My wife Lisa and I are not wealthy. Yet, as I sit in my office gazing out at Penang Hill and the Penang Botanic Gardens, I realise how incredibly lucky we are to be living in Malaysia. We have an amazing lifestyle here. Lisa plays tennis four times a week at The Penang Sports Club—at 64 cents per game it’s ridiculously cheap—and The Penang Swimming Club, a 5-star facility, is my gym of choice.
Both of these clubs are private facilities and there is a one-off joining fee. The members of both clubs are a mix of locals and expats and joining up is a great way to make friends. They also cost a fraction of what private clubs back in Australia cost, so that’s another big bonus.
If we still lived in Sydney, we’d be living a completely different lifestyle. Our decision to leave Australia, almost nine years ago, has provided us financial security, new friends and numerous adventures that life back home simply didn’t.
We travel extensively in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, Bali and Vietnam) and Lisa heads back to Australia to visit family and friends at least twice a year. We can only do that because we live in Malaysia.
When we left Australia for Malaysia it was first and foremost for a reduced cost of living and to begin a new adventure in a wonderful country. We moved to the island of Penang because we had holidayed here in 2008 and fell in love with the people. That’s when we found out about the Malaysia My Second Home visa.
At the time we lived in Sydney and were holidaying twice a year in Asia. A thought struck us; ‘Why don’t we reverse our position and move to Malaysia to live and holiday twice a year in Australia?’ It made so much sense.
Essentially our current Southeast Asian lifestyle, complete with a part-time maid, a 300-square-metre apartment, a nice car, a classic Vespa which I use daily, international travel and eating out three times a week, costs less than 50% of what we were spending in Sydney.
Our landlord here is fantastic too. Last year we were paying $1,200 per month rent, but I saw a lot of apartments on the market that were similar in size and cheaper, so when our lease ran out, we asked for a reduction in rent. She immediately agreed and reduced the rent to $900 per month. She also agreed to put in a new kitchen and new blinds for a bedroom that we had converted to an office.
If an air-conditioner needs servicing or if something breaks or we need a plumber, we call her and there is someone there within 24-hours. That’s a great deal for an apartment that’s just 10 minutes’ drive to the beach.
Penang also offers year-round good weather, with no winters, abundant sun and warm breezes. The yearly temperature averages 28 C. The waters of the Straits of Malacca are warm and on the west of the island there are deserted beaches that are perfect for swimming, picnicking, reading a book or just snoozing.
The good news is that the Malaysian cities of Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, all spots that I would happily live in, offer you the same great-value living as Penang. It just comes down to what you want to do, how many friends you want to make and what your hobbies are.
Malaysia is a wonderful country with stunning vistas, a rich colonial history and modern infrastructure, including medical care that rivals any in the world for a fraction of the cost of what you pay in Australia…
Life here feels very lucky indeed.