Slow Sailing

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From The Pearl To The Rice Bowl

16 December 2015 | Phuket, Thailand
Heather
The Sail Malaysia Rally ended last week and now we're back on our own again. Yay! It was great fun and offered a lot of opportunities to socialize together in nice marinas and they did a good job of showing us a bit of Malaysia. Now we are checked out of Malaysia (temporarily), because we're on our way to Phuket, Thailand for Christmas. It isn't that far away, and we can do it over 3 daysails. It seems like a great place to be for the holidays and there are several boats headed up that way. But that means another check-in, another phone chip and another country to figure out. Not to mention the language! Tonight we are anchored next to this massive rock, the first we've seen of these formations and hopefully many more to come. The water is clearish and green but doesn't appeal for snorkeling yet but we took a dip to try and cool off. It didn't work. We had to motor all the way here except for an hour of sailing this morning and during the heat of the day (which feels like 24 hrs), the sun is too hot for the new solar panels we put in. I think they are going opaque and we can smell them cooking. On the horizon tonight, there are dozens of fishing boats out with green lights. Ever since we got to Malaysia and now in Thailand as well, the fishermen use green lights to attract fish or squid- not sure. They appear after dark in droves and we can never figure out where they come from because we don't see them in such force during the day. I have grown to really like our underway days as far as peace & quiet goes.

From Malaysia
From Malaysia
From Malaysia

Looking backward over the past few weeks... After we left Pangkor Marina, we moved to Penang, once called the Pearl Of The Orient. It is Malaysia's oldest British settlement & has world heritage status. After hearing & reading so much about this island city, we were excited to finally get to see it for ourselves. It has two link bridges to mainland Malaysia, both of which are quite long, and we passed under both of them. I don't think we'd been under any bridges since Sydney. In a way, Penang is supposed to be like Malaysia's version of Singapore, but it didn't really feel like it. It has historic Georgetown at it's center which changes the focus from futuristic to preserving the past. Penang food is famous and we sampled a good deal of it through rally events as well as on our own. Hawker food stalls are everywhere and as usual in the parts of Asia we've seen so far, there is an overabundance of food, on every curb. To us, it is as good as you would expect quickly prepared food to be. But it is different and tasty and the venue is of course very authentic! We did have the best coconut milkshakes ever and will never forget them. We went to some interesting museums such as an old Straits Chinese Mansion with the cutest little Chinese lady to give us a tour, a fully stocked camera museum that included many famous US photographs, exhibits on local history & art and also to a few parks. Penang has a funicular railway that goes straight up Penang Hill, then you can walk down and end up in the botanical garden. We did this one day and then finished up on "The Clan Jetties" which are historic wharves inhabited for many years by Chinese families- a whole community out on a jetty, and now with UNESCO status, people can walk through to see how they live. There is a problem with sewage in Penang, but I'm sure at some point, there will be a turn to focus on the ocean. Love that dirty water! Makes Boston harbor a model for what can be accomplished.

Penang has an old fort right in Georgetown- Cornwallis, and it is now both a point of interest as well as an event venue. The Minister of Tourism scheduled a fancy dinner for us rally VIP's one night at the fort. It was such a beautifully prepared evening. We were transported in double decker tour buses so we got the best views of all the colorful city lights but it rained buckets that evening and curbed our touring. The drought is OVER and we've had plenty of moisture to wash off the dirt. Since we've spent a fair amount of time in marinas lately, the Air Con has been on and we're so much more comfortable. A night spent with as a friend calls it "AC" (actual climate) is even more uncomfortable when there's no breeze. When we're anchored out, we wonder how much more we can take.

After Penang, we did a day motor to the island group of Langkawi. We were anxious to get to this area because it is reportedly beautiful and the water quality improves. We found that the water color got a little better changing to green rather than brown, but there was no snorkeling there. The topside scenery though was quite dramatic & beautiful. Made of lots of granite & marble and towering limestone cliffs, it is unique in our travels. But, we've found that a lot of it is inaccessible; there aren't many trails. It is also Malaysia's main tourism island (for beaches & green space) so whatever is developed for eco tourism is chucker block full of tourists. It is odd to see a full burka on a wooded path as well!
From Malaysia

The last rally stop was at Rebak Marina which is on a tiny island off of Langkawi. Tucked in the trees and accessible through a dredged channel, it is a pretty spot and a secure place to keep the boat. They provide a free ferry to the main island of Langkawi. We had a reception one night and a tour of Langkawi the next day with a nice lunch, then dinner at a rice museum. Had the cream of mushroom soup too! This area, where Langkawi is, is considered the "rice bowl" of Malaysia. Most of the country's rice is produced here- on the mainland and a little on Langkawi primarily for tourist purposes I think. It was nice to see the water buffalo again in the bright green fields.
From Malaysia
From Malaysia

Jon & I rented a car the next day and toured some more which was interesting, but nothing knock your socks off. We took a cable car up to one of the mountain tops and also drove up to another mountain top which ended up having a hotel teetering on the edge and a lot of towers We're seeing a pattern here! The car was a hoot. It was about $15 for the day and when we first got into it, we couldn't find the gas gauge. This is very important because usually, there is about a teaspoon of gas in the car and you must go straight to a station praying the whole way. We finally had to flag down the guy we rented from and he came over to the dash and pushed on it real hard in one specific spot. Voila! The gas gauge appeared and it was half full! Then he let go and it disappeared again. You just have to know exactly where to press. After a few demonstrations, we got it and off we went. The only thing he guarantees is that the AC works, nothing else. It worked and we made it around the island with nothing blowing up. It was a fun day and a good deal! One thing we've gotten used to is cars with personality!
From Malaysia
From Malaysia

Rebak Marina became a little haven because it is so quiet and peaceful. Each morning we were there, we would walk the trails as early as we could manage for some exercise and to enjoy the hornbill "couples" (they are always in pairs) that live there. There are a lot of monkeys too, and we've heard they will go inside your boat if it is hauled out on stands and you leave it open, say, to run down to the chandlery to buy a screw. We've both grown fearful of the larger, more common monkeys because so many have chased us. In tourist areas where people stupidly feed them, they have become aggressive and will come after you with teeth bared. You aren't supposed to make eye contact with them nor let them see a plastic bag. As soon as we see one now, we grab a big rock and threaten them as we would a dog and they generally go running up the nearest tree. We would never have thought this would be a problem, but they carry rabies! There are other brands of monkeys that are still cute and we even saw a wild lemur yesterday walking across a telephone wire. They are all tail.

We ran in to Mike, Karen & Falcon on Beau Soleil yesterday. We first met them back in Belize years ago, saw them again in Tahiti, then ran into them on a backpacking trail in New Zealand, and now Langkawi. At Pangkor, we also ran into Doug & Zuleyka who we crossed the Pacific with which was fun. That's the interesting part of traveling this way; you never know who is going to wash up where!
From Malaysia

Right before we left for Thailand, we anchored on the north side of Langkawi at a spot affectionately called "The Hole In The Wall". It is a narrow, natural entry into a maze of mangrove filled channels with high rocky mountains surrounding them, quite impressive actually. Eagles soar, there are interesting little caves and backwater areas and loads of... monkeys! The only problem with this place is it has been "discovered" and it was almost to the point of being funny how many local tour boats there were. You literally had to look left & right before proceeding from one mangrove channel to the next, there was so much traffic. Thankfully, by dark, all the tour boats were gone and we had the place to ourselves. It still is a lovely spot even if in between boat wakes.

We're hoping Thailand delivers on the snorkeling & diving front, think it will. Our current plan is to spend about a month or two there doing both land and cruising exploration. There are some incredible looking hongs to see and other wild island scenery. We'll check out some boatyards for potential work on the boat but really, we have scaled back what work we want done due to cost and just plain heat. It is almost too hot to think about working very hard at anything. And even if someone else is doing it, you have to be right there watching over so it isn't much different. Then I think we'll come back to Malaysia to store the boat before we do any further travel of Asia. It's been a great country to explore and there's so much more to see.

We wish our family & friends, and anyone else reading this a wonderful holiday. Hopefully, we won't be away for too many more.
From Malaysia
Comments
Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Hello! We are Heather & Jon Turgeon of S/V Evergreen. We started sailing in 1994 on our first boat, a Cape Dory 31, then sought out a Tashiba 40 that could take us around the globe. It has been our home for 19 years. We've thoroughly cruised the East coast and Caribbean and just completed our [...]
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