Tag Archives: Southesat Asia

Where the Hell Have We Been?

Well, that’s a fair enough question. What the hell ever happened to The Experimental Expats? Realizing it’s been almost a year since sharing anything other than Facebook rants and complaints about Trumpland USA with a few non American friends, I’ve decided to come back and answer that question. But first, my middle age rant about technology and how much I hate it. Having spent a large part of my scathingly long House Husband Days learning how to create, fashion and keep a WordPress blog updated, wouldn’t you know those bastards had the audacity to create an updated editor? Shuddering, panicking and almost running back into the unusually brutal Northern Thailand heat (more on that later), I decided to give “Block Editing” a shot. After discovering a fluke in my site that the Happiness Engineers first denied, then admitted needed to be turned over to the developers, I spent two days self tutoring so here I am again and to any millennials who think my posting is old and archaic for lack of fancy code, Jetpack shit or anything else besides actual words; Too Bad.

Yes, we went to Vietnam as part of our 47 day escape from the haze

Feeling like we fell into a mode of real complacency after our trip back to North America, the hiatus felt necessary. Realistically, our lives as middle-aged early retirees living overseas aren’t great fodder for a digital world with two-minute attention spans. We don’t have “second careers”, haven’t gone back to school, opened a business or learned a new language (OK, we speak “nit noy Thai). Not yet finding “the next great thing”, we don’t even have Instagram accounts. Living here in Chiang Mai among the worlds’ biggest group of obnoxious expats anywhere on social media and the “digital gonads” who know everything about every topic, it seemed reasonable to take a long blog vacation until something worth writing about came along. Realizing that time is here now, I’ll share three significant things relevant to our little blog. I’ll cover one of the three issues in this post and come back to the other two later.

  1. Thailand’s Immigration Department made significant changes to the rules for extending visas based on retirement.
  2. The “burning season” which is a long period in the dry season that local farmers across Northern Thailand burn their fields has now turned into an environmental disaster so serious it requires more than the 47 days we escaped this year to avoid inhaling seriously dangerous particulates.
  3. As a result of the above two issues, we’ve decided five years in Southeast Asia will be enough and we’re leaving Thailand for greener pastures in Mexico next summer.
Continue reading

Read Any Good Books Lately?

As dawn broke on another hot hazy sunshine morning in drought stricken Malaysia yesterday, I threw on my gym shorts quickly and headed down to the condo gym. Attempting to get a decent workout in before the unbearable heat, I’ve forced myself to wake up in the darkness, gulp down some coffee and hit the elliptical machine while it’s still reasonably cool. Now reaching over 115 days with temperatures in the mid 30’s (mid 90’s Fahrenheit), the comfort level remains horrible as Southeast Asia’s hottest winter on record continues, leaving our bodies in a state of perpetual dehydration and dryness. With three hours of relief last week, a rare rain event came rolling through Penang but only lasted an hour or two, leaving the grand rainfall since January 1st in the neighborhood of six hours for over three months. Understanding what it must feel like to a thirsty wild animal in the Serengeti desperate for rainfall, we’ve spent most of our recent days on the sweaty balcony or searching for air-conditioned event worthy of the long walk down to the bus stop.

imageFortunately, Southeast Asia’s best book sale came rolling into town last week for a ten-day run that’s always worth a visit. Billing itself as The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, the semi-annual event is held in a large hall of Penang Times Square, one of the local malls easily reachable by bus. Always escaping something, last year we attended during the middle of Asia’s worst haze since 1998 and it felt like the entire island was there. Deciding to go on a weekday this time, the crowds were smaller than the Sunday rush but there’s still hundreds of people taking advantage of the bargains and incredible discounts.

Continue reading

Why it Matters to Expats

Always considering political topics off-limits in my little expat blog about retiring early overseas thanks to an unexpected layoff, lately I’ve reconsidered my stance. Knowing the first sentence may send you away, allow me a few paragraphs to explain why I believe the U.S. Presidential election affects expats every bit as much as those living on American soil. Having already lived 80% of one bad presidency on Canadian soil, Diane and I returned to the USA seven years into a George W Bush presidency and found a completely changed nation that we barely recognized despite following all the post 9/11 events from the fear campaign to the Iraq War from the comforts of the Great White Friendly Neighbor Next Door. Eventually accepting a changed world of TSA agents, racial profiling, unstoppable illegal immigration from our Latin American neighbors and right-wing racist attitudes towards everything Muslim, we figured leaving for Southeast Asia would put enough distance between us and the homeland to negate any negative concerns of the New America.

fascismSadly mistaken, the almost inevitable reality of a Donald Trump presidential nomination makes Dubya look like a pussy and everything he did and stood for pales in comparison to a dangerously scary tyrant dead set on rewriting American democracy to mimic World War II Era Europe. Aside from the obvious ignorant comments that mainstream media’s laughed off for the last seven months, Trump threatens every American around the world especially those calling a Muslim dominated nation home. (despite Malaysia’s record as the world’s most peaceful Muslim nation). Examples of the danger? Assuming Trump gets his way, it’s only a matter of time until Diane and I wind of on a Homeland Security watch list that subjects us to unconstitutional scrutiny should we ever decide to step foot in America again. Financially speaking, imagine an American economy that deports tens of thousands of workers doing jobs Americans feel are below them. Watch what happens when the rednecks that voted for “making America great again” wind up working the fields, Indian tech workers and other educated professionals all over the world get denied entry (because they look like Muslims) and expats around the world feel the brunt of a collapsing U.S. dollar and run away inflation.

If this sounds like conspiracy theory crap to you, you’re not alone. I thought so too. So to back up my arguments, I’ve posted a link below to the best article I’ve seen yet to help spread the word that’s written by a veteran journalist with better writing skills than me. Explaining in politically scientific but simple terms, David Brooks of The New York Times answers the question all us expats hear these days as we travel around the world (“Why does America support Trump”?).

whiteNobody saw Hitler as a real threat until it was too late and while we pray Trump won’t go as far as murder, what’s to stop him from making Asians and Jews or African-Americans the next group of “undesirables“? And don’t kid yourself by justifying that “there’s no suicide bomber Jews or Asians”. You’d be missing the point. Trump is a white elitist supported by every hate group in the USA including the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, anti-black contingency and those that somehow feel Mexicans “stole all the jobs”. He’s the worst extension of a Bush policy that’s instilled a permanent sense of misguided patriotism and fear of terrorism into most Americans. Imagine ally after ally isolating themselves from America and closing their doors to would-be expats.

tradeWorse than that, America gets about 80% of its fruit and veggies from everywhere else thanks to government subsidies of corn favoring lobbyists and big industry. Expats understand why self-sufficient nations like Ecuador, Vietnam, Thailand and Chile are the bread baskets of America despite the unhealthy Cargill products sold to obese Americans (mostly Trump supporters) at Wal-Mart. Nations will slowly begin imposing trade restrictions and protectionist policies that hurt all Americans. And what’s after that? Using some false military action and hollow threats that will somehow be blamed on the Muslim world to force nations filled with those Trump loathes the most into sending all their food to a racist nation with a closed-door policy. Not a pretty picture for your grandchildren.

With Texas’ hundreds of electoral votes “conveniently” included in Super Tuesday, I’d implore anyone reading to please digest the article below. If you’re not American, blast it all over social media and maybe, just maybe, a miracle will somehow deny an ignorant electorate an opportunity to make the biggest mistake of this century.

Please click this link if you care about the future

Hoping this is the last word on the issue (at least on this blog), thanks for understanding and I promise the next post will be something related to our expat life in Penang.

Cheers from peaceful Malaysia

G’Day from Down Under

Apologizing for the long delay between posts, here we are in Tasmania at our first ever work exchange. So far it’s been very enriching, enjoyable and delicious. Briefly put, our hosts Anne and Bill are perhaps the most generous people anywhere on the entire Workaway.org program and that says a lot since there’s over 30,000 different hosts worldwide.  But more on that later. Time flies by and the hours slip away so I’m sneaking in a quick post on our first week in Australia and I’ll post much more about the work exchange after we get back to Penang. Lucky enough to have an old friend of Diane’s living in the southeastern Melbourne suburbs, we landed at Melbourne for a week of exploring the big city before heading to Tasmania. Not the best Air Asia experience, for some reason they use the oldest and crappiest looking planes in the fleet to fly the longest haul routes. Cramped seats and an annoying staff that seemed irritated made the seven hour flight overnight flight acceptable but nothing like a transcontinental flight on Cathay Pacific where everyone sleeps and the crew doesn’t make announcements every hour telling you how much longer the flight will last. But since the other options like Quanta or Singapore Air fall outside our budget, we settled in and slept as much as possible before arriving   in the strange and fascinating continent known as Australia.

The real Tasmanian Devil

The real Tasmanian Devil

The first ting we noticed about Australia jumped right out at us upon arriving at the amazingly modern but very busy airport in Melbourne. Australians are friendly. Very very friendly. And polite. Thrown by this strange attitude that conflicts drastically with much of the large British expat population in Penang, I’d say they’re so friendly they make Canadians look rude. And that’s saying a lot. Going out of their way to help you, everyone volunteers to help in any way they can, they strike up conversations on the long line to get out of the airport and the only way to annoy an Aussie is doing something rude like jumping the queue which elicits a firm but non threatening reminder that this isn’t America and everyone should obey the rules. Politely of course. Oh yes, don’t even attempt to bring anything that even resembles food into Australia from a simple bag of chips to fresh fruit and that includes packaged and processed goods from your home country unless you enjoy heading to a separate line where they train food sniffing dogs to catch violators. Do what we did and bring your friends a Malaysian cookbook or some other local souvenir.

Continue reading

On our Last Episode….

Cruising along on a beautiful sunny 75 degree California day, my 50th birthday was already going well. Starting off with a workout that included the Stair Maser and some free weights, I felt alive and younger than ever. Leaving the gym , I gathered the last pieces of documentation required for our 104 page MM2H Application package, triple checked it for accuracy and headed over to the local Postal Annex store. Priced at $127.14, the clerk printed off a receipt and tossed my package of hard labor into the DHL basket for afternoon pickup, noting a scheduled arrival date of April 21st. Reading my Facebook birthday messages, I began my daily walk when I noticed a strange surge in traffic to the blog. Thinking spamming was to blame with people posing as new followers, I was almost ready to send a message to the forum asking if this sounded suspicious when I finally realized there was divine intervention taking the form of a Word Press editor. Finally reading a comment congratulating us on our featured mention in “Hot off the Press”, I figured out I’d achieved The Holy Grail of New Blogging.

Expat-blog-linksWithout further ado, I’d like to give a rousing thank you to Michelle W. for finding our little blog in a crowded field of thousands. Realizing I couldn’t start an expat blog until we actually made our move, I decided on a different approach I hadn’t really seen before. Focusing on what led up to the decision to choose early retirement and not look for another mundane cubicle job, our expat blog follows the steps leading up to overseas emigration. Presenting our story in a relative chronological format, I’ve combined life as a non-working House Husband for an impossibly long time with tales of our “Expat Destination Research Vacations”. Always planning on early retirement, Diane and I used our generous vacation time (by USA standards) and joined potential research with awesome tourism in places like The Galapagos Islands, and the rainforests of Borneo and the Caribbean breezes of Aruba. Home to millions of retirees, all the destinations offer affordable living, mild to hot climate and a large community of expats. We didn’t expect to choose Penang but also had no idea I’d be laid off five years before I wanted to quit working.

Faced with a wonderful new surge in site traffic I’ve decided to use this time to summarize what’s been going on with the blog since its inception last September. Although relatively new and not yet at 100 posts, I understand it’s tedious searching through and entire blog and often some of an author’s best posts from the past get overlooked. Basically, we’re in limbo at the moment. Possible even considered “seller’s hell”, that horrible wait between contract and close of escrow is upon us and the waiting is driving me crazy. Sadly, sellers have no rights and the deal is never done until the cash is in your account. No cash, no early retirement so please excuse my nervous anticipation. Meanwhile, for the benefit of our new audience, here’s a basic layout of “The Experimental Expats: Season One”

BEST mad-scientist-movie 2

Continue reading