12 February 2010
Dave Hot Sunny again : )
There has been much water under the keel since my last report and we have spent time in three countries. After 4 months in Indonesia we were ready to move on and experience the modern world again, our visa was also close to expiring. It is quite surprising that the distance between Indonesia and Malaysia is quite small but the gulf in standard of living is huge. We were grateful for the well stocked supermarkets and the calm order on the roads, you didn't feel like you were risking life and limb crossing the road. The parts of Malaysia we have seen, give the impression of a wealthy country with good infrastructure - roads, schools and great hospitals. Malaysia is very welcoming and the government make it easy for us to be here. It is also an inexpensive place to be especially in Langkawi Island which is a duty free port where you can buy a 24 can "slab" of beer for less than $10 Australian. All of this sounds like we were glad to be out of Indonesia but that is not the case. Within a couple of weeks we were longing for the cultural variety that is Indonesia, where the locals perform whether tourists are there or not, the open friendliness of the people and yes, the chaos. Don't misunderstand me, the Malaysian people are friendly but in a more reserved way.
We cleared into Malaysia at Puteri in the Straits of Johor (it was very easy as promised) and spent some time exploring the area, we were entertained by very polished and skilful shows of cultural entertainment. This part of Malaysia is one big redevelopment project, the government are spending billions on infrastructure, presumably to entice business and commerce away from Singapore which is literally full. In fact the Singaporeans are reclaiming as much land as possible. We stayed in Southern Malaysia for a couple of weeks and during that time, took a bus trip across the bridge into Singapore, a journey of about 90 mins into the city centre. It cost us about a $1AUD. Singapore has some interesting remnants of the colonial days with some fantastic old buildings along the river. We also found a great brew pub which made the trip worthwhile. The most prominent feature of Singapore are the shops, shops and more shops which is frustrating when you are on a tight budget and a small boat. If you can't get it here then it has not yet been invented. We found Singapore quite tiring and were glad to get back to our boat and provision for the next leg of our trip.
All provisioned it was time to set off for the infamous Straits of Malacca, about which stories of pirates and thieves abound. We can testify that not a pirate was sighted nor was the thief who stole Jean's handbag from a restaurant in Malacca Town. As any woman will testify, to lose a handbag can be devastating, a bit like a bloke smashing up his new sports car. Jean was no different. The pain in the rear for me was having to cancel the credit cards and await their replacements. Despite the trouble in Malacca we enjoyed the town very much. It is Malaysia's most historically interesting town with remnants of the Portuguese, Dutch and British incursions, alongside the narrow Chinese streets and the many interesting antique shops.
We arranged for our cards to be sent to Penang, it took a month for them to arrive, I was under the impression that the Malaysian Post were efficient!!! It was no burden staying in Penang for a few weeks as it is similar in heritage to Malacca but with a more British colonial flavour. It is also much bigger. Parts of Georgetown, Penang are like travelling back 50 yrs in time with bicycle rickshaws carrying their passengers through the narrow Chinese streets. Little India was also a delight for the senses with the aroma of spices, the fantastic colours and Indian music blaring out from all directions (some of the sound systems leave a lot to be desired though). It was also an area where we ate on a regular basis as we could have dinner for 2 for as little as $AUD3 each.
Penang was the first SE Asian place Jean and I ever visited in 3 BC (before cruising) or 2004 as a stopover from a visit to the UK. We wanted to retrace our steps and visit the area we had stayed. On cycling around to Batu Ferringhi we found the hotel and the little beach bar we had frequented. The bar was, and still is, run by a lovely Indian couple, the lady was pregnant and gave birth shortly after we left. This beach bar was soon to become quite famous and was featured in the international press. On boxing day 2004 the huge tsunami hit this part of the world and this baby girl (now 28 days old) was asleep on a mattress on the veranda, she was picked up by a massive wave and swept out to sea, then the miracle occurred, the next wave brought her straight back to the bar, still asleep. We met the little girl playing in the bar, oblivious of her fame.
By the time our credit cards arrived the rally had moved on to the final destination, Langkawi and many of the boats dispersed . This was quite sad as we didn't get to say goodbye to friends we had made along the way who were heading towards the Red Sea and the Med.
In the middle of December we moved a short distance up the coast to Langkawi where our sons Matt and Pete were to join us for Christmas. This was the first time we had been together at Christmas for a couple of years. We had a great time for the next week travelling to different anchorages around the island, swimming, snorkelling and generally exploring. During their stay the boat was a little less ship shape than normal with 2 extra bodies, luggage and 2 guitars to find space for, still find space we did and we were grateful for the time spent together. Pete could only stay with us for 10 days and his time was up all too quickly, it is always an emotional time saying goodbye, no matter how many times we do it. Matt stayed with us for a month as we travelled up to Phuket in Thailand. More about that in the next entry.
Stay tuned and keep the comments coming.
Dave and Jean