Penang blog

Langkawi – December 2012. Holidaying here. Retiring here?

One Malay word you should know if you are in Langkawi – “Pantai” = “Beach”.

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Tanjong Rhu beach – in the north of Langkawi

I wrote a blog about Langkawi after my visit in April 2012, and I have just returned from my third holiday in Langkawi in about four years. I will combine my previous blog with this, adding more information. The smaller photos are from April 2012, the larger from December 2012 – so you can tell


  • In August 2008 we drove up to Kuala Perlis and caught the ferry over to the main ferry terminal in Langkawi.  All we had to do was phone a contact who ran a parking lot, give an approximate arrival time, and he bought the ferry tickets.  When we arrived we could park undercover and he gave us the tickets, and pointed out where to catch the ferry.
  • In April we flew on Air Asia from Penang to Langkawi, which is about 25 minutes in the air, but from when we left home by taxi to when we were in our hotel room about four hours had elapsed.  Which was about the same amount of time as driving and catching the ferry, although the flight was less strenuous.

Speed Camera Kills – drive safely despite speed cameras in Malaysia

“Speed cameras don’t reduce casualties — they are just for revenue generation.”

Chief Inspector Paul Gilroy
Northumbria Police
October 2003
A recent article in The Star states that, “Come September, more than 1,000 cameras will “keep watch” on roads across the country under the Automated Enforcement System (AES). There will be 566 speed cameras, 265 traffic light cameras and 250 mobile cameras (for places with inadequate infrastructure for installing a camera).”

To me this is very bad news, as it adds more danger to the roads than the considerable amount that already exists.

This graph shows how the introduction of speed cameras has resulted in around 5,000 extra deaths in the U.K.

In the UK they have started to remove speed cameras as studies have shown roads are safer without them. One example is Swindon
In the UK and Europe, speed cameras have almost killed me at least twice, where both times I was safely travelling below the posted speed limit, and speed limits have similarly endangered me.  Red light cameras are also dangerous.
So how can one drive safely, now that these extra hazards are being added to the already dangerous state of the roads in Malaysia?  The standard of driving here is appalling, and at least the absence of cameras has meant that you can concentrate on road conditions and other drivers. Once cameras are introduced you have to drive mostly viewing the speedometer  – like everyone does in the UK – and not pay much attention to road conditions and maniac drivers and motorcyclists.
To counteract the increased danger, I would suggest the following:
  • Ensure you know the speed limits where you drive
  • Know where fixed cameras are
  • A GPS unit should tell you about red light cameras, so keep its software up to date – cheaper than a fine, and better than whiplash from getting hit from behind – a common result of red light cameras.
  • Be aware that as the hunger for increased revenue from red light cameras increases, the timing of orange to red may decrease, so they can catch more drivers.  This is what they have done in the USA.
  • As you approach red light camera intersections drive a bit slower so the driver behind can stop – so then you will have the opportunity to either stop or accelerate. The latter may be better if the driver behind is talking on his phone.
  • You can use cruise control on the North South tollway so a camera doesn’t catch you
  • From about Slim River to KL the N-S tollway is three lanes each way – meaning the left lane is often empty as almost all drivers occupy the middle or right lanes.  Perhaps it is safer just to stay in the left lane, including overtaking the cretinous drivers who drive slowly in the middle lane.  If anyone does something stupid, you still have space to swerve onto the verge. This is against the law in Europe, but people don’t drive so stupidly in Europe.
  • As you approach where you know speed cameras are located be very wary of other drivers ‘ sudden braking or erratic driving. Keep as much distance as possible to avoid problems.
  • If these cameras cause you any problem you can consider making your member of parliament responsible .

There should be more ideas – all this is off the top of my head.  I couldn’t find much on the Internet, so I’ll keep on thinking about it.

So, how should road safety be improved in this country?  The usual answer is education of drivers, including by responsible policing where the police advise errant drivers rather than fining them, and by proper engineering of the roads to reduce or eliminate accident blackspots. But this is not actually my area of expertise, either.

For more information on speed cameras read the Association of British Drivers on the topic.

A moving experience. (When I moved to Malaysia I wish I had brought…)


Short answer – everything you can.

It is quite cheap moving from the UK to Asia, probably because many goods are being shipped in the other direction, and there is plenty of space on the ships when they return.

Especially, bring kitchen items, oven, dishwasher (very expensive here), mattress and bedclothes, furniture, DIY items. Electronic goods tend to be cheaper here than the UK, but furniture, crockery, glassware, etc. may well cost far more here, if you can even find what you want.  If you have possessions you like, it can make a lot of sense to bring them.

So bring as much as you can, and as long it is used, if you have an MM2H visa, it should be free of duty. Don’t leave any unused space in your container.

Of course, it makes a lot of sense to come here with the minimum, and not ship your goods until you have  decided both you do want to live here, and where you want to live.  This will take at least six months, and perhaps a year or two.


If you ship your goods before you settle here, be aware that if you use a reputable  international company, and have paid for a door to door packing, delivery, and unpacking service, it should go quite smoothly, although you will still need to supervise the packing, and especially the delivery and unpacking on the Malaysian side.

Pick up for Malaysian delivery, in London

Pick up in London for storage in the UK

They take care of the paperwork, so there is nothing you need do about that, and once the delivery date is set, be at home, with at least two of you – one to watch the unloading from the lorry, and one to watch the delivery into your house or apartment.

On delivery in Malaysia, I watched in shock as six delivery men formed a line spaced about six feet from each other, and started to throw boxes marked “fragile” from the truck along the line to the last man, who was to load the trolley with them. I soon put a stop to that. So these men need supervising.

If you decide to ship your goods before you have chosen your home, you will find that there are no storage facilities here.  So you will either have to keep your goods where you are living – fine if you have the space – or rent an apartment for your goods.

Moving locally is a whole other matter.  It seems impossible to rent a lorry so that you can do it yourself.  But finding good local removalists is very difficult, at least for a reasonable price. You can book a lorry and the number of men you think you need for the job, but you do need to supervise closely.

moving locally

This will cost upwards of a few hundred ringgit. But for many of my things I didn’t trust anyone else, so I made multiple trips by car, in addition to using the lorry.  As I have moved around a bit I have also found that the lorry drivers seem to have very little idea of the roads in Penang, despite them living here, so I have had to have them follow me.

Some lorries have no roof, so if there is any possibility of rain on your moving day, ensure the one you hire does.

hope it doesn’t rain

Your estate agent can help with organising the utilities, post etc. If you are using TM for your phone and or Internet, they can take weeks to transfer the connection, and they will still charge you even though you had no connection.  When you complain you’ll get a refund. So, go into their office and stress it is urgent. When we did this in their main, Burma Road, office,  it took two days – and they gave us a free new phone, even.

If you live in a condo you’ll need to inform management, and security, about your moving, and probably the number plate of the lorry.

So, there are a few tips.  If I recall others I will add them, but it has been a while now since we last moved.

A nice daytrip from Penang – Kulim Canopy Walk and Penang Bird Park

On a sunny day, this is a pleasant day trip.  Pack a picnic lunch, or BBQ if you are ambitious, swimming costume, towels water, hats etc. You don’t need hiking boots, as flip flops will do – although shoes would be better. No liability accepted etc. etc.

The general idea is to visit the recreation area and take the canopy walk, then optionally swim (?) or splash around in the nearby river, and after picnic next to the river.  Later, head back into Penang State and visit the Bird Park in Butterworth.  It’s a short drive back across the bridge to the island, thereafter.

And check the site for current information: Tree Top walk. There are plenty of sites with information, so I won’t bother repeating it.  And besides, I was there twice in 2010, so my information could be a little out of date. Another site about tree top walk.  And check the route, too – I don’t entirely trust this map.

Another site gives the coordinates of Sungai Sedim Recreational Forest as 5°24′49″N 100°46′49″E


And check the latest on the bird park, while you are about it.

Kedah map

In light traffic it takes about an hour and a half to two hours to reach to the canopy walk. Park near the river where you’d like to picnic later.  There are toilets, and you can change into or from a swimming costume when you wish.  Then walk through the arch and up the road for a few minutes to the actual entrance, where you pay the admission fee.

entrance arch

You can see a map of the walk.

canopy walk diagram

Just don’t get shot.

A few photos of the walk


a river runs by

the forest you are walking through

quite high

If you are lucky you might spot hornbills

sometimes you see wild hornbills

one of a pair of hornbills

After doing the canopy walk you can return to the car park, and then swim in the river.

the river near the car park

Well, soak, or play in the river would be more accurate.

it’s quite shallow, but quite a strong current in places

butterflies on the rocks near the river

a lot of butterflies

After your swim, a picnic by the river is nice.

Then drive back to Butterworth for the Bird park. Check what time the shows are so you can see one if you are interested.

bird show

Bird Park (Penang) Sdn. Bhd. Jalan Todak, Seberang Jaya, 13700 Perai, Penang, Malaysia.

Tel : 604-399 1899 Fax : 604-3991899

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – quick update in early June

I have been away for almost a month – for most of May, and there are a couple of things to report.

It still seems to be the rainy season, and rains a lot.  It meant the garden did not need so much attention.

In March Passion fruit were flowering, then flowers closed and stayed, and finally dropped off – but in April no flowers. Passion fruit were flowering again in late April, and one or two  grew into fruit but dropped off when very small. The vines have continued growing while I was away, but now there are full size green fruit on them. This is the best result for months.

waiting for passion fruit to ripen

waiting for passion fruit to ripen

I tried to germinate some passion fruit seeds, but the birds just ate the seeds and none germinated. This is the first time this has happened. Birds are an increasing nuisance. I used to encourage them, but no more.

The cherry tomatoes have produced almost no fruit – I seem to be wasting my time with them.

The cabbages are disappointingly still only growing slowly. The netting has protected them from birds, but all the rain has caused a few of their stems to rot.  I have eaten the couple of tiny undeveloped cabbages resulting, and they were really delicious.  However, it has been so many months, so much effort, and still they are nowhere near harvesting size.

Cabbages I have harvested are tiny

cabbages are still not ready for harvest

As previously mentioned I grow mung beans with passion fruit as a companion plant.  Then I harvest the mung beans – some to replant, and some I sprout and eat.  The birds discovered them and eat them, leaving the empty pods on the plants.  So I put more netting around them, and the birds have left them alone.  I still will buy more plastic cat cutouts sometime.

The lime trees have stayed pretty much the same. Chillis are still growing and producing, so are also a good result.

So, after a year at this, only a few good results have been achieved.  I have to keep on trying different things. But it’s been interesting, and a healthy activity.