Malaysia Attracting Fans

There is joke about California:  80 percent of those who pass through the state decide to stay because the state, which is shaped like a chair, makes you feel comfortable. So what is it about Langkawi – or for that matter, Malaysia the country – that compels her visitors to stay put? Sun, sea, sand – and more sun? The official criteria for any applicant applying to live indefinitely in Malaysia (under its Malaysia: My Second Home program ) states the applicant must show assets/ fixed deposits of at least US$30,000  in Malaysia,  and a monthly income of not less than $2,000.

imageBut well-traveled expats can probably name half a dozen countries around the world where you probably need much less than that to live on, without subjecting yourself to any gazetted law. Or, could it be because the official line goes on to say “the country has the highest standards of infrastructure where you can enjoy international class facilities, safety, leisure and elegant living at affordable prices? “

A posting on a website for expats in the country tells its own story: “living in a developing country like Malaysia where it is safe, you can retire early and live like a king.” So, that’s it. Maybe, 81- year old Pearl Mitchell from Dundee, who has faithfully spent her winter months – taking in Christmas and the local celebrations, that’s a total of 12 weeks, she claims – knows something she wants to share with the world? How faithful? The story goes, for the past 17 years she leaves her Scottish friends, and takes a flight, booking the same seat  number ( l4 A ) on Malaysia Airlines, upper deck 747 Business Class to Kuala Lumpur. By the way, she has now been upgraded to First Class for being the airline’s faithful customer.

The hotel, which according to her, is her first  home, then ” pampers, and spoils  ” her. And just like in the tv comedy, they know her name. She stays in the same room, sits at the same table, and a hotel staff accompanies her wherever she wants to go.”

But why?  The country, the people. Like Scots, Malaysians are friendly, she explains. 

The hotel chefs cooks special meals for her – except, English roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, which they learn to make  from her friend. But she likes how her salmon is done – always grilled, dry and leathery. But she is not home alone in Malaysia: a trip to Langkawi will convince her why many tourists have fallen under the spell and charm of the island, and call it ‘ home ‘.

Johannes Cordier, a decade after setting foot on the island, now declares: “I want to die on this island and I never want to go back to Germany.” He now spends his time looking after his beach front restaurant, after a working life of looking after the problems faced by 150 Airbus engineers worldwide, and three years of retirement doing nothing on the island.

“I enjoy the magnificence of the sunrise, and listening the soothing sounds of the waves.”

“I was based all over the world, but Langkawi was top of my list to retire to. I like the people and the country. You can walk around in Bermuda shorts and the lifestyle is easy going. You can live on one-third of the cost of living in Europe; it is a good life at a lower cost.” 

British born and bred Jay French lived in Penang for four years with her first husband who was in the Royal Air Force. Afer remarrying and on their way to Perth to start a new life, she and her new husband stopped in Malaysia for three weeks. ” I was very upset when we left Penang, and had always dreamt that one day I would come back”  she says.

“My new husband too fell in love with the country. We went back to UK, packed everything, sold our business – and moved to Langkawi on my husband’s birthday.” Their experience running a retirement hotel in the UK has been the basis of a four year old business in Langkawi which among others, includes another run by her son, who can claim the honor of having the country’s former prime minister as his guest.

“It is the only country in the world to-day with a multi-racial population living in harmony for generations. You need and cherish this kind of stability in the country you live in,” new husband Tony says, explaining his agreement. They are not the only European expatriates who have fallen for the charms of the island. Claudia Meuller, from Stuttgart, Germany has built two houses: one for herself to use as her base, and another for her parents to live in on the island. 

An international travel agent, she promotes the island to the European market, handling up to 2,000 guests per year.” The island is a safe destination, with a natural and untouched beauty, loved by the Europeans. No matter where I promote my business, Langkawi will still be my home,” she explains.

For all the praises, heaven will have to wait: Pearl is still getting used to Malaysians not being on time. Adds Jay, “It can be a bit frustrating when you want to get things done on time, but I guess that’s part of the charm.”

By Y.  Sulaiman
eTN Malaysia

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