Sunday, 22 January 2012

Happy Chinese New Year - Enter the Dragon

Not often I'm able to combine festive greetings with my favourite Bruce Lee film. I know it's a little early but the partying starts soon and I may not be near a keyboard at midnight so:

Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Show: Malaysian Girls - Straits Quay, Penang

A good friend of mine got me a ticket to one of the final performances of Malaysian Girls on Friday 13 January at the Straits Quay Performing Arts Centre. The show, a musical, tells the story of the conflict between the organisers of a beauty pageant and also takes a light-hearted look at life in Malaysia, the people who live and visit here and their habits, nuances and foibles. I thought it was a great show and a great couple of hours entertainment. I have posted up some initial shots from the show into an album here.

If you haven't seen the show and are keen to do so there is still a matinee performance to be held at 3pm on Sunday 15 January with tickets available from Straits Quay at a cost of around RM 60. The show is about two and a half hours long with a 15 minute intermission. Great show and great to see such events in Penang!!!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Malaysian Address Format

There has been some discussion on the MM2H forum recently about the correct format to use when addressing correspondence within Malaysia. I had cause to investigate this issue recently and the below is the advice from Pos Malaysia:

Straits Quay by bus

Up until recently, those wishing to travel to or from Straits Quay near Tg Tokong by public transport were limited to getting on or off buses that stopped outside Tesco and walking up. It's not too far but on the hottest days, or when its raining, it's enough of a distance to get wet one way or another.

Thankfully Rapid Penang have identified this gap and have now routed the 102 bus to pass by Straits Quay in both directions. Of course you will need to live on the 102 route to take advantage of the this but, like most other of the '1' series buses, it does follow the main artery into and out of Georgetown.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Solicitor - Penang (Top Pick)

I have previously posted about my, now, very good friend and property agent Catherine Loh who has been excellent in assisting me with my search for property here. She is very professional, trust-worthy and efficient and I would not hesitate to recommend her to others. Indeed I have already and there must now be 15-20 very satisfied people who have made contact with her through the blog. Contact me by mail (from the link to the right or the profile page) if you would like her details.

I have also had several contacts seeking information about solicitors in Penang. There are many around but I have to say I have been very impressed by the solicitor I was introduced to by Catherine. Her name is Mei and I have found her to be very professional, transparent and to act with integrity. She qualified in Australia apparently. Again, if anyone would like to contact Mei feel free to mail me and I will provide details. She is based in Georgetown.

Freight Considerations - Arrival in Penang (Pickfords)

Pretty much closing the book on the freight issue for me now my belongings arrived at Penang Port on or around 31 December 2011. Having finalised and collected by MM2H visa I scanned and mailed a copy of this to Pickfords UK on 7 October. As soon as they received it they arranged for my goods to be loaded up and shipped leaving me to merely wait the expiry of the 8-12 weeks delivery time, crossing fingers that nothing electrical or fragile would get broken. As a precaution I had opted for three particular insurance 'bolt-ons'.

Firstly there was insurance against 'electrical derrangement'. If your electrical items such as AV receivers, DVD players and hard-drives get visibly damaged then regular insurance will cover it. However, if they have become non-visibly damaged, perhaps by vibration or heat, and just down work, you will need the 'derrangement cover' to claim. I also added on extra insurance for a few high value items and finally, opted to pay £30 to cover damage to the building they are delivery to. Possibly important if it's a condo.

There were just a couple of minor quirks with the arrangements. First there was an odd method of being billed for storage. I was billed for 4 weeks storage in advance then another 4 weeks which I knew would be two weeks longer than I needed. It was suggested that I pay both bills and that Pickfords would refund the excess two weeks!! To me this was totally bizarre and we eventually agreed I'd pay the storage just before the goods shipped and would pay the precise amount owed. The notification of shipping of the goods was also received only in mid-December and was merely a PDF letter attached to a blank email. Quite unprofessional in my view and the letter suggested that I would have to run around chasing the local agent here, making contact to arrange customs clearance etc. Having complained to Pickfords it was all sorted out at the end of the day and Allied Pickfords in Penang did make contact by mail and kept me fully updated regards to progress. I did feel the letter did not create a good image of Pickfords in some ways as, paying for door-to-door service, I would expect the agent here to be contacting me, not the other way around. The only thing the local agent asked for was a clearer scan of my passport and MM2H visa as the one sent to the by Pickfords UK was somehow degraded.

Once the above glitch was sorted all went very smoothly. After a few days the local agent advised me that my belongings had cleared customs and were ready for delivery. Quick couple of e-mails later and the date and time was sorted. On the day, the delivery crew arrived promptly and were very professional and courteous. I was pleased to see that almost all boxes arrived undamaged and even those that were had seemed to suffer only minor crush damage as a result of some empty cavity at the top of the box. I opted to unpack the boxes myself and indicated this on the delivery receipt forms I was asked to sign.

Until I move to my full-time home I have decided to leave as many of the boxes as I can packed up, especially things like books and such like, otherwise I just need to pack them ALL back up again :-( On that basis there are a few things I might have done differently when packing. Your packer will likely write some kind of content description on the boxes but it will be very generic. As such it would make sense to:

1) Split your belongings perhaps into collections of 'Will be needed', 'Might be needed' and 'Wont be needed' and make a note of the box numbers that cover the groups. That way you should be able to readily identify the things you must have access to straight away.

2) Try to make sure that all components to one item are packed in the same box!! I have come across a box with two small flat screen TVs but no power plugs or remotes!!!! The search continues. Obvious I would have thought to put them in the same box!! Seemingly not.

3) If there are any items that you want to have access to that cannot fit into 'Will be needed' category or if there are several such boxes and you to access a number of items first, make a note of which box they are in. In most cases all such things can go into the same box (es) but in the event that they can't (because of size etc. - the packers are very experienced as to what will fit nicely) it's nice to know where they are.

So all in all, I think Pickfords did a good job and would not hesitate to use them again both for any local move and international would be happy to recommend them to others. The shipping time was around 10 weeks in total and there were no problems this end.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Penang Climate

I have had quite a few people ask about the climate here in Penang. I've never posted on it before as there are numerous websites and books which give an outline of the weather in Penang and Malaysia. But, seeing at it does seem to be of interest to some readers and, for the sake of completeness.......

Considered to be eqautorial, the climate of Penang is tropical and as such you can expect consistently hot weather throughout the year, with temperatures ranging between a comfortable 26°C to a hot 32°C during the day although it can hit 34-35°C at times. There is no real hot or cold season. At night, temperatures rarely fall below 20°C and early evening it often hovers around 24°C. Sea temperature generally fluctuates between a bath-like 27-32°C.

Penang is susceptible to two main monsoon winds, the southwest (from May to September), which tends to bring the worst of the wind and rain, and the northeast (from November to March) and whilst there can be occasional heavy rain showers at any time of the year rainy weather is most likely during April and May, and again during the months of September and October. That said, climate change is affecting everywhere and last year saw some particularly heavy rain showers in both November and December. During the rainy seasons the weather is often hot and sunny in the morning with clouds building by afternoon bringing the rain showers late afternoon or evening. Whilst there are exceptions, most rain showers tend to last just and hour or two BUT, when it does rain, believe me IT RAINS!!!! When the clouds build you will often see full-time residents and seasoned tourists walking round with umbrellas in readiness. A wise precaution!!! Rain-coats and such like in my view are too hot and heavy for Malaysia. There are also some pretty spectacular storms here with very loud thunder and some very dramatic fork lightning. Now my freight has arrived I plan to unpack the tripod and get some decent shots of the storms in a a few months time.

Humidity is also fairly high in Penang and this can make the heat more uncomfortable at times. Some use air-con day and night, I never use it, preferring open windows and fans to keep the air cool. The longer you stay here the more you acclimatise and I have to say I find the climate very comfortable, but I did live in the Middle East for several years where day-time temperatures can top 53°C.

Another aspect of 'climate' here is Penang's relative proximity to the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra and also to Borneo. Regular raging fires in forested areas and rice paddy burning takes place and when the wind is blowing you often get the smell of wood-smoke in the air, on cooler days I quite like it, in small doses, as it can be quite reminiscent of days in rural British and other European villages. On the worst days it can be problematic, causing a very visible (and unhealthy) haze. I have previously posted a link to the excellent government Air Pollution Index (API) so you can check levels as you see the need. I rarely check it, you can see it when it happens!!

The above is not exhaustive, and there will always be exceptions to generally accepted weather trends, but it gives a rough idea of what you can expect in the Pearl of the Orient. Plenty of other information is available for those seeking a more in depth view.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Commenting on this Blog (advertising)

Apologies for the need to post this but I need to make something clear to a very, very small proportion of 'readers' who may wonder why their comments are not getting published. This blog is mainly a diary about my exploits in respect of migrating to, and living in, Penang. If it contains information which in any way helps others that's great. It's also great to receive the comments from readers and in 99% of cases they can be published without problem.

Up until now I've not had much reason to do this and it's a shame to have a need to post this article but of late a very, VERY small minority of people who have been trying to leave comments seem to under the mistaken apprehension that this blog is there to provide a platform for them to advertise their own businesses and/or services. The reason I'm posting this is to make it crystal clear that it's not going to happen. In short, any comments which are made and which contain links to businesses or services will not be published and will be deleted as spam, hence the reason for me having 'comment moderation' enabled and 'allow anonymous comments' disabled. Bit harsh maybe but hey, that's life. My blog, my rules, simples. I often promote businesses, services and establishments here because I have experienced a good standard of service and / or product from them but I don't extend that promotion to allowing others to advertise products or services here of which I have no experience.

I have made a deliberate decision not to include the various advertising links such as 'Moneytise' etc. on this blog as I'm not using this blog to make money and I don't like the effect the adverts have in disrupting content, format and the flow of articles. Understandably I hope, I thus have no intention of providing free advertising for others. So if anyone wishes to promote their business or service, great, start your own blog or do it somewhere else but I'm afraid it's not going to happen here. More than happy to receive comments, just skip the links.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Train Travel

The first post of 2012 and a very brief one about travel. A few readers have contacted me by e-mail and Yahoo Chat and asked if there is any information around about train travel within Malaysia and also for travel between Malaysia (and especially Penang) and Thailand / Singapore. There is no direct travel my train from Penang and the closest point you will get a train from/to is Butterworth with the journey between there and Penang having to be completed by taxi or ferry.

By far the best site for train travel information I find to be ''. The actual train operator in Malaysia is KTMB and the link to their online booking is here. Of course if you want to try a truly luxurious trip between KL and Thailand (and a number of other routes) you could always opt for the Eastern and Oriental Orient Express!!.

Hopefully this will be of use to prospective travellers. I have yet to do my first trip to Bangkok which I plan to do in February or March this year. I'll put up a full review when I do. Meanwhile, I will be back to regular posting, more reviews, and the somewhat overdue area pictorial guides. Apologies again for delays but house-hunting and freight arrival have got in the way somewhat!!