Tuesday, 22 March 2011

What precisely am I looking for?

No, not some philosophical ponderings of life to be contemplated over a suitable U2 track while drinking Bushmills Black Bush, rather some thoughts on what exactly I am looking for in Malaysia/Penang so I can see how much it measures up when I'm there.

I mentioned before that there were certain things about living in the UAE that I missed since being back in the UK.  I've explained it to myself and others on the basis that in the UAE, I had little of what I would call my life around me as home was still in the UK.  Thus all the trappings and paraphernalia that went with that were mostly in the UK.  As such, there were a lot of times in the UAE where outside of work it could feel a little empty.  This was then contrasted by the odd highlight when maybe I'd go out for a nice meal under palm trees on the beach front, have a pleasant afternoon chatting with friends or colleagues over a beer or ten, even visits to the beach and gym.  And of course, the visits to places such as Syria and Jordan with their rich culture and heritage (terms which most certainly do NOT apply to the UAE) and ancient historical sites.  So in the UAE I seemed to have the occasional 'highlights' but not so much in terms of day-to-day life.

In the UK, I found it to be the other way round.  All of what interests me in terms of day-to-day life was there and kept me occupied fully, especially during the day.  But what of the highlights?  For me there were few, or is that none?  Living in a remote rural village in South West Wales maybe didn't help but even when I visited London and other major centres it all felt a bit flat.  That I returned to the UK just in time for the onset of a particularly grim winter didn't help but I found little that appealed to me about being there once I had finished doing what I was doing for the day.  Nothing to do (or at least that appealed) in my 'down time' or 'social time'.  Beaches are not too far away but it's not quite the same on a UK beach I find, some nice views and fresh air (sometimes too bleedin' fresh), but overall I find them a bit, well, utiliterian, as if they are not quite 'there'.  The outdoor life is less viable in the UK, an issue I struggled to come to terms with even after holidays in France, Spain and elsewhere.  Towns and villages are geared towards indoor living and now seem to be accompanied by the aroma of MacDonalds or your fast food outlet of choice.  Sure there are quaint exceptions, but the norm?  Well equipped gyms were few and far between, shopping centres are full of chain stores (such that you could really be anywhere regardless of which town you visited) and, being a committed 'foodie' (do they have 'beerie' I wonder), the lack of easily accessible, different and reasonably priced restaurants and food outlets was really depressing.  Add to that the weather, spiralling cost of living and taxes, declining public services and the very 'chavvy' nature of a lot of UK towns these days I decided it was not for me any more.  So in the UK I found I had plenty of 'life' but very few (read 'no') highlights.

What all this confirmed is that the hobbies and interests I have I can actually do anywhere but it needs to be somewhere that ticks the highlight boxes as well so that when I have that 'social time' or 'down time' I feel like I am living and enjoying it, rather than just existing.  So what am I looking for in Malaysia?  Well, in summary (and I may miss a few things out that I'll come back and edit):

  • Nicer climate
  • Quality of life
  • The 'buzz' that is often associated with Asian cities and centres of population
  • Good food, a mix of restaurant and outlet types, all easily accessible and reasonably priced 
  • Good cultural mix
  • Good beaches, different 'countryside' and a variety of places to visit
  • Access to reasonable sports facilities and places to run/cycle
  • Reasonable cost of living
  • Living more outdoors
  • Variety of places for retail therapy, from malls to back-street vendors
  • Somewhere to practice Tai Chi!
  • Being well placed for travel to other countries of interest
So, there we have it, not an exhaustive list by any means and I'm sure it will get added to as I remember things or even discover things when I visit.  Clearly, as with any move there will be some things I will miss about the UK and I'll likely get more specific about those once I'm there.  Luckily I am one of those people who can live without Marmite however!  On balance though the advantages of leaving the shores of Blighty outweigh the disadvantages so it's full steam ahead!!!


  1. "Access to reasonable sports facilities and places to run/cycle"

    Your run/cycle comment caught my eye as an avid cyclist. Have you seen much biking in Penang? I saw some cyclists in Batu Ferringhi one day, but I'd imagine there are not that many safe stretches of road, and won't it be too hot, except may be a couple of hours in the morning?

  2. Hi

    I have indeed seen much biking here, singles up through groups of 10-15, even up to 30 or more. Many people cycle around the Tg Tokong and Tg Bungah areas and all over the island with Penang Hill and the area around being very popular. The only roads that I think lend themselves somewhat less to cycling are in the centre of Georgetown but even then the problem is mainly at rush hour. Outside of those times there are still enough cyclists to be seen.

    Temperature wise it's down to the individual and how well people cope with it. When I run I often run early morning or late evening, mostly the former and would generally prefer to be finished by 10 or 11am, often before. Even outside of those times it's still do-able though. Cycling I'm less worried about as the greater speed will clearly impart a better wind-chill, but it's important to be mindful of the sun and UV. In short, I'd have little problem with running or cycling at any time of day really, but then I did live in the Middle East for several years where even running at 7am could bring temperatures of 40º :-)


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