Sebana Cove Johor
29 April 2008 | Mainland Malaysia
hot and sticky
10th May 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
We are moving to One15 Marina in Singapore on Monday 12th May (Vashti's birthday!) This will involve dogdging the ships again going around the other side of Singapore island. We have to contact customs and immigration who will meet us at Sister islands to check who is on board and stamp our passports. One15 Marina is on Sentosa island and close to Singapore city. This means we will have easier access to boat parts, supplies and information before we head for the sea again.
After much discussion we have decided to aim for Cocos Keeling in the souther Indian ocean. We will have to get past Sumatra, Indonesia via Sunda Strait Java first. Valiam and her crew will hopefully fly along in the SE tradewinds. The prospect of motoring and dodging typhoons in the tropics does not appeal and is not the safest thing to do.
We are getting quotes for an electric autopilot and associated bit and pieces in Singapore. We expect to be in Singapore for a couple of weeks whilst we get ready.
Tuesday 5th May 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
We've just returned once again from a couple of days away being wonderfully entertained in Johor Bahru and Singapore by Yen Ney's (Bill's sister in law) family. Chinese Malaysian hospitality cannot be beaten! We have sampled the best and most unusual Chinese food and been shown around two most interesting cities by locals which is always better than on doing it on one's own.
On the weekend we invited various members of the family to visit us at the marina. On Saturday we had 8 guests and on Sunday we had 7! Luckily we were able to make use of the restaurant and pool as Valiam is too hot during the day to entertain especially for the 2 grandmothers who visited. We've had several grandparents manage to climb on board Valiam now! Of course photos of the babies (En, Joe etc) were viewed with lots of aahs and oohs (great for communication). Bill showed the blokes how we use the chart plotter and general navigation. One of Yen Ney's brothers is married to a young woman from Taiwan. They have a little girl and his wife is not allowed to work in Malaysia.
There are all sorts of rules about working and owning land in Malaysia. The Malay people in Malaysia have special privileges in buying and owning land/houses, businesses etc. They receive discounts and lower interest rates when buying property. They have priority in schools for their children. This is why many young Malaysian Chinese go overseas to study. (for those who can afford it) Although most of the Chinese and Indian people have lived here for many generations they don't receive the same treatment as Malays. There is very little intermarriage between the Malays and the Chinese or Indians due to religious differences. 90% of Peninsula Malaysians are Muslim. A Muslim man can have 3 wives. There are more Chinese and Indians marrying each other because their religions have similarities and are less restrictive. The Chinese culture is very strong and links are maintained with China. Je - one of Yen Ney's brothers is about to marry a Chinese girl he met while she was on holidays in Singapore. They will have a traditional Chinese Wedding in China. They are coming back to live in Singapore with Mimi and Donald initially until they are more established. Je's wife is allowed to work in Singapore but not Malaysia.
On Sunday Bi Yuen (one of Yen Ney's brothers) suggested we come back to Johor Bahru with him. This was a great idea so we quickly packed a couple of overnight bags and drove in airconditioned comfort through the countryside to JB. (about 1.5 hours) I was surprised to see that the land from Sebana to JB was mostly oil palm plantations. There were only a couple of small towns along the way. I was expecting it to be messy and crowded with towns and cities. Johor Bahru is a big city with a mixture of traditional housing, small town houses and high rise apartments. We visited Yen Ney's father's house where she grew up where we were greeted with a cup of Chinese tea. In the living room there is a significant Chinese altar with beautiful statuettes, candles fruit and flowers. Most Chinese altars seem to be red and give a beautiful glow to the living area. After another round of family photos we went to a shopping centre to meet Bi Yuen's eldest brother who just happened to run a jewelry store. Linda was very excited by this and fell in love with a ring of Muslim design - real rose gold with 'American diamonds' and artificial stone (yes you guessed it) in dark pink. This is a beautiful souvenier of Malaysia and doesn't take up any room on the boat!
Bi Yuen's wife Debbie was working until 11pm so Bi Yuen drove us around JB to show us the sights. One unusual sight was a small industrial type area with motorbike repairs etc on one side of the road but behind it were 'lady- boys' dressed to the hilt in evening dresses, high heels and lots of make up touting for suitors. One spotted Bill in the front seat and almost jumped on the bonnet with excitement! Bi Yuen accelerated quickly out of there! (It seems that once again the transvestites are attracted to Bill!)
Part of the tour of JB included a huge shopping centre (to buy our 'grandson clothes') and Yen Ney's mother's home she shares with her husband and mother in law. Her home is a 2 story town house with a court yard. The mother in law was out playing Mah Jong. It was time for dinner so we went to an outdoor food court to eat traditional Malaysian/ Chinese food. Yne Ney's mum and Je (another brother) met us there. Every dish was delicious and each one had its ingredients explained to us. One of the dishes was quite unusual. I saw Bi Yuen showing Bill something in a glass tank. Bill said "You should see the big frogs over there. That's what we're having with chillie!" I had a look at these creatures huddled together and thought they looked a bit like toads and said so! I wasn't sure whether I could eat them but when the dish arrived everyone was so enthusiastic about this delicacy we had to try it! Surprisingly it was delicious, tender and a bit like chicken!
After dinner we were also shown Bi Yuen's new home that doesn't appear to be very lived in. It's a 2 storey townhouse with a courtyard and huge kitchen. (Debbie likes to cook) Bi Yuen served us traditional Chinese tea with the proper little pot and tiny cups. Around 11pm we went to Debbie's mum's house where Debbie and Bi Yuen usually live. It's complicated because even though they are legally married they haven't had the traditional ceremony yet so in the eyes of the older generation they are not quite married yet. Debbie's mum was away in Kuala Lumpa managing the family construction business. Debbie's dad passed away when she was a child and her mum now has an Australian boyfriend who lives in Malaysia. Debbie's family home is very comfortable and quite large for a town house. She has 3 dogs about the size of Australian cattle dogs which weren't particularly friendly. The house overlooks a nice park with trees and has some gorgeous carved Chinese rosewood furniture inlaid with mother of pearl. There is also a housemaid in residence who does all the cleaning, washing, general maintenance of the garden, dogs etc. She is an Indonesian lady from Yogjakarta and is paid 550 ringgits a month. Even at the late hour of 11.30 she gave us drinking water for our room, towels etc. We were thinking one of these ladies would be quite nice to have when we go back! Bi Yuen and Debbie work quite hard and long hours (both are in marketing) and only have one day off a week.
On the Monday morning Debbie (her day off after working until midnight) served us a Chinese breakfast of steamed rice dumplings with minced pork wrapped in a kind of leaf. Food is such an important part of Chinese/Malaysian culture - this dish is for the month of May. Debbie's real name is Chinese (something like Wi-ee) but when she went to Glasgow to study they called her Debbie and now she uses the name quite often with work and visitors like us. Bi Yuen was flying to Bangkok for business and had a driver picking him up at 9.30am. He offered to take us to Mimi's house on the way in Singapore. Hi plane left at 12.30 and one needs this much time to get through the traffic jam between JB and Singapore because of immigration. It is so strange to be in a different country once over the bridge. Literally once the passports are stamped the mobile phone changes to another network (more expensive one) and we have to find an ATM to get Singapore dollars.
Mimi was waiting for us and we went up to her comfortable 13th floor apartment to drop off our bags before we all caught the MRT into Singapore city. We went to a shopping mall totally dedicated to computers and components. We purchased an aerial for our lap top to increase reception for wireless when we are in port. Bill was looking for marine shops and we found another high rise shopping mall totally dedicated to just radio and electrical components. We didn't have time to find the chandleries on this trip. Singapore really has everything one could possibly buy!
Singapore is well organized and a 'fine' city (there are fines for any small misdemeanour although bicycle helmets aren't compulsory) and there appears to be no obvious poverty. When we were in the city tourist area the other day we had never seen so many restaurants! There were so many different styles and flavours. The one which was the weirdest was called 'Clinic'. It had gold spray painted wheelchairs for chairs, operating lights above tables that looked like hospital beds. They served drinks in 'drips' attached to a wheeled frame. I was surprised the waiters weren't wearing white coats. Very odd. (I didn't see if the food looked like hospital food)
After our tour around the electronics malls we caught a double decker bus back which was great. We sat up the top right at the front. I was like an excited school girl whilst the bored teenage Singaporeans were slumped in their seats listening to ipods or had mobile phones glued to their ears.
Mimi and her husband Donald speak excellent English so we were able to communicate on a deeper level which was great. Mimi is a dedicated community worker for her church and is always looking after the family. Her mother in law is with them every weekend at least and she expects to be looking after her for many years to come. Mimi is a generous lively and giving person. She also looked after us very well with a delicious chicken curry for dinner that night. Donald kindly advised us on our computer problems.
It is the traditional culture for the sons and their wives to look after their parents. When older women are widowed they live with their sons and not on their own. They require attention, respect and all their needs both emotional and physical are met mostly by their daughter in laws. This can sometimes cause friction in families. The older generation have a lot of say in what is acceptable in the lives of the next generation. Children out of wedlock, homosexuality etc are issues which the older generation find impossible to accept under the same roof. We have heard tales where the mothers in law can be very difficult and rude even refusing to speak to a daughter-in-law for some perceived characteristic or behaviour they don't condone. (such as independence for example!)
We feel privileged to be part of the lives of even if for a short time of these wonderful people. We hope that some will visit our family in Australia one day.
We are now back at the marina deliberating our next move. The cyclones (such as in Burma) and the southwesterlies will affect where we can go. We are investigating an autopilot but feel nervous about spending such a large amount and getting it installed and working correctly. Lightning could also kill it in one foul blow! We hope to get to Langkawi soon. It's a week or so's sail/motor up the Malacca straits dodging more ships.
That's it for now
Valiam and her crew
Saturday 3rd May
Sebana Cove Marina Resort
(close to Singapore)
Position: 1.24.74N 104.09.765E
We arrived here last Tuesday 29th April after anchoring for the night just inside the Santi river outside the Navy base after 8 days at sea. The Santi river winds around for 5 miles until Sebana Cove Marina can be seen at the end. It is very comfortable and quiet even if hot during the day with no breeze. It's a slightly more delapidated version of the last marina but cheap enough with free showers, pool etc. This is always welcome and we get to have a rest from sailing for a little while. It wont be long before the sea is calling again however!
Singapore is an hour away by ferry but we have to go through immigration each end, change our money and the cheap Malaysian phone card is no longer cheap! (on roam in a foreign country!) We just spent a couple of days enjoying air conditioned comfort in a hotel room, eating in restaurants and catching the MRT to China Town, Little India and Orchard road. Singapore is noisy and full of shops and shopping malls.
The highlight of the trip was meeting up with Bill's sister in law Yen Ney's relations who have been so welcoming and interested in our trip. We caught a taxi to Mimi and Donald's place in Singapore which is on the 13th floor of an apartment building. It is a comfortable airy 3 bedroom place with balcony and bomb shelter! Because it was Bill's birthday Mimi surprised him with a chocolate birthday cake. later on we went in 2 cars with various relatives to the East coast to enjoy food cooked by hawkers on picnic tables. Traditional dishes included fish head curry and sate.
We have also been entertaining on board Valiam. Yen Ney's brother Bi Yuen and his wife Debbie drove out from Johor Bahru (at least an hour by car) on the first night we arrived in Sebana and took us to a local seafood restaurant in Sungai Renget (closest town). It is interesting for us to learn about how the locals live. Yen Ney's family speak 3 Chinese languages! Today we had 8 visitors to the marina including Mimi, Donald, Yen Ney's mum and aunty. It was a very hot day (34 degrees and high humidity) so we cooled off in the resort pool before having fried rice and noodles for lunch in the restaurant. They all loved seeing Valiam and were amazed at how comfortable we are!
Tonight we met a couple of New Zealand yachties who have been thorugh Indonesia and up to Thailand. It's great to gain information about places we haven't been to yet. This couple ended up buying an airconditioner for thier boat whilst in marinas in the tropics. This would be nice we must admit when the sweat drips off our brow during the day!
29 April 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
Position : 1.24.748N 104.09.765E
Valiam happily dashed along in a good southerly breeze yesterday at an average of 6 knots. Captain Bill and first mate Linda were quite weary after 8 days at sea with no more than a continuous sleep for 3 hours. Valiam was heeling a bit bouncing into the waves which were quite small but enough to make sleeping a muscle tightening and balance exercise to lie flat. One of our friends commented on our perceived fitness levels being 'confined' to a boat. Interestingly every movement on board whilst sailing is a 'balance and hanging on' type exercise. Our arms and stomach muscles get a work out and negotiating the 4 steps in and out of the interior of the boat 100s of times a day is like doing a slow yoga type 'step' class. No it's not like going for a long walk or a jog but there is definitely exercise involved. Bill each time he hoists and lowers sails etc is getting some exercise. It's not like we lie about on the boat sipping champagne. (we do that at anchor or in a marina!)
The ships became more of a regular feature of the seascape as the day wore on. By 2pm we were in the area where several shipping lanes from the north and south began to converge to create one huge shipping highway. This is where it got exciting. Valiam was already doing 6.5 knots so with the engine going at a good speed we were doing 7.5 - 8 knots. Ships do about 15 knots. The big shipping highway going in and out of Singapore has a north bound lane and a south bound lane with each ship around 10 minutes apart. We had to cross this highway. We waited for a gap and charged in behind a north going ship and then saw a south going vessel coming our way. It is always a good idea to go behind a ship as they cant stop or change direction very easily if a little boat like us gets in the way. Anyway we got accross and it was quite fun really. A bit like dashing accross a busy road dodging cars on a skateboard (not that i've ever done that!) The trip into the main Singapore channel took all afternoon. We stayed right over in the starboard side well away from the ships. They looked very sedate and orderly staying in their lanes. Just on sunset we witnessed an amazing sight. There were literally 100s of ships anchored as far as the eye could see in the hazy orange sunset. The ships were quite interesting to look at - all different sizes, shapes and colours. As we hugged the Malaysian coast we had to avoid floating cylinders presumably attached to crab pots or fish traps. It would have been anuisance getting one of those tangled in the propellor. For those of you who are not familiar with the geography of the area and are surprised we are still in Malaysia after being at sea for 8 days I will explain. Singapore is a small island connected by a 1000m causeway to Peninsula Malaysia. Singapore has its on currency and own government etc. We decided to stay in a marina on the Malaysian side because it was much cheaper and easier to get to from the sea.
Last night by 8pm we only just got to the mouth of the Santi river. As there were ominous thunder clouds and lightning we decided to anchor just inside the river near the Malaysian naval base. From our anchorage we could see the lights of Singapore and the planes flying in and out of the airport. It was phenomenal. A plane landed and took off less than a minute apart. Such a busy place for a small island!
After our celebratory champagne we were just about to go to bed when an inflatable turned up with 7 uniformed officers form the Malaysian Navy. They politely asked us to move further away from the 'Navy' area. It was very dark but with the aid of torches they showed us where to anchor 50 m further down. (They originally said 500m but we weren't arguing at that stage) I gamely tried my bahasa and said 'Terimah kasih! Salamat tidur!'(Thank you. Good night!) and they were absolutely delighted saying 'Sama sama.....etc"(You're welcome...)
After a good sleep we phoned the marina to let them know we were on our way. The river has mangroves either side and winds around for about 5 miles until we got to the marina. We eventually tied up on an end berth (hopefully we'll get a bit of breeze) next to a New Zealand boat. The marina is very quiet and feels like it's at the back of Caboolture or somewhere (Queenslanders will know what I mean) There appear to be many long term residents here or at least the boats are because quite a number look a bit sad covered in mould and decaying tarps. The pontoon needs some maintenance but is adequate enough. The NZ skipper next to us says he's been here since they started building the marina! Anyway it's nice and quiet. We checked out the facilities and the showers are quiet good. We get free towels from the very bored pool man in his little pagola. The resort is built from bricks and red tiles in a Florida - Asian style, It's quite open with very high ceilings and nice and cool. The restaurant is pleasant and the food average. There is a shuttle that goes to the nearest town Sungai Ringet 15 minutes away 4 times a week. One can also get a taxi there a round trip costing 50R (about $13) The ferry to Singpaore leaves 2-3 times a day and takes about an hour. We will proabably go tomorrow for a few days.
Bill's sister in law Yen Ney in Melbourne has been in constant contact with her family to make sure we are welcomed and shown the sights. We are meeting with Yen Ney's brother Bi Yuen and his wife Debbie this evening at 8.30 for dinner. They are driving 1.5 hours to see us and are very keen to do so.
It's now 4pm so we have time for a nap before we need to be at our sociable best!