Ferringhi Beach, a popular hippy hangout in the 1970s, has changed dramatically to a resort community of picturesque coves and beaches hemmed in by the densely forested interior and linked by a twisting road lined with deluxe resorts. The most fabulous of which, the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort, slept FedEx crews on their Penang layovers. Terry had stayed here for the past 15 years and we just had to visit.
Since we were actually just squatters at one of the most opulent hotels on earth, we felt obligated to make use all of their services. Jen and I had foot massages at our pool side lounges after swimming. She rode "Happy" down the beautiful pristine beach for an hour. Terry chatted up the bartender and found that Tony remembered him from years before. The 2004 tsunami damaged the first floor of the Shangri-La which has since been renovated to this unbelievable marble, teak, tile, and glass structure. Like WOW!
As dusk was falling we visited the Night Hawker Market - brightly lit stalls selling Chinese chop, batik, t-shirts, fake designer watches, purses, luggage, and sunglasses - which was set up along the streets and found many bargains.
Be sure to visit the Photo Gallery for more information.
Cheers to enjoying how the other half lives! KK
This open air WWII War Museum was dug into the hill on the SE corner of Penang Island. The British had the foresight to fortify this area in the mid '30s to defend their protectorate. It resembled the set from a John Wayne war movie but it was authentic - concrete bunkers, gun emplacements, and underground control centers with the actual radios, tunnels connecting their foxholes, ammo dumps, and barracks. The major difference was that in the 1940s there were no huge mature trees - they'd been cleared to enable the sentries to watch the sea for the arrival of the Japanese. Unfortunately these wily little devils realized the fortification and arrived in small boats from the Northwest, attacking the fort from the opposite direction in which the lookouts were posted.
It is a magical place, very well maintained, and if you close your eyes to remove the other 80 cruisers, you could envision the enemy sneaking up over the hills to claim your body for the emperor.
This day was sponsored by Pen Marine, a local shipyard looking to generate business from the Sail Malaysia Rally. After a brief tour of their facilities and the visit to the War Museum, our buses swept us up to the owner's home atop a cliff where the sun was setting over the airport just as planes were landing. A little soft jazz playing in the background, tubs of icy beer sitting all around our tables on the patio, only a few minutes of speeches and propaganda from our hosts, and we enjoyed a delicious buffet of Malay, Chinese, and Indian favorites with our hosts coaxing us for another beer or plate of food. Our evening's cultural performance was the Lion Dance, more like Chinese Dragons dancing at New Years, but Jeni loved it - photographing and dancing with them. What fun! Then we left with a gift bag of hats, stationary & pens, and coupons to keep us shopping. These have got to be the most gracious hosts in the world!
Penang Hill's Funicular was down (What a terrible description of the function of the Swiss 1922 small cable car that rises 829 meters, almost 2,500 feet, above the city!) so we chose to walk many miles through the gorgeous Botanic Gardens with its orchid, palm, herbal, and cactus gardens. Penang Hill stream cascades through the gardens creating many waterfalls and pools in which to cool tired feet as well as verdant trails in which to lose oneself. Long-tailed macaques, spectacled leaf monkeys, and huge water lizards, reminiscent of a small monitor lizard, all came out to play and beg treats as we left the grounds.
Check the Photo Gallery for further stories and picts.
Cheers to living history, gardens, and exotic critters! KK
11/29/2008, Kuhla Lumpur
We'd sailed 2 uncomfortable days with the wind and current on our nose and expected the same out of Port Dickson. But the current was with us and after 2 hours of 4 knots Sora sped up to almost 10 for the rest of the day and made our 60 nm to Port Klang by 2PM. We'd dodged numerous fish traps and nets - had to turn 180 and head for the big boys' (large container ships) channel 3 times when we were surrounded by nasty little white buoys marking the nets. But we made it without mishap 'cause we had young eyes on watch for their flags, sticks, buoys, bottles, and Styrofoam markers. We were happy to make the port early only to find it filthy with the Yacht Club on the other side of the river from our pontoon slip. We're at the mercy of the little launch that runs on the hour sometimes whenever we wish to leave Sora.
You can tell that we are in the big city. The club is run down with a gym consisting of 1 machine covered with cobwebs, a shower that drips instead of spraying and no towels, pool with plywood deck, but it does have a lovely huge dining room open on 3 sides that offers good reasonable food with a little bar nestled in the corner. The employees are not friendly and their English is more difficult to understand than all the other places we've been in Malaysia.
No matter, Jeni is having a blast - so nice to have appreciative youth for us oldies to play with. She brings a fresh dynamic to our music games and is a better window shopper than I. After a fast spin through 2 huge malls, we were fortunate enough to wrangle tickets to the Skybridge at the Petronas Towers, once the tallest buildings in the world. The Captain's mention of the fact that we'd traveled 16,000 miles to visit these vertiginous twins must have prompted the official to part with just 3 more tickets. We ate heartily of Korean Barbeque grilled right at our table in the mall beside the towers and emerged into the night with the buildings, fountains, and pools lighted and twinkling as if it were New Year's Eve.
Cheers to cosmopolitan cities, magnificent views, and SHOPPING, KK
11/25/2008, The Straits of Melaka
Melaka retains the architectural styles of the Portuguese, Dutch, Indian, British, and Chinese to form the true "soul of the Malay nation". By the beginning of the 16th century, tiny Melaka's population had grown to 100,000 with 2,000 ships in port thanks to the spice trade and her strategic location between India and China.
What a hidden treasure Melaka is! Thanks to our buddies on "Barefeet" we enjoyed a couple of nights at the Puri. This was formerly an old Chinese Rubber Baron's mansion at the turn of the century that had been remade into a boutique hotel keeping the charming parts of antiquity while affording us the modern conveniences. There were lily pads and koi pools in the breakfast room, a wall of water in the open air bar, flowers bushes and plants everywhere especially hanging from the exposed hundred year old brick walls - Fung Shui you know.
We not only read every piece of information in their "history room" but visited at least 6 other museums in town, remaining at the Cheng Ho location for over 3 hours - now that's an accomplishment for the Captain.
I'd have expected him to linger in the Maritime museum but since we'd read the book, "1421", (a fascinating treatise proving that the majority of our known world was discovered by the Chinese explorer, Chen Ho, in the early 1400s) we enjoyed this museum immensely. 'Course we had the perfect guide - a Chinese gentleman with a cultured British accent who had not read the book and was very impressed that we had and the fact that we were circumnavigating.
When we museumed out, Jeni had a blast shopping down the alleys of the village and visiting the ornate temples of the Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Confucianism, and Muslim mosques.
Harpers Restaurant, wonderfully situated in an old Chinatown godown was strong on character and atmosphere as well as offering the best food we've had in Malaysia so far! We'd found a local pub on the East side of the river where we'd seen a baby monitor lizard swimming as we sipped the local Jaz beer so it didn't bother us that we didn't see the huge 6 foot lizard that lives below Harpers. But we did watch a diver searching for coins just across the river where they were excavating the 600 year old river bed to build another museum. We'd thought he was looking for some delicacy for dinner but our waiter said he'd found valuable coins and the day before and was looking for more.
Cheers to history, civilization, exploration, and fine food! KK
11/15/2008, Johor Bahru
Sail Malaysia began their first event. What a class act they are, just the opposite from Sail Indonesia! Had a briefing Friday afternoon where we received gift bags with t-shirts, hats, flags, and a burgee as well as very detailed information about sailing up Malaysia's west coast and her marinas. And they fed us at the briefing - beverages, sandwiches, noodles, and mystery desserts!
Saturday we boarded our A/C luxury bus at 8 AM for a whirlwind tour of the area - with a police escort no less. Felt extremely privileged traveling with sirens holding traffic while we ran red lights. We were photographed on the steps of Sultan Ibrahim Administration Building with local dignitaries and visited museums, a national park, a gorgeous Muslim mosque built in British style, a colorful Hindu temple, and had prawn lunch in Kukup, a fishing village in the Southwest point of Malaysia's peninsula.
Then in the afternoon we visited a tapioca cracker factory (had snacks), a bee farm (ate fresh honeycomb with wax), and were entertained by traditional dancers at a home stay while we had "tea" with delicacies prepared by the local ladies. Our terrific tour guide was Eeleen who made the country live for us as she described the country's agriculture as we drove through it and discussed the distant mountains where we might see Sumatran rhinos, clouded leopards, tigers, sun bear, honey deer, black panther, wild elephant, hundreds of birds, 6 types of monkey, and the orangutan of course.
Got back just in time to clean up for our barbeque dinner! The welcoming ceremonies took only 5 minutes. They were smart enough to feed us as the entertainment began - more traditional dancers alternating with a rock band. Chicken and shrimp on the grill, a huge salad, Malay rice and noodle dishes, and FREE beer. If they keep feeding us like this, we can cut provisioning in half.
The entire day we were treated as if we were royalty, enjoying their hospitality with no surprise hidden costs to us as we'd experienced before. Sail Malaysia photographed and interviewed 120 very happy cruisers who I'm sure will be included in their "Visit Malaysia 2009" brochure.
Cheers to new countries, cultures, and gastronomic treats! KK