3 September 2015

Haze, Haze, Go Away!

Hazy days in Malaysia are not pleasant at all.  At around this time of year we are plagued with the stuff which is the product of forest fires in Indonesia.  The smoke and dust from the fires is spread across the Straights of Malacca and blankets Malaysia in a pea-souperesque fog that is thoroughly unpleasant.  It causes dry eyes and skin, a sore throat and can lead to breathing problems.

Picking the children up from school, the mountains are very close (the closest
are 500m or less) and can typically be seen with no problems.

Haze is tracked by the Department of the Environment and the meteorological office and generally reported on in all television, newspaper and radio weather reports.  We got a lot of haze in Miri last year, a result of forest burning in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) spreading the pollution towards us but I, rather naively, thought that here in the Peninsula, with the sea separating us from the problem, we would be ok.  Sadly there were over 380 reported hotspots (burning zones) on Sumatra today and the prevailing winds are sending it all over towards us.  Malaysia is not completely innocent in all of this, of course, as burning does go on here as well but the same hot spot survey reported only 7 patches of burning taking place in Malaysia at the current time.   The haze problems started last week and the papers say that we can expect to have it with us for a while yet.

The air quality in Ipoh has suffered accordingly.  At the present time our Air Pollution Index is 102 so just registering as ‘Unhealthy’.  By 200 it is considered ‘Very Unhealthy’ but I must admit to having no desire to experience those levels.  Even at these lowish levels  I have noticed that my eyes are sore and not tolerating my lenses particularly well.  I may have to take the plunge and be seen in public wearing my glasses!  I am just pleased that none of the family are asthmatic. 

A view from the Perak Cave Temple that is usually clear....
Visibility is also quite reduced, I took a visitor to see the famous Perak Cave Temple today and the view across the city was quite restricted.  Schools are still allowing children to play outside but I have noticed a few people wearing masks or covering their faces and these numbers will increase if the pollution index creeps up (we are only at the bottom end of ‘Unhealthy’ and nowhere near ‘Very Unhealthy’).  For the moment I am just making sure the family drink a lot of water, stay inside where possible, keep doors and windows shut and using plenty of moisturiser and moisturising eye drops.   We have not stopped our evening runs just yet but we are going out for shorter periods of time and we are not taking the baby out to feed the fish in our local lake. 

Hopefully the problem will resolve itself soon....

.... Or not.  10 days later and our haze problem has only got worse.  Visibility is now down to around 600 meters (I can now not see the mountains in the first photograph) and the readings are high, not yet in the 200s but we can taste the pollution.  The children are still going to school but are being kept indoors all day.  To be honest I think they are better there as we have some broken window catches in our home and very few ACs so air quality wise they are better in the larger building. Needless to say we are not running, not walking the pets and I am thinking about buying masks for the children.  Our poor older dog is suffering the most, she is wheezing badly and finding it quite difficult to breathe after even the shortest trip outside.  The weather service tells us that we can expect this to clear soon with the Monsoon and change in winds on its way.  It certainly can't be soon enough.

Click the picture below for more posts on life in Malaysia

Ersatz Expat


  1. Hi,
    My name is azizi. Quite interesting to read your blogs regarding astana. I just movie here last 2 weeks. I also come from perak. Hopefully, u r doing good in ipoh.

    I get one question regarding astana. Where is the best apartment or house to live?

    Advance thanks for your response.

    1. Hi there Azizi - what a coincidence. Enjoy your time in Astana, we are certainly enjoying Ipoh! Re Astana it depends on what you are looking for. We lived very close to the Baiterek as this was close to work and near Keruen for shopping etc and we could walk to the main restaurants even in the winter. Many other people prefer the right bank and Samal areas though. It really depends on budget and where your friends/colleagues are located.

  2. What apartment that you lived? They have heated parking? I now stay in highvill for temporary... Need to find new place that nearby the groceries. Thanks

    1. We lived in Arailim the first of the three brown buildings on Saraishik street just opposite Arai park. We had heated parking (no space we paid the parking attendant to find us a spot every month but it worked out fine) a corner shop, green grocer and were less than 10 minutes walk to/from Keruen, Rafe cafe (who deliver by the way), cafe star etc. There are very few expats there and the building appears run down compared to highville but you get more for your space (we paid $2000 for 200sqm) and people are friendly. Premium the apartment next door is a little slicker. Friends of ours lived in Nursaya (very nice) Diplomat, decent enough, Nur Otan (ok) Northern Lights (a bit utilitarian) and various other buildings in the area. Your best vet is to look on a rental website There is one called realtor.kz or realty.kz or similar. You should be able to find advertisements for it in lifts around the city. Good luck.