Expat tales: Kuala Lumpur sounds just right

Last updated 05:00 27/04/2014
Kuala Lumpur

THE GOOD LIFE: The cost of living is cheaper and it's a great place to raise kids.

Anton Morgan
KIWI IN MALAYSIA: Anton Morgan.

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Anton Morgan has found a land of opportunity in Kuala Lumpur. 

Why did you move to the city?

All on a bit of a whim. Another Kiwi friend called me one day so I grabbed my backpack and guitar, double-checked where exactly Malaysia was, and headed over. That was 16 years ago.

What do you do there?

I'm a music composer who owns a commercial music studio doing ads for the local market as well as across Asia. We have 14 staff and I think it would be the biggest studio of its kind in Malaysia. I'm actually trying to set up something in Auckland, as well, a much smaller version called twoam.com.my.

What do you like/dislike about it?

There is certainly plenty of work if you're good and prepared to work hard. More home help and more spending power for a lot of people is the norm, and it's a great place to raise young kids. My wife doesn't have to work so gets to spend a lot of time with our boys and keeps us healthy and well fed. We are an hour or two away from a tropical beach in Thailand or three hours from Bali on cheap flights, so being more connected to the rest of the world means we've done a lot of travelling. We probably fly somewhere every other month. I'm not so keen on the traffic and city smog, though. Cars are also highly taxed so very expensive.

How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand?

NZ is expensive! It's probably half the cost here but it's catching up. Petrol is 70-80 cents a litre. Of course taxes are lower here, too, but you don't get the public spending you do in New Zealand so you spend more on entertainment, as almost nothing is free. As an expat you'll want to send your kids to an international school as well and they don't come cheap.

What do you do on weekends?

Try to get out of the city. Jungle walks, skateboarding parks, football (soccer), kids events, friends for a BBQ, pretty normal family stuff, really.

What do you think of the food/what's your favourite thing to eat there?

The food is one of the highlights of living here. Indian food would be my local favourite. It's cheap, tasty, and there is an amazing choice. With a diverse Malay, Indian and Chinese population plus the expat community, there's a huge variety. What's the best way to get around the city?

Public transport is almost non-existent so a private car is sadly the only way. You, and 6 million other people that is. Taxis are dirt cheap, so that's the way to go if you're in town for a few days.

What's the shopping like?

Shopping's not my thing but it's clearly a big deal over here. The malls are huge and prices are generally better than New Zealand. My wife, Allie, says it's considerably better shopping here so I'd go with that.

What's the nightlife like?

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Plenty of it if that's your thing. Not a pub culture but a lot more clubs and restaurants. Food is far more important than alcohol in Asian culture. There is a very good theatre called KLPac, which an Australian friend runs. There's also the MPO, essentially an imported expat orchestra, which performs fun stuff as well as the more serious repertoires.

What is your favourite part of the city?

There's a nice area called Damansara Heights which backs on to a huge sports club, 10 minutes from our place. We can play tennis, squash, swim, golf, gym and horse ride.

What time of year is best to visit and why?

Really anytime except right now, when it's hot and dry - as opposed to hot and humid. Also any of the festive seasons like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya or Thaipusam.

What's your must-do thing for visitors?

Try hawker food just about anywhere - Masjid India in town, Petaling Street, the spectacular Petronas Twin Towers. Like many cities, just wandering about on foot is a pretty good way to get hot and sweaty but see it for what it is.

What are your top tips for tourists?

Get out to the islands - Penang is worth a visit, Langkawi is great or Pankgor Island for the kids. Redang Island is great for diving. Enjoy the warmth of the tropics. You can stay in the sun without getting skin cancer. If you have time, grab a quick flight to Sabah on the eastern part of the country.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?

I go back at least once a year, usually with the family - two boys, River and Kaelen. We have a small holiday home in Takapuna where we stay - as long as we remember to book our own place in advance.

- Sunday Star Times

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