Join me and my young, South African family as we accompany my husband to Kuala Lumpur for a 3 year contract.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Grocery shopping

Finding western food stuffs isn't as hard as you'd initially think.
Here's a brief list of various grocers around town. Most of them sell imported food stuffs mainly from Europe, UK and USA.

1. Tesco

The Tesco Extra I go to is the one next to the Curve in Mutiara Damansara. You won't find too many imported food items but it's good for bulk dry goods like sugar and coffee and water etc. They also have a wine and liquor section, although small. Have a look at to find your nearest store.

2. Ben's Independant Grocer/BIG:

Walking into this store for the first time, I was so happy I could have done a little "happy dance" right there in the store. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you see food stuffs that you know. They have lots of imported foods and a good wine selection. They also have our Ceres fruit juices from South Africa. Have a look at Located in the Publika shopping mall.

3. The Village Grocer:

This is where I have been doing most of my shopping as it is close to home and parking is relatively good. They have one located in Sunway Giza Mall, Bangsar and Mont Kiara.
They have a large organic section and their fruit and veg always look nice. I can get basically everything here that I need, including a non-halal/pork section (remember to pay for pork separately at the section before checking out). Also has a small bakery and wine and beer section.

4.Cold Storage:

Cold Storage is a bit bigger than Village Grocer and you'll find more imported products here. I found Rusks, Bakers Biscuits, Ina Paarman's range of sauces and spices, Simba chips and Nik Naks at the one in IPC shopping centre next to Ikea.

I'm still looking for boerewors though......or I might have to try making it myself!

At the end of the day, don't go to Tesco first. If you've just arrived in KL and in need of some familiarity then look at Village Grocer, Cold Storage or BIG.

Also to mention, they don't charge for plastic packets and after a month and a half here I have a collection of bags that fills two cupboards. Now I re-use them when I go to the shops.

I also keep a cooler bag in my boot. This is especially helpful when you've just bought chicken and ice-cream and get stuck in a traffic jam on your way home.....melt melt melt!

Happy shopping everyone!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Sea and air freight and lots of courage

We arrived in KL about a week ago and I'll update everyone on the initial system shock to all of us when we arrived. But first I thought to tell you about the packing of our lifetime objects and household goods.

We initially wanted our sea freight to be packed around end June so that we would have our stuff by the time we arrived in KL. But because the work visa was taking longer than expected, this was pushed forward to being packed and collected 2 days before we left. Oh boy! What a pain this was.

So note to self  and others - Transport companies and Malaysian authorities need passport copy and work visa/permit and lots of other paperwork before they will pack and ship. Ask questions is what I can say.

I was requested to compile an inventory of all our sea freight and air freight for Hubcap's company as they were doing the insurance. This helped me a lot when it came time to pack up as I had a list, room by room, of all items going with. Even if you don't need an inventory, it's a good thing to do anyway so that you always have a list of what you own. And I included serial numbers of all electronics and appliances and ISBN numbers of some precious books.

We used Biddulphs removals for our shipments and will let you all know how it went when we get our precious cargo in September. The packing guys were excellent. We only had 3 guys with us and they were friendly and unobtrusive. They started downstairs and only went upstairs to the bedrooms on the 2nd day. They then took items downstairs to pack so they were not in our 'private' space in the bedrooms.
All packed up - A whole life in boxes and cartons.

Some handy tips that might help you:

1. Inventory of everything.
It sounds like a pain in the arse, but it's worth it and makes planning and organizing much easier. While you are compiling your inventory, pack away/in boxes/separate cupboards the items that you will not need in between inventory and packing.

2. Separate items.
Start separating items that will be packed. When I was doing the kitchen inventory, I got my mom to help. I started in one cupboard and only packed what was going back into the cupboard. I allocated my pantry cupboard for items not going. Then I could seal it off when packers were here instead of telling them not to pack certain things.
I also bagged the smaller items together. This made it easier to keep all the stuff together.

3. Keep an open diary for 2 weeks and 2 weekends before your packing starts:
This is what I didn't do. I was 'balls to the walls' for weeks beforehand, and it was a BIG BIG mistake as I left out so many things and had to leave so much behind as our air-freight was packed before our suitcases. If your kids are at home, get a baby-sitter/Nanny or neighbour to help. Or bribe a Granny or Aunty to keep them for a few hours so you can concentrate.

4. Pack your luggage BEFORE your air-freight boxes:
Aah, the joy of hindsight hey - again I didn't do this and left the packing of our luggage to the last minute before we left. I had to leave so much behind and now I'm kicking myself.
So, pack your luggage before your air-freight leaves. This way you'll know what doesn't fit and you can pack it into air-freight.

The "Pep Stores Sakkie" is a great way to take soft items with you. I used mine for the vacuum packed pillows, some clothes, blankets and I wrapped these around the car booster seat. Don't worry about locks, I had all my luggage plastic wrapped at the airport - a must for anyone travelling to Malaysia.

All our luggage ready to check in. Plastic wrap all your check-in luggage to be on the safe side when travelling to Malaysia or Asia. If plastic has been opened on the other side call security immediately and don't touch your bag.

5. What not to take with sea-freight:
Malaysia is very strict when it comes to food stuffs and wine, so we decided not to take any food stuffs with us. Didn't want the hassle of entire container being searched if we declared it.
Also, you can't take any liquids with.
And remove batteries from all appliances, clocks and remote controls. It gets very hot and very cold in the container so batteries could leak all over your stuff. I removed them all and bagged them seperately.
You can take wine with but you will have to pay heavy, heavy duties on it.

Candles also melt in the container due to heat so I packed all of mine into a cooler bag before it was packed in boxes - let you know if it worked.

I also had to compile a detailed inventory of all DVD's and videos - name, duration, actors etc. I think this is to prevent porn as they are seriously strict with it.

So now I sit and wait for our beloved furniture and household contents to arrive this side.
I'm going to be very happy to see my bed.
Let you all know how it is when it arrives in a few weeks.

Until then

Monday, 13 July 2015

The count-down to departure

It's been fun, exciting, frustrating, nerve wracking, worrisome and I'm feeling like a headless chicken right now.
Just under 3 weeks until we leave for KL and still so much to do.

Firstly, you need to plan early if you are wanting to take your furniture and household goods with you. I was fully prepared for Biddulphs to start packing only to be told 24 hours before the time that they could not as we needed Hubcap's work permit........argh!

So our furniture now leaves the day before we do. Not what I had planned at all, considering we'll be squatters in our house in KL for 6 - 8 weeks. But we've got the blow-up mattresses, vacuum packed pillows and a swimming pool so we should be fine. ( I hope!)

We decided not to go into a hotel/furnished apartment until our furniture arrives as I don't want too many moves for the girls. At least we'll be in the house and they'll have a garden and pool to keep them entertained.

Secondly, we have 200kg of air-freight allowed to us. Thank goodness! It will arrive the week after us and I'm packing clothes, towels, an iron, sewing kit, TV and DVD machine. I'll give you all some suggestions once we're there and I've worked out what I should've taken versus what I did.

One of the good things that I did do was write up an inventory for our entire household content that's being transported by sea freight. This was a requirement from Hubcap's company but it's good to have for future moves and although it took forever to get values and prices of our items it was worth it in the end. Also gives me a chance to clear out old stuff at the same time.

So now we sit in a house where I've separated items into piles and boxes in every room and pictures have been taken down where I'm painting walls. All a bit chaotic right now so no visitors allowed.

Then I must tell you about getting the girls' unabridged birth certificates - yes, You've heard all the chaos surrounding this issue. I applied at the Centurion Home Affairs in March as they have a 3-month waiting period. (And it almost feels like you stand in the waiting line for 3 months just to apply).
Anyway, I received one birth certificate - whoopy.......and they couldn't find the other.........seriously!
Applied for both together on same day and they muck up one of them? So I phoned the Home Affairs helpline to open a case for the missing certificate - 080 060 1190. I was pleasantly surprised at how well-spoken and helpful the telephone operator was. Anyway, then I had to go back to Home Affairs in Centurion and fill out 2 x forms and wait in line (again). They had to then fax these forms to the Head Office but I waited for them to give me proof that they did. And whoopy......3 hours later I got the sms to say it was ready for back again to stand for another 3 hours in the line.
But at least I've got these two little pieces of paper that say my children can leave the country.

Oh yes and before I go, I've been told to get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination for all of us. So I've made an enquiry with our clinic sister and will update you all on this in a while.

Until next time (If I'm still alive)

Claire XXX

Friday, 29 May 2015

House hunting

One of the most important things for us to cross off our list, besides the schooling, was to find a house. We had scheduled 3 days of house hunting but I had done some research beforehand to make it easier.

Firstly, I looked on google maps to see where Hubcap's office will be in KL. Then I bookmarked that as well as the school. I then scoured the web looking for rentals in the areas between the two.
Sounds easy?

We had a few requirements of our own, like number of bedrooms, swimming pool and location within a gated estate/community. Not to forget pet friendly, as we want to bring our dog with too.

We sent the agent some examples that we found on local websites beforehand, and we gave her a list of our needs.

Once we were on the road with Joyce our search began and she had lined up about 8 properties for us to see.

To make a long story short, we wanted a small house, although they're called bungalows or villas in Malaysia. As it turns out, there is no such thing as a small, 4 bedroom house with a pool in a gated community. The houses are very big and very opulent, so we settled on a 6 bedroom mansion (in South African standards). At least now we have space for visitors to stay in comfort. The private pool was the crunch of our property requirements. Our girls are both swimmers and it just makes life a bit easier when you have a pool at your home, instead of packing up and heading out to the public or communal pool. And considering the weather is what it is, we'll be using it every day of the year.

These websites helped me in getting a better idea of what is out there:

What I also did, was print out a map (Google) which had the office and school bookmarked. Then every property we saw, I asked Joyce to indicate it on my map for me. This gave me a better idea of where we were in relation to school and work and my internal navigation felt better.

To get an idea of the suburbs/areas in Kuala Lumpur you can have a look at this page:

I must mention that most of the houses we saw had a maid's room and bathroom. Usually situated next to the kitchen. Although these rooms are tiny and without a window. I won't have a live-in helper so I'm going to use that room for storage.

The properties for rental usually come with a microwave, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher and fridge, so it makes it a little easier when thinking of schlepping your appliances over.

Also, you'll need to check if garden service and/or pool service is included in rental. This can be an expensive excercise around MYR300 per month each. And they only cut the grass once a month as it's slow growing. Quite funny for me to hear this as we usually cut ours in South Africa twice weekly.

And last but not least Traffic will be a problem. At the time of our visit there was lots of construction going on in many parts of the areas we saw. And the traffic is horrible. So do yourself a favour and look for housing close to school and work. Or otherwise learn the art of patience.

Think that's all for now

Until next time

Claire X

Monday, 25 May 2015

Eating, shopping and more eating

Eating & Shopping.......2 things that the Malaysians do very, very, very often.
I've read blogs about the Malaysians and their love of food but I had to see it to believe it.
And yes, they eat often and there is a restaurant, deli, food stall or take-out around every corner, literally.

One of the places we went out to was Fuego Bar and Pub at the Troika Towers. It's a smallish place but with a lot of atmosphere. Over looking the Petronas Towers, my eyes happy to see guacamole and a range of lekka dishes in front of me.

With it being on floor 23A, we had a spectacular view of the Petronas Towers at night.

While we were house hunting, our agent made sure to point out most of the big shopping centres around town. They average about 8 or so stories high and heaven knows how I am ever going to get through them all.

While Hubcap was in meetings at work I wandered over the road to the NuSentral shopping centre.
Just a walk through the train station terminal and into the centre. Approximately 7 stories high filled with local and international brands.......and we even found a Nando's (Viva South Africa!)

I also found myself browsing the isles at Sam's Groceria on the Lower Ground Floor. It gave me a chance to see what food stuffs and groceries can be found here as I had not yet found a supermarket/grocery store. For South African's it's almost like a small Pick 'n Pay or a Spar, and they have most of the usual food stuffs that we have back home. There's also a great deli and fresh foods and fruit section.

Hubcap and I also had dinner at NuSentral on one of our nights and went to The Manhattan Fish Market.  Although it was a Wednesday night, most of the restaurants were full, which is a strange sight coming from South Africa where Friday and Saturday are the busiest.

So I'll be watching my waistline as it's all so tempting! But then again, if I eat too much I can justify shopping for hours on end to work off the food.

Until next time

Claire X

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

First impressions

We've just returned home after our 1-week trip to Kuala Lumpur for our Look and See.

I'll be posting separately for housing, school and other items of interest.

Firstly, Hubcap and me went without the girls. Worried that they would not cope with the time change and hectic schedule planned in such a short period of time, we were right to do so.

I've never been to Malaysia, let alone Asia, so I had no idea of what to expect. But I left here with an open mind and a partly empty suitcase in  case I needed shopping of course.

We flew via Abu Dhabi to KL, taking us about 25 hours to get there. It was a long haul so will need to look at better routes for August when we move. A route via Singapore looks better in terms of travel times.

Anyways, our driver picked us up at the airport and walking out we definitely felt the humidity and heat. It was almost like a giant hug for us coming from colder Autumn in South Africa.
Jerseys peeled off as we headed into KL central on the highway.

Firstly, you notice how green and lush it is there. Even though we come from a sub-tropical climate here, it's just so much greener there. And we got a few sprinkles of rain on our welcome to the city, a good luck message in South African culture.

Driving on the highway into the city was not so bad. It wasn't rush hour though so I suppose that's a different story all together. We noticed that drivers seldom use their indicators and the hundreds of scooters seem to be a law unto themselves.

And good news for South Africans who have just been thrown into the turmoils of paying for toll routes in Gauteng - there are tolls on the highways there too. Had to have a laugh at that one.
And they have e-tags too.

So off we went to our hotel right next to the KL sentral train station. Great views of part of the city and our journey of discovery, meetings and house hunting began.

Next installment to follow soon

xxx Claire

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Video for everyone

Hello again.

Found this lovely video on Malaysia that I showed my children. You'll love it too.

Until next time,
Claire X

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Planning and lists

I woke up this morning thinking about bed sizes in Malaysia! Yes, I know it's strange but it's another thing I have to add to my list of things to research and look at to see if I need to buy extra bedding this side to take with or if I can find the right sizes there.

I've started compiling lists of things to do, plan, cancel, give notice and check up on. Then I've made lists and sub-lists of these things in priority order. Organized you think? Well, not really. I'm one of the least organized people in the world and my life revolves around last-minute plans and chaos (organized chaos at that).
But if we are to go to Malaysia, which looks like it's definitely happening, then I'll have to be well planned and get all my ducks in order. I read in one of the blogs that I'll need to start planning at least 3 months ahead of time so I'm doing just that.

So, first up is the list of items to fix in and around our South African house:
We'll be renting it out while we are in Malaysia so I have lots of little DIY projects to keep me busy for the next few months. Painting, filling, scraping, tiling, least I enjoy that sort of thing.

Then I have the list of furniture and accessories to fix up:
We'll be taking all of our household furniture and belongings with us so I want to get the couches a much needed repair and reupholster before they leave.

The list of things to sell:
This is a good one because it means that I must finally get all the old baby stuff and others sold or donated......always good to do a clear out.

Then comes the list of things to research in Malaysia:
It's growing by the day and this is where my bed sizes comes in. So far I need to look into doggie transport for our little daschund; vets, pet food, housing; travelling times to school and work; driving permits; health facilities like dentists, doctors and what to do in an emergency; dangerous insects and snakes; aahhh the list goes on.....

List of medical:
Medical check-ups, vaccinations for the girls (and us), doctors letters and some prescriptions for emergency meds that I might want to take with us for the first few months. There's another one for the Malaysia research list - find out what procedure is to take medications with.

We'll have to cancel phone and internet contracts, schools, utilities and other accounts - I've even gone as far as to note by when these need to be done. (Pat on my back).

We're going for a 'look and see' in a few weeks time so I'll be able to get a better idea of questions and I'll probably add a trillion items to the "Malaysia research"list. Must take more note paper.

Until next time

x Claire

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Now to find a school & montessori nursery

I've been asked to preselect and identify one or more schools for Poppit and Bubs. Apparently getting into an International school in KL can be tricky and they have a long waiting list, so we've indicated our interest in the British International school in Kuala Lumpur. Our girls are currently in private schools over here in South Africa and I think it would be good to continue on the British education system for them when we move.

I received a fast response when I contacted them to enquire and I was super impressed.

I also made contact with The Alice Smith school but am yet to receive a response? mmmm!

Obviously I can't choose a school over the internet without actually seeing it in person, but at least we are moving in the right direction. Looks like we'll go over in May to have a good look and sort out all the necessary.

I must mention that I was also scouring the various websites for a good Montessori pre-school as Bubs is currently at an excellent Montessori here so wanted to see if she could spend one more year before "big school' starts. I can say that I wasn't overly impressed by the websites and listings for Montessori schools over in Malaysia. I'm not sure, it's just that I didn't get a great first impression based on the websites, they all looked so......what's the word........unprofessional?

So I've decided that Bubs will start at the same school as Poppit so that they are together and it will make the change a bit easier for them maybe.

I've also been talking to Poppit about Malaysia and we've chatted about the school and meeting new friends from all over the world and the weather etc. She seems excited so far, let's see how it goes from here.

Bought a few travel guide books over the weekend for girls to see pictures.

Anyways, now to wait and see what's next for me.

Chat soon

Selamat Tinggal (Goodbye in Bahasa Malay)

Claire X

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Let's do some research........

Over the past few weeks I have been doing some research and reading up on Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur. I've never even been to Asia before so it's going to be a whole new exciting adventure for me and the girls. Hubcap has been before so he has a better idea.

We're going in April this year for our 'look and see' visit to check out houses, the office, roads, schools and anything else that we need to inspect.

Here are some awesome websites and blogs that have given me a better idea on KL and what to do.
Of course, most of the things I have been searching for revolve around the girls, but luckily KL is a very child-friendly city and there is so much to keep little ones occupied.

And of course the weather being tropical and warm (much like our Durban weather here in SA) - means that we can explore outdoors most of the year. (I'm rather hoping that I never have to unpack my scarves while I'm living there!)

Here are some links to help you:
An awesome website that has listed and detailed all the nice beaches in Malaysia. It also has a year round list of things to do month by month, inlcuding special festivals. Trust me to find Legoland Malaysia on this website, will have to make a trip there especially for Hubcap.
A website blog written by a a few moms living in Kuala Lumpur. Great ideas on outings, holidays, beaches, shopping and keeping little ones happy.
An expat website dedicated to expat's experiences around the world..
A really cool blog written by an Australian wife to a British diplomat living in Kuala Lumpur. Her writing is simply fabulous and honest and I love reading her posts. You'll have to read her article on how Malaysians love kids and how we'll have to get used to cheek pinching, photos and general honest interest in our kids on the streets. Not sure how my Hubcap will take this as he is a very reserved person when it comes to strangers touching or talking to his Girls.
I found a great, detailed list of schools and suburbs/areas on this site. They have links to all the schools mentioned as well as pro's and con's for each area. They also have some general info about domestic help, hospitals, healthcare, safety and types of accommodation.
You'll need to register for free here to receive the finer details of each city but it's worth it. You can also choose some activities that you enjoy and they arrange outings and get-togethers so you can meet other expats.

So on goes my research and partial planning for our move. I'm not stressing too much yet as it's a long time away but better to be prepared.

Chat soon
Claire x

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Here we go............

As my blog's name suggests, we are going to Kuala Lumpur this year sometime. Me and the girls will be joining "hubcap" for his 3 year work contract. So I'll be an expat spouse and my children will be international scholars.

I'll be researching schools, residential areas, healthcare, transport, driving, food, entertainment, things to do, etc etc, so join me on this rollercoaster ride as we begin our journey.

Chat soon

Claire X