The Tioman Islands

We have finally caught up with the rally on Pulau Tioman. Might I say, the islands of the east coast of Malaysia  are just gorgeous. Palm fringed rocky island and islets, so so coral with evidence of bleaching, lots of fish and beche de mer indicating reasonably healthy reefs and clear water. There are very few pleasure boats apart from the 40 or so rally yachts. The winds have been generally light and apart from a few squalls pretty OK weather. Looks like ideal chartering grounds..but no marinas..so none of those. There are lots of resorts of all sorts of standards. The clientele appear to be Singaporean divers.

Our  first stop was Pulau Sibu. On the north coast there is a beautiful, palm fringed bay with the low key Rimba Resort. Unfortunately, the prices at the bar were Singaporean but the outlook from the thatched building  with bean bags was worth it. We met up with the yachts , Kokomo, Nefertiti, Amity, Psychopus, Court Jester  and Evolution NT and enjoyed some nice snorkelling on the house reef. Not a lot but some beautiful blue anenomes with clownfish. We got together with Sue and Barry from Nefertiti and Karen and Frank from Kokomo for a BBQ on board the Rover. We spent another day there and whilst sitting in the cockpit both Catrina and I heard a big swish in the water and the tail end of a seal like creature. Dugong, we think. We then headed east , first to Pulau Lima Besar for snorkelling . It is an uninhabited islet with a stunning white sand beach and a small reef. On the way, I was standing on the pulpit, looking for reef and saw a turtle the size of a card table. Our anchorage was at Pulau Tinggi behind a reef. We anchored over what what we thought was reef. Sea grass actually with little white anemones and mum and dad nemos . Anchor chain may have wiped out a few. Today, on the way to P. Tioman we saw 2 dolphins. That is more wildlife than the entire trip from Phuket.

Tioman is the largest island in the area. Beautiful clear water and a reef. Luckily , I was keeping a lookout as we approached bubbles near the anchorage  from divers with NO indication via flag or buoy. Maybe some diving tomoz.

The contagion of tropical sock knitting.

The contagion of tropical sock knitting.

 

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P. Sibu

The contagion of tropical sock knitting.

The contagion of tropical sock knitting.

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OMG

We have had 3 lovely days in Singapore,  staying at the YMCA …highly recommended. Got to go to the Museum of Singpore , Asian Civilizations Museum , shopped and ate. We applied for our Indonesian Visa for the Anambas and Natuna Islands and had it timed to pick up our visas at 2:30 pm and head straight back to the border and back to the boat at Puteri Harbour in Nusa Jaya on the Malaysian side of the Johor Straits, before the rush hour. Each day 200,000 Malaysian cross at Tuas and Johor Bahru to commute to work.

It all started to go to custard when we realised that to get our visas/passport back we had to have the receipts which we had all left back at the YMCA. Bryan was also not admitted to the Embassy as he was wearing shorts. He tried to bluster his way in but “No bermudas, NO bermudas! ” so he taxied back to the Y to get receipts and long pants. Catrina and Brendan were able to prove identity with their Tasmanian drivers licences. Go Tassy! We then taxied  back to the Y to pick up our stuff then on to the Tuas Crossing Immigration. Well, we discovered that although you can taxi on the Malaysian side right to Immigration, you have to catch a bus on the Singaporean side……but not until the taxi driver realised he was not permitted to drop us off there and left us on the freeway to walk. ” You just walk up there, can do” he said.  Laden with luggage , we sweated our way to where the buses entered, to be told by the border guards NOT PERMITTED GO BACK. At that stage , we realised that the new charts eastern Indonesia that Brendan and Catrina had so carefully transported from Melbourne, were missing. In the taxi? Back at the Y car park? Who knows? Fortunately , a bus did arrive after half and hour to transport us to Joo Koon MRT station but buses across the border didn’t leave from there , we were informed , by a bus commandant who nearly doubled over laughing when he heard our tale of woe. The only thing to do was to go to McDonald for a coffee and mentally regroup. When Bryan tipped the $1.20 soft serves on the floor and we all fell about laughing hysterically, it must have been perplexing for the locals. Beyond caring at that stage. Onto the MRT, to Boon Lay, into the queue waiting > 1 hour to finally get on the bus to get to Singapore immigration, wait in the queue for another hour to leave our finger prints in Singapore, back onto the bus, a cross the bridge, wait in another queue at Malaysian immigration another hour, then get through to find “No taxis, must catch bus” but bus to Puteri Harbour “finished” 10 mins before. The bus men felt sorry for these bedraggled, sweaty, foreigners so a bus was arranged to take us to Legoland which , when we got there was closed ( I didn’t really want to go) and not a soul , let alone a taxi was in sight. By this time it was pitch dark. Catrina charmed a security guard who got us a taxi , two turned up, we put our stuff in one then realised it was the wrong one and reloaded, and the towers of Puteri Harbour came into view. Beer…..that’s all I can say.

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JB

Johor Bahru is the city on the Malaysian side of the Causeway. A 45 min bus ride for a whole 4 MR whisked us there in air conditioned comfort. I was keen to visit the old historic part of town and the Chinese Heritage Museum. The trick was to work out which way was north In order to avail ourselves of the Google Maps guide. It’s hard when you are trapped in a humongous 21st century shopping mall with no reference to the sky or water. The way to the water is obscured by a space age bridge leading immigration. At least 200,000 Malaysians commute to work in Singapore via this route . We resorted to the compass app and got to the main road which was closed due to reconstruction. Finding a rough path that people seemed to be using , we landed in the Indian part of town. It had a temple and lots of sari shops.

The Hindu temple

The Hindu temple

A garland maker threading marigolds

A garland maker threading marigolds

A big garland kept fresh by squeezing limes onto it??

A big garland kept fresh by squeezing limes onto it??

Just, further on was the Chinese part of town with some funky restaurants and the Museum. By this stage we were ready for ice cream which we had in paper cups with dry ice in the lower one . The museum had lots of photos of JB and as recently as the 1970s people were living in sampans in the river. It also had an exhibit on the growing of gambier. I’m still not sure what this product was used for! Rubber and pineapples were also big. JB gives the impression of being quite affluent. I’m sure its proximity to Singapore has something to do with it.

Puteri Harbour basin was full of cruising boats when we got back and they are a very social lot. Add 4 bars and you have a lots of cruising yachties telling tall tales over a beer or two.

Mmm. I tried it. Didn't finish it.

Durian Fire Ball.  Mmm. I tried it. Didn’t finish it.

Amazing who you run into in shopping malls.

Amazing who you run into in shopping malls.

Murals

Murals

Trying to follow the 1MDB controversy, I would agree.

Trying to follow the 1MDB controversy, I would agree.

Murals

Murals

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Puteri Harbour in Johor

We motorsailed one enormous day from Admiral Marina , Port Dixon , to Pulau Pisang (Banana Island) getting to the anchorage at 2130hrs C/- the full moon. We averaged 7-8 kts at 2500 revs as Bryan is trying to blow the engine up or compete with Songbird 50, a Lagoon 50 from Melbourne. I fear the latter.

The next day, we set off up the Johor Straits , suitably latish in the morning to get under the Tuas Bridge ( 25 m v GR airdraft of 23.5m) at low tide. Try as we might, we had no reply of communication with Puteri Harbour re a booking so we were a bit shocked when they said they had no marina berth, which we needed to leave her in for our trip to Singas. It’s a long days trip round to Senibong on the east side of the causeway…a little to late in the day to undertake. Ahhh, let’s go to Singapore. Can’t do that as we haven’t cleared out of Malaysia. After a further discussion a berth was found for us …how does that happen? We popped  right in and paid upfront in case they changed their mind.

We were greeted by Karen and Frank from Kokomo 5 , who inducted us into the places which have fastest WIfi, cheapest food, bus to shops etc. Puteri Harbour is a HUGE apartment developement, hotel, waterfront restaurants and , of course ,marina. They have a separate private marina for apartment owners who then don’t have to mix with grotty live aboard yachties. A comparison would be Docklands on steroids. Trouble is that it’s in the middle of nowhere and nearest shopping seems to be miles away. There is a brand new ferry terminal which was supposedly to ferry people to work in Singapore but apparently Singapore won’t let them so the only ferries go to Batam in Indonesia. Anyway it’s very nice , with aircon restaurants and Hello Kitty Kingdom. We’re off to explore and do a partial shop Tomoz ” once we finish the boat jobs today, Sue”.

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Melaka…UNESCO World Heritage Site

This is the house where my friend Lian grew up. It is now the temple of the Moral Uplifting Society!

This is the house where my friend Lian grew up. It is now the temple of the Moral Uplifting Society!

We’ve just spent 2 interesting days in Melaka. Melaka was a trading port of great significance  as its at the narrowest point in the Malacca Straits and the trade winds would bring sailing ships then send them back to where they came from when they changed directions. The Sultanates of the 13th century were followed by the Portuguese, then Dutch  then British. The British moved most of their trade to Penang in the 19th century so destroyed the fortification of the town leaving just a small bit which has been unearthed.

Chinatown is the core of the world heritage site. Here are some photos of the houses and streetscapes.

Sri Poyatha Venayagar Moorthi temple .. One of the first Hindu temples built in Malaysia

Sri Poyatha Venayagar Moorthi temple .. One of the first Hindu temples built in Malaysia

Masjid Kampung Hulu oldest functioning mosque in Malaysia

Masjid Kampung Hulu oldest functioning mosque in Malaysia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple Gate ..oldest in Malaysia

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple Gate ..oldest in Malaysia

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St Francis Xavier Cathedral from 1803

St Francis Xavier Cathedral from 1803

The very decorated tricycle rickshaws.

The very decorated tricycle rickshaws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old house

Old house

If you stand on a verandah on either side of Heeren St all the round widows on the walls lining the verandas line up

If you stand on a verandah on either side of Heeren St all the round widows on the walls lining the verandas line up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a river trip upstream past a Malay tourist village where people live, huge apartment buildings and malls and old riverside buildings covered in painting depicting the past.

Looking north along the river

Looking north along the river

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Street art on the riverside buildings

Street art on the riverside buildings

Melaka highrise

Melaka highrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking south down the river

Looking south down the river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were here were interesting foodstuff at the night market in Jonkers St.

These are baby hedgehogs for sale ..as pets , I think.

Things you find at the night market. These are baby hedgehogs for sale ..as pets , I think.

 

Yum..ducks tongues

Yum..ducks tongues

Fried ice cream

Fried ice cream

Quail ends and sausage on a stick

Quail ends and sausage on a stick

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Penang and Beyond

Once in Straits Quay Marina, we turned on the air con again making the boat tolerable in the still air . Straits Quay is surrounded by high rise limiting any breeze. We hired a car and did a circuit of the island stopping by at Georgetown for the Post Office and a bike shop and finding ourselves parking in a lovely street of colonial era shop houses.

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We headed up the Air Itam to see the amazing Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple. It is a sprawling edifice on a hill with a HUGE Buddha under a lofty verandah with carved columns and intricate decorations. The view down over Georgetown is expansive. We the headed south to the town where I think the average worker lives. Huge high rises packed in to a small valley. On then, though jungle on a good road , up along the spine of the Penang hills west then north with views over to a flat coastal plain along the west coast. Finally, we drove east along very pretty coast line of the north coast with big resorts back to Straits Quay.

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Wishing Ribbons

Wishing Ribbons

The next day , we picked up Chris and Peter McHugh from SV Honeybee. They are Taswegians who were on the rally up and are still in Thailand and were visiting Penang on a visa run. We melted a bit whilst checking out the Botanical Gardens and found some big lizards sunning themselves , plus the cheeky ubiquitous macaques. There were some shady spots in the jungle areas. Our reward was afternoon tea at Suffolk House. This restored mansion circa 1804, was the home of the first governor of British Penang and big boss of the British East India Company, Sir Francis Light. A video , showing its condition in the 60’s , basically derelict, and the subsequent efforts  at restoration gave a glimpse of the difficulties faced and hurdles overcome. The arvo tea wasn’t half bad either. Cucumber sandwiches , of course.

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Chris and Peter were staying in Chulia Mansions in Penang Chinatown so we parked there and walked around looking for the iconic street art by a young Latvian artist , done in 2012 for the Penang Festival.

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Mmm great cake shops.

Mmm great cake shops.

 

Straits Quay Marina is very lux, but very silted up so , to leave , we had to wait til high tide (lucky it was springs) at 1600 hours, then ride the tide under the bridges ( our air draft is 23.5m and the bridges are 2.8m … Ahh plenty of room). We had a peaceful night at P.Kendi then started early for Pangkor , finding a really lovely bay on the south east corned of Pangkor. It was so nice and sheltered from slop coming in from the west that we stayed another night and Bryan attended a rally feast a few bays north. We dined on shore with Ade and Terry on the yacht Beau Soliel ( from Sandringham) at a cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant . The food was amazing . Ade and I availed ourselves of the chilli crab but there were 4 other dishes and all for $AUD 10 each including a generous supply of beer.

We then did a mammoth 100 mn south to Port Klang powering through the huge port ( 50+ cranes ) in the twilight and anchored in a totally protected mangrove inlet overnight.  This left us with only 50 mn to Port Dixon . They were not taking bookings . It was first come , first served and as there are now many more rally boats than marina berths  we snagged a spot along with Songbird 50 and Beau Soliel, both from Melbourne. We then met Helen from the Tassy boat , Meridian. There is a Canadian yacht, Scot Free as well but many more boats are expected over the next few days. We’re off to stay in Melaka today for another look at the World Heritage listed Chinatown and maybe a bit of eating Baba Nonya food for which Melaka is famous.

 

 

 

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On the move south.

Gypsea Rover is on the way south. We met some of the rally participants at a cocktail party and briefing at Rebak Marina. There are 44 boats so far but many will join the rally at Pangkor, Singapore and the Tiomans.

Last night we stayed in a bay surrounded by islands just south of Langkawi. It was stunning, with high cliffs covered by jungle, emerald water and only 2 other boats. A monkey troop strolled along the beach with a cute little one prancing around. No long tails… I reckon chartering in Langkawi would be a much better experience than Phang Nga Bay in Thailand.

Today we set off early (for us..0730hrs) to get to Penang. Just south of Langkawi we got a lovely beam 10kts ( 14 apparent) and with flat seas and all sail up, staysail included, we flew along for 3 hours the motor sailed the rest.  We are now hanging off  Batu Ferringhi beach waiting for a spot at Starits Quay Marina tommorrow. Lucky it’s spring tide as the marina has silted up by recent reports and we will probably just scrape in . Looking forward to eating and doing some ore land travel on Penang.

Anchorage J ..heaven

Anchorage J ..heaven

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Back at Ko Muk

It was a lovely motor to Ko Muk with plenty of time for knitting and lunch of Ab Fab rice paper rolls made by our resident Michelin 3 Star Thai chef, Karen. We were here with Kathy and Allan way back in November last year and it was overcast and rainy. Brilliant sunshine today. Looks better. Photo by Karen

Perfect spot for knitting, under the foredeck shade .

Perfect spot for knitting, under the foredeck shade .

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A Long Time Between Drinks..

We are finally heading south. We cleared out yesterday after a delay for some last minute boats jobs. Whilst clearing out , we met yet another boat heading south for the Rally…”Anthem”, with Adrian and Carmen.  The process was pretty straightforward except that the computer lost all the accumulated data on all boats before Jan 1 this year.  Where has all this data gone , I wonder.

We then headed to Maya Bay, on PhiPhi Le , the site of the film, “The Beach” and one of Leonardo Di Caprio’s first big films. It is a fabulous bay, surrounded on three sides with tall cliffs, and with clear jade coloured water. You can’t anchor so we were lucky to get a marine park buoy and spend the night there while all the tourists were gone.

This morning the land breeze provided a sail for 2 hours then died off so we motored to Koh Lanta where  the big bay provided a easy anchorage  for an afternoon of lazing and a beach restaurant dinner tonight.

Sundowners..again

Sundowners..again

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