Hoping we’d escape my worst nightmare, I guess I was kidding myself thinking we’d make it until the end of our lease before it began. Continuing Penang’s destruction of the last town without massive development, the pile driving began a few days ago. Like clockwork at 8:45 AM, the ugly space they destroyed right past the new high-rise towers next door comes alive with the most unfathomable and disturbing sound that grates on me like chalk on a blackboard. Proving both the property agents, condo managers and landlord were absolutely full of shit when they rented us this condo 20 months ago, their claim that there’s no further construction planned in the once quiet town of Batu Ferrenghiwas as accurate as a tweet from Donald Trump. While we’ve already decided to get out of here, I’m not sure how I can endure four more months of ear shattering noise for nine hours a day for six days a week.
But we did take the first step towards liberation from construction hell by taking a quick 48 hour jaunt to the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Recently visiting Jim, Penang’s resident expert on getting all kinds of visas from the local Thai Consulate, he told us we’d need an affidavit stating that our assets exceed 800,000 Thai Baht, the minimum requirement for a retirement visa. Unlike Malaysia’s one step long-term MM2H Visa, Thailand is a never ending revolving door of reporting, applications for extensions and sometime visa runs. Depending on who you are and what you’re in Thailand for, there’s more choices than the supermarket. Also totally opposite from Malaysia, there’s no government website properly explaining requirements and rules for Thai visas and they literally change constantly so we opted for a series of conversations with people who’ve lived there awhile or moved from Penang to help us understand the proper way to get out of our overdeveloped nightmare. Continue reading →
As the eve of “Brexit decision day“ approaches, I’ve been pondering why there’s so much nationalism and populism showing up in western democracies lately. Understanding most people on the planet aren’t at the high-end of the economic scale, frustration with large-scale cronyism, élite billionaires and corporate greed is obvious. Realizing it’s not limited to western democracies, I’ll share a perfect example of average citizens versus “the man” that’s right outside our condo’s window. Having foregone convenience by not living closer to Penang’s shopping, amenities and other things that make retirement worthwhile on the island, we chose the beach town of Batu Ferrenghi for its relative peaceful atmosphere and 360 degree stunning views of the jungle and sea. As the one year anniversary of our tenancy nears, we’re slowly losing the never ending war being waged on Penang island’s natural resources by greedy developers.
Routine garbage burning by a local business owner at our bus stop
While there’s many reasons for retiring overseas from lack of gun violence to an inexpensive cost of living, quality of life issues exist on this side of the earth also and my biggest pet peeve is the burning. Proving that any democracy is only as good a the government legislating the rules, I’ve maintained that well-intentioned national laws are useless without enforcement. With a strangely misguided sense of pride, everyone from our building manager to the local food vendors tells us that burning is illegal in Malaysia. Excluding the haze season (which is mostly not Malaysia’s fault), telling us that nobody burns in Penang is about as correct as our property agent’s “guarantee” that the jungle surrounding our condo is “protected land” safe from future development. Unclear whether people turn a blind eye, are too busy to notice or simply choose to believe what their government officials tell them, it’s an outright lie. Unlike Myanmar, where we saw a real “developing nation” with rampant poverty and no waste management resources, Malaysia enjoys the highest economic status in the ASEAN but sometimes still acts like it’s still 1957 when it comes to environmental awareness.