As a native Penangnite, I'm biased towards the hometown I was born and raised in. But, having left home at the age of 18 and currently living and working abroad in Singapore, Penang will always be home for me and is a place I aspire to retire in.
Here are 5 reasons why:
Penang is a paradise island located in the northwest of Malaysia. With a population of just under a million living on the 293 square kilometre island, Penang has stretches of beautiful winding coasts along Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang. With an average temperature of 30°C all year round with no drastic seasonalities except rain or shine, Penang embodies the typical laid-back and relaxing lifestyle. Geographically, Penang is also close to other famous islands - it is a mere 40-minute flight to Langkawi and a 1-hour flight to Phuket.
The property landscape in Penang is fast growing thanks to its robust economy in tourism and electronics manufacturing. With everything from sea view condominiums to brand new bungalows or heritage shophouses, there's a good choice of housing options to rent or buy. In 2008, the UNESCO World Heritage status was bestowed upon Penang's historic capital, Georgetown, and this has helped to uplift the property market.
Penang's medical tourism has been booming since the 1980s, as the island is home to world-class private healthcare - most notably in Loh Guan Lye Medical Centre, Island Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital and Pantai Medical Centre. With most doctors and consultants trained in Europe and Australia, the quality is high and cost relatively lower than what you would pay in the West. English is also the language used in private healthcare, so there is no fear of miscommunication.
Most people in Penang speak English as a second language, if not their first. As a British colony that gained independence after the Second World War in 1957, Malaysians do speak English even though the national language is Bahasa Malaysia. You may find that official documents and civil service affairs are mostly conducted in Bahasa Malaysia, however, the good news is that Malay, like Indonesian, is a Roman-script language and is easy to read and pick-up.
Penang is an inherently multicultural society thanks to its history as a booming international port town dating as far back as the 18th century. With Malay, Indian, Chinese and Eurasian influences, it comes as no surprise that Penang is home to The Malaysian German Society, The Pink Hibiscus Club (Japan), Penang Irish Association and the Alliance Française de Penang. The tiny and cozy island has Malaysia's second largest expatriate community.
It's also helpful to note that the Malaysian government has a programme called Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H), which aims to help expatriates move to Malaysia. Currently, the long-term social visit pass lasts for 10 years and can be renewed.