Monday, 21 November 2011

Apartment Considerations

As I spend more time here and having visited countless properties since April I have started to come up with a mental list of considerations with regard to purchasing or renting somewhere to live. Some are more important than others and, depending on your own view, these issues may or may not be important to you. The list is not exhaustive and I'll likely add to them as times goes on. The list is largely not in any order of importance:

Building and Design:
  • Renovation Noise: This will most likely be an issue if you buy, or are considering renting in, a newly completed block. Condos etc are sold basically as concrete shells and once people start to fit them out, the drilling and hammering starts. The density of units in the block and the prolific use of air-wells will greatly multiply the problem. Believe me, it is hard to describe how immensely irritating the sound of high-impact drilling is from 9am - 5pm day in, day out, for weeks on end, maybe months. I doubt very much that I would rent in a brand new build again because of this. If it's a property you've bought you'll likely put up with it more but for rental I prefer to get the living experience (including peace and quiet) that the finished article would bring.
  • Environmental Noise: Either from motor cycles (actually glorified hair dryers on two wheels but damn noisy) at all hours in some of the low cost housing areas, building site and traffic noise etc. All more of an issue if you prefer to sleep without air con (AC) and with windows open. An odd one is also frogs. Yes, frogs!!! dependant on how close you are to greenery and water you will often get a chorus of frogs croaking all night which, while interesting at first, I suspect would become quite an irritant if you are a light sleeper. All these things are worth checking out by visiting the area at various times of day and night and at the weekend. If buying near a mosque you may also want to visit at prayer times to check on noise levels.
  • Orientation: An important one. Facing east and you'll get the morning sun beating down, facing west, the afternoon sun. This can create some significant cooling problems for you if you will be in during the day and will likely add to the bills for use of AC.
  • Leasehold or Freehold? Freehold is generally considered better for re-sale.
  • Design and layout: Some are MUCH better than others and for me a building that uses less, preferably no, air-wells is better. Air-wells conduct noise very well and are great for gathering rubbish. If a building uses air-wells to provide light to some rooms you need to be very high up, otherwise the light you get will be minimal. I have seen some units at 1,100 sf that are much better designed, and make much better use of space than some at 1200 or 1300 sf. The space needs to be usable too. No great tracts of floor area that you can do nothing with or endless 'dead end' off-shoots from rooms.
  • End of block: or corner facing units are often preferable to internal units both because of the views and increased privacy (no-one walking past you door and one less immediate neighbour).
  • Natural light: How much do you get? Some units are terrible. Some also have windows of bedrooms facing on to common landings (where the lifts are) which thus get no view or natural light and little privacy.
  • Drying area: Some units have good utility areas and some don't. Drying your washing and such like can then be difficult if you have no space for the rather large drying racks here. Electric tumble dryers are an option but possibly not desirable for permanent use. Drying washing on balconies is discouraged.
  • Density: Buildings with high numbers of units per floor will likely suffer from increased noise, less privacy and an increased risk of dodgy neighbours (simply more chance at 12 units per floor than 4).
  • Security: How effective is it?? Many places have guard houses and guards but some are much more effective than others. In some cases just pipping the car horn will get the barrier raised and let you access the car park. If on foot you can often just walk in unchallenged. Try that at Miami Green and see how far you get. Not all security is equal.
  • Security: How easy is it to secure your unit completely if you are away.
  • Servicing: Some blocks are better cared for, maintained and cleaned than others. Worth checking a few times to check the state of common areas etc.
  • Car parking: how much do you need. Many units have just one slot and purchasing extra can be pricey (RM 25,000 per slot).

Fixtures and Fittings:
  • Hot Water: Not something that is the norm here, either in bathrooms or kitchens. Some look to add water heaters in kitchens etc. for washing up. If buying new, it's something you may wish to discuss with developers as an optional extra.
  • Power-points: How many and where. Some places are very poorly designed in this respect and have a dearth of power-points and often have power-points in less than useful places. In one apartment the bed in the master bedroom would be 'forced' against a certain wall because of layout. But, no power-points for bedside lamps or clocks etc??? Also long stretches of wall without power-points can be a problem if looking to place illuminated display cabinets etc. In some cases the points in kitchens are placed stupidly high, just below the bottom of cupboards rather than just above the work-surfaces (trailing and unsightly cables when plugging in appliances).
  • Shaver points: Only seen these in very few bathrooms. Something to consider.
  • Double Glazing: Rare. Great for keeping out noise and insulating from heat but I've not seen it in use here. Some people look to fit secondary double glazing and the design of your unit may make this more or less practicable.
  • Baths: Very few places have baths fitted in bathrooms, most are shower only. Some that do have baths only fit the very small ones. Larger units (2,000 sf) may have at least one bath fitted as standard (BUT, see hot water above).
  • Glazing film: Similar to what is used in cars, some look to apply this to certain windows to reduce the heat, UV and glare from the sun. I'm exploring the use of different types here and will post again with what I consider to be the best option.
  • Air-Con: Buying a new unit you may also be able to discuss fitting AC with the developer. This is generally going to be better than the hack and slash that's required for a post-fit. Not all units are equal either. Panasonic is considered to be quite a good brand. Daikin is however considered one of the best because it is almost silent. Hand held remotes a great advantage too, better than wall mounted controls.
  • Ceiling fans: I use these a lot. I never use AC. Some are better quality than others and some also come with combined light units. Better units also come with a remote control so you can vary the speed of the fan and even set a pre-designated cut-off time.
  • TV Point(s): How many and where placed. If a new or recently built unit you may wish to check that it's wired for Astro TV HD (requires two feeds per box) if that is important to you. Oddly, even some brand new units don't have HD enabled with claims that "It's coming soon". The placing of these points, along with phone points and associated power-points often leaves a lot to be desired!!
  • Drinking Water: Two options really. You can either get a free-standing or work-top water fountain and use the large 5 gallon bottles (about RM 50 for five) or fit a filter unit to your supply. These are not the cheap RM 150 particle filters but cost somewhere around RM 4,000 and you then switch between drinking and general use water. I plan to use the latter once I move somewhere permanently. You will need to replace the filters in these about once a year at a cost of about RM 300.
  • Storage: Often a problem. How much do you need and how much is there? Storing all manner of things can become quickly problematic once your seemingly spacious apartment is fitted with furniture and such like.
  • Gas: Is bottled here if you intend to use it and you will need enough space for the bottle installation (which will eat up some of your kitchen storage).
That's all for now. Not exhaustive like I say, just some issues you may overlook, when considering where to rent / buy. Some of these things can also be rectified after purchase but obviously there more there is to do, the more mess and the greater the cost.

Camera Fair: Gurney Plaza (Thurs 24 - Mon 28 Nov)

Found out that there is a camera fair in the main concourse area at Gurney Plaza from 24th - 28th November. How big it will be I'm not sure. More importantly, I'm not sure what there will be in terms of discounted deals, incentives and other offers. I plan to go along on 24th for a look and will post more information on the extent of offers / deals etc.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Movies: Immortals and movie for Xmas

Saw a trailer for this when I was at the cinema today to see the Immortals (which I thought was pretty damn good). It's is a film losely based on Greek mythology directed by the talented Tarsem Singh and is told in the same 'comic book' style as the '300' Those expecting a different angle and an accurate depiction of Greek / Persian confict would do better to read Herodotus. All the same, cracking couple of hours entertainment.

Anyway, back to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. As it seems it will open around 21 December it looks like this might be my movie for Xmas. Action packed in the tradition 'Mi' way, usually with a good script and cast.

Reminder: Penang Jazz Festival (1st - 4th December)

Just a quick reminder that the much anticipated Penang Island Jazz Festival is getting closer and closer :-)

The line up of artists at the main even and the various fringe stages promises to deliver a great Festival and with the first two days of events at the main stage being on Sat 3rd and Sun 4th December, one day after the final of the Asia Model Festival Awards at Voodoo, it looks like it's going to be a GREAT weekend!!!!!

Here is the schedule for the main stage alone:

Saturday, 3rd December 2011
6.30pm – 7.10pm : Fred Cheah & The JazzHats
7.20pm – 8.00pm : Espen Eriksen Trio
8.10pm – 8.50pm : Michaela Rabitsch & Robert Pawlik Trio
9.00pm – 9.40pm : Jiyoung Lee Quartet
9.50pm – 10.30pm : Yuri Honing Wired Paradise
10.40pm – 11.30pm : SHAKATAK
Sunday, 4th December 2011
6.30pm – 7.10pm : Amir Yussof Acoustic Project
7.20pm – 8.00pm : Eva Bjerga Haugen with EET
8.10pm – 8.50pm : Ulf & Eric Wakenius – Father and Son
9.00pm – 9.40pm : Rusconi
9.50pm – 10.30pm : Rio Sidik Quartet
10.40pm – 11.30pm : Nina Van Horn
(N.B. Programme is subject to change)
Details of the event and options to purchase advance tickets can be found on the festival website.

Bar / Restaurant: 69 Mansion - Batu Ferringhi

69 Mansion in Batu Ferringhi (BF) is seen as one of the classier establishments on the island and has an innovative and somewhat unique feel to it. The bar is on the right hand side of the road as you drive into BF from the direction of Gurney, the entrance being nestled between various market stalls. It is not that far from a large restaurant called The Ship. There is a fairly large car park out front for which there is a flat rate charge of RM 5 for all day if you wish.

69 is a contemporary bar and is well decorated and furnished in a modernistic style. As you enter there is a bar / lounge area with ample seating both at the bar and in the air conditioned lounge. There is also a small internal swimming pool, linked to water features outside, of which more later.

Leaving 69 to go to its rear grounds there are several seating and eating areas to choose from. There is an area of low set comfortable sofas which run alongside one of the pools and also a raised, decked and covered area filled with tables and chairs that can be easily re-arranged and which would make a good drinking / dining choice. In addition there is a seating areas which is IN the water features / low pools where you can sit and relax with the coolong water around your feet. Shorts or similar are of course obligatory and some even sit in swimwear. Beyond that there is a further seating area out on the sand where you can really get the beachfront bar experience and even indulge in a shisha.

All things considered, I really like 69 and see it as a nice relaxing place to go if you fancy a night with a more upmarket feel. Drinks are about average prices for the island with a cocktail at around RM 25-40 and a beer at about RM 13 (from memory). A place worth visiting IMO, especially if you are already up in the BF area, may be a bit far out if you are planning a longer night and intend to end up in UPR, Georgetown. Give it a try, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Asia Model Festival Awards 2012 - Voodoo Club (Fri 18 Nov)

The semi final of the Malaysia leg of the Asia Model Festival Awards 2012, organised in Penang by the Amber Chia Academy in conjunction with Intrenasionale, will be held at the Voodoo night club, Upper Penang Road (UPR), Georgetown on Friday 18 November from around 10pm to 3am with the contestants being on stage for several sessions from about 11pm onwards up to around 2am.

It is a well run event in what is actually one of my favourite clubs in UPR. The club is well laid out with a good light and sound system and an excellent live rock band that does a number of sessions on stage, interspersed with sessions from the very good DJs.

I attended the first two qualification heats which were also very good but the semi-finas of course will ramp up the intensity and the quality. What will make this event particularly appealing for me is that a number of my friends have qualified and are through to the semi, including; Melinda Lee (Orangez), Fiona (Shapig) Tan, Jess (Shyuan) Tan, Sofia Yeng, Jane See, Ashley Choo, Iyvonne Lo and Eunice Lim. Pics of the semi-finalists can be seen here and you can also vote for the girls by clicking 'Like' below their individual photos when you open them. The contestants do a number of 'runway' walks on stage including casual wear, swim wear and evening wear.

The AMFA semi-finals promises to be an excellent event, as of course will the final on Friday 2 December, a definite date for the diary and Pick of Penang will be there to grab some pics. If you are in Penang on Friday it's definitely an event to consider.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Restaurant: Palace of India - Tg Tokong, Penang (Top Pick)

At last!!!! I seem to be getting some free time from the billion and one things I've had to do of late but, now I'm getting on top of them, I'll have the time I need to clear the blog post back-log and post more regularly (every couple of days) from here on in. So, what better way to start than with a new 'Top Pick' and a cracking Indian restaurant in Tanjung Tokong called 'Palace of India'. I have been past Palace of India countless times since I first visited here in April, even more since I've lived here full time. It always looked nice from the outside but up until now I'd never got round to calling in - big mistake. I have now been there twice in a very short space of time and will be visiting a lot more.

The Palace of India (POI) is on the Tanjung Tokong Road on the left hand side as you travel towards Batu Ferringi from the Gurney area. It is about 100 yards before Island Plaza on the opposite side of the road. If you reach the traffic likes at Jalan Fettes you've gone too far. The restaurant has a reasonably well sized car park and a sign that can be seen from the road so you shouldn't miss it. The POI is nicely decorated in a very traditional Indian style and has ample seating and tables that can be arranged to accommodate a meal for two or indeed much larger wedding and other celebration parties. There is at times some live entertainment and when there isn't there is usually a Bollywood style movie or music playing to further set the scene. The restaurant is very popular and if going at the weekend it might be advisable to call ahead and book a table. I will get and post the telephone number next time I'm there.

The restaurant has an extensive menu including a large selection of dishes prepared in a traditional tandoor oven and an equally extensive range of other dishes, breads, soft drinks, beverages and beers. When I visited the first time I was VERY hungry (having starved myself during the day - mostly by accident!!) so decided to order maybe slight more than I needed.

Not having had a good seekh kebab for a loooonnnggg time I decided to opt for that as a starter from the tandoor. This was a good sized portion and I think would easily serve two as a starter, especially if you are planning to load up on the mains!!! The kebabs were nicely spiced, moist and nicely cooked with the taste that only a tandoor oven can impart. To follow I had a butter massala chicken, plain biryani rice and a plain naan.

The butter chicken was excellent, moist, tasty and served in a rich and spicy sauce, a far cry for some of the 'excuses' for butter chicken I have tried with some too heavily loaded with fenugreek and others tasting more like chicken in tomato soup.........eeeeew. Not here, an excellent dish which I shall bear in mind for future visits. The rice was also very tasty, nicely cooked and fluffy and a portion will easily serve 2. The naan was also very light and tasty and is one of the accompaniments I can't go without (unless I swap it for a mint paratha which is also very good here). Together with a can of Tiger the whole meal came to a little over RM 50 and, if you add a vegetable dish, what I ordered again would easily feed two.

I am very glad that I finally got round to visiting the Palace of India. Nice restaurant, good staff (the manager Adnan is a top guy) and, of course, great food and atmosphere. Well worth a visit the Palace of India gets a 'Top Pick' from me, first for some time!!!