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How to Rent a Tropical Winter Home In Penang, Malaysia

January 05, 2011

 

penang sea view from our winter home

Want to escape the cold and snow? Ready for the ideal location independent lifestyle design, global digital nomad style or technomad neo minimalism in Asia?  Consider a tropical winter rental apartment  in Penang, Malaysia where the weather is perfect and you can swim at the beach or your pool all winter long. See also:

How to Find a Rental Apartment in Penang - Part I

Finding a Vacation Rental Apartment in Penang

Penang Apartment or Condo Rental - Plenty of Choices

Historic Georgetown, the capital, is a unique UNESCO World Heritage site and the food in Penang is said to be the best in Asia ( some say the world). We arrived in November and are loving the ease, super low cost, friendliness and peaceful, quiet, tranquility of tropical resort living in Penang.

BEAUTIFUL, CHEAP, WARM, EASY, FABULOUS FOOD, GREAT INTERNET, HISTORIC, CULTURE, FRIENDLY, SAFE, STABLE, ENGLISH SPEAKING

tropical plants at our Penang resort in Malayisa

relaxing in the Jacuzzi at our Penang resort home in Malaysia

tropical flowers at our Penang home in December

view of our Penang resort pools from our terrace

LOOKING FOR AN IDEAL LOCATION INDEPENDENT PLACE TO WINTER?

As many of our readers know, we have spent the last four winters "Mediterranean style"  in the same small sunny village in Andalusia  and gave our best tips for finding a winter rental apartment or home in Spain and keys to location independent wintering in Spain.

 We really enjoyed our time in Spain, so I was looking for a similar set up ( which was also not too dissimilar to  our warm, sunny winters in a small, family -friendly  town in California). I had found a real estate person online for Penang & talked to her via email about six months before arrival, so knew that we could easily find something nice in our price range which was 400 to 700 dollars a month for a high end, fully furnished,  3 bedroom home or apartment.

tranquil ocean view from our winter home in Penang

Once I knew that, I didn't do any more as I knew it could be easily handled on the ground once we arrived ( and I had 14 stops before that so enough on my plate to look at). You can find an apartment or rental MUCH cheaper ( I've seen ads from 12 dollars to 100 dollars a month for studios or private rooms in a home), but we wanted a three bedroom, 2 bathroom, large, luxurious home for the winter, so we went for the higher price ( about 700 dollars a month rent) when we fell in love with this one with spectacular ocean views from every room.( A FAR inferior, smaller,  unfurnished 2 bedroom rental with no views, cost us $1700.00 a month in California before we left in 2005, after we sold our home).

LUXURY BEACH RENTAL IN PENANG

luxury rental apartment in Penang,Malaysia

partial view of kitchen in Penang

sunrise view from our apartment in Penang

SUPER EASY TO FIND A FURNISHED RENTAL APARTMENT OR HOUSE IN PENANG

We did not have a place to stay when we arrived, nor an apartment lined up, but we found this one immediately, fell in love with it and were in it within two days. Guest houses are cheap in Penang,( 6 to 30 dollars a night)  so I had planned on staying in one for about a week while we did a little house hunting and exploring on the ground after arrival, to find the perfect place. Fate was on our side though and  Twitter friends and fellow bloggers ( Aussies Colin and Tracy & their cute preschool kids)  generously invited us to stay with them, so we had many short cuts, thanks to the knowledge that they had gained while living in Penang for several months. Yes, there are more gorgeous apartments & not so gorgeous, but this one had a zen feel that we liked at a price we could pay. I had wanted to go for cheaper, but with my mom visiting us this winter and Mozart starting a new school, we wanted comfort and this feels like a home, not an apartment.

 WHAT 700 DOLLARS A MONTH BUYS YOU FOR LUXURY RENTAL IN PENANG

Partial view of dining area in Penang

Our child's bedroom and desk in our  Penang home

partial view workout room in penang resort

dining room and distant bedrooms in Penang home

OUR PENANG APARTMENT DETAILS

We chose a large, over 1250 square feet, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in a top luxury resort with upscale furniture,spectacular ocean views from every bedroom and the living room. It's incredibly quiet and peaceful as no one else is on the 16th floor with us. A good desk with chair is in two of the bedrooms and tons of closet space. Full good sized kitchen with propane gas burners, washer, dryer, stove, rice cooker, wok, large toaster oven, microwave, water filter, electric kettle and more including all dishes and large closet. There is a balcony with furniture ,FREE wifi, television (with both Mandarin and some English shows from America),DVD player, CD player, sheets, pillows, blankets, juicer, silverware, tupperware, cleaning supplies,vacuum cleaner etc included. We have covered parking for two cars, but we use the bus as we find it extremely cheap and convenient for our lifestyle.

There are two large bathrooms with two showers and one bathtub and both have heated water (an extra in Asia). It's air conditioned in every room, but we have yet to use it as the weather has been a perfect 75 to 85, almost always sunny and we get wonderful, cool cross breezes day and night from being so close to the sea. There are ceiling fans in every room, but we tend to just use the living room one during the day and our bedroom at night, (they're just not needed). Haven't gotten our electric or water bill, but our friends say it is almost nothing and they used the air conditioning every night. I had heard many horror stories about the heat and humidity in Asia so I'm very happy to find it so pleasantly perfect. We've slept with light blankets every night. There is a large vestibule with two doors at the entrance ( which is usually kept open), where one traditionally keeps shoes in a cabinet as people here do not use them inside the home, (a normal custom for us as well).

kids playground in penang resort

our junggle queen playing on water slide in Penang

playing with friends in Penang resort water slide

ADVANTAGES TO LIVING IN A LUXURY RESORT IN PENANG

The gated resort is perfect for families with kids as well as singles, couples or retirees and it's maintained very well, plus with excellent 24 hour security guards. There is a huge pool area which is always almost empty. Also a good playground, jacuzzi, several pools (in several locations) waterslide,  free wifi with large room to plug in (two locations with different wifi),state of the art large exercise room, sauna, meeting rooms, waterfalls, free English books to share and more. Garbage is in a locked container outside the apartment on our floor near the elevator and picked up twice a day and floors mopped then too. It's easy and cheap to hire private housekeepers, but we do not need that.

The beach and bus stop are across the street and there are two large resort hotels nearby that allow you to use their facilities like restaurants, taxi stand or tourism guided tours etc. (It costs about 300 dollars a month to rent a car, but we like the new buses that all have air conditioning and free wifi that cost 45 cents for adults and Mozart is free. it's a small island with basically one road around it and driving is on the British side with tons of traffic, difficult parking and crazy mopeds.)

Adults can sunbathe, swim laps, take water aerobics classes, talk with other parents etc, while kids swim in separate pools, enjoy the  playground or tool around on scooters. There is an interesting eclectic mix of locals and fascinating expats from Australia,Japan, Hungary, Korea, USA, India, UK, Slovakia, Taiwan, Canada and more who are very friendly and helpful. There are an endless variety of classes, sports, volunteer opportunities for adults and kids, great International schools ( American, UK), Mandarin schools, and homeschool opportunities. Good  Health care ( doctors, hospitals, medicine, dentists etc)  is cheap and plentiful. Many come here for medical tourism.  Private Tutors, after school classes and preschools are good, cheap and abundant.

SHOPPING MALLS AND MOVIES IN PENANG

Penang Mall

There are two HUGE modern malls nearby, that are bigger than the malls in Silicon Valley, which is astounding because Penang is a very small island (with a long bridge to the mainland).  There is not much that you can not find here and most of it is exceedingly cheap. English is everywhere since there are 3 cultures in Malaysia and that is the common language, thus much easier than Europe in that way and an endless supply of both English and Chinese books for all ages. Shopping, movies and food seem to be passionate pleasures for Asians. The movie theaters are grand with the latest movies and treats with ridiculously low prices like 2 dollars for the latest hit movie.  Or as DaVinci says, "This is what things should cost". Since we haven't seen any English movies in 5 years, this has become a once a week family treat for us.

PENANG'S IS WORLD FAMOUS FOR IT'S DELICIOUS FOOD

Penang cuisine

visiting the famous night food markets in Penang

world famous food in penang, malaysia

Penang is world famous for it's food and Hawkers Markets ( according to Time Magazine, Lonely Planet and many publications) and I will be writing more about this in detail. They say it is the best food in Asia. Singaporeans drive 9 hours just to eat this food as a special treat. Many people fly into here just for the food. Although the Chinese are a big majority here in Penang, there are 3 dominant cultures in Malaysia, so one finds a huge variety of good food, some of the best Chinese, Indian and Malay food as well as delicious Korean, Japanese, Thailand ( very close border) and even western restaurants.

yummy fresh papaya in Penang

growing organic herbs in our winter garden on our terrace in Penang

PLEASURES OF HOME COOKING AND GARDENING & LEARNING TO COOK CHINESE

It is common in Asia to eat many or most meals out as it is almost as cheap as making it yourself and is just part of the culture. But we much prefer to cook our own food mostly when we are wintering as we enjoy the soul enriching family routines of cooking, eating together intimately and gardening when we are traveling less. As a former year-round-organic- gardener, I prefer to have control over the food that I feed my child and family from start to finish. We enjoy the food markets here that locals use and sometimes the modern, large grocery stores that have everything from organic peanut butter to frozen waffles, organic flax seed and French goat cheese. Mostly we stick with the local things like their awesome fresh-off-the- tree papaya's, mangoes, bananas etc. and I'm loving learning to cook many simple Chinese and Asian dishes.

MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!

Collecting money for rental deposit

 

RANDOM COSTS IN PENANG

FRESH BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS:   $3 for 2.2 lbs or /1 kilo

1 DOZEN EGGS:  $1.20

BASMATI RICE:  $1.80 for 2.2 lbs or/1 kilo

HUGE PAPAYA:  .75 cents each or about 90 cents a kilo/ 2.2 lbs

BROCCOLI:  $3 for 2.2 lbs or /1 kilo

BOK CHOY:   $2 for 2.2 lbs or /1 kilo

6 BANANAS:   .50 cents for a bunch of 6

SUPER DELICIOUS PIZZA DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR HOT:  $6 for a large

20 MINUTE TAXI RIDE:  $8

BAG OF 10 GALA APPLES:  $3

BIG MAC, CHICKEN MCNUGGETS, 2 FRIES, 2 SOFT DRINKS:   $3.70 ( when mom is not looking).

PILLOW:   $1.50

VISIT TO PRIVATE DERMATOLOGIST MD:  $20

CHOCOLATE DIPPED ICE CREAM CONE:  .60 cents

FIRST RATE MOVIE IN GORGEOUS NEW THEATER:   $2

LARGE CARMELED POPCORN AT MOVIES:    $1.60 for a large

SOOTHING CHAIR MASSAGE:    .30 cents

blond american girl in mandarin chinese school in penang

HIGH QUALITY LIFE AT LOW PRICES

We came primarily because it is a fantastic place to immerse deeply in Mandarin through an all Chinese school for our 10 year old child, but we found so many things that we love here, besides the ones we have already mentioned. Like:

* Very easy to explore other parts of diverse Malaysia and Asia from here by cheap flights, boats or trains

* Very close to major hubs like Singapore and Bangkok or even Hong Kong and Taiwan

* Not touristy ( outside of the highlights of Georgetown)

* Very friendly, accepting  and open society, a melting pot (once part of the British Empire)

* Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures to explore, English spoken everywhere, English signage

* Good airport with lots of flights in and out to Asia and around the world

* Rainy season means almost always sun with 15/20 minutes of rain and thunderstorm some evenings

* Unlike most of Asia, foreigners can buy landed property as well as condominiums and homes

* NOT a sex tourism destination country

* No major political turmoil, stable economy and government, religious tolerance  is a tradition

* Safe and very expat friendly (easy to get long stay visa or do visa runs)

Watching cruise ships out my window in Penang

MALAYSIA RANKS AS BEST PLACE TO RETIRE IN ASIA

The first time at a place is always hardest (next year will be a piece of cake) but  Penang is well set up to easily find a rental home very quickly as there are a ton available. One of the attractions here for us and many is Malaysia's My Second Home Programme which makes it very appealing to expats from around the world. We may or may not ever get involved with their program but the advantages are so fantastic, that it seems a wise move to pick this spot as a long stay option to get to know better, should we later want to participate. We like to winter in places that have good future potential, thus learning Mandarin in Penang made lots more sense than China. Penang is a popular spot for visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, Russia, Eastern Europe, UK, Taiwan and more. That said, although there are many Caucasians at our resort, out and about, we are usually the only Caucasians in sight on buses, planes, stores, movies or in the mall etc, but it has never been a problem so we feel very comfortable.

tropical flowers at our resort in Penang

QUESTIONS?

 Is there anything else that you would like to know about renting a place in Penang for a few weeks or a few months or a few years?

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wandering educators

wow - this is definitely a place we need to go to. how is the handicap accessibility? i love that photo of mozart with her school group!

Ian and Wendy Sewell

Ok, you got us. We really didn't enjoy our stay in Penang, but looking through your photos had us reconsidering our opinion!

Travelher

Great post! We are looking for a place to go next December for the holidays with our 2 year old twins.
This sounds like it could work out very well. I've been to Penang before--as a backpacker before children--and had a great time. The people were warm and friendly and the food was amazing.
If you can PM me the name/address of the resort you are staying in, that would be great. I understand you probably don't want to post your exact location on the internet.
Thanks.

Nadine

My! this is so appealing! I must check that second home programme, so tempting... Thank you for sharing all the info, and the tips, and I'm glad you're really enjoying it (we discussed it in Paris when we met, do you remember?) All the best for the rest of your stay then, now I'm dreaming of a tropical winter, for a change. ;-)

R&M

WOW! What a great post! Thanks!

Danny

We only managed to spend a day in KL (on airasia layover) and now I'm really regretting that we weren't able to make it back. Clearly we need to ensure there is a next time!!

Gena S

Aloha,

Would love to know if utilities are included and if this time of year is significantly less humid? My husband spent 10 days there a few years ago in late February and described it as humid. Of course since then we've settled in the South Pacific and acclimated. :) Glad you enjoyed your time in Kauai, look forward to seeing your pics of our favorite island. (Though Penang is looking pretty great and reasonable to boot!) Enjoy wintering and we'll be checking back in! Mahalo for the info!

Melissa hunter

This looks great. My 5 year old is taking Mandarin so this would be great for her. Tell me, will we have the ability to eat well as vegtarians? My daughters and I don't eat meat or dairy.

Claude Abrams

Many thanks for a great and informative blog. We're a travelling family of three (soon to be four) and are in Brazil for the next five months. But we're also looking at Asia beyond that. You've almost sold us on Malaysia. One question: our son is going to be five in May. How easy and costly is it to get into the school system and how problematic would not knowing Mandarin be? Also, is there anything else you can add about schooling options? Thanks

Anna

Speechless! (And thanks, that was a real essay!)

Adam @ SitDownDisco

That is absolutely ridiculous! Thanks for the comprehensive breakdown of costs and a look at your new home. It really puts it all into perspective. I would love to do that one day.

soultravelers3

Wandering Eds - Thanks! Yes, indeed. It depends on the handicap needs of course, but with my mobility challenges I find it MUCH easier than Europe. I know you were in Ireland & I find it much, much easier here than there.

Ian & Wendy - Yeah, I know you were sick when you did a short visit to Penang. I also think it takes a bit to get the hang of it here. It wasn't love at first site for us, but it didn't take long for us to fall in love. I think it is particularly nice for families, especially in a resort like ours. Much more family friendly than many places in Asia.

Travelher- Yes, this is a great place for kids, but I think almost all of the resorts ( and there are a TON...all half empty as they are second homes) are pretty similar. All face the sea, have pools, towers & all the goodies.

soultravelers3

Nadine- Sending you some warm sunshine & yes I remember us talking about this in Paris. Hard to believe we are here & settled in now. Yes, it is great expat destination & you might want to look up Langkawa which is that mountainous beachy island that I see from my windows. Less busy & looks very tropical paradise like in photos & the other side of the island here is more countrified. I think we would look in those areas if we thought about buying. Time will tell.

R&M- so appreciate that!

Danny- Yes! Sometimes it just works like that, we have yet to see KL, but hopefully soon.

Gena S- Aloha! I think I mentioned that the utilities are not included, water & electricity are separate, but our friends who lived here for several months ( and used the aircon every night) said it was almost nothing for both. It is humid here, very similar to Kauai or Bora Bora etc. BUT I actually find it easier here because we are high, right near the sea and get amazing cross breezes constantly. We just use the ceiling fans & use a blanket at night. If all the doors were shut, it would feel much hotter & humid...but why do that? Very quiet, cool and peaceful in our home here even with everything open24/7.

soultravelers3

Melissa - I think you'd be fine here as a vegetarian. There are lots of fruits and veggies as I mentioned above & also things like nuts and lots of organic things.

soultravelers3

Claude- Congrats on the new babe to be! See my post on schools. It's actually hard here to go to public schools unless you work here, are a resident or own a 2nd home in their special program.

BUT there are LOTS of other options, like lots of preschools, after school programs, private tutors, homeschooling, MANY international schools ( both American & a separate British one) etc.

The public schools are in Malay,and almost everyone here speaks English as a 2nd language, so one does not have to learn Mandarin here at all. It was a preference on our part.

The international schools are a lot more expensive than the Mandarin schools, but still MUCH cheaper than most places. Kidlet has a friend here from HUngry & they are here just so the kids can go to the American school to improve & immerse in their English. MUCH cheaper for them here than in Hungry.

soultravelers3

Anna- LOL, thanks. It's a long one, but if folks have questions down the line, I can always point them here. ;)

Adam- So appreciate that!

ChinaMatt

I knew there was another reason I wanted to go back to Penang (besides the food, culture, friendly people...).

Dayngr

Gorgeous! Makes me want to come and visit now.

HELEN J UNJIAN

IT SOUNDS LIKE A VERY NICE PLACE TO SPEND THE WINTER. I'M SURE YOUR MOTHER, BARBARA (MY SISTER) WILL ENJOY THE NEXT 6 WEEKS VISITING YOU ALL.

soultravelers3

ChinaMatt ;)

Dayngr Come on over! ;)

So fun to hear from you on our blog, sweet Aunt! You are a cyber whiz octogenarian!! ;) She has arrived safely and we are having a wonderful time. I will put up a few pics on the blog a little later today.

Laura

What is the name of this apartment complex?

Margaret Sch

So lusciously detailed! Thanks!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks so much Margaret! It takes a LOT of work to put up a post like this with all the photos, links and details, but I see it as a "pillar" content post so hope it will be useful for anyone looking for such info.

It's long but good to have all the info in one place.

Also makes it easier for me when I get repeat questions..I can just refer them here with a link and a click! ;)

S.WEBBER

So what did your utilities end up comming to for your stay?

Jeanne @soultravelers3

S.Weber - The total cost for ALL of our utilities from Nov until early May was under 100 dollars!

That is water, gas, electric, garbage disposal etc

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