Monday, October 31, 2011

The Sultan's private mosque.
We are in Malaysia now, at the bottom of the Malaysia peninsula, which is the most southern part of Asia.  It is hard to believe but we could travel from here to France by land if we chose! We have been at a marina since we arrived in a city called Johor. The marina was built for a very rich fella to moor his boat and it has great slips but there is no infrastructure, no showers or toilets, quite odd.  There is a huge complex though with fancy restaurants where there is live music every night so we have been enjoying ourselves.  Malaysians speak a form of Bahasa, which was spoken in Indonesia, but a lot of them speak English as well.  Johor is a modern city with shopping malls, large grocery stores and huge modern highways with interchanges and overpasses. The predominant religion is Muslim but it does not seem to be a fundamental sect that has power so the women wear head scarves but they are the most beautiful colours. In the grocery store yesterday the clerks had matching beige uniforms with a splash of red at their throats and beige head scarves, Malaysia's head of state is a sultan that is like the royal family, the lineage passing from father to the oldest son.  
The opulent interior of the new state admin building.
Marble mosaic
We visited the new administration centre on a bus tour the other day.  What an absolutely impressive complex.  The downtown area was getting crowded so the state leg. moved to an area where they could build a huge complex.  The inside of the building was so impressive, they had a waterfall, a museum explaining about the history of the gov't, and the interior of the legislature.  All the desks had marble highlights, there was a gorgeous marble mosaic on the floor, the seats were the softest leather, no expense was spared.  There are female members of the governing body, so it is an enlightened Muslim society here.  

We headed to a pineapple museum next, who knew there were so many varieties of pineapple??  We got to taste a couple of varieties and the new one that they have just developed was so sweet, you wouldn't believe it.  I hope the one I have on the counter is that variety. If you take the leaf of the pineapple plant and scrape it you can get a fibre from it and they had examples of clothing made from pineapple thread. 

Next we headed off to a village where the ferries went from there to Singapore.  When we arrived there was an absolute deluge of rain.  It seems to happen everyday about 1400 hours, big black clouds form, the lightening flashes, the thunder booms and the skies open up.  There is no laundromat here so you wash your clothes first thing in the morning, hang  them up and hope that they dry in the very humid environment before the skies open up.  Yesterday I had the wash out and was doing some internet work on another boat and rain started.  I ran all the way back to the boat to find that Barry was already on the job and had most of it in. I ducked inside to close the windows and the hatches.  ANYWAY, back to the tour, we had a lovely lunch in this village, and looked out on a very typical Asian waterway, filled with local fishing boats, houses on stilts and tourist boats.  
The tiger is a very important symbol in Malaysia, and they are now a protected species here.  The sultan has even stopped hunting them, so you know they are serious about protecting them.  Below is the official coat of arms for the Sultan of Johor. The Islamic symbols of the star and the moon are in the centre and below it is Arabic writing. We are headed off north up the Malaka Straits today, that is the body of water between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.  It should be an interesting journey because the tankers from the Indian Ocean transit this strait and the Malaysian fisherman set nets all along the shore, so sailboats are left with a narrow corridor where they can safely make their way north.  Our next stop will be Port Dickson, from there we will travel overland to Kuala Lumpur where we need to renew our Canadian passports.