Is Life in Penang Perfect?

Our balcony overlooks a crescent-shaped sandy beach where blue and red painted boats bob about in the water and fishermen’s homes line the shore. We look out over the horizon and see spectacular red and orange sunsets and watch cruise ships come and go. Sitting here, it’s hard to believe just how much our lives have changed since we sold up back home and made the move to Penang, Malaysia, seven months ago.

Our home here is a large two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with sea views. Our complex includes a modern and well-stocked gym, an exercise room where we have yoga three mornings each week, and a small restaurant serving up beef rendang and other Malaysian delights for just a few dollars. Outside, the pool area features a sand beach and a lazy river which connects all the various swimming spots. It’s like having a five-star resort just downstairs.

Our rent is $950 a month and that includes Pay TV. Our apartment is fully furnished, right down to the widescreen TV. When it comes to rentals, everything here is negotiable—the price, the length of your lease, and the furnishings. We didn’t like the couch in our apartment so picked out a new one, right down to the style and fabric; the landlord paid for it and two weeks later it was delivered. Our water bill is negligible and electricity runs us about $80 a month.

Before making the move here, we flew out for a 10-day visit. During this trip we spoke with a visa lawyer, viewed multiple rental units, visited grocery stores and local markets, met with several expats, and experienced life as we would as locals. Having sampled a taste of the good life here, we knew we wanted more. We were moving to Penang.

We sold our house and let go of about 90% of our possessions. Having made the choice to change we realized that things we once wanted, we no longer needed. We wanted to collect experiences, not more stuff. Of course, some things you simply can’t leave behind. For us, our little rescue dog, Mandy, was among them.

We used a pet relocation company to ensure she made it to Penang as safely and as comfortably as possible. They handled all the paperwork, flight arrangements, quarantine arrangements in Malaysia, and even delivered her to our new home in Penang. There was no way Mandy was going to miss out on this adventure. She’s settled in here now and thoroughly enjoys our walks along the ocean walkway and around the marina.

Straits Quay Marina, with its wide selection of restaurants and bars, a modern shopping center, and sparkling million-dollar boats, is a 10-minute stroll from our apartment along a beautiful tree-lined walkway. You’ll never be short on things to do in Penang. Since moving here our social calendar is chock-full of events.

We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends from the U.S., Deepavali with our Indian friends, and New Year’s Eve with friends from all over the world. Right now, we’re looking forward to Chinese New Year. We play tennis a few times a week and I play a round of golf once a week which, including cart hire, only runs me $24.

So, is life in Penang perfect? Of course not. We have to go to three grocery stores plus a market to get all the food we want, including imported favorites. We don’t have a dishwasher so I have to do the dishes by hand. They drive a little crazy here and scooters are everywhere. But, I wake when I want, play golf and tennis, hike when the mood takes me, and get to work out during the day and not after a long day of work. And having the time and freedom to do whatever we want means we’re happier, healthier, and less stressed than ever before…

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