Sunday, 26 June 2011

Website: Restaurants Malaysia

I recently had an invite to write a review of one of the restaurants detailed in the blog on the above site. It is a new community site and the object of it can be pretty easily discerned from the name. It is a new site but looks very promising indeed and is very well laid out and professional. Over time I will doubtless post extracts of most of the restaurant reviews I do there, linking back to the blog for the full details.

I think this will be a good website and one to bookmark for the future. The site can be found here and I have added it under 'Other Links'.

Restaurant: Thai Bai Yok - Georgetown, Penang

In addition to Chinese and Indian food I also have a love of Thai food and whilst there is no shortage of the first two in Penang, Thai food is somewhat less common. This is no big deal for me as there is enough food variety in Penang to keep a foodie happy for a lifetime IMO and of course, if you fancy a period of Thai food immersion, Thailand itself is only a short journey away by plane, train or whatever.

I was however taken to one Thai restaurant by a friend of mine while in Penang, a place which I would surely have missed had it not been for the local knowledge of my friend. The restaurant is called Thai Bai Yok and is located at the Heritage Club in Scotland Road, not far from its junction with Utama Road, on the western edge of Georgetown. The Heritage Club houses a gym (which is run by Absolute Fitness) and the restaurant is within the club house but is open to the public.

The restaurant is nicely laid out and airy and the decor is pleasing. When the weather is right there is the option to sit outside. There is also ample parking at the restaurant in the off-road Club car park. There is a good menu and I decided to opt for the green chicken curry with steamed rice, a dish which, if accompanied by say one other, or one and a vegetable dish, would be ample for two. Unfortunately I visited here on the last day of my April/May 2011 trip to Penang so things were a little rushed. As such I have no good pictures I'm afraid and am unable to to provide much of a run down of the menu. There is however a lot of information on their website, including good coverage of the menu and the prices are very reasonable.

I liked the Thai Bai Yok and plan to return there once I get back to Penang with a view to visiting in the evening for a more leisurely meal where I should be able to take some decent pictures and sample a wider range of dishes. In the meantime, if you fancy a Thai meal in some nice surroundings, I would suggest giving the Thai Bai Yok a try. They also have a Facebook Page here.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

George Town Festival - July 2011

You will see from my Facebook link that one of of my 'Likes' is the FB Page for the George Town Festival - July 2011.

To quote directly from the site "George Town Festival opens each year with a feast of music, dance, film, arts, food, and visual spectacle on the streets. The festival engages Malaysian and international audiences with bold and new artistic trends from around George Town".

I am hoping to be in Penang by mid to late July so hope to at least be able to take in some of the attractions. They also have a very useful website. Well worth checking out if you are around Penang in July I would think.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Learning the lingo!!

One of the things I have decided to do in Penang, despite the fact that a significant proportion of the population speak English (and mostly very well!!!), is learn both Mandarin and, ultimately (albeit partially concurrently) Bahasa Malay. The majority of Chinese in Penang of course speak Hokkien but this is a dialect which most have advised that I start to pick up after learning Mandarin. Mandarin will also be more useful for visits to mainland China etc. Although Hokkien is the main Chinese dialect, in addition to English and Bahasa Malay, many Chinese people there ALSO speak Mandarin (and in many cases Cantonese too - try getting such a spread/number of languages amongst the populace of Europe, especially in the UK!!) and of course many parents now chose to put their children through Chinese education in Penang where Mandarin will be the primary language. Some very close friends of mine in Penang have a young daughter and they speak Mandarin and English to her, Hokkien to each other and many of their Chinese friends, Bahasa Malay as necessary and English when people understand none. Have to say I'm impressed!!!!

I will doubtless enrol in a course or two in Penang once I have a grasp of the basics but for Mandarin I have chosen to use a Linguaphone course (I have yet to find any such course from a reputable provider for Bahasa Malay). Linguaphone is language course provider from the UK who, along with Berlitz, have been providing distance based language training for years. I used their French course and it was very good. They offer a Mandarin Complete CD Course which comes with:

  • 8 audio CDs.
  • A 244 page handbook which provides step-by-step lesson plans, full grammatical explanations and fun activities.
  • A 238 page textbook – contains the printed and illustrated transcription of the CD recordings.
  • A 194 page Oral Exercise book – with spoken exercises to improve your accent and pronunciation.
  • A Study guide - contains full instructions of how to plan your study to get the most out of your course.
  • A 24 page Alphabet book – Explains how to read and write the letters of the Chinese alphabet in the romanised version of Pinyin.
  • A Linguaphone carry case.

The bonus of these courses of course is that you can do it when you are in the mood and at your own pace. The downside is that unlike in classroom there is no tutor to ask (albeit they do offer email and telephone support for their language courses for the first 12 months following purchase). As I will be in Penang with a large number of Chinese friends the lack of a tutor is not a problem as I shall be able to ask almost anyone if I get stuck (the beauty being they also speak English!). The courses are not cheap but if you pick your time wisely you can often get them with a 25-30% discount at around £190. For me it is something well worth taking to Penang even if I had not planned to use it immediately. Good investment for the future and easier (and cheaper) to buy it in the UK and take it with me rather than ship/import.

Another useful site I have found is that offered by the UK's BBC under 'Languages/Chinese'. The site provides a very useful mini 'Guide to Chinese' and a number of topical video/slide-show based lessons. Coupled with the Google Translate service (just remember to click the 'Read Phonetically' option when you translate from your chosen language to 'Chinese Simplified' so you get the PinYin translation too - unless of course you can read Chinese) I think it provides a very useful starter pack and a good precursor to the Linguaphone Course.

International Movers (shipping freight UK to Penang)

As my relocation to Penang draws ever closer I started to look around at international removals. There are many companies that do this and prices will vary considerably. I decided to avoid any at the really low end of the spectrum as such prices are often low for a reason. What I was looking for was a company with a good service in the UK, a good network and reliable service in the country of destination, good insurance and reasonable storage costs in the UK in the event of any delays (visa etc). It is also worth considering the size of the company you are shipping with if you are not taking a full container. In this case you will need to wait for a full container load to build up and, for a smaller company, this may take some time and could lead to a delay in your belongings getting shipped which may/may not be a problem to you. Finally, you do need to watch costs and ensure you establish door-to-door prices as some will quote you a very cheap prices which you may later find was from port to port (e.g. not including loading, unloading and local delivery).

Having had a good look around and done a considerable amount of research on the internet and forums I plan to use Pickfords (International). Pickfords offer a professional service and as such you cannot get your prices from a brochure, or even over the telephone, and they will always advise having a free visit from one of their locally based shipping consultants to provide an initial quote. You will likely get asked some questions around the status of your visa as, without this, they will not be able to ship to your country of destination in many cases without problems from, and in particular excise duty being payable to, 'Customs'. As an MM2H visa holder you will of course be entitled to import your belongings into Malaysia free of duty.

In order to progress matter I recently had a quote from Pickfords from a very friendly and professional consultant called Chris Porter. The price was very reasonable IMO for door-to-door service. A bonus was the very reasonable storage charges of around £6 per week. They will also pack pretty much everything and indeed advised that most items are left unpacked so that they can pack using their expertise and knowledge of how items will be loaded and for it all to go into Pickfords boxes which is what Customs will be expecting to see. So, the costs I was quoted (all inclusive and door to door for each of the load options below - e.g. you do not need to add them together):
  • Option 1: 180 cu ft of goods which will be a partial container load and is enough for all personal belongings, loads of books, kitchen equipment, some audio hi-fi, mountain bike, paintings: £1,500
  • Option 2: 580 cu ft, again a partial container load which will take all of the above plus a three piece suite, dining table, bed and other furniture: £3,700
  • Option 3: A complete 20 ft container which will take some going to fill and would likely take the contents of a 2-4 bed house: £5,500

Pickfords also provided some very useful documentation which covers:
  • Customs procedures and points to be mindful of regarding your destination shipping country
  • Essential Preparation
  • Insurance
  • Paperwork
  • Packing
  • Transportation options
  • Useful checklists
This is all very useful I must say and a far better overall package it seems than some of the competitors, despite the the somewhat meager savings that going with some of the competition offers. I was also provided details of a number of associated offers with regard to shipment of animals (pets) and currency exchange which, while they were not relevant to me may well be of interest to others. In addition, Pickfords is of course truly international so can arrange moves from/to a great many countries, often with their own 'presence' in many.

As such I intend to go with Pickfords and will post back on completion as to how it all went smile.

Travel Speakers (MP3 Players/Laptop etc)

I would not normally veer off topic on this blog (in that what I post generally has some specific relevance to either being in or moving to Penang) but I did find one small piece of kit (in addition to the essential iPhone/Google Maps combo) very very useful for listening to music in the hotel room from both my iPhone and a separate iPod I keep for the gym (and to avoid having my phone tied up by wires for when it rings, which I found it did regularly).

There are all manner of docks and speakers you can get for MP3 players and countless Apple specific ones (and I don't care where the critics say, for me, if you want 3rd part peripherals Apple is the way to go, but it's all a matter of choice) but many of them do tend to be quite bulky and will surely help to fill up and add weight to your bag/case, especially if you like to travel light.

After looking at literally dozens of devices I opted for the XMI X-Mini II (2nd Generation) speaker which looks rather like a large golf ball. It really is a cracking little device. Powered by a rechargeable battery giving around 8-11 hours of use it comes with a three way USB charging cable (allowing you to connect the speaker to the power and your MP3 player via the 3.5mm jack-plug at the same time) and a small protective cloth carry bag. If the device does not need charging you can also connect the device to your MP3 using the much shorter jack-plug cable which built in to the bottom of the device.

To use the device you merely twist it to open it up, turn on and presto. There is a volume control (the advice always with these things is to have your MP3 set to maximum or at least 75% of volume and control the volume with your speaker, otherwise you find you are draining the speaker battery trying to turn up the low volume output from the Mp3) and a small blue power LED which glows blue when fully charged and fades, as a rough indicator, as you hit low power. This LED also glows red when the device is charging, changing to blue when complete. To charge you can either plug the device into the USB port on your computer/laptop or, as I do, I just use a USB wall charger similar to that which is supplied with, and can be bought as a spare for the iPhone (and all manner of other devices). For me the volume of the device is ample for my needs and would I'm sure be fine for the vast majority. If you turn the device to full (which is VERY loud) you will get more distortion. If you simply must have more volume you can actually string these speakers together using the jack-plug cable in the bottom of the speaker. The only note of caution is to make sure you get the '2nd Generation' version of the XMI X-Mini II as there were some battery issue with 1st Gen models. The 2nd Gen models are more easily distinguishable from the Amazon UK site than the US but it would be easy to see which is which by looking at both sites and ordering accordingly. At $22 from the US and around £15 from the UK this is a cracking buy and will certainly accompany me on my travels within and from Malaysia.

One other option made it to my short-list of two and this was the Altec Lansing Orbit Speaker. Of only a slightly larger size the sound is said to be better (there are a number of reviews including this comparison test) than the XMI Mini-II but I have to say that even being a bit of an audiophile, I find the X-Mini II fine for the job it needs to do. The one thing that put me off the Orbit is that it runs off AAA batteries and that for me was a no-no because it means you either have to carry a supply, buy locally when they run down (and battery life will likely be the same as the X-Mini II) or carry at least two sets of re-chargeables and a charger. No thanks. Clearly though it would be very suitable for campers and such like who will not be near to mains power at any stage (or indeed for those who just prefer the changeable AAA battery approach), provided you take enough batteries. Priced at $17 in the US and around £16-22 in the UK the Orbit can be slightly more expensive for UK buyers as they can sometimes be hard to find at the lower price.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Lonely Planet: Malay Phrase Book

In making my final (ish) preparations for departure from the UK to Malaysia (yippeeeee!!!!!!) I decided to purchase the Lonely Planet Malay Phrase book.

There are quite a few companies that offer CD based language courses and I have always found the Linguaphone courses to be very good. Well designed, well laid out, good supporting materials and reasonably priced. Unfortunately Bahasa Malay is not one of the languages they offer courses in (and neither do their main competitors) so, as a starter for ten, and for in between my attempts to learn Mandarin, I opted for this little book.

It seems quite comprehensive and well laid out and will certainly do until such stage as I get myself into a Bahasa Malay language course in Penang (assuming here I'll be able to find one!!!). At $8.99 from the US and £3.49 from the UK (at the time of writing) it seems quite good value. I have added it to the list of 'Useful Books'

Lonely Planet: Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Penang (2nd Ed)

The 2nd edition of this book has now been released and I received my copy yesterday. Had a quick flick through and it seems to be up to the usual high standard of the Lonely Planet Guides and I plan to have a more thorough read through over the next few days, posting up any relevant comments. I found the 1st edition very useful when I visited KL and Penang in April/May and would suggest this should be one of the essential purchases for travellers and prospective residents. At just $14.77 from the US and £8.89 from the UK (at the time of writing) it is very good value for money IMO.

Now that the second edition is out I have deleted the link to the first edition under 'Useful Books'.

Friday, 17 June 2011

How to ensure you get your post (PO Box)

The day of my relocation to Penang draws closer and closer (thankfully) and one of the issues that was a slight concern is that of postal re-direction. Clearly once in Penang and established it will be no problem as I will have an address for the rental at least but what about the interim, the period between vacating the UK home and finding, let alone moving into, a rental in Penang. I don't expect to receive too much mail from the UK but over the years there will be some that I will need to ensure I get.

The solution - a PO Box in Penang. I had one of these in Abu Dhabi where in some districts they are like gold dust with the limited numbers at the smaller post offices being snapped up quickly by expats in the ever increasing newly constructed apartment blocks. Thankfully, in Malaysia they do not seem quite so popular.

Boxes are available at a number of the larger post offices (I opted for the one near HSBC Bank in Downing Street, Georgetown) and are operated by POS Malaysia. The link goes straight to the PO Box page under 'Post Office Services' and as can be seen there is a charge on RM 50 per year for the box rental and an RM 30 deposit for the key. Very good value for money IMHO. There is a link to the PO Box application form (Pos-Mel 58) on the site but, having contacted POS Malaysia by email I am advised that this form is in fact an older version and they will be putting the new bi-lingual version up online in due course, albeit the code for the form is the same. Post Offices will of course have the forms in stock. To apply you will need a copy of your passport and should, really, put down a local fixed address with a post code and a local telephone number on the form then sign and date it on the rear. In terms of local address they are not really THAT bothered and there are a number of options you can consider to satisfy this requirement with some imagination. This address can then be quickly amended once you have a more permanent address. For the telephone number I used my local Digi pre-paid.

For me, acquiring a PO Box in Penang prior to leaving the UK has been a good move and is another problem dealt with. I shall now be able to update my address details with any critical services/companies in the UK once we exchange contracts and before I leave. For anyone visiting Penang on a fact finding visit who decides that they are definitely going to relocate there within the 12 months following their visit, for 'postal peace of mind' I think it would be a good option to consider.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Moto GP - Sepang Circuit, Malaysia (Oct 2011)

Early I know, but watching the Air Asia sponsored British Moto GP at Silverstone today, with a win by Casey Stoner for Repsol Honda, has reminded me that the Malaysia Moto GP will be held at the Sepang Circuit, Selangor, Malaysia between 21 - 23 October 2011.

Widely regarded as one of the best circuits, having one of the best Grandstands, I plan to get my tickets early for this, especially as the circuit has an early bird offer on with the Grandstand tickets at RM 100 instead of RM 120 until 31 July. One event I shall be really looking forward to biggrin

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Golden Screen Cinemas (iPhone Application)

For the movie buffs out there, and particularly those who frequent the Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) multiplex venues throughout Malaysia, there is now a very good Apple Golden Screen Cinemas application available for users of Apple devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch - the latter will require wifi connection) which will allow you to browse cinemas, select days, view movie showing times and even book tickets online (using either PayPal or a Maybank M2U card). The ap also allows you to bring up the full postal address of each of the cinemas allowing you to easily find the location of the cinema on Google Maps if visiting an area with which you are unfamiliar. With venues at both Queensbay Mall and Gurney Plaza (and of course many others) GSC are quite well placed for me in Penang for those films that you simply must see at the cinema. All I need now is for MGM to pull their finger out and start producing Bond films again!!!!

I will doubtless open a local bank account in Malaysia, in addition to my HSBC account, and the ability to pay online for cinema tickets etc. may be one reason to put Maybank at the front of the queue of options.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Goodall Hawkers - Jalan Gottlieb, Pulau Tikus

I was taken to this hawker centre by a very good friend of mine one evening and have to say I was very impressed. It is opposite the Penang Chinese Girls High School in Jalan Gottlieb which links Jalan Bagan Jermal and Jalan Kebun Bunga.

First thing we did when we entered is picked a few 'apom manis', the slightly sweet and crispy indian crispy crepe bread made with coconut milk at around RM 2. These make a delicious appetiser as you ponder what's on offer in the very large hawker centre. I was out relaxing that evening so apologies if the details are a little vague but I do plan to return to this centre and do a more complete write up and identify some of the specific hawker stalls we used.

We had a very good char kway teow (which was a very sizeable portion) (RM 4) and an excellent chicken satay (RM 6) served with very spicy satay sauce with a good dose of chilli for good measure. I figure there were about 10 skewers in all so very good value. We also took an excellent BBQ teriyaki sea-bass dish (RM 8) from a Japanese stall which was really excellent and was accompanied by BBQ tofu (bean curd) which I'd never eaten cooked this way before. The whole meal was around RM 20, all very reasonable and standard hawker prices with large bottles of Tiger to accompany the meal at around RM 12 each.

I can thoroughly recommend this hawker centre, it has a very good reputation (with several people I know spurning many other hawker venues in favour of this and maybe one or two others) is very popular with locals and there is an excellent variety of stalls. Being off the beaten track somewhat its prices are lower than places such as Gurney Drive. It is very easy to get to and to park and if you were staying in the Gurney area you could quite easily walk here. Excellent centre which I shall use on a regular basis when I return to Penang which, it seems, will now be MUCH earlier than I first thought and likely a matter of weeks!!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Digi SIM - Super Long Life

I have just updated the original Tourist/PAYG SIM post (24 March) about this as it's something I missed when I went to Malaysia recently. With a Digi pre-pay SIM you can opt to pay a one of fee of RM 30 for 'Super Long Life' and this then validates the credit on your line for 12 months from the day you opt in to SLL. You can opt in either at the time you buy your SIM or at any time thereafter (provided you have the RM 30 credit on your phone) by entering: *123*3*3# on your key pad, pressing call and following instructions. I have just done this from the UK so I don't need to worry about credit or the line expiring before I get back. A useful facility I think.

I believe that if your credit expires your line will only be kept active for 3 months from the date of expiry at which time it gets disconnected and you will need to get a new line.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Hotel: Pacific Regency Hotel Suites - Kuala Lumpur

On the last few days of my recent trip to Penang I stayed over in KL for four nights before returning to the UK and rather than returning to the very good Melia Hotel I decided to try somewhere different. So, I booked Pacific Regency Hotel Suites, in Jalan Punchak near Jalan P Ramlee for around RM 260 per night, initially for 2 nights, through Agoda (see travel links).

On arrival in KL I had the misfortune to get a taxi driver who didn't know where the hotel was and KL was even heavier in traffic than normal due to a movie or something being shot near Jalan P Ramlee. Luckily I had purchased a voucher for the journey from KL Sentral otherwise the meter would have soared as we went round and round trying to find the hotel. The driver was also less than skilled at reading maps as I tried to point out the hotel on Google Maps saying, "we should turn here", "where?", "here", "where?", "back there", "but where", "too late now", you get the picture. In fact, had it not been pouring with rain I'd have got out and walked. Oddly, despite being monsoon season I found I got by without an umbrella in Penang. In KL though, come 4 or 5pm it did rain most days for between 1-3 hours and some days it rained really hard!!! Umbrella definitely needed for KL in monsoon season IMHO!!

Once we did arrive I checked in and both the entrance to the hotel and the reception areas are attractively styled and the staff were very helpful and courteous, if somewhat amazed about my ill-feted taxi trip that too 1.5 hours (in normal traffic, supposing a direct route, it would take more like 20 minutes). I was given a room on the 29th floor and had been upgraded to a Superior Room. So, what was it like?

Well, I have too say I wasn't THAT impressed. The room itself was very spacious but the decor it has to be said was somewhat lacklustre and all a bit dull. The room had a distinctive musty smell to it indicating it was perhaps less than regularly used with the air going slightly stagnant with the lack of air con. The furniture was also older in style, made of very dark wood which, alongside the beiges and browns of the decor made the room look somewhat flat. It was however VERY spacious, clean and tidy and the bathroom was enormous with a large walk-in shower and a bath. There was also ample storage. Being a serviced suite there was also a kitchenette with dining table and this area had the only window in the room. In fact it was the location of the window which did not help the light in the main bedroom as the kitchen area is much narrower than the bedroom and separated from it by a partial partition wall so the bedroom was never light really. The air -con was also quite noisy. Thankfully, after 3 years in the UAE and the 50 degree heat of their summers I found I rarely needed to use A/C while in Malaysia, probably a godsend in this case as I'm not sure I'd have been able to sleep with what sounded like a Harrier jump-jet with it's engine at idle just next to the bathroom!! Overall the room was OK to be honest but I can't say I really felt happy in it, it had a more utilitarian and functional feel to it than anything and failed to give me that relaxed and contented feeling that some hotel rooms are able to do.

Location wise the hotel wasn't brilliantly placed. It's walkable to the Bukit Bintang/Chankat area but did not feel as close as the Melia, it was also not so conveniently placed as the Grand Millenium, for the busier shopping areas around Jalan Bukit Bintang. That said you will likely pay RM 80-100 more for a room at the Millenium unless you were able to get a very good deal (but from stays in other Millenium hotels I suspect it would be worth it) but the Melia could be had for about RM 240 per night (at the time of writing). The location was OK but it just felt a bit out of it.

Facilities wise I didn't get to use much. I did eat at the restaurant in the Lunar Bar, a roof-top restaurant, disco and pool bar area which may well get popular at weekends (but maybe not so popular as the Sky Bar at Traders Hotel). The meal was somewhat unspectacular I have to say. I started with a wild mushroom soup which did seem to be lacking in one essential ingredient, wild mushrooms, and which was more rich and creamy than tasty, much too creamy for my taste. This was followed by a T-bone steak which was poorly cooked. I am a qualified chef so I have some idea of how steak should be cooked and my preference is always for a steak, regardless of how 'well' you want it done, be seared on a VERY hot grill or under a salamander such that it imparts a good flavour to the exterior and crisps any fat somewhat. The best that could be said for this steak was that it was cooked, just cooked, with a pale brown unappealing colour and an even more unappealing taste. Maybe other dishes at this restaurant are better, maybe at 11:00pm the grills had been turned off and were not so hot, but as a paying customer I do expect a degree of quality and if restaurants are unable to deliver to their normal standards, they should tell you.

I did have ocassion to use the Business Centre at the hotel to get some documents printed off and the staff were friendly and helpful. The prices were OK but if you were in town, as with any hotel, you could probably get printing and copying done for a tenth of the price at anyone of shops providing this kind of service. One thing that was very useful was that the hotel had a permanent executive (blue) taxi station right by the front door so getting a taxi at any hour was easy and the taxi company staff, and indeed the drivers, were very helpful and friendly. I'm sure I put on a kilo with all of the local take away delicacies they kept insisting I tried. A very helpful and pleasant bunch!! That said, I think most people are if you treat them with the respect, dignity and manners that you'd expect to be accorded to you rather than the, frankly, somewhat atrocious attitudes you see displayed by some people, but especially tourists and visitors some of whom have a vastly over-inflated view of their own self-importance!! As I have also said before the staff at the hotel were also very helpful. The only annoying factor, and this may be the same at some, but I know not all, hotels was that when I wanted to extend my stay by two nights for visa completion, they could not do the same rate at reception such that I had to book again through the internet. There were difficulties with Agoda that day so it was somewhat frustrating. Indeed I did even contemplate checking out and booking in at the Grand Millenium to give that a try but as I had a busy enough day the next day I couldn't be bothered to factor packing, check-out and check-in in to the itinerary as well. The staff clearly have their hands tied in this regard though and, other than that, service was faultless and all of the staff were very helpful and friendly.

Overall I wouldn't go so far as to say I wouldn't recommend the Pacific Regency Hotel Suites, it was an OK place to stay, just OK, depending on what you are looking for. If you need a kitchen it's maybe ideal but for me I would rather have the more attractively styles rooms of a normal hotel and would most likely opt for the locations of the Melia and Grand Millenium when visiting in future.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Breathes a sigh of relief!!!

Upon return to the UK I found my LGC here waiting for me and duly sent it off (both parts) to the MM2H Centre by 'Airsure'. This is a Royal Mail air-mail 'tracked and signed for' delivery service that only operates to certain designated countries (those able to offer tracking and signed for receipt and for you to be able to follow progress online). I sent the documents off on 24/5/11 and sat back with a slight sense of dread mainly because I had had to send the original, this certificate takes up to 40 days to get (so getting a replacement would not be easy) and it was the one thing that could cause me some problems if it went adrift, didn't get delivered or failed to get married up with my file.

On 28/5/11 I checked online to find it was marked 'out for delivery (Malaysia postal service)' and on 30/5/11 it was marked delivered :). Bearing in mind the importance of the document however, I contacted my case officer (Noor) at the MM2H office today (would have done it before but the internet and thus Skype etc. had been down for three days) to be told that she had received the certificate and placed it in the file. On the basis that the delivery of this document completed the file it would be fair to say that my application date was 30/5/11 as you can't really count the 10 days before during which the LGC was missing, making the file incomplete. So now I can relax, sit back and wait O0

So, quite impressed with the Airsure service and I have to say that the girls in the MM2H are fabulous to deal with. My case officer is very, very friendly, charming, very helpful and even today it was nice that we spent more time chatting about all manner of things completely unrelated to the application etc. Look forward to seeing her when next in KL (soon I hope - REAL soon ;))

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Medical Insurance (to satisfy MM2H requirement)

While I was in Penang I met the very charming Elane Goh through my good friend Ken at No Eyed Dear. Elane is a financial consultant whose business portfolio includes medical health cover (insurance). This type of cover is a requirement for many MM2Hvisa applicants so I was particularly keen to hear about the policy offered by Hong Leong Assurance. Hong Leong is one of the major financial institutions there and I met several local people who have such cover with them.

The name of the policy is HLA MedGLOBAL IV and, as with all such policies, cover and benefits varies according to the premiums you pay which will vary on account of gender and age. There are three levels of cover which MM2H applicants can avail themselves of which are identified by the codes MGIV 200, MGIV 300 and MGIV 400. Taking the lowest premium policy (MGIV 200) I have listed below the main details of the cover provided. Where a number of days is listed this always refers to the number of days per single disability:

  • Hospital Room and Board (up to 150 days per disability): RM 200 / 300 / 400 (*see below re explanation of different rates)
  • Daily cash payment (as a result of hospitalisation due to an accident on a Malaysian Highway): RM 200 / 300 / 400 *
  • Daily cash allowance at Government Hospital: RM 100 / 150 / 200 *
In all cases below the cover is for "reasonable and customary charges" unless specified.
  • Intensive Care cover (up to 75 days):
  • Lodger expenses (up to 150 days):
  • Hospital Supplies and Services:
  • Surgical Fees:
  • Anaesthetist Fee:
  • Operating Theatres:
  • In Hospital Physician Visit:
  • In Hospital Physio:
  • Pre Hospital Diagnostic Test:
  • Organ Transplant:
  • Day Surgery benefit:
  • Ambulance Fees:
  • Govt Service Tax: 5% of room and board benefits
  • Emergency Accidental Outpatient Treatment:
  • Emergency Accidental Dental Treatment:
  • Outpatient Physio:
  • Outpatient Cancer Treatment:
  • Outpatient Kidney Dialysis:

  • Home Nursing care (180 days per lifetime): RM 60 / 80 /100
  • Annual Policy Limit: RM 120,000 / 180,000 / 240,000
  • Aggregate Term Limit: RM 600,000 / 900,000 / 1,200,000
  • Emergency Evacuation (repatriation): 150,000 (all same)

* As your level of cover increases (e.g. MGIV 300 and 400) the main effect is to increase the payments due under the different levels of cover which I have separated by the '/' marker

Clearly these details are not exhaustive and full reference would need to be made to an individual policy/contract but they give a good indication of cover. I plan to compare these against other main providers such as Great Eastern, Prudential and AIA. As an example of the premiums I have listed below the annual premiums payable (according to current literature) for males/females in two different age bands (note that new policies can only be taken out up to 60 years of age for both men and women) for the three levels of cover MGIV 200, 300 and 400 respectively.

Male aged:

51 - 55: RM 2,193.79 / 2,974.92 / 3,693.74
56 - 60: RM 2,685.61 / 3,640.33 / 4,519.39

Female aged:

51 - 55: RM 2,125.63 / 2,869.35 / 3,560.89
56 - 60: RM 2,424.47 / 3,264.81 / 4,049.56

This is the first policy I have had chance to look at in detail and it seems quite comprehensive and reasonable though I do have further comparisons to make. I know some choose not not to take such cover, or at least choose to use the coverage provided by the medical component of free travel cover given with many bank accounts. Something to ponder really as, while that approach may satisfy the criteria, the question is what happens if you get hospitalised or need protracted treatment and your bank finds out you are not actually on holiday but semi-resident and refuses to pay? Expensive times potentially. You could of course save the money yourself each month, another option, one the criteria to get the visa is satisfied. Much to ponder!!

For anyone interested in this particular policy you can contact Elane direct for further details on: elanegsl 'at' (address written this way to prevent spam bots from getting it, just substitute the 'at' for @)

Fancy a dabble in the stock markets?

Thanks to my good friend Mario to highlighting this on my last trip to Penang. Many people will wish to dabble in the stock markets be it buying and selling stocks and shares (though I doubt my other friend's De Lorean shares will net him millions) or investing in some high yield bonds. Now you could do this through a bank but the problem with that is you will often pay the bank for their services, and often quite a lot!! I have also found in the past that the advice banks give on investments can vary and in some cases is more biased towards selling products of that bank, not always but it's something to be mindful of.

Mario basically does it all himself and uses the Singapore based Saxo Bank, which markets itself as "an Internet-based information and investment trading platform". There is a lot of useful information on the site about how they operate, their terms and conditions and there is even the option to open a free live demonstration account with no obligations to get a feel for trading in real time prices. It's something I certainly intend to look at more closely when the time is right. Now, where are those "Can't fail" investment opportunities wink.

Adendum: One problem I have been made aware of is that you would likely need to set up your account with Saxo before coming to Malaysia as they will not open an account if you are resident here. However there are several others that offer a good enough service such as:

RHB Invest: Very popular

Jupiter: Also very popular and, along with one other bank, offers the only 'mobile phone' based trading capability.

HLe: Again, popular, less so than Jupiter I gather, but again offering a mobile capability.

There is a useful forum discussion about this topic here and a reasonable comparison article here.