Settling in – To work in Penang

I have now been in Penang, Malaysia for a few days and I’ve already had my fair share of new experiences both during and outside work.

Every morning I get picked up at my hotel and every afternoon I am driven home. It is chaos with cars weawing in and out and motos (Mopeds – small motorbikes) are everywhere left and right and infront of you. I understand why you don’t just drive a car here but prefer a driver. They also drive in the left side of the road, courtesy of the commonwealth influence.

We are about 2000 employees at the factory but only about 10 of us are socalled ASIC design engineers. We have our own room and as such the only contact i get with the remaining 1990 people is when I walk through the production offices to get to the toilet, wait for the lift, or eat in the cantina. I have a great interest in local life and what other work is being done at the factory and hopefully I’ll be able to get a tour of the remaining facility.

Naturally, everything is very different from Denmark. First of all it’s a factory with people everywhere doing completely other stuff than what I do; In Denmark we are only 30 people and we are all (almost) doing the same. Then there are the toilets – they are squatting toilets

Squat toilet

To many danes, this is a nightmare and most have never seen one before in their lives. Being a guy, pee’ing is easy – doing number 2 takes some getting used to though. I’ve learned that the best way is simply taking off your pants and hanging them on the designated hanger space (which is in every single toilet so far), so as to not get them… dirty. On a sidenote – there is a hose in every toilet aswell good for easy cleaning whether you are part of the cleaning crew or just feel the need to clean before (or after) you need to go the toilet.

For lunch we usually go out to eat which gives me a chance to both experience the heat, the world outside and the delicious Penang food. There are many chinese and Indian people here so the food varies alot and you have the option to try much different food. There is also a bunch of western food shops but they are extremely expensive compared to street food (5-10x more expensive). A local dish is about 5 Ringgit (9DKK/$1,5USD) while at TGI Fridays its more like 50 ringgits for a burger.

The work itself that I do is very interesting. Both because it’s new people and a whole new environment, so in many ways it’s like starting a new job, but also because I am the only *digital* designer meaning that I get all the responsibility for that side of the chip we are making, which is both exciting but all in some ways scary. If I don’t do good, the project will be delayed (or will have errors) and noone is there to pick up the slack.

Yesterday (friday) we went to the cantina instead as it was raining (and parking is hard to get so people park far away). Also, when it rains it pours – it’s usually not raining but then in short bursts it’s raining alot. Alot; So it’s best to stay inside. One anecdote of one of the other guys at the factory was that he left his car at a new parking lot and when he came back to it the car was flooded (everything was wet inside). That parking lot is now closed until they figure out how to deal with the rain 🙂

Flooded "inside" because it rains
Flooded “inside” because it rains

Stay tuned for the next episode where I’ll try to get into life after work 🙂

First day in Penang, Malaysia

First day in Penang

… which means that once again I’m on an adventure and the reason behind this trip is work. 2 weeks in Malaysia, 1 week in Denmark, and 2 months in Malaysia. This post will be short as I’m tired (jetlagged).

I left Denmark yesterday morning (local time) and arrived safely today also in the morning. I got picked up in the airport by a chaueffeur that had a tag with my name on it. This is a first for me. It is also the first time for me in south-east asia so everything is very exciting.

I checked in to my 2 story suite and promptly fell asleep. I needed the sleep as I had only slept for about 3-4 hours scattered across various timezones  and planes. I woke up about two hours later, took a shower and ventured out to see the local malaysian life.

Everything was very quiet. Maybe it’s because it was 3pm and everyone was working, or maybe it’s because it’s a muslim country and Ramadan is happening. I don’t know. What I do know is that I got a very delicious course that Emily, the waitress, suggested. Forgive my ignorance but i think what I got was Pho phan (which translates into pho noodles, where pho is a river) which is called that because the dish looks like a river 🙂 I also recieved very fresh double orange juice. All for the total of 8 ringgit, or about $2. Come to think of it, she just asked for $1?

I managed quite well with spoon and chopsticks. Apparently you just put the spoon under the chopsticks so as to both being able to stuff food into your mouth really quickly but also so that any spill from the chopsticks doesn’t fall back into the soup and splatters your clothes. It really helped learning that and my clothes are clean 🙂  I also came to learn the story of how she was a student in structural engineering for 2 years in Malaysia when she was young and was supposed to go to England to finish her degree but because her mother got sick they couldn’t afford it. 6 months later her mother died and she has been working in a restaurant ever since. She is over 70 now although she looks much younger.

I also learned from the security guard at the hotel that food is “puta” or something like that. Nice to know 🙂

Now it’s 6pm and I have to prepare for first day at work in Malaysia tomorrow.

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/Thor

The end of the trip – our last night in Ulan-bataar

Returning from our trip (see: 2 day trip in Mongolia ), we reached Ulan-bataararound 4pm but since the gobi hostel was fully booked we had to find another hostel. We decided to meet with the swiss for dinner in the evening and went on our way to the new hostel.

The new hostel was called Lotus and was run by orphans which is really an appealing fact about this place and something great to support. When we got our room it was shared with a bunch of australians and the next room was with a whole bunch of volounteers from Edinburgh.

Sidenote: The reason for the volounteers is that Ulan-bataar is one of the most polluted towns in the world – even more than beijing. Especially in the winter. It has 6 power plants inside city limits which produce alot of pollution as well as traffic. Furthermore, since the winters can be extremely cold, a large part of the nomads move to the city in the winther but when they move away they simply burn everything they leave. This also pollutes. Finally, as the capital is also the coldest capital in the world (because of the insane cold in the winter and nights), the cold works as a dome around the city, pushing the pollution “down” so to speak. This means that you can’t see more than 3-4 meters in front of you and even inside houses you can see the blurry effect that comes from pollution.

Well, anyway. The australians seemed merry and we shared a few shots of vodka and decided to meet up at a microbrewery in UB (ulan-bataar) later in the evening but first we went out to meet the swiss.

We met with the swiss and went for mongolian grill. An all you can eat for about 10 EUR each. This involved a very large buffet with 5 kinds of meat: sheep, goat, horse, beef and chicken. You took your raw meat (and salads) to a central grill where the chef would then cook it for you. Very very delicious. They also did a show where the chef threw around his knives and there was music and a light show and things like that. Much like the japanese Teppanyaki.

The grill getting ready
The grill getting ready

In the evening we went to the microbrewery where amongst others I talked to a mongolian couchsurfer host and a canadian journalist. After the brewery, the party continued at the hostel (I had stopped drinking though) which included hair-cutting, story telling from our travels as well as fairytale storytelling by a dutch woman (Nadine) that had the sweetest mix of dialect coming from her original dutch accent mixed with australian. She was a special kids teacher so I guess having a nice calming voice really comes in handy.

We also met: Garreth, a hilarious type that had to catch a plane the next day towards new adventures. Jonathan the canadian journalist who never once during his travels in russia said he was a journalist. Harry who left us a very nice note, was generally pleasing to be around, and michael and emily an engaged couple travelling on to russia who were also very sweet. Evenings and people like these are why travelling is amazing!

The next day (wednesday) we were going to relax as we had to catch the plane next morning at 7 and real work (monday) suddenly wasn’t so far away anymore. We saw a monument raised by the russians, celebrating the soviet union and the black market (not because it was actually stolen goods – the name was literally “the black market”), a huuuge market in ulan-bataar which sold everything. Everything.

Soviets beating the japanese
Soviets beating the japanese
Soviets beating the nazis
Soviets beating the nazis
Soviets and china (I think)
Soviets and china (I think)
The soviet union in all it's glory
The soviet union in all it’s glory

View from the soviet monument

View from the soviet monument

Below is a picture from the black market in the “stoves department”. Every single ger had stoves like this inside:

Stoves for sale. These were inside every ger
Stoves for sale. These were inside every ger

As usual, we took the public transportation:

Riding the bus
Riding the bus

Finally, for the danes out there. This is probably funny to you!

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After we got home, it was late. We had some korean food and went to bed.

The next morning at 3:50 am we got up and took the taxi to the Ulan-bataar airport. As a last reminder of how mongolia is much different from denmark, the taxi driver drove with the high beams on for the full trip (and yes the normal lights worked), flashed her lights in anger maybe 10 times, drove in the wrong side of the road while fiddling with the radio (she was honked at because she was driving straight towards another car) and finally ran two red lights in a mere 20 minutes.

26 hours later (midnight, danish time) we arrived home. Tired. Very tired.

This marked the end of one of the most adventurous trips I’ve ever embarked on – going from Copenhagen to Ulan-bataar by land. 3 weeks of extreme experiences crammed into so little time! One week of this kind of travel would be enough for a full vacation but we had 3. I’m ready to go back to work now but only to recharge until I’m ready to leave again!