Monthly Archives: October 2011

Giving Back to Malaysia – Helping with Education Expenses

photo of students at Tunku-Putra school

Students at Tunku-Putra secondary school along with teachers and representative from the charity club.

When I was planning my move to South East Asia (I hadn’t settled on Malaysia yet) I tried to read as much online as I could. One of the places I decided I wanted to visit to see if I could live there was Langkawi. Langkawi doesn’t have much information available online, especially on how an expat can live there. There are not many rental options. So I diligently looked for everything I could find.

One of the things I found was a reference to a charity helping pay school fees for some children in Langkawi. Education in Malaysia is not free and many families find it financially difficult to meet the costs associated with sending their child/children to school. Helping a child get an education seemed like the kind of thing that was worthwhile (I knew I wanted to contribute in some ways to where ever I settled down). I also knew it was easy to get busy and not get these kind of things taken care of. So I arranged to contribute before I went to Langkawi. I did so and was able to sponsor one child this last year.

Last week I received a report that he has graduated from Tunku Putra secondary school and is looking forward to college. The program, by the Charity Club Langkawi, Kedah was able to fully sponsor 41 Schoolchildren in Langkawi in 2011.

The Charity Club Langkawi “are being referred to a growing pool of young people who are very bright and are not able to attend, or drop out of, university because of lack of available funds.” It seems to me the charity club does great work. If you are an expat in Malaysia consider contributing. You can also sponsor a family or contribute in other ways if you prefer. If you know of similar clubs in Johor Bahru, or elsewhere in Malaysia, and a comment below.

I ended up not staying in Langkawi. It is worth considering but the rental options are very limited. There also isn’t much going on. But it has great beaches and wonderful food. I decided on Johor Bahru instead.

Related: Giving More Than Money to CharityYou Can Help Reduce Extreme Poverty100th Entrepreneur Loan

Mee Bandung at JB Station Kopitiam

There are several good restaurants on the bottom level of the Danga City Mall in downtown Johor Bahru. One of my favorites is JB Station Kopitiam. I have had at least 5 meals at JB Station Kopitiam, all have been excellent (and they have been under RM 10). A kopitiam is a traditional breakfast and coffee shop found in Southeast Asia. The word is a concatenation of the Malay word for coffee and the Hokkien dialect word for shop.

photo of JB Station Kopitiam at Danga City Mall

JB Station Kopitiam at Danga City Mall in Johor Bahru by John Hunter

I still don’t know the names of lots of Malaysian food, so one nice thing about JB Station is they have photos so I can find a picture of something that looks interesting. A decent number of restaurants do that, however, at the same time, a large number have no menu at all (especially the outdoor stalls, but also some indoor restaurants). I am not completely sure but I think the photo shows my order of Mee Bandung (a dish originating in Johor).

Mee Bandung, is a cuisine originally consisted of only noodles and eggs in soup made of the mixture of chilli, onion, spices, shrimp paste and dried shrimp. Over time the Mee Bandung recipe had been added to with the addition of shrimp, meat, fish cakes and vegetables. One thing I have noticed is the small Malaysian restaurants have a full or half hard boiled or fried egg on top of many dishes.

The lime juice is freshly squeezed and quite good.

photo of Mee Bandung soup and lime juice

Mee Bandun and lime juice from JB Station Kopitiam

Related: Sala Huddin Bakery, Johor BahruThe Village Briyani CafeBus to Jusco in Permas JayaPopular Used English Bookstore in Johor Bahru

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Johor Bahru Beach

Johor Bahru is not known for long sandy beaches. But it does actually have a beach, see the photo. This is over near the Zon (duty free area) where the ferry is. Singapore is visible across the water. Swimming might not be the greatest idea, though I did see 2 people swimming once.

photo of Johor Bahru Beach

Johor Bahru beach (you see about the whole sandy beach in this photo)

You can also find some people selling fresh seafood along the walk. It actually is a nice walk along the water. If the city did a better job of featuring it, it is possible to make it into something really nice. I don’t see anything about the walk in Penang along Gurnsey drive that is any nicer.

But if you really want a beach Malaysia has plenty of great beaches. Langkawi is the best beach location I have been to yet.

Related: photos from PenangEarly Photo of Me on the East Coast of MalaysiaTourist Activities in Kuala Lumpor

Penang’s Economic Gains

There is an interesting article in Bloomberg on the Penang’s recent economic success:

Penang’s progress highlights the challenges facing the rest of Malaysia and the National Front government as China, Indonesia and Vietnam offer investors bigger workforces while Singapore lures talent with lower taxes and easier immigration. Lim, 50, the country’s only ethnic-Chinese state leader, embodies the contrast between Penang’s business transparency and the four-decade old policies of the ruling party that favor Malays, which the World Bank says undermine competitiveness.

I am sure that is a politically contentious issue. The very good sign, I think, is the ability of Penang to experiment. For countries to succeed in this very competitive environment they need to experiment and can’t be afraid to disappoint some people. I see Malaysia doing many good things, including recognizing the brain drain and the need to build a partnership with Singapore.

In the first seven months of 2011, Penang won 3.6 billion ringgit ($1.2 billion) of approved foreign manufacturing investment, ahead of the 3.4 billion ringgit that went to Selangor, the state that surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur, a government report showed last month.

Under Najib’s Economic Transformation Program, his government is promoting about 65.8 billion ringgit of private- sector-led projects for southern Johor state, compared with at least 375 million ringgit for Penang, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The comparison excludes projects covering multiple states or those without a clear single location, which amounted to 34.3 billion ringgit nationwide.

With my admittedly limited knowledge of Malaysia investing in Johor, to build a dynamic relationship with Singapore, is very wise. It seems to me investing in creating strong economic center’s in KL, Penang, Johor and Sarawak makes a great deal of sense. It is always wise to spread development around – at the same time concentrating it (somewhat contradictory, I know).

And the long term economic plans seem very wise: investing in building a high tech workforce, building around natural resources, targeting some key industries (health care, manufacturing…). I would also strongly push to maintain and upgrade the use of the English language. Granted, that is useful for me personally, but economically it is a powerful tool to grow Malaysia over the long term.

Building economies into mid-wage and mid-to-high-wage economies is very difficult. You need to constantly be looking out decades while still making people’s lives better today. And moving the society along with the economic development. Economies are made up of people, forgetting that is dangerous. But they also are in competition with many other countries that are doing what they can to grow and compete with your country. The balance is not easy, but it is much easier when the economy is growing and the gains cResidence Pass for Talented Expatsan be distributed to show people what has already been gained and dream about the potential.

Related: Penang Condo MarketResidence Pass for Talented ExpatsStrong Singapore Dollar

Drinks I Enjoy in Malaysia

phone of orange juice and strawbery soda

Orange juice and strawberry soda

Two drinks I have enjoyed since moving to Malaysia are orange juice and strawberry soda. Ok, the strawberry soda is just sugar water with some flavoring (that tastes nothing like strawberry to me) but I like it. What I really like is the orange juice. In the USA they have orange juice with pulp (essentially the inside of the skin of the orange. I don’t like pulp. This orange juice has intact orange “capsules.” I really don’t know what you call them, but the tiny bits of the orange that actually have the juice inside of them. The juice in the photo has lots of those floating in it, which are yummy.

I also like fresh lime juice and really most fresh juices. Green tea is nice, and I have been drinking much more tea recently. One thing I still haven’t figured out is what some places mean by yogurt. Some smoothies are great with really yogurt. Several places though obviously have no yogurt in what they call yogurt drinks – they are just juice flavoring with crushed ice.

Related: Residence Pass for Talented ExpatsBakery, Downtown Johor BahruBlogs in Kuching and Borneo

Exercise: Swimming

Over the years I have thought about taking up swimming to get some healthy exercise but I never do. When I start swimming I am so lame I can barely make it a few laps. And I had to go to a pool, get changed, swim (for a few minutes before I was too tired), get changed, go home… So I never did keep it up.

Now I have a pool an elevator ride away. I have been swimming several times a week for a few weeks now. I still can’t get very far. Which is good in that I get an aerobic workout really quick, because I am such an inefficient swimmer. But also bad in that I get don’t a very long aerobic workout without risking swallowing large amounts of water. Today I made 10 lengths (5 laps, if a lap is back and forth) for the first time (maybe the pool is 20 yards long but maybe a bit shorter – about 15 meters, maybe a bit longer?).

It does seem like this will be a way for me to get some exercise though, so that is good. And hopefully I can add on the laps over the weeks. Hopefully I can find a place to play basketball, historically my main exercise. I will also look to see about tennis or badminton. I am still looking for the best places in Johor Bahru to participate though. Let me know, in the comments, if you have suggestions.

As I let the sun dry me after the swim a swallow (or some similar bird) buzzed the pool very close to the water. Which was cool, but I figured the bird was out of luck. I guessed it was looking for insects to eat and the chemically cleaned water didn’t support insects. But it dipped in and caused a small ripple and I figured maybe it caught something or more likely thought it would and tried. But over the next 2 minutes it dove into the water a bit more and at least 10 more time. I would zoom along, fold in its wings and then plop into the water causing quite noticeable ripples. It could just basically bounce off and be flying again. It either had to be playing or cleaning itself I think. It was fun to watch.

In Johor Bahru, most of the condos that expats chose have pools. Some are larger (Straits View seemed the largest to me) and some are pretty small (usually at the condos without too many units).

Related: Bakery, Downtown Johor BahruAndroid Mobile Phone Options in MalaysiaMegazip Adventure Park, Sentosa IslandRegular Exercise Reduces Fatigue

Bus to Jusco in Permas Jaya

I took the bus from downtown Johor Bahru to the Jusco (hypermarket) in Permas Jaya. From downtown you take bus number 123 which a passenger told me runs every 20 minutes. Of the supermarkets I have been to so far in JB that Jusco has been by far the best. I have tried a couple Tesco’s and a Carfour and one other Jusco (a complete disaster area, the store was a complete mess, the signs said things were 50% off then when you took them to the counter they said they were not – 3 different items from 2 different locations).

photo of the inside of a bus

Inside of a Johor Bahru 123 line bus, by John Hunter.

The Permas Jaya Jusco store itself is very clean and orderly. The prices seem the best to me. The vegetables were great this time (the first time I really checked). A great selection and very fresh looking. And the prices were great. I picked up baby asparagus, peppers, potatoes, Japanese and “regular” cucumbers. I am not a cook. My cooking tops out at microwaving the asparagus for a few seconds, reheating some Indian food or putting peanut butter on a roll.

Unfortunately the Jusco is a bit out of the way for me. I want to get familiar with the bus transportation though so I will be taking some trips. I can’t find anything good online that explains the bus routes. If anyone knows of a good source of information please let me know.

I went to the Village Briyani Cafe today and had chicken briyani. It was great.

Related: Straits View Condos, Permas JayaBakery, Downtown Johor BahruThe Treasure Store: English Language Used Books and Library Rental

Salahuddin Bakery, Downtown Johor Bahru

This bakery in downtown Johor Bahru has excellent breads and great prices. It is downtown in the historic district. It is on the same block as the Masjid India (an Indian Mosque).

photo of various breads

Bread at Johor Bahru Bakery

Related posts: The Village Briyani Cafe in Johor BahruP1 Broadband Wimax in Johor Bahru, MalaysiaHotels and Accommodations in Malaysia

photo of muffins and breads

Muffins and breads

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