An Interview with an American Expat in Malaysia

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Richard Blair w motorcycle

Name: Richard Blair
Home Country: USA
Designation: Foreign Correspondent
Marital Status: Married
Other Countries: Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore

What brought you to Malaysia?
Well, I guess it was the Boat People. I was working for CBS News back in 1978 when I was based in Singapore and covered the flood of Vietnamese refugees, searching for them in small aircraft, swimming out to them from East Coast beaches, climbing under barbed wire at transit camps in Kuantan and Pulau Batam. Then in 1990, I motorcycled from Singapore to Kota Bharu and to Langkawi photographing golf courses for a directory, and when it came time to retire, Malaysia was our first choice over Bali, Chiang Mai, and Perth.

Name three typical weekend activities that you enjoy.
Scuba diving off our 11-metre sailing catamaran in secluded lagoons amongst Langkawi’s ancient karsts, jungle trekking through the vine-tangled waterways of Malaysia’s Taman Negara, and gathering with friends, wine, and guitars to watch the sunset from our 18th-storey balcony in Tanjung Bungah.

Describe a memorable eating experience you have had here.
There was a time when, for RM30, you could enjoy a huge platter of succulent chilli crabs almost anywhere on the east coast or spend an afternoon sampling the many varieties of layered cakes and delicious Nyonya sweets in the shops along Melaka’s Jonker Street, but apart from that, one specific memory is drinking beer and eating satay one night (two of us ate over 100 sticks!) at a stall beneath the KTM rails in Johor.

Do you own property here? If so where?
We are letting go of a half acre of flat, dry beach-side land on Jason’s Bay within an hour of Johor Bahru. We had a plan to build a weekend bungalow so we could sip Claret in the evenings listening to the waves lap the sand or go horse-back riding to seafood feasts at Sedilli Besar. That land and dream are now up for sale.

What advice do you have for a newly arrived expat?
I suppose the same advice I’d give to any expat settling anywhere in Asia: Remain open to challenges. I’d guess, deep down, that’s why we become expats: to experience new things, test ourselves, and broaden our characters. The key word: Adapt, Adapt, Adapt. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit of the languages, either.

How long do you plan to stay in Malaysia? Where would you like to go next and why?
We opted for the MM2H retirement plan and, so far, have no reason to leave Malaysia. It offers most of what we need and want: great food, plenty of nature, beautiful scenery, great weather, kind people, and now that we are getting older, lots of good hospitals and medical services. If we go anywhere at the end of our 10-year visas, it would probably be the south coast of France where we traveled frequently while publishing my wife’s Japanese travel magazine – new experiences, new foods, and a whole new culture!

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