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Back To George Town

I return to George Town for a few remaining days of Penang and I realize that I have a decision to make.

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GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia- I moved back to George Town from Teluk Bahang. The fishing village at the gates of Penang National Park was interesting, to put it mildly. It was a place of fishermen and abandoned 6-star hotels and cat beaches, but it was time to link together a few destinations into a jump to the other side of the world.

Our time in Asia was about up.

We rode for nearly an hour in an Uber and then pulled up to the giant high-rise complex that we would call home for the next four days — our last days of being in Malaysia.

Over the past five months we’ve more or less called Malaysia home. We stayed in KL for six weeks, did a month in Johor Bahru, and two and a half months in total at various places around Penang. The place surprised me: the country has made itself incredibly accommodating for foreigners. It has everything you need mixed up in a continually fascinating melee of culture and converging periods of time. Above all else, the place is comfortable and, I have to admit, easy … very, very easy.

We arrived at our new apartment in George Town around an hour early for check in so we went into the new sushi restaurant that was lodged in the podium. After awkwardly hauling all of our bags through the restaurant and stuffing them into a booth we set to work demolishing the little plates of sushi which rode through the restaurant on a conveyor belt.

When the massacre was over I went up to pay the bill and the restaurant tried to add on a 10% service charge.

A service charge for who? The mechanical conveyor belt that brought me my food? I didn’t interact with a single human my entire time in the place, and saw no reason why I should pay any of them for a service that wasn’t provided.

In the USA, when you pay a service charge that money is either divided up among the employees or goes straight to the person who waited on you. In Asia, restaurant employees are salaried or are paid by the hour and do not receive any tips that you pay. Instead, all “service fees” are just a way for the establishment to charge you a little more money for your meal — a pointless surcharge just because they can get away with it.

When an employee actually takes my order and brings me my food I pay the service charge, but when a machine does all of the work then no f’ing way.

Why I hate the culture of tipping.


I checked into apartment and made my way to a window. I looked down upon a swimming pool. We went out and swam in it. When finished I realized that I had a decision to make: either I sit in that room for the next four days and fill my quotas and complete the articles that I need to this month or go out and do some final projects in Malaysia.

You know what I chose.


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Filed under: Malaysia, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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