Month: March 2014

Penang and other podcasts – update March 2014

I thought I would write about podcasts I listen to at the moment.  Podcasts are very efficient for me, as I can listen and do something else at the same time. If I am driving by myself, exercising in the gym, gardening, doing housework, shopping, climbing Penang Hill…

So far I have only found one Penang podcast, but it is very old:

http://www.podfeed.net/episodes.asp?id=3640&ct=1

and listening to his podcast he says there are only ten Malaysian podcasters.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find them.

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Also I listen to podcasts from around the world:

http://www.redicecreations.com/radio/nonsubscriber.php Red Ice Radio is broadcast out of Sweden and Hendrick covers a really diverse range of topics, mostly interviewing experts in their fields. In English.

http://www.corbettreport.com/?i=Interviews The Corbett Report is from Japan, although Mr. Corbett is Canadian, and again covers a broad range of topics, mostly by interviews, but also some discussion panels etc. In English, although James briefly spoke Japanese (quite well I thought) once, that I heard.

http://www.thevinnyeastwoodshow.com/2014-archives.html Vinny broadcasts out of New Zealand and mostly interviews people on a range of topics.

http://www.thecrowhouse.com/radio.html Max broadcasts from Australia mainly on regaining our freedom, peacefully and spiritually.

http://fairdinkumradio.com/ is also broadcast out of Australia, and  covers who has taken and freedom, and how to get it back.

http://www.21stcenturyradio.com/audioarchives/2014/index.html  Broadcast out of Baltimore, U.S.A. Mostly interviews with a humourous approach, less political, more on health, spirituality, rock stars of the past…

http://vitalitycapsules.com/truth-files Dr. Daniels broadcasts from Panama, having escaped the clutches of the American Medical Association in the U.S., it seems. She tells the truth about pharmaceuticals, vaccines etc. In English.

http://www.pamkilleen.com/multimedia-content-february-2013-present-1/ Pam broadcasts from Canada on health issues.

http://www.wvfoundations.org/id3.html Broadcast from the U.S. Caucasian oriented. Topics of interest to me are history of rock groups or singers, history as not told in films, school history books etc.

http://republicbroadcasting.org/  Subscription based, out of the U.S.

http://thecommonsenseshow.com/category/radio-archives/  Out of the U.S., from Republic Broadcasting – but he only posts a few of his podcasts on his site.  Often about what is happening in the U.S. – implementation of Agenda 21 etc.

http://www.democracynow.org/shows  Out of the U.S. Really too politically correct for me, but often the second part of the show covers one particular topic – I enjoyed the interview with Oliver Stone, for example. A shorter version is also published in Spanish.

http://blog.ucadia.com/ Frank broadcasts from Australia on his political / social model.

http://thesyncbook.com/  From the U.S., I think.  I just found this, and can’t yet classify it in my mind.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/universalawareness – Out of the UK – nothing broadcast recently, but archives are often on using the real law – not statute law – to keep your freedom.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/americanfreepress – The Spingola Zone – Deanna Spingola is pretty fearless in telling you more or less the opposite of what the media, education and history has tried to make us think, and then backing up what she says.

For a great many years I was downloading to my computer, and then transferring the mp3’s over to my phone by either SD card or wi-fi. This was so I kept a copy.  But I almost never went back to listen to older podcasts. So recently I download directly to my phone, and then play and manage the podcasts using Podkicker.  Unfortunately it can’t find all the podcasts I want using Podkicker, so I have to download using the web on the phone for some, and play them with another app. But for the podcasts it does find it is great. And it’s much easier to listen to the podcast soon after it is posted.  Reading the comments, the free version is better than the Pro version – which currently costs $1.

Finally, for RM5 you can buy an earphone / microphone in Daiso – Gurney Plaza, Gurney Paragon, Queensbay Mall.  It’s not stereo, but for podcasts you don’t need stereo – giving you one ear with which to hear what’s going on in your surroundings, which is safer if you are out.  And you can use it for phone calls with the microphone, although to dial or answer a call you’ll have to use your phone itself.

2014-02-10 19.52.53

But don’t buy them all – I regularly break earsets – any brand, not just these ones – as I get them caught on things, and they can take only so many hard tugs.  So they only last me six months, and I have to buy another. A replacement, with the mike on the lead, from the phone manufacturer when I asked was close to RM100.

Cost of living in Penang in March 2014

Just to give you an idea of what it could cost to live in Penang on a monthly basis, where in March 2014  GBP£1 = RM5.4; USD$1 = RM3.2; AUD$1 = RM2.9

I wrote the same blog in November 2012, so prices (and sometimes quantities) from 16 months ago are in brackets to show the rise in prices.

Here is a site I recently found that is more comprehensive than my blog:

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=Malaysia&city=George+Town 

When first here we lived for RM30 per day, plus rent.  Below gives more details of costs of a comfortable life.

Rent:
RM300 in a low-cost condo, with no facilities, and probably in a poor location in a badly maintained building.
RM2,500 for a three bedroom two bathroom condo of about 1,000 square feet, with pool, gym, parking space etc.  in a nice, reasonably maintained building.
And up for bigger, better appointed condos.
Houses, RM2,000 or more.

I think these prices have increased a bitsince I wrote them 16 months ago, but feel presently that the market is in a government induced slump.

Home ownership:
Condo: maintenance fees.
House: see tax section.

Utilities:
Electricity is metered, but water is a fixed charge, and you get gas delivered in canisters.

Electricity charges were recently substantially raised. We don’t yet know how much more this is actually costing us. The government charges comparatively more per kilowatt for more consumption, so the higher bands have increased substantially. I suspect at least a 20% higher bill.  It was about RM200 for electricity, using air cons when necessary, heating water for showers, lighting, TV etc. Expats report bills ranging for less than RM100 up to RM800, depending on their homes, and usage, of course. Our bill is very similar to that of the UK, but in the UK we lived in a two bedroom flat, with gas central heating, but, importantly, we were out of the flat working five days a week, which would have kept the bill much lower. Thus, electricity is costing us less here, even though it cannot be said to be cheap.

(UPDATE:  During very hot February we used the aircons more.  Our usage was 12% (kilowatt hours) more than the bill for December, but our bill was 27% more.

RM10 per month for gas. There is no town gas, so you have gas delivered in canisters, costing RM30  (RM27) or so for medium size canister. This has lasted us from about three months to about six months, depending on how much we ate in.

RM3  for water; it costs RM6 minimum per two months, and usually we only use the minimum. I use rainwater to water the plants where possible, because the plants seem to prefer it, but in the drier months use town water.

Currently a phone line and 4mbps ADSL Internet connection with Telekom Malaysia costs RM140 per month.  For 8mbps it costs RM160 per month.

Groceries:
RM1,200 per month (RM900) for groceries. There are supermarkets and markets for fruit and vegetables. But if we buy everything just from Tesco, this is an approximate figure, although prices are rising significantly.

Health Insurance:
RM560 for two of us for policies covering hospitalisation, taken out locally, but covering world-wide.  Visiting a doctor in a clinic used to cost around RM35 in this area, or in a hospital RM80 or more. Doctors’ prices were increased by 14.4% this week, with the previous price range for visiting a doctor’s clinic from RM10 – RM35, and the new range from RM30 to RM125.  This doesn’t appear to be 14.4% to me, but that’s what the newspaper reported. Here is a chart taken from The Star:

2014-03-08 12.52.45s

Our insurance agent told us medical procedures are increasing in cost by 20% per annum, so at this rate very soon Malaysia will no longer be a low cost medical destination.

Tax:
RM0 if you are renting. The service charge for the condo is paid by the owner, as is any tax on the property. If you own a house, there is a land tax and a charge for the local council’s services, which amount to about RM500 per annum for both for a modest property. The Malaysian government plans to introduced a GST of initially 6% in April 2015.  This is being universally cheered by the media. Since the government seems to expect people/companies to act as their tax collectors without recompense, I assume the extra costs of this tax collecting and accounting will be passed on to the consumers, thus having a bigger than 6% impact.  The government has recently substantially increased capital gains taxes on property sales.  Now the tax is 30% for properties sold within 5 years, and 5% on properties sold during or after the sixth year. (Previously 15%, then 10%, and after 5 years 0%).

Petrol:
RM2.10 (1.90) per litre – I live centrally, so even when I drive it is only for about 10 minutes one way, so in a month I spend less than RM100 on petrol.

Car running costs:
Car service – about RM400 for a Japanese car to perhaps RM1,000 for a Mercedes. I only need it once a year as everything is close by in Penang, so I don’t drive many miles. Road tax depends on engine size – see this calculator. Some things are really cheap – puncture repair RM8, for example – with immediate and friendly service. Car insurance, of course, depends on the car value and your no claim discount.  RM2,000 per year for a medium size car, perhaps, with full no claim discount.

Parking:
RM0.40 (RM0.30)per half hour, and up, on Penang Island, for street parking by coupon (previously meter or with parking attendants). RM5 for parking all day, as a guideline. On weekdays it costs RM1 for three hours parking in Gurney Plaza, on weekends more. You can park free, too, in some supermarkets, on suburban streets, at some businesses.

Taxi:
I have heard that metered fares may double soon, but know no more.  If so, drivers will apparently “have to” use their meters.  It is so long since I caught a taxi I can’t update this figures from last time: RM10 for a short distance, RM15 for about 10 minutes drive, and up for longer. Taxis are supposed to be metered, but drivers usually prefer not to use meters and quote a price – which they usually won’t lower if you try to bargain.  Occasionally they will, though.  The quoted price and the metered price often work out similar, anyway, and I prefer the former. Pulau Tikus to the ferry terminal is RM15; Pulau Tikus to Queensbay Mall RM35. Pulau Tikus to airport RM55ish. Prices significantly higher between midnight and 6AM, and to the airport there is a special airport charge. Personally I think if you choose a regular taxi company, or several drivers you like, then you will find them honest and reliable, and have no problems.  But even picking taxis from the street I have found the drivers honest and mostly friendly – in Penang. As for KL, I hear the situation is different.

Public Transport:
The ferry to Butterworth is free; returning is RM1.20 as a foot passenger, RM7.70 for a car with passengers. Otherwise there are Rapid Penang buses and their site still says the minimum fare is RM1.40.  Beware of pickpockets – friends of mine have had things stolen on the bus. I would take nothing valuable, and only the money I needed, and not travel when the buses are full. There are few seats, so it’s likely you will have to stand. Neither are they reliable, and drivers often don’t speak English.  However, they are air-conditioned.

Wine:
Alcohol is highly taxed, and costs more than the UK, and far more than Europe.  One 320 ml (330ml) can of Carlsberg beer in a supermarket is RM7.49 (RM6) and up; a 700ml bottle of local vodka is RM23 (good for cocktails), a 700ml bottle of imported vodka about RM120; a 750 ml bottle of vintage wine bottled in country of origin from RM35 if you look around; 750ml sparkling wine from RM70 if on special; imported liqueurs generally well over RM100. Mixers like a 325ml Schweppes ginger ale and tonic water etc. cost about RM1.80 (RM1.50). Coke is now RM1.89.

Eating out:
Can be free, at some temples, or on festival days, where shops hand out food, and bottles of water.  Generally, eating out is cheap, but drinking alcohol out is expensive.  A 660ml bottle of local beer is around RM15 at a hawker centre – but noodles might cost you RM3. Of course western food in upmarket restaurants is far more expensive, and a small glass of wine could cost RM20 or more.  Nevertheless, expensive western style restaurants are good value for food if you compare the price to London, Paris, Sydney etc. Local cooking uses far too much sugar, and MSG, so eating out frequently, especially in cheap places like hawker centres,  over a longer period is probably not healthy, unless you are very selective.

Cinema:
From RM8 (RM7) at Gurney Mall. Yes, very affordable, and cinemas are quite empty weekdays, during the day. Senior discount, when one is over 55,  makes it RM1 less. Wednesdays are discount days, too – RM1 less, but seniors get no additional discount on that.

Cable TV:
I am not at all interested. This is the Malaysian provider.

Clubs:
You can join local clubs, such at The Penang Club, The Penang Swimming Club, the Penang Sports Club etc. You need to buy a membership, and then pay monthly dues, which are about RM12,000 and then RM165 monthly for the Penang Club; about RM25,000 membership fee for the Swimming Club; monthly fee appears to be RM45 per month according to their website; and RM15,000 and RM100 monthly for the Sports Club. You can sell the membership in the future, if you wish.

So, as you can see, many prices are increasing substantially, with more to come, and this is before the introduction of a GST, which will further increase prices.

Did I forget anything important?  Let me know if I did, and I will add the details if I know them, or can find them out.

Pie Harbour, Queensbay Mall – March 2014

Pie Harbour can be found on the third floor in the north wing

Pie Harbour can be found on the third floor in the north wing of Queensbay Mall

I had previously spotted Pie Harbour in Queensbay Mall, and also in Gurney Paragon Mall, and the offerings looked nice – it was just that I had no need for a meal at those times.  But harbouring a desire for the occasional pie, it was just a matter of time before I washed up on the shores of Pie Harbour, and in this case the port of call was Queensbay Mall.

looks pretty good value

looks pretty good value

Why almost every set includes iced lemon tea – which sounds and tastes awful to me – I don’t know – I guess it is cheap, but if in a bottle I suppose it is not.  And I am suspicious of mashed potato as this is often water added to a packet mix.  So rather than the lunch menu, perhaps a la carte would be better.

a la carte menu on wall

a la carte menu on wall

But the staff was great – we didn’t want the mash, so they offered two garden salads instead.  We didn’t want the iced lemon tea – “Well, what do you want?”, they asked.  We requested coffee instead.  So we ordered kind of set meals, just that we’d modified them. You can see the receipt a little later.

the interior

the interior

the interior

the interior

You might spot the nautical theme.

nautical theme

nautical theme

I ordered a chicken and leek pie,

chicken and leek pie

chicken and leek pie

and Mrs. Tropicalexpat a steak and mushroom pie.

steak and mushroom pie

steak and mushroom pie

The garden salad was a good volume and fresh, with plenty of vegetables along with the lettuce.  Very often the dressing is sparse, but in this case it was way too much – which is my only criticism of the entire meal. I’d prefer it on the side so I could add the amount I wanted.  The pies were both nice, and the coffee good, and again, voluminous.

the receipt

the receipt

Disappointments? As mentioned, it would be better with dressing on the side.

SERVICE: Friendly, helpful, intelligent and fast
DECOR: Pleasant – with a nautical theme
FOOD: Tasty and good volume
PRICE: Reasonable
ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS: Proper cups, some crockery, but paper container for salad and plastic cutlery

Pie Harbour

Location: 3F-03(B), Queensbay Mall, 11900, Penang.  (Also Gurney Paragon, 4F?)

Phone: 04 6566655

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PieHarbour

Opening hours: Mon – Sun (Daily) : 10:30am – 10:30pm

Wi-Fi: Yes  – just ask them the password

Gespräche mit J.C. auf Deutsch 47: 7. März

2012-12-31 14.52.51s

Jede Woche treffe ich mit meinem Freund JC, mit wem ich Deutsch lerne. Unser Zweck ist Deutsch zu üben und wir besprechen immer verschiedene Themen. Diese Blog handelt von unserer Gespräche. Bevor jedes Gespräch bereiten wir jetzt ein bisschen.  Wir gebrauchen ein Buch, dass kategorisiert Worten nach Thema, aber wenn wir ein Wort nicht kennen, benutzen wir auch ein Wörterbuch.

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Zuerst sprachen wir über wie man Akten vom Internet downloaden können.  Ich habe die Absicht, die Links der zu geben.  Jetzt behalte ich genau nicht. Wir beide hatten Filme gesehen, und diskutierten sie.  Und dann kamen die Wörter dieser Woche:  Das Privatleben.

Mein Freund aus Deutschland kam selbst nach Hause.  Und mein Pass wird nächstes Jahr auslaufen. Er is jetzt gültig.  Er gilt noch ein Jahr.  Aber man kann nicht ihn verlängern.  Für unsere britische Pässe müssen wir in Hong Kong anfragen.  Und sie sind in Hong Kong ausstellen lassen. Im Formular muss man seinen Geburtsort, sein Geburtsdatum, sein Geschlecht: männlich oder weiblich usw. ausfüllen. Für einen neuen Pass muss man lebendig sein.  Jedoch muss man nicht quicklebendig sein.

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Neue Wörter für mich:
Die Akte (n) = file
das Link = link
die Absicht = intention
genau = exact
selbst = self, in person
auslaufen = to expire
ausstellen = to issue
gelten = to be valid
gültig = valid
der Geburtsort (e) = place of birth
das Geburtsdatum = date of birth
lebendig = alive, living
quicklebendig = fresh as a daisy; full of beans
——————-

Penang’s new second bridge – Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge

Penang's second bridge

Penang’s second bridge

Penang’s second bridge opened on Saturday night, March 1st, and to the public on Sunday.

Today, March 4th, I drove and drove and drove across it – and back.  Yes, it’s a very long bridge.  The distance over the water I measured as 16.8 KM,which took about 12 minutes, driving at the pathetically low speed limit of 80KPH – I set the cruise control.  Mind you, the speed of other drivers varied from 70 KPH to 130KPHish.  A realistic speed limit would be 100KPH  or over, as it would be easy to fall asleep at 80KPH. I didn’t notice any radar cameras.

Traffic was very, very light at around midday.  According to today’s New Straits Times, 10% of Penang Bridge’s traffic has switched to the new bridge.  The original bridge handled on average 100,000 vehicles daily.  The newspaper notes the bridge is 24KM long, with 17 KM of that being over the water.  It cost RM4.5 Billion, and links Batu Kawan on the mainland with Batu Muang on the island.  That is, it’s relatively near the airport in the south of the island.

The signposting for the bridge is adequate, as are  the access roads to the bridge on the mainland.  However, they are still working on the access roads on the island side and no doubt have jams during rush hour.  It was jammed for us around lunch time after we came off the bridge onto Penang Island and were heading north towards George Town.

The bridge also has its own dedicated motorbike lane, but no bicycle or pedestrian lane.  I did notice one motorbike that had stopped on the bridge in the motorbike lane, so the rider & passenger could look at the view. I didn’t notice any bays for pulling your car over in case of breakdown, but there is a shoulder.  However, apparently cars are pulling over to see the view – and they want to fine you RM150 for doing so.  Why did they not make some viewing bays in a safe place?

As with the first bridge there is no toll from the island to the mainland.  There is a toll the other way, but perhaps it has not yet been determined – the toll price sign has no charges posted yet.  The newspaper article I read on the subject a couple of weeks ago suggested the charge would be around RM8, and certainly less than RM10. But they were charging cars RM1 when we crossed.  It is supposed to be free for the first month.

Today was very hazy due the the dry conditions for the last couple of months,which means the air hasn’t been cleaned up. So here are some photos, which are not as clear as they could be.

heading towards the mainland from Penang Island

heading towards the mainland from Penang Island

starting across

starting across

islamic pylon top

islamic pylon top

making progress across

making progress across

are we there yet?

are we there yet?

taking the first exit

taking the first exit

cows crossing the road - they seem to be traffic aware

cows crossing the road – they seem to be traffic aware

an approach from the mainland to the bridge

an approach from the mainland to the bridge – about to recross the bridge

tolls are not yet signposted

tolls are not yet signposted

"toll plaza"

“toll plaza”

the highest part

the highest part

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having crossed the bridge now about to take the turn for George Town

having crossed the bridge now about to take the turn for George Town

merging onto the road after the bridge

merging onto the road after the bridge

ongoing roadworks on the island

ongoing roadworks on the island

 

Detoxing your food with ozone

I am a sucker for health products. This one we saw demonstrated at a show in PISA in Penang, and just bought it.

It is used to clean food of toxins. It comes with two tubes, one for vegetables and fruit, and one for fish and meat etc. The former products are ozoned for 15 minutes, and the latter for 30 minutes.

The fruit and vegetables don’t give off so many visible toxins, but meat and chicken can be quite bad. A chicken bought at Tesco gives off a lot more of the nasty white foamy stuff than a chicken bought at Sam’s Groceria, for example.

The downside of this procedure is, of course, that it takes time. When we return with shopping we are busy.

Ozone machine

Ozone machine

meat in filtered water

meat in filtered water

just turned machine on

just turned machine on

after 30 minutes of ozoning

after 30 minutes of ozoning

the gunk extracted in front

the gunk extracted and the clean meat