Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The beginnings of a new bridge to the island of Penang
We are now in Langkawi, our last stop in Malaysia.  We are docked at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club (doesn't that sound prestigious?) and will leave the boat here when we fly to Australia to spend Christmas with our daughter Trish and her family Graeme, Quinn and June. Since the last blog we sailed from Pangkor, north to Penang and then another 80 miles to Langkawi.  Penang is an island whose capital city, Georgetown, was another important historical port. As we sailed into Penang we had to go through the pylons that had been erected to build a second bridge to the mainland, this will be about 26 km long. They  machinery to erect the bridge was strewn across the channel and it was a bit daunting to thread our way through it all on the way to the anchorage. 
lychees and mangosteens
We were anchored about 15 km from the main downtown area and there was no bus direct bus route, so we would have to take a cab and then the bus to get to the interesting part of town.  The traffic on the island was horrendous, traffic jams all over the place and it seemed to take forever in the heat to get anywhere, not our most favourite stop.  We wandered around Chinatown and through a wonderful market that had fresh fruits and veggies, roasted chestnuts and every kind of knick knack you could think of.  I am sure that most of you have heard of lychees but mangosteens are something I had not experienced before Indonesia.  They are delicious, you take the dark purple, brownish fruit and you break open the husk with your fingers.  It is a thick husk but in the middle there are white sections shaped like orange sections with a pit in the middle, very yummy.

A novel way  to transport eggs
 We headed off after this to see a restored Chinese mansion, a baba, nonya house, this group of people resulted from the intermarriage of Chinese immigrants with Malay women.  They took on many aspects of the Chinese culture but integrated some lovely Malay customs into their lives.  The women were kept cloistered in the house, living the easy life with servants to tend to their needs.  One of the handicrafts they indulged in to keep them busy was beading.  Here is a lovely example of a beaded shoe, my mind just boggles at the amount of work this is.  
The furniture in this house was very ornate, beautiful carved wood with inlaid mother-of-pearl. There was a huge collection of porcelain dishes with Chinese decorations of dragons, birds and flowers. 
We headed off to see more of the city and walked by this beautiful mosque.  We stopped to take in Fort Cornwallis, which was built by the British in the early 1700 century.  It has recently been restored and it had a cannon in the walls that the Dutch had left that had a date of 1603 on it. It is fascinating the amount of history that is in this area, what with the Arab, Indian and Chinese traders followed by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British getting involved in later centuries.  

We toured the war museum.  It was located on a hill overlooking the approached, built by the British in the 1930's to defend the island.  Unfortunately the whole island was ill prepared to defend itself.  We have figured out that Pearl Harbour was Dec. 7, 1941, on Dec 11, 1941 Penang was bombed, then the Japanese landed on Dec. 15 and Penang was surrendered on Dec. 16.  Not one Japanese soldier was killed on the invading force. Darwin, Aus. was bombed on Dec. 26, 1941.  The Japanese were certainly on the rampage at that time.  The Japanese then used the barracks as a POW camp and interrogation center after they took the area.  They used POW to build the railway that was made famous in the movie the Bridge over the River Kwai.  The barracks for the British, Indian and Malay forces were forgotten after the war.  The building were over run by the jungle for 40 years.  In about the year 2000 the building were rediscovered and restoration has taken place.  There are tunnels under the ground to protect the soldiers and the munitions in case of attack. It was a sobering view of a part of the war that we were not aware of. 
British barracks in the jungle.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


The replica of a Portuguese trading vessel
The Dutch influence.

Barry has decided that he would like to leave for South Africa from the top of the island of Sumatra, which means we would not be going back down the Straits of Malacca.  I really wanted to see the historic town of Malacca, so here we are.  Malacca was a centre of trade where East met West since the 14th century.  An admiral appointed by an Emperor of the Ming Dynasty traded here in the 1400's offering protection to the Sultan of Malacca.  The Portuguese took over the port after the Chinese withdrew their support due to some ill omens in China and a change of Emperor.
 The Dutch challenged the Portuguese and burned the town and imposed draconian taxes and duties on the trading goods.  Malacca's star dimmed as merchants chose other locations.  The British took over and were a little fairer but a fellow named Raffles decided Singapore was a better location and it became the hub to trading.

Chinese shophouses on the canal
I have been really enjoying my time away from the boat, we have been seeing the sights and visiting some of the myriad of museums that are here.  We both enjoyed learning about Cheng Ho the Chinese admiral visiting the home of a Chinese Malaysian.  The family has been here for six generations and the original immigrant made enough money to purchase three adjacent shophouses and make them into one home.  They are long skinny houses with only a front door, the first house was to house the servants and prepare the food, the middle one was to entertain guests and the the third house was where the family lived.  One of the most interesting features was in the master bedroom which overlooked the front door.  There was a peep hole in the floor and if the master of the house didn't like who was knocking at his door he could poor water or worse on his head.
Through just pure dumb luck we ended up here at the same time as a performing arts festival.  I took in 3 dances this afternoon, one which was held on top of the hill in the ruins of an old Catholic church.  The food is terrific here as well, I have been gorging on the local speciality bean sprouts while Barry enjoyed chicken and rice balls this afternoon.  We are headed off to sample some night life after spending part of last evening watching a judged Chinese karaoke contest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pangkor Island as seen from our marina.

We had a wonderful tour of Pangkor Island yesterday. We reached the island by ferry from the marina and were met with a fleet of pink minibuses. The island is located about 2nm from where we are tied up at a marina which has been built on reclaimed land. There is a hotel, marina and a condominium complex on the island. The marina has good cheap facilities for getting work done on your boat and there are quite a few boats up on the hard awaiting the return of their owners. Okay back to the tour.

We went rocketing off around the island, the first stop being a partially restored Dutch fort which had been built to protect the tin supplies back in the 16th century. The reason the fort had been restored was because the local Malays attacked the fort and managed to rout the Dutch and this was considered a huge blow for nationalism. The island has a population of 90,000 people and voer 90% are of Chinese ancestry. The island runs on fishing and tourism, one side is dedicated to the fishing industry and consists of densely packed houses and little shops selling everything from nuts to bolts. On the shores there were a myriad of docks with warehouses and fishing boats tied up to the long docks that extended out past the low tide mark. The other side has a series of beaches and resorts dedicated to tourism. There were some spots to go snorkelling and diving as well as places that rented seadoos (the vehicle sailors hate the most after unlit fishing boats). I guess it’s not the seadoos we hate so much as the unthinking yokels that rent them and then play slalom with our anchored sailboats. I think we may head over there today and spend a few days actually relaxing and getting in the water while we are at anchor. Barry’s ankle is still not healed up, the process is very slow in the hot humid environment here, so he will not be going in the water. Okay back to the tour.

 Our next stop was a wonderful Chinese temple. It spread out over several acres and was set up against a hill with waterfalls, fish ponds and a long set of steps up to the highest view point. The architecture was very striking as were the bright bold colours. We wondered around and were able to absorb some of the calm, serene atmosphere that pervaded. Our last stop was a sea food factory where they made every kind of dried fish that you could think of. We sampled dried squid, dried jelly fish satay, prawn crackers, as well as dried mango and tamarind. Then we were taken to a wonderful Chinese lunch whose taste and variety matched any meal we have had in Malaysia yet, it was delicious. The marina island in Pangkor has certainly gone out of their way to attract the cruisers’ business and make a very favourable impression on us.

A view from the top!
 We may leave this afternoon for a few days at anchor on the west side of Pangkor Island or we may take a trip to the interior to do a little land travel. We don’t have to be at our next destination, Penang, which is only a 2 day trip away for another week and a half.

The two faces of Malaysia as the fishing boats sit stranded on the tidal flats infront of multi-family dwellings in Lumut.

Monday, November 07, 2011

In front of the Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, remember the scene from James Bond where he had a running battle  across the walkway between the towers.
We had a wonderful tour to Kuala Lumpur.  We were on a first class bus with a great guide. The guide was very informative giving us a good overview of his country. Malaysia has a very active “Silicon Valley” where microchips are manufactured, as well as booming small appliance industry.  They have a very employable work force with a high literacy rate, as a result many multinational companies set up factories here.  We saw Toyota, Hyundi, Dhiatsu and many other car manufactures. Palm oil is a major crop, the refining of which is responsible for the fact that we can’t catch the rain water, it is too polluted, and our boats are gross, covered in the grimy residue from the air. Their rubber plant industry makes the best latex for surgical gloves. At the moment the government is encouraging young people to take up market gardening because industry has become so important that Malaysia has to import a lot of its food.  Malyasia also has approx. 10 % of the world’s oil with wells on the eastern side of the peninsula.  The majority of the population is Malay with Chinese being the second largest ethnic group and then people of Indian descent. Muslim is the dominant religion but Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity are all tolerated. For the first time we saw Muslim women dressed head to toe in black with only their eyes showing.  There have been some fundamentalist trying to get a toehold in Malaysia but our guide explained when they began agitating they were quickly rounded up and put behind bars.  The word Malaysia comes from the Himalaya mountains, the end of that mountain chain runs down the spine of the Malay Peninsula. Enough information!
The giant Hindu shrine at the Batu caves.

This picture does not do the caves justice, they were amazing.

Making roti, or an Indian style of bread, they served it for breakfast with curry. 

We started our tour at the Batu caves. It is a marvel of nature where a huge Hindu shrine has been built.  I bought a post card that shows the steps covered in pilgrims when they have the festival to honour this god. There were 257 steps to the top and we trucked up there and were amazed at the interior of the cave. It was hard to get a good picture but the rock wall was very steep with overhangs and there were monkeys that clamored up and down the walls with ease. We also visited a Buddhist shrine that was to honour the goddess of the sea, how very appropriate.  We headed to downtown KL where we saw the gorgeous architecture that the British built during their colonial days here.  Basically colonization started when the  Portuguese first settled here, Marco Polo stopping in Malaka and identified it as a spot where the India Chinese and Middle Eastern traders had been stopping for years. The Portuguese settled and took over for awhile until the Dutch came into prominence, then the British started sticking their oar in. Eventually the Dutch and British came to an understanding, the Dutch got Java, the British, Malaysia.   Malaysia achieved their independence after WW11 without any fighting, the British setting up a government structure and staying around until it was running smoothly in 1957.  The Communists under Mao tried to take over the region but the Commonwealth countries brought in troops to help the Malay government and Malaysia remained a democracy. ANYWAY, I loved the fact that the very British Cricket Club building still stands on very prime real estate in downtown KL.  It was very unusual to see brick buildings built by the British with very Arabic features, the windows, the domes and arches were a pleasure to the eye. The Twin Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world, our guide told us how much they swayed in high winds and explained that because Malaysia is out of the cyclone zone and not in the Pacific Ring of Fire (earthquake zone) it was considered a safe bet, geologically speaking, to build them.  
A beautiful horse and rider guarding the King's palace.

The tallest flag pole in the world.

Must be a rugby mascot, right in central KL.

The Cricket Cub right across the street from the picture below, interesting they would preserve this building and the pitch which is no longer used because the ball would disrupt the traffic it they had a good whack at it.
The old British architecture with the fourth highest free standing structure in the world, the guide said the CN tower was the tallest but we thought the Russian's had us beat.

We spent the night in KL as we had to visit the Canadian High Commission in order to renew our passports.  We spent our first afternoon running around getting our passport photos, we spent an hour and a half traipsing around a ten level mall searching for a shop.  Barry says all the stores were selling pretty much the same stuff, they had a spa floor, a high tech floor, a roller coaster, like West Ed mall, etc. etc. That evening we went to Chinatown looking for a nice meal.  There were the usual hawker stalls but these sold knock offs.  Apparently there are A, B and C knockoffs.   We needed a second umbrella so I got a Louis Vitton umbrella for 15 ringats, equivalent to $5.00 CND, yippee.  Wendy and Ken from Cop Out were with us and Wendy and I nearly bought matching Prada handbags but reason prevailed when we looked at all the metal bits on the purses and figured that they would rust REALLY quickly.  We found a wonderful spot for supper, a young gentleman who owned a video place showed us the way on the condition that we visit his emporium on our way out.  He checked on us twice and was waiting when we exited the restaurant.  Needless to say he made a few sales!!!! 

The nest morning we hightailed it to the Canadian High Commission, filled out all the paper work and headed back to Cat’s-Paw IV in Port Dickson.  We are motoring, motoring up the strait to our next destination, Lumut where we will stay at Pangor Marina.  We have about 2 weeks until we have to be at the next spot so it will be nice to hopefully do some cruising around Lumut. 

Durian is a fruit which apparently stinks like hell but taste like heaven, this was posted in our hostel.

List of do's and don'ts in the LRT. 

Riding the monorail, it was very civilized at this time. 

We have had our first real Asian experience.  When we came back from Kuala Lumpur yesterday we took a train and then a bus. We could not believe the shoving that took place to get on the train. Once the train doors opened everyone just shoved.  It was quite scary, the people getting on wouldn't clear a path for the people exiting and they had to elbow their way out, then it was everyone for them self. There was a man holding a three year old boy in front of me and he had a bag. The bag was caught on the ground behind him and he was stuck, he couldn't go forward because the bag was holding him back and he couldn't back up because the crowd was relentlessly forcing their way forward.  I pushed with the best of them, my former basketball training coming to the fore.  One lady fell and I was thinking she might be trampled, unbelievable.  Once we were in the train car, no one would move to the middle of the car, everyone was  squashed by the doors.  I tried to move in because there was more room and was blocked by a huge suitcase which was guarded by a small young woman.  When we finally got off after a half and hour of standing sandwiched together and then a half an hour of sitting once we stopped at a trunk line and a whack of people got off we got on a bus.  The same procedure happened.  This time we were ready for them, a young adult about 8 or 9 tried to get his foot in front of me to force his way forward, he was right at elbow level, I spread them slightly and leaned his way and there was no way on earth this kid was getting past me.  Barry said that he squeezed him out as well. Once I was in the doorway to the bus I put my arm out to the door so no one could go past and let the fellow in front of me step up before I crowded him.  This journey definitely was not for the faint of heart or the elderly, and I thought Singapore was bad.!!! More about KL later, we accomplished our mission there and did the paperwork for our new passports.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Cat's-Paw IV after passing under the bridge from Malaysia to Singapore
We are safe and sound in Port Dickson, Malaysia; about 200 nm up the Malacca Straits from Singapore.  We have spent the last three days motoring into the wind and the current to get here.  I thought we were not supposed to sail to weather, sailors do not appreciate having to run the motor constantly.  We have joined the Sail Malaysia Rally  and there is a trip to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, so we had to get here in time. We  have to get our passports renewed so will overnight in KL and hopefully be able to get all the paperwork done in one day.  One of our fellow sailors tried to sail up the strait yesterday and basically ended up going back and forth without making much progress.  Our motor faithfully chugged away day after day and Barry's timely maintenance has paid off in spades with its good behaviour.  
We are at a marina, this one has a pool, toilets and showers as well as a garbage can on the dock at the end of the boat so we are both happy campers.  We wake up in the morning and as soon as we move around we start sweating, we are told the humidity abates a little further north so we are looking forward to that.  I will post more pictures once we return from KL.