Sunday, 30 October 2011

More Property Ponderings

Readers may be aware that I had pretty much decided to opt for an off-plan purchase at Batu Uban and I'm largely happy to stick with. There is however one problem, it hasn't launched yet and I have no Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA). Problem with this of course is that the longer the launch takes, the longer the build will take and the more money I throw down the drain in rental. As such, I still keep my options open.

When I first came out to Penang I was ADAMANT I had to be near Gurney, Georgetown and Straits Quay but, although I do visit them still, it's FAR less than I anticipated, largely because I have rapidly developed a social circle which just does it's own thing, wherever. When I couple that then with the lack of developer (versus speculator sub-sale) units in any condos that I actually like and the lack of units 'off-plan' that appeal (for me Surin, Lattitude, Pearl Regency all have issues) I do start to ponder is a Penang island residence REALLY essential??? Condo wise I'm still considering the island of course and in particular out by E-Gate and Queensbay and plan to look at a few more projects there. I did have an option of a condo at The View when I was here in April and am kicking myself slightly that I didn't take it. But, I figure these things happen for a reason.

Of late however I have also started to consider Juru, Auto-City and Butterworth. All have existing and/or planned developments by the developers that appeal to me (Mahsing, Boon Siew and possibly IJM) AND there is the added bonus that land is cheaper and available there so we are talking about landed and in some cases detached.

Of course landed property has factors you need to consider such as pests and vermin, security, upkeep, maintenance etc. with those issues being somewhat less prevelant with condos (albeit you pay for it) but condos also have potential problems such as neighbour noise, road and area noise and how good the management company is. These are just random picks but those are some of the key things I consider. Condos do have the benefit of a 'lock it and leave it' approach but landed does have the benefit of SPACE!!!!!

I'v only just started on the research of Juru as an option and the one thing that does concern me is WILL the trip across the bridges into Penang island become a proverbial pain in the ass?? That said, I suppose it'd be quicker (or at least as quick) as getting to Batu Ferringhi where I also once considered. There is also the issue of whether there is QUITE enough out at Juru on a day to day basis, eateries and of course the lack of some facilities I do use (such as a gym, cinemas and the big malls). Decisions, decisions :-\

I plan to go out to Juru soon for a look around and to visit a view projects. There is a project called Palm Gardens that did appeal but a quick call to a friend of friend revealed that it's basically two strips of houses, ungated and in a kampung (lesser developed village) and may not be as desirable as the marketing blurb suggests. Juru Heights was however recommended, as was Cendana. There's also a property fair at Gurney next weekend over four days (Fri-Mon) so I'll likely hit that too to see if there are any projects that appeal. I'll post up here any projects that I come across and and up/downsides and whether my decisions change.

Luckily Juru is still classed as Penang so the blog title won't have to change. So the only POJ I'll have to contend with is the one I'll get if I don't keep on top of the char kway teow with frequent gym visits :D

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Penang Jazz Festival (1st - 4th December)

Quite a way off yet but I do like to get events that I like the look of into the diary ASAP so I don't accidentally double book and I do like the look of this event.

Centred on the Gardens, Bayview Beach Resort and with numerous fringe stages at various hotels (including G Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel), from their website it looks to be one not to miss. Quite a lot of information on their site and you can also purchase tickets in advance. I'm personally interested in the band Primitive Leap having heard some promising comments, but will be looking to take in some kind of performance each day I think.

Well worth a look I think :-)

Best of Mean Machines 2011

Doing things in reverse to the way they would normally happen, I have uploaded an album containing my favourite shots from the Mean Machines event at Auto City, Juru, Penang to the 'Pick of Penang' Facebook Page.

I have chosen to do it this way on this occasion as the event is past now and for me, except for motoring enthusiasts, it is an event which is best described in pictures. So rather than reams and reams of stand/vehicle descriptions I thought it better to merely an album of the two days.

Now where can I find...............?

Well, if its an Aston Martin DB5 with the original 007 spinning number plate, no idea. If however it's some obscure household, general purpose or electrical item that you might be looking for, be it for the home or whatever, I may have just the place.

For ages I have been searching for an LR44 battery in Penang to power a small travel clock that I have become quite attached to. Not that hard you might think. Think again. Scour the supermarkets and even some of the specialist electrical stores in the plazas and you will quickly find that finding any battery other than the ubiquitous 'AA' or 'AAA' is about as likely as hearing the words "Please form an orderly queue" when the 101 bus arrives at Komtar bus station.

Recently my good friend Ken from No Eyed Dear told me about a store that's actually not far from Komtar called Thye Huat. Thye Huat is one of those gold-mine general purpose hardware stores that are a joy to find and it really does does stock all manner of goodies, including, yes, LR44 batteries!!!!

Finding the shop is quite easy, it is in Jalan Pintail Tali which runs from behind Prangin Mall (the mall next to Komtar) and which eventually joins Chulia Street, quite close to its junction with Penang road. It's a large store which you can't miss and it's on the left about 100 yards from Prangin Mall as you walk down Jalan Pintail Tali towards Chulia Street. Well worth bearing in mind for those "Now where can find.......?" moments.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Happy Deepavali!!!!!!

Happy Deepavali to everyone on this slightly wet Deepavali eve :-) I shall be out celebrating tomorrow night - rain or not!!!!

This is a link to may favourite Bollywood track of all time, Chaiya Chaiya (also featured in the movie 'Inside Man'). Mandatory on the play list of anywhere celebrating IMHO, preferably at max volume!!! Enjoy!!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Update Delays

Sincere apologies for the lack of updates for the last 10 days or so. I have been EXTREMELY busy both meeting people, going to some new places and, last but by NO means least, attending the Mean Machines event at Auto City, Juru where I met up with some good friends and made a great many more. Updates will start to come up over the next week or so and normal service will then be resumed. I hope!!!!!

Mean Machines was a really brilliant event and it was a real pleasure to see my good chum Leng Yein who was the Special Host and the event organiser Andrew Chan who, as CEO of Intrensionale, has really done a fantastic job with Mean Machines. I was also delighted to meet two lovely models there, Cecilia Black and Jenny Lim, both very professional, very attractive and very nice people. Post and pics to follow, quick sample below:

My dear friend Leng Yein who very kindly posed for a session of shots for me that were outside of the schedule.

Two of the new friends I met at Mean Machines. Jenny Lim (left) and Cecilia Black (right). Penang based models who will definitely be worth looking out for.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Mean Machines: Reminder and Schedule

Quick reminder that the Mean Machines event will be held at Auto City, Juru, Penang on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th October. Looks to be a great event and the schedule has now been published. You can find it and more details here.

Pick of Penang will be there. Photos and event coverage to follow.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

MM2H Visa Collection - Putrajaya (from Penang)

Having been in Penang since 20 July I figured it was high-time to go and collect my MM2H visa. It has to be said that the new location of the MM2H office did make me view the trip with a slight sense of dread but as it turned out is was all misplaced.

The address of the MM2H unit is:

Ministry of Tourism Malaysia,
Level 10,Tower 1, Jalan P5/6,
Presint 5, 62200 W
.P. Putrajaya,

Now, as can be seen from the post dated 31 July I had managed to get all the documentation I would need prior to collecting the visa (medical report, Security Bond stamping and medical insurance) sorted in Penang so I hoped I would need little time in Putrajaya, once there, to collect the visa. On that basis I decided to save on the cost of a hotel stop in KL (I'm not a great fan of capital cities and was not desperate to stay on this occasion) and do the trip there and back in a day.

I considered flying to KL to be the only real option in this case, given my need to do a round trip in a day and that of course means either flying to KLIA or KL Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). In deciding, one main considerations for me was how to get from my chosen airport to Putrajaya and with the least amount of hassle and stress. From KLIA one of the two most sensible options was to take the KL Transit (please note, NOT the Ekspress which doesn't stop until KLCC) which stops at Putrajaya/Cyberjaya Sentral (P/C S), Cyberjaya being the IT based 'development area' adjacent to mainly governmental Putrajaya that is home to the Ministry of Tourism, which is about 10 minutes away by taxi. The other option is to take a taxi direct from KLIA at a cost of around RM 65. Putrajaya though is a bit of a nightmare if you don't know your way around however and I figured that a local taxi driver operating out of Putrajaya Sentral may have a better chance of not getting lost, as as happened to at least one MM2H applicant I know. KL LCCT also offers exactly the same options. Grab a taxi and go to Putrajaya direct, again at a cost of RM 65, or buy a ticket for the KL Transit and, again, take a taxi from Putrajaya Sentral. The difference is that with KL LCCT you need to take a 20 minute shuttle bus (which is free when you purchase your KL Transit ticket) to get you to the KL Transit station, Salak Tinggi, which is actually the transit station before KLIA. With KLIA the Transit terminal is on-site. The picture to the right shows (maybe poorly) the rough route to get to the MM2H offices from P/C S. If you Google Putrajaya KL Transit and then look for Presinct 6, below the station and to the left, you will see where the Ministry of Tourism is.

So, what about flights. KLIA does benefit from having slightly easier access to the KL Transit station and of course better direct connection to KL direct (e.g. KL Ekspress) which may or may not be important to you. However, you will pay a premium to fly into KLIA as you will need to use a major airline and not one of the low cost operators such as Air Asia (which flies into KL LCCT) or Firefly (which flies into Subang). Booking 5 days in advance as I was, I would have been able to get a return flight from Malaysia Airlines for RM 378 (inc taxes) and actually that's not too bad. On top of that you will of course need to add the cost of getting to the airport and your connections the other end.

I then looked at the LCCT option. Total cost of a return flight with Air Asia was RM 229, around RM 150 cheaper than the flight into KLIA. Given that the cost of the flight was considerably cheaper, the flight times suited me more and that the Putrajaya connection did not seem to daunting, KL LCCT was the option I chose.

When the big day arrived I took a taxi from my home near Tg Tokong to the airport, with a driver I use often, at a cost of RM 40. At 9am the roads are quite quiet and the trip took us about 40 minutes. Penang airport is still undergoing renovation but finding your way to the departure hall, up the escalator, is not too hard. I had checked in with Air Asia online previously and had the bar code they issue saved to my phone. They have self-service terminals at the airport which SHOULD be able to scan this code and print your boarding pass (I only had hand luggage so would not need to then check baggage also). The machine seemed to struggle with my bar code which MAY have been down to the phone screen protector, I'm not sure. Once you have checked in online however you cannot check-in again using the terminals and I had to use a 'Document Check' desk which only took a few minutes. With hindsight I probably wouldn't check-in online again and would just check-in using the booking code at the terminals leaving less margin for error. Using a bar code to do the same thing seems to just add another needless step. My flight left on time at 11:20 and an hour later, about 12:30 pm I was at KL LCCT.

The rest of the trip was really easy. Walking into arrivals at LCCT there are a number of coach and taxi desks and also the desk marked KL Ekspress. It is this desk that you get the KL Transit tickets. The cost to Putrajaya is just RM 5.50 which includes the free 20 minute coach transfer to Salak Tinggi. I also confirmed that the cost of a taxi to Putrajaya is RM 64.20. Having got my Transit ticket (they give you two, one for the coach and one for the train) I walked straight outside the terminal and across two pedestrian crossings and straight onto the KL Transit shuttle coach. There is a placard which, despite being small and low down, clearly indicates that it's the KL Transit coach stop and the drivers and crews nearby are all helpful, directing anyone unsure. After a short wait the coach set off and 20 minutes later dropped us off at Salak Tinggi (picture left), one of the very clean, tidy and well laid out Transit stations. It was 14 minutes for the next transit so I took the opportunity to grab a cold drink and a couple of savouries at the cafe as you enter the station. After that it was through the automatic barrier (you will need your train ticket to gain access) and across to the platform for the KL bound Transit. Again, helpful and friendly staff are around if you are unsure of your bearings. P/C S is the first stop the Transit train makes and the journey only takes about 5 minutes.

You could equally do this trip to P/C S from KL by taking the Transit (again, not the Ekspress!!) from KLSS towards KLIA at a cost of RM 12.50 and getting off at P/C S.

At P/C S there is an Information Desk and clear signs to the taxi and bus stands. As you will find at many of the larger transport hubs there are taxi coupon desks where you get a voucher for taxi before heading to the rank. The fares are all pre-determined. I could have taken a bus but decided, at a cost of RM 13 to take a taxi. Here is where making my own way to P/C S paid a dividend, the taxi drivers know the area and know exactly where to go. The trip took 10 minutes and the taxi dropped me off at the Ministry of Tourism offices, opposite the Pullman Hotel, at about 2pm. Spot on for the finish of lunch hour.

Total travel time from KL LCCT to Putrajaya was about an hour but it doesn't seem like it because it's so hassle free and the time just flies. Taxis can be a bit thin on the ground around Putrajaya so I did take the 24 hour call-centre number for the main taxi operator which is +60 3 888 4000.

Collecting the visa couldn't have been easier. Straight to the Immigration Desks which are next to the MM2H desks on the 10th floor, hand over the Letter of Aceptance, Security Bond form, medical report and copy of medical insurance, wait for 10 minutes, pay cashier (security Bond + RM90 for each year of your visa which will be tied to passport expiry), done!! There was no FD for me to 'prove' as I had been granted a visa under the 'Offshore' criteria. So, 20 minutes tops. In all honesty I spent much more time chatting to my friend Noor at the MM2H office!!!

After that, it was the return trip. Pointless repeating as it was just a reverse run but with one difference. As I walked out of the MoTour building to wait or call for a taxi (and I did see a couple nearby) I turned right and then right again (bringing you opposite the side of the Pullman Hotel) and saw a 601 bus at the bus stop. I asked if the bus went to Putrajaya Sentral and the driver said yes. So I boarded the bus and paid the 50 sen fare for a 10 minute trip back to the Transit station. All from there was just the same, easy and totally stress-free journey. Again, a total of an hour trip back to KL LCCT, including the waiting time for Transit etc. I got to the airport at 5pm with ample time to eat and then check in for the 6:20pm flight back to Penang.

So, that was my trip from Penang to Putrajaya and back. 11 hours door-to-door and overall a totally stress free and pleasant trip. Cost wise:

Total cost KL LCCT to Putrajaya (return): RM 24.50 (could have been RM 12 as next time I would take the bus from P/C S both ways). Total cost of my round-trip: RM 333.50

There are a few very useful resources I found while planning the options for this trip and they are:

A Wiki entry on Putrajaya which provides some detail on where it is and travelling around it.

The KL Low Cost Carrier Terminal website LCCT website which contains details on travel options from LCCT.

The taxi coupon service Mesra Indah Jayah website with details of costs from LCCT to various places.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Restaurant: Xuan Xin - Gurney Plaza, Gurney Drive

This restaurant is on the 3rd Floor at Gurney Plaza and I called there after an extensive shopping trip that had left me just too whacked to bother driving to Tg Bungah which was the original plan. It was one of those impromptu meals that turned out to be lucky call.

The restaurant is quite large and has ample seating inside and also outside on the main floor of the plaza but this is area of course barriered off from the general walkway. It is tastefully decorated and has comfortable seating. I had gone to Gurney with a good friend of mine and we were quite hungry. The menu is very extensive and well presented and we ordered a hot and sour soup and a black chicken soup along with deep fried fish fillet in hot bean sauce, stewed chicken with salt fish and bean curd in claypot and string beans with shrimp paste. We also ordered steamed rice and two drinks, iced tea and an iced chocolate (milo).

After not too long a wait the meal started to arrive with the soup served at the same time as the main meal as is common. Well, in fact, one of the soups was served with the main meal, the black chicken was somewhat delayed, but more of that later. The hot and sour soup was thick and tasty without being too spicy and contained a nice variety of vegetables and sea food. The fish fillet with hot bean sauce was superb, the fish moist and fried in a very thin and crispy batter and served with just the right amount of a chilli based coating sauce which was also slightly sweet. The string beans with shrimp was exceptional and the sauce with them delicious to add to the rice. The claypot chicken, tofu and salt fish was also very palatable if somewhat salty. All in all, an excellent meal at the end of which we were quite stuffed and only JUST managed to finish everything.

Special mention also has to be made of the chocolate drink. This was superb and one of the best I've ever had, and at just RM 6 was less than half the price of some other well known establishments!! The only flaw with the meal was the black chicken soup which despite asking for when the meal arrived took an age to come and when it did it was cold. Sending back to be heated was a necessary mistake as it never returned rolleyes. Having finished the meal we decided to cancel it from the order. I would not let that put me off returning though and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the meal as did my companion. A nice touch is the 'service' devices on all of the outside tables which let you call for 'water', 'bill' or 'service' at the push of a button with a swift response from the friendly and helpful staff. The whole bill came to just RM 68.

The Xuan Xin also does a range of set meals for between 2 and 10 people and, as an example, the 2 person set meal consists of soup of the day, your choice of two main courses (from the wide selection accompanying these menus), a dish of seasonal vegetables, your choice of rice or congee and drinks for about RM 38. In fact the only reason we did not choose this option is that we wanted to select our own vegetable dish. I can thoroughly recommend this restaurant, especially if you happen to be in or around Gurney.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Restaurant: 113 - Jalan Fettes, Tg Tokong

This restaurant was recommended to me by my good friend and fellow blogger 'Watertown Wanderer' and I ate there last night. To give it it's full name it's actually '113 Fried Porridge and Cattering' (read catering) and it's a no-frills cafe style restaurant about half way up Jalan Fettes on the right (facing away from Tg Tokong Road).

They have quite an extensive menu which is written in Chinese and English with most dishes being priced around the RM 5-8 mark. They do a wide selection of tea based drinks at RM 1.80, various hot and cold coffees and cold shakes priced between RM 4-5. I ordered a sweet and sour pork, kung-po chicken, rice and sugar cane based iced drink, one of two speciality 'home-made' drinks on offer.

The restaurant was quite busy but despite this I didn't have long to wait for the meal. When it arrived I have to say it looked very appetising and was well presented. The sweet and sour pork was cubed and cooked in a very light batter and served in a tasty sauce with a good mix of
crunchy fresh vegetables. The chicken was shredded into long thin strips and was served in a very dark, rich and intense coating sauce which was nice and spicy. There was a good blend of fresh ginger, dried red chilli, fresh green chilli and spring onions which really did make this dish stand out. Along with the rice the meal was very filling and was probably slight too much for one but I had eaten little that day and managed to polish of the lot, washed down with the excellent cane drink which was also very tasty.

I thoroughly enjoyed the meal at '113' and plan to return there where, again on the recommendation of fellow blogger Kevin I will try their fried porridge and a dish of French beans. '113' only opens on Fri, Sat and Sun unfortunately and I understand they also do fixed price set lunches which I have yet to try. Well worth a visit IMO!!!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Camera Shop: Click 'n' Snap - Penang Road, Georgetown

I recently needed to pick up a few bits and pieces for my camera and did a lot of research to try to find the best possible source. There are lots of places around in both the malls and on-street and prices are not too bad. I was however trying to find somewhere with a very good reputation and somewhere which I could use on a regular basis, as needs arise. Following the research I discovered the shop called Click 'n' Snap which is at Komtar on the ground floor, facing Penang Road. It seemed to be a popular place across the Malasyia photography forums, renowned for good prices and, more importantly, professional and good service.

I called there recently to pick up the items I was after and also checked the Tokina wide-angle 11-16 zoom lens, regarded highly in the field of 'third-party' lenses, as many of the places I had checked previously, especially in Gurney Plaza, were out of stock. Of all the places I did check in Gurney a shop called Lam Loong on the third floor seemed to have the best prices but no stock. There is a shop in the basement of Gurney too where the owner is very helpful. Back to Click 'n' Snap. The shop is easy enough to find as it is easy to see from the Penang Road and I dealt with a helpful guy called Micheal Ong (H/P +60 16 423 3179) and was pleased to find they had the lens in stock. After some negotiation I got the price down to RM 2,200 which is OK compared to UK price. I did establish though that paying by credit card would incur a 2% surcharge so would need to get cash.

When I left the shop I checked out another shop that was on the opposite side of the road. They ALSO had the lens and at the better price of RM 2,100 BUT, and it is a big but, you need to be careful about warranties. Some places are selling 'grey imports' which are not covered by full manufacturer warranties but instead are covered by a third party warranty often inserted along with the original warranty in the box. Micheal Ong advised that the way to check with Tokina lenses is whether the guarantee has a Tokina stamp "chop' together with the lens number on the guarantee and also ask. The Tokina warranty is two years but most grey imports will be just one year. Sure enough, this was the case with with the cheaper lens. 12 month warranty and no 'chop' on the Tokina guarantee.

As such I decided to go with Click 'n' Snap. I was going to pick up a filter for it there too but they only stocked Rodenstock from germany and, whilst they may be good filters, I considered RM 250 to be way over the top for a UV filter. So. I was quite pleased with Click 'n' Snap overall and will likely use it in respect of any further (hopefully limited!!!) photography needs. I'm not entirely sure I thought the service was THAT 'friendly' to be honest and that might well affect any decision I may make to return there in future. I like to do business with places where I actually feel happy to business and where you feel your custom is valued and I'm not sure I really felt that with Click 'n' Snap. I would not let that deter me from going there for an important buy though as the shop it seems has been there a long time and of course their stock is 'original', worth it for that peace of mind alone.