Friday, June 22, 2007

Pleasant Experiences in Malaysia

Over the past months of not working, I started updating my blog more often. Simply, I wanted to share what's going on with me (apart from all that free time). It's so nice to know that there are some people reading my updates... but more than that, I am so happy that it was able to help a few people! One of my foreign readers (a Vietnamese-Australian couple) had plans of coming to Malaysia but not sure where to stay. They wrote to me. I introduced my friend Ailene (the real estate agent) who brought them around to show potential places. This week, my friend contacted me to share with me that she found them a home! Unbelievable! I never thought such a blog can end up helping others. I am so happy about that. All this happened over a span of few months. Something I didn't expect at all.

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Talking about living in Malaysia, I applaud the Malaysian Government for coming up with that Malaysia My Second Home program. It seems to be attracting a lot of foreigners, especially those who have retired. I don't have the full guidelines of the program but I browsed thru it in the different Expat magazines available here in Malaysia. Though the government have been "tweaking" the rules and regulations around this program, in the end, the people who have availed of it seems happy and content. They always mention that they had to go through some processes and difficult steps, but in the end they found it all worthwhile. Retiring in Asia is surely more attractive for people from the west, as this part of the world offers good service, happy smiles and great weather. Not to mention cheaper cost of living = better lifestyle!

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This week, little me had to take a trip to the US embassy in KL. And you know what? It was a pleasant experience. I say pleasant, mainly because I heard so many horror stories when I was back in Manila. People used to get up at 4a.m. so that they can arrive at the US Embassy by 5a.m to queue up. They line up to apply for a visa, and sometimes it does not even guarantee you can be served that day... only because the line is so ultra long! Those were the days back then. I guess they improved the system now, especially with technology on our side.

For my US visa application, I just had to go online and fill up the documents electronically. Then you can even set your appointment online, which was so convenient. When I got to the embassy for my interview, the lines were not too impossibly long, because they have regulated based on the interview schedules online. Inside, everything was at an orderly manner. Everyone got seats. And the people from the embassy who were interviewing and processing the papers were all smiles & pleasant. To top off my good experience, the visa got approved after my 5 minutes interview... and I could pick up my passport with the visa stamped the next day! In Manila, it took weeks before you can get your passport back. Here, it took just 1 working day! Wow. Talk about efficiency. This is probably the fastest turnaround time for a visa release in my whole life experience. And I would know ... because my passports are loaded with all kinds of visa.

Apart from my pleasant experience, I overheard another American who had an equally great one. She was visiting Asia and her passport got finished off by all the visa and stamping from her travels. She tried her luck to see if she can get a new passport from Kuala Lumpur, while staying here on vacation. She went online, and wrote an email. She got an immediate response saying something like "no problem just come over to the embassy". So, she did. And you know what? The embassy was able to issue her a new passport faster than if she was going to get it from USA! She definitely walked away happy and content. Kudos to the US Embassy here in Kuala Lumpur!

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For the Chinese citizens out there, and I mean Chinese -- like People's Republic of China kind of Chinese -- well, just to share some information since you might not get this from the web. For people who need to renew their passports, the embassy takes 3 weeks before they can issue you a new one. They have to send back the passports to Hong Kong and it gets sent back here in Kuala Lumpur. I had to go through that long period because after happily obtaining my employment pass, well, they sort of finished off all my remaining pages. So for people out there looking forward to their employment pass, be ready to spare at least 3-4 pages!

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The staff in the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur were mostly nice and friendly. I had a pleasant experience too. They even had a stationed photographer at the corner, should you need to take a photo for your passport renewal. The photo came in a CD, which you can submit to the embassy to create your new passport. Technology has definitely come a long way, and it enriches our life experiences. Kudos as well to the Chinese embassy here in Malaysia! The only downside: I couldn't find someone to email my inquiry to. And it took like a million years to even talk to someone on the phone, since the lines were always on hold (operator not answering). Well to those planning for anything at all (visa application / passport renewal), just proceed to the embassy in the morning (9am to 11 am only). It's probably easier than trying to reach someone on the phone. That's from my point of view.

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It's been a crazy week for me at work. So many things to absorb. So many meetings. Exciting yet overwhelming. I kind of miss the "not-so-desperate-housewife" days when I could attend 2-3 yoga classes a day. When I would have 3 hour lunches with friends. When I didn't have a schedule to follow. When I didn't wake up so early. When I could visit the art shops to view paintings. When I had time to finish paintings. When I had the energy to play golf. When I had time to do window shopping.

Now, the days seem to be short. And the weekends even shorter. No wonder I always say life is short!
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