Penang, Malaysia: A Multicultural Tropical Paradise with Low-Cost, Luxury Rentals

After an exhilarating morning walk, ex-Navy Seal Jim Farquhar and his wife Sharon like to unwind on the deck of their ocean-view apartment. The couple have always been active, but there are so many opportunities to hike and enjoy the great outdoors in Penang that staying active is easy. Their neighborhood is settled in a lush green hillside, dotted with mansions that have sweeping views of the sparkling turquoise ocean, and there’s a picturesque walking path right outside their front door.

Originally from San Jose, California, the Farquhars moved to multicultural and tropical Penang in 2007. They were brought here by the year-round sunny weather and world-class food scene, and have since opened up a successful manufacturing business. And, like many other expats, they were pleasantly surprised when they discovered the low-cost, luxury rentals available here.

“We live in a 6,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, seven-bathroom oceanfront condo which has access to three swimming pools, tennis courts, a small beach, workout facilities, and a private party room which could accommodate nearly one hundred guests,” says Jim. “Our rent is roughly $2,200 a month. Back home in California, a similarly appointed apartment would easily run four times as much. The neighborhood is peaceful and has a large expat community, but we can be in the thriving downtown area in just 15 minutes.”

Despite Penang being a tropical island, with pristine white-sand beaches and verdant, wildlife-filled jungle, you won’t have to go without all the modern amenities. In the island’s capital George Town, an old colonial town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll find fashionable big-city shopping, hip cafés and bars, and seemingly endless food options. You’d hardly believe that a few minutes’ drive could take you to a remote mountain trail where you’ll see wild monkeys, the occasional exotic snake, and birds with fabulous brightly colored wings.

Sharon is conscientious about her health and was initially concerned about the quality of the healthcare before coming to Penang. But as she set out to find doctors to replace her general practitioner, dentist, and eye doctor, she was blown away by what she found. “The quality of care and treatment I have received from all of my doctors has been considerably better than the quality of care I received back home,” says Sharon. “And for pennies on the dollar.”

But Jim and Sharon’s favorite thing about living here has to be the international expat community and peaceful mix of cultures at play. “The island has one of the most diverse, well-traveled, and educated expat communities,” says Sharon.

“We’re are so glad to be part of it. We regularly participate in dinner events with many expats from different countries like Mexico, Canada, the U.K., Germany, Switzerland, Australia, India, Malaysia, Chinese, Dutch, and other North Americans. When we step back and look at the dining table, our meals look more like a meeting of the United Nations than a dinner party.”

In fact, there’s such a diversity of people, culture, and religion in Penang, that there’s some type of festival, party, or celebration almost every other week. There are just 23 national and regional holidays that are celebrated officially on the island, but when you add in the minor celebrations this number can reach over 100. That makes living here quite the party.

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