Friday, May 28, 2010

The Keys

The House (will be painted soon to get rid of this hideous color combination)

We drove to Selangor yesterday where our lawyer is located to pick up the keys for the house as the owner had gone and collected his final check earlier in the morning. Here in Malaysia, handing over ‘the Keys’ signifies the end of the sale, like the ‘closing’ in the US. We were surprised we didn’t have to sign any documents at the end, I guess because we signed so many months ago; we just went to pick up the keys.

And impressive the Keys were, all 16 of them. Satisfied everything was complete R and I left the lawyer’s office in a brilliant mood, we finally owned the house! Thought we would stop off at Ikea and pick up a couple tabletops we are going to use for our office as the Lawyer’s office is close to Ikea. So we bought the items and headed back to Seremban.

We drove to the house to drop off the items. Excited that the house was now ours, we walked up to the front door and I let R do the honors of unlocking it. He started going through the keys and none of them were working, as he came closer to the 16th key, he joked that he bet it was the last key. But alas, no. None of the keys worked on the front door and the grill’s (external gates) lock on the back door didn’t work either. We tried and tried and none of the keys worked. So we called a locksmith and he eventually came, confirmed we weren’t wrong... the keys looked to him like internal keys for bedrooms and bathrooms, not external doors. So the locksmith proceeded to unlock the front door and saw off the back grill lock. After this long grueling process of breaking into our new home, the excitement had faded. After he was finished, about all we could do was drag the ikea boxes into the house, re-lock the house with our new grill locks and go back to the rental condo, tired, hungry and full of bug bites. But the HOUSE IS OURS!!!

Today has been much more productive, we went and ordered the Panasonic refrigerator, the Tuscani standalone cooker and hood and guess what? They delivered all three to the house this afternoon. Our kitchen contractor B stopped by and we signed the kitchen contact with him too... he said his part of the kitchen will be done in 3 weeks (not including the installation of the marble countertops)!!! We aren’t too optimistic about this deadline, but at least he is starting.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To Hob or Not to Hob

Malaysia, like other Asian countries, is very fond of cooking on high heat hobs. When I first looked at the hobs here which sit on the countertop, I wasn’t opposed to the idea of having this type of cooking surface with a separate oven on the wall (I had had seen this set up of wall ovens become more popular in recent years in the US and for some time before that in Europe). The problem here in Malaysia is that the wall ovens are very small.... most with a cooking capacity of only 51 litres (and let me tell you that is small!). Then why not get two of these small ovens? My answer is two are no better than one because you still can’t fit a turkey in there or regular size cookie sheets (and I do plan to do some baking!). Photos of new kitchens constructed in the US show nice wall ovens which look like standard size ovens built right into the wall, not these miniature ovens that look smaller than my worse oven I ever used when I lived in New York City years ago. Looking for bigger ovens in Malaysia I found some models at 61 litres, not much of a difference and at a higher price tag. Also on the market are wider ovens (just not full height) which could solve my cookie sheet problem, Fagor 5H-936 X model has a 74 litre capacity, which might be OK. But the price tag of 6,999myr is way over my budget for the stove alone!!!

So I started to look at what they call “Standalone Cookers” which are like the traditional stoves with the cooktops I am used to. Well, the selection here is extremely bleak. The lower end models are made by Zanussi (distributor here: ). I think I remember seeing a new Zanussi model in Seremban selling for around 1,800myr.

This standalone cooker is really really cheap. How do I know? Because my rental condo has an old one. Every time we use it, we think the place is going to blow up. What we found out about Malaysia in terms of gas is that most places (excluding some high-end condos in KL) don’t have gas piped into the walls. Therefore, you need a gas tank for any type of gas cooking surface you use. If you are using a simple two burner hob out in a Wet Kitchen, the hob attaches to a gas tank next to it. The gas runs out every couple months on average and you call a gas company to come and replace your tank with another for about 25myr. Likewise, if you are using a hob in your dry kitchen or even a standalone cooker, you must connect to one of these gas tanks to fuel your cooktop surface (the ovens are all electric, from what I have seen). So if you look at the photo of a Zanussi oven, to the right of the oven, is another door, this door opens up and the tank slots in there. It is not only dangerous; it’s just space wasting because it makes the oven too small.

Image above and directly below found on

See the orange/yellow gas tank in the photo? It doesn't belong next to the cooker, it belongs in the open hole to the right of the oven above.

Next models up are better in that they don’t have the tank built into the model, hence producing bigger ovens. A gas line can run from the standalone cooker to outside of the house or in a condo as far away from the cooktop as possible to eliminate the danger of the whole thing blowing up. We plan to run the gas line to the outside of the house and keep the gas tank in the Wet Kitchen as far away from the house/kitchen as possible (I heard that keeping a tank outside isn’t always great though because pests gnaw on the line which could cause a leak or because gas tanks are sometimes stolen if they are left outside.... regardless of these issues our gas tank will be outside). Anyway, the mid range models are: Rubine and Tuscani.

Rubine (photo above), assembled in Malaysia (I think) seems ok with five burners on top and a good size oven. But looking inside the oven, the electric coil seems like the oven’s not going to be too great. Promotion Price for the Rubine Stove MRC-GAROFANO-90SS and a matching stainless steel hood is 5,185myr.

Tuscani (above) [distributor website], gives you the impression that it is made in Italy. And there is even the word “Italy” printed on the front of the oven. But a little searching has shown that the model may have been designed in Italy but manufactured where, you guessed it, Malaysia. The Tuscani FSC TSC 905 Jet (SS) model with a hood has a promotional price of 5,499myr. While not evident in the photos, this model seems like a slightly better quality unit than Rubine (slightly). It is our first choice if it is available when we get the keys to the house. Otherwise we will go with Rubine. Our built-in Microwave which we already bought is Rubine (it was on sale for 699myr a price we couldn’t pass up).

By the way neither Rubine nor Tuscani are very popular here in Malaysia which is a bit concerning regarding the future repair of the products. Especially since we live in Seremban a smaller town opposed to KL where it is harder to get service. More popular brands are Fagor (but they only have commercial grade standalone cookers which are too expensive) and Rinnai (which don’t make a standalone cooker that I know of).

For those of you who can pay more, some stores import SMEG from Italy (price starts at 8,080myr for the low end model SUK91MFX and goes up to 27,800 for the A3). And then there’s Delonghi a brand I’m familiar with, but their low end model DSX-9600 L for 6,990myr just seemed way too cheap on the cooktop surface and their other models go as high as 46,000myr for their Masterpiece Series (also, this brand is even less popular than Rubine and Tusani and when we were looking at it no one could confirm that a unit was in Malaysia for us to buy). I’m sure you could even import a Viking if you had the time and energy, although with the shipping, import tax and product cost I bet it would cost more than a car! And then who would service it?

The Refrigerator

When R and I first started checking the prices of refrigerators in Malaysia, we saw that stainless steel models were well over 3,000myr (this is for a stand-alone not built in models which are incredibly expensive here). At the time, seeing that stainless steel was not in our budget, I reluctantly decided I would give in and go for a refrigerator with a gray color surface. It really was a let down, because all of the accents in this kitchen are supposed to be stainless steel.

But wait, from the time we arrived to now, the prices on stainless steel refrigerators have dropped considerably and there are new models flooding the market! I’m happy about this... at least the budget kitchen will have stainless steel accents.

So the next question was what model makes the most sense for us? We looked at models from LG, Sharp, Samsung, Hitachi and Panasonic. And have decided to go with Panasonic’s Eco Fresh model with ‘Intelligent Inverter’ the largest model Panasonic NR-BY601XS. The model has a capacity of 602 Litres; the refrigerator space seems fine for two people, but the pull out freezer at the bottom of the unit seems a bit small to us. Nevertheless, we are going for this model because Panasonic claims that Intelligent Inverter can save up to 40% energy usage with its fancy Intelligent Microprocessor. I’m hoping that it does because electricity isn’t that cheap here, and since we will be running the air conditioners maybe more than others, we need to try to cut the cost of electricity in the home any way. I have my doubts about Panasonic as a product too, any appliance I’ve ever owned in the US hasn’t been special or high performance in any way and those were products made for the US consumer. Here we have a Panasonic refrigerator built in Malaysia made for Malaysian consumers (like my Honda car built here, it’s just not at the level of my Hondas I had back in the US). Well, I hope Panasonic will be a pleasant surprise, because we may be buying their Eco washing machine and Eco inverter air conditioners too.

Note: we have found the model for sale for 2,900myr here in Seremban. And will buy it as soon as we get the keys to the house. Whenever that will be????

Modern Trellises

The Comtemporist has featured a Garden House by Tham & VidegÄrd Architects where the entire house is covered in a giant trellis. I was thinking about adding a trellis up the left side of the house, but then thought that trellises seem a bit dated, not so here. The only thing I would be worried about would be the lack of light in the house once the green takes over.

The imagery has revived my thoughts of some kind of climbing greenery up the side of the house. There is already a huge flowerbox frame under/along the big windows on the second story where I will try to add foliage that grows downward covering the roof below.

Also check the site for images of the nice green colored kitchen which I think goes lovely with the green outside.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Kitchen

Despite the delays waiting for the house sale to finalize we have been busy trying to locate contractors for a number of jobs we need to do on the house. The house has not been occupied and does not have an existing kitchen, so in order to move into the house as soon as possible, we need to get the kitchen started first.

Traditionally Malaysian homes tend to have two kitchens: a Wet Kitchen and a Dry Kitchen. The Wet kitchen is located outside the house and usually has a roof covering but is not totally enclosed. The sink is in the wet kitchen as well as the gas cooktop (Malaysians use hobb cooktops more than ovens, some homes don’t have an oven). We were told that the reason there are two kitchens in Malaysian homes is because Malaysian cooking is done mostly via a wok with high heat so the open space eliminates the smell and heat inside the house. The Dry kitchen is historically located inside the house and has the refrigerator and counter tops for placing serving dishes, sometimes there might be other appliances or another sink in here too. We were told that this is where the food is ‘presented to guests’ and it is always clean. More on wet and dry kitchens here:

This set up seemed very awkward to us especially having a refrigerator separate (in another room!!!) from the stove and sink. Not to mention having took cook ‘outside’ with all the pests (don’t get me wrong I love to bbq once in awhile, but I don’t want to cook outside all the time). We were looking for a house that would allow for the entire kitchen to be inside. One of the reasons we chose the house we are purchasing is because it has a large dry kitchen (it also has a wet kitchen outside). So we will be able to create a fully functional interior kitchen. Currently there are only tiles on the floor and walls. As we are on a very tight budget, we will have to use the tiles even though we wouldn’t have chosen them.

the Kitchen

We met with a number of kitchen companies, some in Seremban and some in Kuala Lumpur. While most houses still have wet and dry kitchens, modern kitchen design is quite sought after in KL and so we were seeing more fully integrated kitchens (as one space) and very modern kitchen cabinets which are similar to European kitchen design (although the quality of the products here is unknown to us). See the largest kitchen company in Malaysia for an indication of what current Malaysia kitchens look like

While the house we are buying has a very modern feel, we decided to go with wood cabinets yet still try to give the kitchen a modern 'asian' feel with stainless steel elements. We have found a kitchen contractor in Seremban who will be custom building the kitchen design my husband R and I designed. The contractor will be using local Naytoh wood to make the cabinet doors. At this time, we think we will be using marble for the counter tops, a color/product called Vietnam White Marble. The center island will be stainless steel to keep the cost down. More on the Kitchen as it progresses. For now, here are a couple photos of the kitchens which have inspired us designed by Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen...

Deciding where to Live in Malaysia

When we decided to move to Malaysia in early 2009 and even before, I had checked properties online to see what kind of house we could get for our money. The main property sites are:
Later I found where Malaysian’s list their own properties as well as other items (cars, house goods, etc.) for sale.

Looking at these sites we managed to find pockets of areas where the houses looked the best for the money.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s largest city, was out as we were looking for a house with a yard. Properties are generally the following: Condo/Apartments, Terrace and Link Houses (narrow connected houses on both sides like a townhouse), Semi-detached houses (sharing one side with a neighbor) and Detached Bungalows (standalone homes). Well, I wanted a bungalow which is the least common form of housing in Malaysia and of course, the most expensive. A bungalow in or around Kuala Lumpur was cost prohibitive for us, but we weren’t interested in living in or around KL due to the tightness of the city. I lived in New York City for many years and wasn’t interested in being stuffed into a place or dealing with the traffic. Don’t get me wrong, KL is a fantastic town and great to visit and get products that can’t be found in other towns in Malaysia, I just don’t want to live there. This was, of course, surprising to nearly everyone we came in contact with.

Penang, We loved Penang on our previous visits, but online, it looked like we wouldn’t find a detached bungalow in our price range.

So we decided we would head to Malaysia, buy a car (another post later) and start driving to different states to see which city worked best for us. The plan was to start in the state of Negeri Sembilan, if we didn’t like it there, head up to Kelantan in the northern part of the country and to Perak.

After taking care of all of our business in KL and briefly looking at the market in KL, we rented a car (the Honda we purchased wasn’t ready) and headed south to the state of Negeri Sembilan. We looked in the state's various towns such as Seremban, Nilai and Port Dickson.

We soon saw that the houses' photos online looked better than the properties themselves and there was very little to choose from. One property in Seremban though, which we had seen online, was looking good. At 3,700+ square feet of build up space the double story was big and had been recently renovated (partially). Apparently, no one had lived in the house before, it was vacant. The size of the yard was decent and the house was in a small group of bungalows with a pool and gated/guarded for security with 24-hour coverage (many houses for sale list that a house is in a gated/guarded community but when you drive up to the guard house it is empty... anyone can get in). We heard that house break-ins are common so security is necessary.

Seremban at twilight, view from condo rental

The more we thought about the house the more we liked it... Seremban itself is a nice size town and has most of the stores we would need (Jusco and Tesco which are large shopping marts). But Seremban is also located only 45 minutes south of Kuala Lumpur via E2 a direct route expressway. And it is only 30 minutes from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The town is also located about 30 minutes from the beach (which was less important to us, but still easily accessible). We decided to make an offer on the house in mid-October which was accepted. After a long process of working out the details, the Sales and Purchase agreement for the house was completed in Early December and submitted to Negeri Sembilan in the last days of 2009. Since we made the offer we have been living in a condo in Seremban waiting to have the deal finalized and move into the house. The Negeri Sembilan committee approved the sale in early March and since then we have been waiting for the transfer and for the lawyers to orchestrate the final stages of the sale. We had a joint inspection on the house on Monday and now wait for the owner to make a couple repairs. Once they are done the owner will receive the funds and we will get the keys. We hope this happens in the next few days. But, with the slowness we have seen in nearly every process here, we aren’t sure when it will actually happen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I am K and my husband is R and this is my blog. I am in my early 40s and R is still in his 30s. We visited Malaysia back in 2007 and thought the country was beautiful; on our trip we learned that a number of foreigners live in Malaysia and it gave us the idea to move here. I am originally from the US and had been living in the Middle East where R is from. In early 2009 we decided that we no longer wanted to live in the Middle East; instead of moving to the US we decided we would move to Malaysia and by October 2009 we were here! It has been a long process buying the house, but we have finally completed the sale.... This blog will document our experiences here in Malaysia... so if you are a person interested in moving to Malaysia, an expat already living in Malaysia, plan on taking a vacation to Malaysia or you just want sneak a peek at what it's like living here, check out the blog regularly or subscribe to The Malaysia Project Feed on the homepage. Please do leave your comments or feel free to email me at the email address on the main page.

Let the adventure begin!!!