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.