Thursday, 28 February 2013

Digi International Roaming: Charges to watch for

If you search around the internet you may find a number of articles about this issue, such as this one here.  I got caught with it the first time I used Digi outside Malaysia but luckily only a couple of times before I noticed it and promptly discontinued the 'rogue' service responsible.

When you take out a Digi line (pre or post paid), you will get the option to activate voicemail.  This can be useful for some people but it's not a service I subscribe to.  I work on the basis that either I'll call the person back when I get chance (caller ID is activated by default in Malaysia so 9 times out of 10 I can see the name of the person calling me if they are in my contacts list, or the number if they are not) or the caller will call me again.  The only time this doesn't work is where sometimes calls are received from companies where calls are routed through a certain type of switchboard, in these cases it's simply a case of 'Unknown' being listed against the caller number.  Another service that people may notice, but not be aware of the implications of, is the 'Missed Call Alert' (MCA) which is almost always activated by default on your line.  In this respect Digi is no better and no worse than many other mobile phone network operators who often also enable this service by default.

In Malaysia it's rarely an issue cost wise but again it's a service I don't need.  If I have a missed call my phone has a 'Missed Calls' list which I can check and again, it will show contact names or numbers.  If however you have international roaming activated on your phone this is DEFINITELY one you want to watch for.  If you are overseas and you have voice mail activated you will charged as the callers message is left on your phone and you will also be charged for the MCA notifications that you will get.  Some people have been caught out quite badly with this and had bills for several hundred ringgit as a result.

Apparently both voicemail (if active) and MCA can be disabled by dialling *128# and going through the menu system but the menus are very long and not very intuitive such that the services are not easy to find from the menu titles.  Get it wrong and you will soon get frustrated as you need to start all over again.  Many of the websites telling people how to disable these services through the menu system are also out of date.  By far the easiest two ways to disable the services are to a) dial Digi Customer Services on +60 16-221-1800 and ask for the two services to be switched off or (and this is my preferred method as you get a written confirmation), b) log on to their Online Customer Service (which is easy to activate if you have not already done so) and send them a message online asking for deactivation.  Generally within 24 hours you will get a reply back confirming it's been done.  Obviously this can be useful in the event of an error and if for any reason the service is not deactivated. You can actually use the OCS online facility to deactivate one of these services (either Voice Mail or MCA) but, for some unbeknown reason, not both?

It's definitely a good idea to be aware of these service issues and the potential charges that can result and while this article relates to Digi it would likely be a good idea to check out the basis on which your provider(s) operate these services and decide whether you want them active or not, especially overseas.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Event: Live Comedy - PenangPAC, Straits Quay

In terms of events involving the performing arts Penang is well blessed with such a superb venue as the Penang PAC (Performing Arts and Culture) theatre at Straits Quay.  We are also lucky in Penang given that the performing arts are well supported with an ever growing and varied schedule events.  We also have festivals here which have a specific or significant focus on the arts including the ever popular Penang Island Jazz Festival and the Georgetown Festival.

2013, the Year of the Snake, is getting off to a flying start this year (slithering doesn't really give the right emphasis does it?) and on March 29th and 30th PenangPAC will play host to 'Indie PG', an event fully spanning the two days and which will feature workshops and performances from musicians from all over Malaysia who write their own material.

Before that though we have another 'must see' event from the Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians (whose comedy is delivered in English) with their show 'Bromance of the Four Kingdoms' with three performances; Friday 22 (9pm) and Saturday 23 (5pm and 9pm) February with each show priced at just RM 38 per ticket.

Tickets can be purchased at PenangPAC or, to be sure of your seats, online via iLassoo.  You can also call PenangPAC on 04 899 1722 to book.  For those based in KL you can also catch 'Bromance of the Four Kingdoms' the week after at the PJ Live Arts Theatre at Jaya One.  See below for details.

The Performers
Douglas Lim is now primarily a stand-up comedian and is also currently one of the host on NTV7’s The Breakfast Show. His stand-up comedy performances include “Kings and Queen of Comedy Asia”, “The haritHDouglas Show”, Comedy Club KL, Comedy Club Singapore, Harith Iskander’s Nationwide Tour and M.A.C.C. Douglas Lim was nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy at the Asian TV Awards. He jokingly says he lost though, to Gurmit Singh (Phua Chu Kang)!

Kuah Jenhan says he is probably the first person to be called a ‘Killing Machine’ on a Malaysian newspaper (The Star) and get away with it. Since professionally starting his comedic career in March 2009, Jenhan has already performed for occasions such as 'Advertising+Marketing Magazine' Agency of The Year 2010, The Malaysia Effie Awards 2010, Guinness St Patricks Festival 2010 and The 7th Johor Baru Arts Festival, etc.. 2011 saw Jenhan having his debut solo show entitled 'Kuah Jenhan: Tall, Dark, and Comedian' with the two consecutive shows being a sell-out s at the PJ Live Arts Theatre! He is also the CO-WRITER of Malaysia’s best selling musical (to date) 'Lat Kampung Boy - Sebuah Muzikal'.

Phoon Chi Ho laughingly commented he has no talent, but is very hardworking. He is a comedy promoter, an actor, a freelance scriptwriter, and a house-husband but says he works the hardest as a stand-up comedian.  Chi Ho boasts a catalogue of sharp-wit observations, off-the-wall dance moves and rib-tickling takes on local life in his comedy routine. When he’s not busy making people laugh, Chi Ho is busy working hard as an actor for television sitcoms, commercials and theatre. When he’s not performing, he channels his passion for comedy as an ‘unofficial promoter’ of all-things-comedy in Malaysia.

Dr. Jason Leong is the newest addition to the urban KL comedy scene, and his rise since finding his comedic voice has been stellar. Barely one year since his debut onstage, he has been a regular for TimeOut Comedy KL's monthly gigs, having performed with industry greats such as Douglas Lim and America's bad boy of comedy, Tom Rhodes. Wittier than your average Facebook status update, scandal free, Jason has also started performing for corporate events, weddings and annual dinners.   Jason also has a trait no other comedian in Malaysia possesses. Apart from making you slap your knee, ache your belly and tickle your funny bone, he is also a full-fledged doctor. Despite being in such a prestigious profession, he still says, "There is literally no better job in the world than being a stand-up comedian".

The Expat Group (TEG)

I would imagine that it would not be long before most expats in Malaysia, working or retired, would get to hear about 'The Expat Group' (TEG) and / or come across one of their publications including the well known magazine 'The Expat'.  The purpose of this post is to highlight TEG to those who didn't know about it already and also to make the point that its publications and the information on its various websites is likely to be of interest to business, investors, Malaysian nationals and also to visitors.  It is not a group whose focus is entirely on 'the expat'.

As has been mentioned, TEG publishes a wide variety of magazines on a regular basis (11 at the last count I did), details of which can be found here.  The magazines cover a wide range of topics and have a wide scope of target audiences with publications covering MM2H, expat life in general, holiday destinations, education, health holidays, lifestyle and property.  Of specific interest to Penangites and visitors to the island there is also a Penang specific publication called Penang International which is published on a bi-monthly basis.

While TEG's focus is not specifically expats, one benefit that expats can avail themselves of is the free subscription to many of the magazines which can be found at the above link.

In addition to their magazines, TEG also maintains a range of informative websites covering a wide array of topics including expat life in general (ExpatGo), dining, MM2H (TEG also operates an MM2H visa agency), property, education and the general lifestyle site to the sister magazine publication (Senses of Malaysia).

Finally, in addition to the above, TEG also organises a schedule of regular and wide-ranging events including the ever popular 'Expat Mingles' (a social get together in either KL or Penang where expats can meet up with guests and expats - a great start to your social circle here in Malaysia and a great way to meet and stay in touch with friends), special dinners and wine tastings, special focus events and even an Expat Exhibitions.

So that's a brief look at The Expat Group, a valuable resource from an organisation which, along with a number of blogs and other internet sites (the best of which IMO are feature in this article and under the links section of this blog), makes a valuable and holistic contribution to the, at times somewhat sparse, pool of information about life here in Malaysia. A site well worth checking out and publications worth picking up and / or subscribing to.

Valentine's Event: China House - Georgetown

A very quick post to display a flyer from China House for tonight's Valentine's Special.  An ad-lib comedy evening at RM 35 per entry (includes first free drink).  Looks to be a good event and one of my favourite Penang locations.

Penang Districts (2): Straits Quay / Seri Tanjung Pinang

In this the second of the series providing an overview of Penang districts we look at Straits Quay, or perhaps more correctly, Seri Tanjung Pinang.  Straits Quay is actually the mall style commercial complex which is adjacent to the delightful marina whereas Seri Tanjung Pinang actually refers to the whole development.

Seri Tanjung Pinang is very new, springing up over the last few years and which is so close to Tanjung Tokong that it almost merges into it.  It is however equally distinct from Tanjung Tokong in that in order to get to it you need to turn right off Jalan Tanjung Tokong (if heading out from Georgetown) at Island Plaza and follow the road that swings down through the large development of 'courtyard' homes which straddle the dual carriageway which swings close to the coast and which is the back-bone and sole connecting road to this area.  The road actually rejoins Jalan Tanjung near to the Tesco Superstore on the outskirts of Tanjung Tokong.

Seri Tanjung Pinang is approximately 7.4 km from Georgetown, 3.6 km from Gurney Drive (Gurney Plaza), 1.3 km from Tg Tokong, 2.1 km from Tg Bungah, 10.1 km from Batu Ferringhi and 22.7 km from Penang Airport.  Being very close to Tg Tokong (see post here) the area benefits from relatively easy access to all of the amenities and facilities there and Seri Tanjung Pinang itself is largely comprised of the already mentioned Straits Quay mall and marina, the coastal walkway, (still under development) leisure park and the newly developed residential areas.

Given what the area is made up of (as per above paragraph) it's relatively easy to provide an overview of it. Given the nature of the area it does lend itself more to a pictorial rather than written review.

First off, here is a partial arial view of the semi-detached 'courtyard' homes which straddle the dual-carriageway that dissects the area.  The shot is not ideal by any means but does give an idea of the style and the density of the building for these dwellings.

The dual-carriageway road that forms the backbone of Seri Tanjung Pinang.

A shot showing the general style of the courtyard homes.

Next is the Marina itself.  Clearly it has moorings for boats and is closed in on three sides by buildings which house shops, food and beverage (F&B) outlets and the apartment style dwellings.

Another view of the Marina, this time from the walkway.  As can be seen it is quite picturesque and makes for a pleasant place for an early morning or evening stroll or even just for a visit to watch the world go by at one of the many F&B outlets.

And there is a great walkway which extends along to coast to the right of the marina which is ideal for walking and running.  This is to be extended to the left of the Marina also as a newly constructed park nears completion.

A shot showing a slightly closer view of the apartments which sit above the shopping mall area and its F&B outlets.

One of the popular F&B outlets at Straits Quay, the Irish themed 'Healy Macs' bar, shot when it was actually closed, it is usually quite busy here.

Another of the F&B outlets, 'The Library'.  Again, very popular.  Has a live band and some great deals on drinks during Happy Hour.  There will be more on the bars at Straits Quay in an upcoming feature on Penang Bars.

A view of one of the sea-front dwellings that are adjacent to the shot of the walkway in the 5th picture above.  They are quite well concealed behind hedgerows and trees etc. so a good shot is not east.  OK for privacy, not sure about the view though?

Finally, the the next few shots feature the mall itself.  Decked out here ready for Chinese New Year (CNY), the mall has a number of boutique style shops which includes the Apple reseller 'Switch', a hair stylist, fashion shops and numerous other outlets.  A significant number of the outlets here though are of the F&B variety.

This is the entrance to the Mall, again with CNY trimmings.

One of the courtyard areas outside the mall which often play host to markets, especially at weekends.

A shot showing the front of the mall which also shows the condo dwellings (left of shot) which are currently under construction.  The left side of the mall also incorporates a well used convention centre (which houses the excellent PenangPAC theatre) which often plays host to popular shows and events and a new gym, Extreme Fitness, which is very popular.

There is ample parking at the Straits Quay complex, charged at RM1 per visit, and there's normally ample spaces to accommodate visitors but the area can get VERY busy at weekends, especially if there is an event on when cars can often be seen lining the dual carriageway on both sides, including each side of the central reservation.  While there are not many non-F&B outlets at Straits Quay it's probably fair to say that wherever you live, if you want a good variety of shops and eateries all in one place your are going to need to visit one of the larger malls in Penang such as Gurney Plaza, Queensbay, Komtar/Prangin/First Avenue or even E-Gate (more a complex than a mall).  Straits Quay though does have a good range of F&B outlets in a very pleasant environment, although prices tend to be high.

Seri Tanjung Pinang is a highly sought after area for residential property and, given the 'lifestyle package' (as living in this kind of area is often called) and the coastal / marina location, the price of property here reflects this.  If it's what you want, one of the 4 styles of residence here will fit you down to the ground, at a price!!  The courtyard style of homes may be considered too high density for some and, as per the previous post on Tanjung Tokong here, I'd advise visiting at various times, the noise from yapping dogs here I have found quite noticeable when I used to walk home from the area regularly.  The marina apartments are very nice but you would need to be mindful of the noise that will come up from the F&B outlets here, especially those with live bands, albeit the music does have to be turned right down at 12 midnight.  The sea-front homes offer more peace and seclusion (at a price) and the condos are also very highly sought after.

I like to visit Seri Tanjung Pinang and especially Straits Quay but, as has been inferred from the above post, there isn't actually that much to the area, essentially it's all centred around Straits Quay.  That 'lifestyle' package may appeal to you (as clearly it does to many others) and while there is not actually much to the area beyond Straits Quay the same could likely be said about anywhere, save for places like Gurney Drive, where there is much to see and do within walking distance.  It is quite well placed though, certainly as 'strategic' as Tg Tokong and with a less urban feel to it.  The developer 'E&O' also has a very good reputation for delivering in terms of quality and fit/finish.  As an area it's certainly worth checking out and of all the areas here it probably has the most unique look and feel to it.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Recipe: Bircher Muesli

It's not really the intention to post that many recipes on the blog but a couple of people have asked me for the recipe for this having had it for breakfast when visiting.  I really love roti canai for breakfast but eat that too often and the waistline will soon start to increase! Dim sum and noodles also make for a very tasty breakfast but all of these options mostly involve going out, and generally into town, for the best.  What about the days you don't want to go?

Bircher muesli with fresh fruit
Cereal is often a common quick breakfast but it's finding one your truly like that can be difficult.  Cornflakes are very popular but I find I feel like I need a kilo of the things to fill me up!  Muesli is very popular but many shop brands are laden with sugar and if you have yearnings for the well known (in Europe) 'Alpen' brand, it can also be prohibitively expensive here in Malaysia at around RM 25 for a small box!

So, when a cereal breakfast is called for at home, and on the days when simple porridge (rolled oats with hot milk) will not suffice, I normally make up a batch of 'Bircher Muesli' (named after its creator Dr Bircher-Benner) that will last a few days.  Having tried many recipes the one I use now is below:

Ingredients (Serves 4)
* 1.5 cups of rolled oats (the quick cook type are fine)
* 250 ml of milk (I use soya milk for the health factor and added taste)
* 125 ml of apple juice
* 1 tablespoon of honey (optional)
* ⅓ cup of sultanas or raisins
* 2 tablespoons of finely chopped dried pineapple
* ½ cup plain yoghurt
* ½ fresh apple, coarsely grated

You can also experiment with adding different ingredients of choice, I often add chopped almonds and shredded coconut, especially the latter.

For serving
* Extra plain yoghurt for serving
* ½ cup fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries go well)

To make the muesli, simply combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave in the fridge overnight.  Keep the muesli you don't eat refrigerated until it's all used up.

A tasty and healthy breakfast that's quite good value too.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Xin Nian Kuai Le - 新年快樂

....or for those less familiar with Mandarin

Year of the Snake

Pick of Penang - 2013 and beyond

When this blog was started there was a focus on emigrating to Penang, the MM2H visa and all things associated with it.  As time moved on the blog has started to focus more on life in Penang itself with specific references to the lively entertainment and modelling scenes here, it's inevitable once you live here, have the MM2H visa and begin to settle, you start to focus on what interests you and what you think might be of interest to others.  Insofar as what might be of interest to others, in terms of web-traffic, the blog also feeds through to the Facebook Page for 'Pick of Penang' and while the MM2H / emigration articles attracted, and continue to attract, a lot of 'hits', the overwhelming majority of hits (and we are talking by the thousands here) are in respect of the 'lifestyle' (night life, dining, modelling, events, promotions and travel) articles.  A significant proportion of followers are in Malaysia and the site continues to attract visitors from many overseas countries with Asean countries being the most prominent.

A more in depth review of the web traffic has allowed me to determine what I consider to be the right direction for the blog for the future.  As such, I plan to continue to focus on the key themes which are clearly of interest to the vast majority of readers.  They include (and this list is not exhaustive):

Nightlife in Penang:  I plan to completely re-visit this topic to provide an extensive photo review of the nightlife scene here, updated for 2013 and featuring the bars in Upper Penang Road, Paragon (Gurney Drive), Precinct 10 (Tanjung Bungah), Straits Quay, Batu Ferringhi and a 'Misceallaneous' section with bars outside of those areas.  There will also be a photo review of the top clubs in Penang including Soju Room, the newly opened M2, Slippery Senoritas and Mois.

Restaurants: There will continue to be a focus on dining in Penang with a review schedule covering hawker to 'high-end' fine dining.

Promotions: I often get notified of promotions being run by F&B and other outlets and these will continue to be posted.

Events: Tickets to some of the big party nights and events here are in great demand and the events often extravagant and well attended.  The articles covering these, or even just links to albums of them, get thousands of hits, often within hours.  Their popularity demands continued coverage.

General Interest: Articles covering all manner of other topics will of course continue to be posted from time to time with web traffic showing that the most popular tend to be those articles related to travel, products, day-to-day life in Penang along with the 'How to' style of article. These articles will hopefully be of interest to residents of Penang, expats included, and whether you've been here a long time or are a recent (or even impending) arrival. Some will also appeal to visitors.

Hotels: Folks searching for accommodation frequently visit the site and, while it's a topic I can't get too excited about, some further reviews on hotels here might not go amiss.  They will hopefully start to appear as the year winds on

So, that will be the general direction of the blog for the immediate future, I hope people continue to find it useful and enjoyable and I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to the many regular followers of both the Blog and Facebook Page.

CNY Events: Soho - Precinct 10, Tg Tokong

CNY Festive Dining: Chins - Weld Quay Pier

CNY Festive Dining: Golden Sands - Batu Ferringhi

CNY Festive Dining: Cittitel - Georgetown

CNY Festive Dining: Bay View Beach Hotel - Batu Ferringhi

CNY Festive Dining: Copthorne Orchid Hotel - Tg Bungah

CNY Events: Soju Room

Friday, 8 February 2013

Which Credit Card?

As with most countries, Malaysia has many banks offering credit card facilities and many of those banks offer multiple cards at the entry, Gold and Platinum levels with cards often named to identify the specific incentive schemes that they are tied with.  When choosing a card provider fathoming your way around the maze can be both complex and time consuming, though your options may of course be less overwhelming if you choose to get your credit card through your main bank.

When opening an account however, some will actually wish to choose the bank on the basis of the cards they offer, others may wish to apply for a credit card from a bank regardless of whether it is issued by their primary bank, and of course you may also be searching for cards that offer specific incentives such as 'cash back', airport lounge access, points when filling up at petrol stations or whatever.

As mentioned above, the options can be overwhelming, especially when you start searching and start to turn up card providers you've never even heard of!  In that regard I have found that a site called 'Generations XYZ' provides a very comprehensive overview of the cards available that is specific to Malaysia.  The link actually takes you to the first in a series of 3 articles looking at entry, Gold and Platinum cards.  There is a wealth of other credit card information available there also.  Worth checking out and a useful 'one stop shop' if you are trying to figure what the best options are for your particular needs.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Public Holidays in Malaysia

Malaysia is ranked number 7th in the top 10 countries in the world for the number of public holidays in any given year.  The dates of these will of course be important to workers but will likely also be of interest to visitors and expat residents alike.

Clearly on public holidays most government and utility offices will be closed and travelling around by car, bus and taxi can take longer, much longer depending on where you are going and the time of day.  As an example, travelling into Georgetown from North of the island can take a very long time indeed in the evenings at Christmas and Chinese New Year.  Travelling to and from the mainland can alo take time, particularly getting to and crossing the Penang Bridge as there can be a lot of people on the roads visiting or returning to their homes on the mainland and in Penang.  Public holidays can also be of interest because of the festivities and entertainment that are associated with them (e.g. Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year and Deepvali etc.).

Given the number of public holidays here it's very easy to forget the dates especially if, like most MM2H visas holders, your are retired (and as such mostly not having a focus on a job and working days), and it can be a pain to turn up at the offices of TM or such like only to find they're shut.  There are numerous sites which provide details of the public holidays in Malaysia but I find the site here the most useful and comprehensive.