively simple jungle trek for two middle-aged fit people and a Pilates trainer. Hint: Jungle hiking is harder than typical North American hikes including high elevation day trips, which we’ve done many times when we lived an hour away from the Canadian Rockies. Recommending you start on a partly sunny day that doesn’t have any immediately threatening storm clouds, mother nature was on our side with some overcast popping out between the beautiful views. Last time we visited Malaysia’s smallest National Park, there were only four registered hikers all day but on this particular Friday morning, there were already a dozen or so hikers that chose to hit the trails including two Americans. (Hikers must register at the information desk and you’ll need to know your passport number.) Stopping for a quick pee, we headed out on the trail about an hour later than I would’ve preferred but her flight didn’t arrive until the evening before so we didn’t get much sleep because we had to hit Kafe Long Beach after she checked in.

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Home Sweet Home

Yay, we have a place to live! Having accomplished an amazing amount in a relatively quick timeframe, we’re glad to report we signed a rough draft on a rental agreement in the beautiful Bayu Ferrengghi apartment complex. Having spent another day searching in the areas closer to amenities, shopping and “the big city”, we decided that suburban living facing the oceanfront was more our style. Unlike many beachfront locations, Penang is a small island served with an amazingly efficient set of bus routes that are quick, clean and air-conditioned. Seven day Bus passes cost MYR 30 for unlimited rides and monthly passes are also available but you need to fill out a form and attach a passport picture so we can do that later. Served by two lines that traverse the entire side of the island from downtown Georgetown all the way our to Penang National Park, getting anywhere is easy.

Lemak Laksa, unique to Penang

Lemak Laksa, unique to Penang

Proving everything you read on forums is not always true, I want to give an immediate shout out to our incredible property agent, Catherine Loh. Having read horror stories about agents that scam, steal, and don’t care about anything but getting paid, I’m happy to tell you there’s at least one agent with honesty. Acting with the same integrity as the realtor in Walnut Creek that got us 15% over asking price on the sale of our house, Catherine knows the island well, speaks impeccable English and genuinely puts the interests of her clients first. Not seeing the need to use any other agents, we realized that although there’s a lot of rentals available, many of them come with annoyances such as being in the middle of construction zones, being too far inland for those without a car or with occupants not in line with what we’re looking for. The famed Miami Green Apartments, for example, is the most popular expat complex on the island with an 80% expat population. Unfortunately, people come and go, security is lax, the road is dark and dangerous at night and its location halfway between Batu Ferrengghi and Tanjung Bungah make it impossible to walk anywhere. If you want to know these things, you need a good agent. Like Yvonne at Joy-Stay, Catherine is this agent.  (they know each other and thT shows the best work with the best) .Feel free to contact her at propsolutions.com or contact us for her phone number.

Compromising a bit, we decided on a ninth floor unit and not the original one we viewed in the 26th floor because its furnishings were more complete and it had a good feel to it. Although limited compared to the rest of Penang, a huge scale construction project is just beginning not too far from our complex and the view hides the ugliness and keeps some of the noise down. Everything in Penang is negotiable and interestingly enough, the owner of the higher unit wanted MYR 3900 but counter-offered all the way down to MYR 3200 when they discovered we found another unit in the same building that was much cheaper. Satisfied with our decision, we can get the keys next Monday and our tenancy begins in July 15th. Terms are one year with an option to rent at the same rent for an extra year and the owner pays all the condo fees.

Getting started in Malaysia is quite expensive compared to North American rentals. Most landlords demand two months rent, a half month more for a utility deposit, a stamping fee for legal paperwork and then most agents charge an additional one month’s rent as a fee. Considering this fairly exorbitant, be ready to shell out as much as 3 1/2 months up front. Luckily for us, Catherine agreed to charge us only half a month’s rent as a fee and we consider that very reasonable. Not even demanding proof of MM2H approval, we probably used the ethnic advantage so my advice to all the white guys is marry a Chinese girl if you want favorable treatment. On that note, everyone in KL speaks Cantonese so Diane understood everyone just fine. Penang Chinese people speak Hokkien, a dialect so strange-sounding that it may as well be Swahili to anyone speaking Cantonese. So although Diane can’t understand one word they say, the funny part is she can reposed in Cantonese and they all understand. Inquiring where they learned, they told us from watching TV. At least they don’t think she’s Filipino like in San Francisco.

As for shopping, there’s a large Tesco located nearby and we’ve already seen that’s the main place for just about anything. Open from 8 AM until 1 AM every day, there’s a myriad of American, European and Asian food items, housewares, toiletries and almost everything else. Already applying for a club card, I’m sure we’ll be there next week to buy bedding, laundry detergent, some cutlery and many other small items. Cold Storage is also here should you crave European meats, cheeses or various other sundries. As expected, alcohol is crazy expensive and even a cold Tiger beer at the hawker centers are expensive by Malaysian standards but since we had our fill of California wines for enough years, this is no big deal for us. (Although nothing tastes better than a cold one in the sultry heat of a food court, especially if you like spicy dishes like laksa and curry Mee)

Malaysians are possibly the most helpful and honest people in any country on earth and moving here has been surprisingly easy so far. Both of us think of a throwback to 1960’s America where people helped each other, everyone knew their jobs thoroughly and things ran smoothly and efficiently. Not really encountering the slow, inefficient island like speed that everyone writes about, we’re both equally surprised how easy navigating things is. Peacefully co-existing, it’s a far cry from the sad and pathetic depiction of Muslim counties that’s drilled into heads of every American. Graciously helpful, the staff in every store goes out of their way to help and if they don’t understand, they immediately find someone who does. Refreshingly pleasant, we’ve been able to get our bank accounts open, buy new cell phones even though the system is very different from North America and navigate the transit system. Our banker Shahreeman is possibly one of the coolest and hippest relationship managers anywhere. Email us if you need a referral in Malaysia.

Kim Chee pork and rice

Kim Chee pork and rice

Receiving word yesterday from Joy-Stay that they signed our MM2H Conditional Letter of Approval, the visa process is almost complete. Unfortunately, it requires another trip back to KL to complete but they give you six months from the date of the approval to do this. Thinking we need some time to relax, we’ll probably go in late August once we’ve had time to settle into our new condo unit. Requiring a trip to Joy-Stay’s offices, Yvonne will arrange a medical appointment which is quick and simple and hand us the hard copy of the approval letter. Returning to our banker the next day, we’ll place the fixed deposit of MYR 150,000 and receive a bank lien letter. With everything already set up and the funds transferred, this is a painless and easy issue. Proving timing is everything in life, the Ringgit continues to weaken against the U.S. Dollar and our deposit comes to just under $40,000 USD, an astounding drop of over $10K since we began researching the program. Given the currency rates, now would be a good time to convert more and not less and having all our money based in the U.S. Is highly advantageous at the moment. (The ringgit,is it this low versus the Euro so Europeans don’t enjoy this benefit).

Jack fruit at Tesco

Also needing to secure a medical insurance policy for one year as a requirement for the Visa, we’ll visit one of the many multi-global companies with a presence in Malaysia like AIG or Allianz. Typical insurance premiums for healthy people run somewhere in the range of a few hundred US dollars for all the standard coverage. After that, we will probably pay as you go for any routine medical treatments. The ministry also insists on applicants shelling over ten years worth of annual fees at one time which we think is excessive but there’s nothing we can do about it. Finally, we will visit Putrajaya with Yvonne and get a stamp in the passport allowing for ten years of unlimited entry in an out of Malaysia, renewable indefinitely. Hello new life.

Having so much more to share, please accept my apologies as I end this post for now. Promising a food based topic next time, we’ve already enjoyed scores of Penang favorites lite Laksa, Curry Mee, Mee Goreng, Char Kway Teow and Popiah (the best spring rolls ever and unique to Penang). We already made a new friend as one of the hotel employees is an awesome 30 something Malaysian woman who went way above and beyond to help us get out of the crappy Copthorne. She lives five minutes from our new condo and we exchanged contact info so we can get some personal tours of the area and find out where the locals eat. Cheers for now as we’re off to the hawker center for dinner that will no doubt cost under $5 USD. Selamat Tinggal.

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Homeless, Happy and Heading Out

Contemplating the phrase “All good things are worth waiting for”, I started day number 540 of House Husbandry like most others. Walking a few miles to kill time, I headed to Starbucks and anxiously waited for some clerk at the county to “officially record” the sale of our house. Industry speak for making the seller sweat a little more, the long and tedious process of escrow concludes once the county guy has his coffee, adjusts his chair and finally gets down to changing the public record of ownership. Perhaps due to a Friday close, the clerk performed his mundane task relatively fast and as I clicked the online bank account just before noon, I was ecstatic to find that the Experimental Expats have closed escrow and finally look forward to a new life in Southeast Asia. Woo-Hoo !!!!!

opportunityFeeling relieved but not really any wealthier, Diane and now look forward to an uncharted experiment to see if we really can live a 40+ year similar lifestyle, travel, enjoy life, pursue some new hobbies and sometimes just lay around on whatever assets we’ve accumulated. Planning on renting forever, two house have come and go and that’s enough home ownership for us. Ironically, someone sent me a Facebook post yesterday about another white guy/Asian girl couple that retired in their 30’s simply by setting goals and following a prudent lifestyle. Usually turned off by those bastards who beat me by 20 years, I actually read and even endorse the site because the financial principles are almost identical to ours. Titled “How this couple retired in their 30s to travel the world, it’s worth a read if you’re a 30 something looking to “retire early”.

Looking back, it’s been a great seven years spent in this house and we’ve enjoyed living in the San Francisco Bay Area just enough but those of you following know there’s no love lost when leaving a place that shuts out desperate home seekers that bid  $80,00 over asking price or more. Hoping Southeast Asia provides a fascinating new lifestyle, I thought this would be a good time for a gallery of some pictures we’ve taken from the area in our second house as a married couple.

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Looking ahead, Diane and I got a month of free “rent-back” meaning we can stay as rent-free tenants for an extra month. Wanting extra time to finish liquidating all our goods, secure a storage locker, wait for the MM2H visa to be received and just basically hang around a bit longer, we plan on vacating May 19th. Deciding there’s no real hurry to hit Malaysia since the visa will take about 90 days for conditional approval, Diane suggested we re-import our 2002 Honda CRV into Canada, spend some time with relatives, give the car to her niece and leave via Vancouver. Whenever we feel like it. Hey, we’re retired now.

penangArmed with two suitcases, a backpack with important stuff and the memories of 50 years in North America, we’ll fly to Penang and check in at a hotel while we search for housing somewhere near Tanjong Bungah. Continuing the blog as expats in early July, we’re excited and hope we can share some great stories, blunders and pictures with all of you. Thinking Diane is less stressed out over a starting a new lifestyle, I can only sit back and quote a Tom Petty song from his 1994 Wildflower album that says

Well, it;s time to get going; it’s time to move on; where I am going I have no way of knowing”.

Here’s to new beginnings !!

We’re actively seeking new friends to meet once we arrive in Penang. If this is you, please share your contact information.  


The Home Stretch

After a stressful period of cleaning, landscaping, staging, cleaning again and disappearing for the day, Diane and I are almost home free and nearing the last stages before heading off to Malaysia for early retirement. Not only did our potential buyer outbid the next closest offer by an insanely high amount, they even agreed to buy all our remaining bedroom furniture. Saving us the hassle of finding someone to dismantle our California King size bed and allowing us to live with bedroom intact right up until we leave, we think they were more excited than us. Additionally, their offer included 30 days free rent after close of escrow which helps put some time between our MM2H application on April 15th and the time we arrive in Penang as homeless expats.

inspectionsMaking the deal even sweeter, they buyers only asked for one week for inspection contingencies and would have waved them altogether had we done a sewer line inspection. Trusting the professionalism of our home, fireplace, roof and pest control inspectors, our buyers, a very nice young couple, clearly wants this house as much as I want to get out of here. After 515 days as a House Husband, I’m ready to leave now but all good things in life are worth waiting for so what’s another 60 days? Scheduling our departure for May 19th, we’ll be packing everything we can fit into four suitcases and two backpacks, loading the car, importing it back into Canada where we purchased it and spending about a month in Alberta, Canada with friends and family. Hoping it’s warmer than our holiday trip, we’ll soak up the last bits of comfortable weather before embracing 365 days of heat and humidity. Over the next 60 days we’ll share various posts of random musings and then the fun starts with an actual expat blog. Please stay tuned !!!

Coming next:  Our last trip to the Asian grocery store outside of Asia

12 Months of Expat Confusion

Approaching our last American Thanksgiving holiday before the move to Malaysia, DIane and I plan on preparing one last home cooked turkey dinner for two. Because we’re a mixed marriage (she’s Canadian, I’m American), this marks our second Thanksgiving dinner this year. Taking the easy way out in October, we drove to a local Hofbrau on Columbus Day for our annual Canadian Thanksgiving dinner (shown in the picture below). Falling on a Monday like a normal three-day weekend, the Northern version is more of a harvest festival without Puritans, Indians, NFL football and annual parades presented by large department stores.

 Diane enjoying Canadian Thanksgiving dinner

Discussing the nuances of life as an American expat in Canada in a recent post, we highlighted important issues like understanding insane weather forecasts in Celsius and why the world’s largest indoor mall plays an important role during the holidays. Learning the differences between Canadian and American holidays takes some education and after the sixth year I finally mastered what days I’d be home from the office. Facing a brand new set of challenges, I glanced at the 2015 Public Holidays in Penang and sadly, I’m bewildered by Hari Rya Day, Merdeka Day and two days of Chinese New Year. Unsure how to celebrate Thaipusm and Wesa Day, it occurred to me I’ll need complete retraining. Continue reading