Malaysia 7 November – 4 December
Johor Bahru 7-9 November
|Puteri marina at night|
Puteri is a marina complex some 30 minute taxi ride from the city of Johor Bahru. Huge amounts of money are being spent making on the area with bars and restaurants in the marina complex and lots of high rise flats being built. We had seen nothing like this in Indonesia and the difference was quite a shock.
After getting back from Singapore, we spent the three days getting the boat ready and provisioning for the trip up the Malaysian coast. We ventured out into the city one night with Wishful Thinking, Matilda and Wirraway to eat at the local hawker stalls. After an hour and a half of exploring the city and not finding any eating place that served alcohol, we bought some cans of beer in a Chinese shop and sat in an alley way eating food from the local hawker stalls, surreptitiously drinking cans of beer with our meal. After dinner we walked 20m to the end of the alley and came out to a street that was full of restaurants and bars. How did we miss that!
Port Dickson 11- 19 November
We left the next morning for Port Dickson and anchored halfway, opting not to sail overnight due the number of fishing boats and nets.. We tied up at the marina the next afternoon which was attached to a hotel complex, complete with swimming pool. The marina was a long walk from anywhere but the rally had organised some coach trips for the 100 or so participants so that did not matter.
Malacca is a very old trading post, used as a stopping off point for ships sailing along the Malacca straits (it is halfway between India and China). The coach dropped us off in the morning and was not due to pick us up again until 7pm so we had time to explore. We quickly ditched the guide in favour of wandering around on our own, and so did many other people. Our first priority after visiting the Dutch castle was to find somewhere for lunch – we wanted to eat the local Baba-Nonya cuisine in the Chinese quarters. The Baba-Nonya are decedents of mixed marriages between the Chinese and local Malay people and have their own fusion of culture embracing parts of both which goes back hundreds of years.
After lunch, Catherine and I left the rest of our little group to go to visit one of the Baba-Nonya houses which has been turned into a museum. The guide was very informative, talking us through how they lived, their religion and in particular the marriage ceremony which would last twelve days. All very elaborate with the bride wearing a different type of dress each day. The Baba-Nonya culture continues today.
|Rickshaws are highly decorated|
After a quick coffee we set off for the maritime museum only to find it had closed for the day but we did bump into Bruce and Debs from Matilda who had been for a tour on one of the local rickshaws. After extolling the virtues of the trip and the very knowledgeable driver, Catherine and I decided we would do the same, and with the same driver. He was nearly sixty and we did worry about whether he would make it around the city but he explained he had been doing this for thirty five years and loved it.
|Our rickshaw and guide|
Indeed he was very good at explaining both the history and the different buildings. It enabled us to take a personal tour, stop where we wanted and have a detail history of the places we visited. Well worth it and it gave us a rest from walking around.
|Meeting for drinks|
We met the others back at Sid’s pub on the river at 6am for a drink and a quick bite, exchanging our experiences of the afternoon. We finally joined all the rest of the tour back on the coach at 7pm after a jolly good day out.
Pangkor 21 – 26 November
Pangkor was 120 miles away and we (and about six other boats) opted to sail overnight rather than split it into two day sails. To avoid the fishing boats, we had to sail on the edge of the traffic separation lanes where we knew the fisherman would avoid and since they are wide lanes, we would be out of the main shipping traffic.
At 11pm we received a VHF call from another boat (Argonaut) who had wrapped a discarded fishing net around their propeller. With no wind, they were going to find a shallow piece of water to anchor so that they could dive overboard the next morning to cut it loose. They reported a lot of junk in the water where they were and all the other boats then tried to avoid that area. An hour later they had managed to free the net and were once again on the move, without the need to dive overboard (not something you would even think about at night).
We were soon in the same area but a mile to the east and came across the discarded nets and other junk floating in the water. Catherine was once again on the bow with a torch trying to avoid the debris for an hour before we came through that. We could relax again, for a while at least.
We had been tracking a storm for a couple of hours and it looked as though we would miss it. As it approached from the west, it started to build, and head straight for us. We had no way round this and it is the worst thing at sea – thunderstorms at night when the whole sky lights up with the lightening and the sound of the thunder reverberates around the boat. We had four hours of this while visibility in the driving rain was near zero. After very little sleep that night, we arrived in the anchorage around midday, happy to be at anchor and to be able to rest.
The marina manager (James) looked after us very well, finding us a berth the next day and providing five nights free berthing (he asked some of the resident boats to move out for the week to accommodate us). He also arranged two nights of food and entertainment at his expense. The live band went down very well and had most of us on our feet dancing the night away. We were very impressed with how James managed the marina and it is a place where we would be happy to leave the boat when we go back to England in April.
Visit to the Island
The marina manager had arranged a trip to Pangkor Island, a short ten minute ferry ride across the sea. It is a very small island with a Buddhist temple, a ship building yard and a very good restaurant where they were taking us for lunch.
|Boat builder at work|
The island still has a very traditional feel to it – houses on stilts
|Fishing boats built by hand|
|Traditional houses built over the water|
|Lunch on the beach|
The next day we took the coach trip to visit the historic town of Ipoh. The stop off to see the railway station and the clock tower (built by the British) was short and we spent a few hours in the town – more than enough time. There only remains one really old street which is quite short and houses souvenir shops mainly. Not too exciting.
|Buddhist temple in the cave|
|The gardens at the back of the cave|
|Monsoon rains bouncing off the turrets|
|Makeshift rain coats|
When it was obvious the rain was not going to stop any time soon and we had to be back on the coach, we fashioned some rain coats out of black plastic bags we found in a store cupboard. They sort of worked but we still ended up sitting on the coach, soaked by the heavy rain with wet feet from wading through the pools of water that had accumulated. At least it was warm and in the air conditioned coach we dried out quite quickly.
We left in the next afternoon to sail twenty miles to an anchorage leaving sixty miles for the final leg to Penang the next day.
Penang 27 – 2 December
We had been asked to arrive in Penang on 27 November and anchor off Jerejak Island. There was a marathon the following day and all the boats sailed under the bridge connecting Penang to the mainland as the marathon runners passed overhead. It was quite a site with all sails up and flags flying on the boats – shame that we got the timing wrong and there were no runners on the bridge.
However we were received enthusiastically by the marathon marshals on the bridge.
Penang is one of the main tourist attractions in Malaysia, an old historic town owned at one time by the Dutch and then the British as port for shipping sailing along the Malacca straits, the gateway to the far east, Australia and New Zealand. It is still a very busy and important shipping channel with a constant stream of ships passing in both directions.
We anchored off Straits Quay, a new marina complex with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. The anchorage was exposed to the north but the weather was calm. Catherine opted to get the bus into the old historic Georgetown with Bev (Wirraway) and Ginny (Wishful Thinking) while the men spent the day on boat maintenance – it is much easier when there is no-one else on the boat. It was a good decision since Catherine and the others effectively mapped out the town, found out about the bus routes and where we would want to go.
|The jetties where people still live|
|Stret art telling the history of the Penang|
|More history told in art form|
Finding the restaurant for lunch was a bit more tricky since the ones we had fancied were either closed, shut down or had moved. But nonetheless we found a good place to eat and we spent the afternoon taking a walking tour from the Lonely Planet guide to see the rest of the sights. We did not have enough time to visit the museum and planned to do that another day.
On the next visit to Georgetown we were joined by Wishful Thinking and Wirraway and after lunch together, Catherine and I headed back to the museum. We spent a couple of hours learning about the history of the town and all the people who had settled here – from India, China, Indonesia and eight other countries, all living happily together. The entry to the museum was one Ringgit (about 20p) and was one of the best we have visited with the story of the island well told.
We decided we would stay in Georgetown for a drink before heading back to the marina. It took us an hour and a half to find somewhere we fancied and spent an hour or so relaxing in a sofa being served cocktails. A real find, and better still, the bus back to the marina stopped right outside (we only found this out while we were sitting there and saw our bus stop outside).
Time to Move
The following day and while Catherine went into the marina complex to do some shopping I elected to stay on the boat to finish off some of the boat jobs. The wind came up together with a rough sea in the exposed anchorage and doing anything on the boat was a challenge. When Catherine came back at 6pm, we decided that we could not stay there and headed off with Wirraway and Matilda to the Junk anchorage (where the junk boats anchor) just as it was getting dark. Not an ideal time to leave but staying where we were would mean no sleep and the weather was not going to improve over the next couple of days.
We kept a careful watch for small fishing boats and nets on the five mile journey and we eventually found a place in the crowded anchorage. At least the anchorage was calm, sheltered from the waves and we left our cockpit light on all night so returning fishing boats could clearly see us. We slept well that night unlike Wirraway who had a junk boat dragging towards them in the middle of the night with the other junk boats shouting to wake up the captain of the boat before he hit someone.
Together with Matilda and Wirraway we left there the next morning to go back to anchor between Jerejak Island and Penang Island and met El Gato on the way, escaping from the uncomfortable anchorage at Straits Quay. We found shelter near the top the island, out of the wind and nicely protected from the waves.
A short dinghy ride to a concrete pontoon allowed us to walk into the nearby town for lunch and buy some provisions. We got a taxi back (it was a long hot walk) and we did not fancy carrying back all the provisions to the jetty. Wishful Thinking joined us later that day.
An Early Christmas Lunch
We all agreed that a lunch at the Eastern Oriental Hotel would be a good idea. Some of the boats wanted to go in early to do some sightseeing before lunch, others wanted to do some shopping and Catherine and I decided to go directly to the restaurant. We took the dinghy to the marina and called our first Uber taxi which duly arrived five minutes later. We were impressed and the driver was very friendly, having recently become an Uber taxi driver. Shame he did not read the destination correctly and took us to the wrong place and then managed to take us through the busiest roads on route to the restaurant (he was not a local). We arrived twenty minutes late (although everyone waited for us) and we had spent nearly an hour in the taxi for what should have been a twenty minute ride.
Lunch was a carvery with lamb, pork and beef together with Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes – quite a treat after eating local food for nearly five months. It felt like a lunch you would have leading up to Christmas in England except for the hot weather.
Afterwards a few of us headed up to a hotel at the top of the Penang as it was the start of the jazz weekend. We sat in the bar listening to a local band and deciding that we would like to bring the boats up into the bay the next evening so we could hear the main event which was to be outside, just off the beach. Sounded ideal, being at anchor listening to the music – what could be better.
However, the weather once again intervened and as we brought out boats up the next afternoon, the northerly wind once again had come up with a nasty swell entering the bay and no-one fancied that. So with that idea out of the window we carried on to Bunting Island to anchor and we had a very peaceful night. It also meant that we only had forty miles to go the next day to get to Langkawi which was another advantage.
Langkawi 4 December
We arrived in mid-afternoon and tied up in our berth. It was the end of the Malaysian rally and we had booked a week in the marina so we could relax and do nothing if we wanted. That is something that is difficult on a rally because you are always on the move or exploring the area when you arrive somewhere with limited time at each place. But now we had nothing we had to do or places we had to go – we have plenty of time!
|Pool at Rebak Resort|
In fact we have more time that we planned, mainly because we had run out of pages in our passports and needed to renew them to get a visa for Thailand. We were not able to renew them earlier since we needed the passports to enter Langkawi as it is a Free Trade area (everything is duty free). Once we had sent them off for renewal, we were not able to leave Langkawi until they return which could be up to six weeks. Well there are worse places to be trapped!