Posted by: Elaine and Bob | April 2, 2014

Phuket and The Similan Islands

From Telaga in Langkawi where we cleared out of Malaysia, we day sailed to Phuket via Koh Adang in the Butang Group of islands, a pleasant 24 mile passage, and already Thailand.  There we shared a pot luck supper with Sue and Bill of Camomile, fellow Brits who we had last seen in Lombok, Indonesia.  We sailed on northwards for about 50 nm to Koh Rok Nok where though the coral and marine life was interesting, holding was poor.  Thus we were off again very early the following morning for the 60 nm to Ao Chalong on Phuket.

After a day when the breeze was consistently on the beam, but frustratingly kept switching on and off, we finally dropped anchor late afternoon, put Pipistrelle to bed (taking all of an hour), launched the dinghy and showered (taking all of five minutes!) before heading off in search of Peter and Irene on Catspaw who had invited us on board.  Finding them in the maze of yachts and other craft at anchor was a challenge and the reward of sundowners extremely welcome.  Great friends of Mo and Nigel who visited us in New Zealand, we had not seen Peter and Irene for some years, so there was much catching up to do over a meal ashore while absorbing as much information as possible about this area which they know extremely well.

Monday heralded, first, our visiting the authorities to clear in to Thailand – customs, harbour master and immigration, adding more stamps (and stamps over stamps) in our passports.  All very conveniently housed together at a ‘one stop shop’ office.

Second, Gemma arrived to spend a week with us on board Pipistrelle as part of a longer holiday in Thailand!  She was asked to take on the mantle of Official Pipistrelle Photographer with us both threatening to put our cameras into deep storage in the company of a professional!  See Gemma’s blog and her website.  The daughter of Bob’s longstanding friends, Gay and Tony, Gemma fitted into the sailing scene very well and was a delight to have on board.  Her only disappointment was not to have caught any fish despite streaming the line at every opportunity.

Professional at large!

Professional at large!

Deciding to head out from Ao Chalong towards the Similan Islands, we provisioned at the Villa Supermarket in town, affording us mouth-watering luxury we have not experienced for a long time with its range of fresh and dry goods – all at a price but nonetheless well worth the expense.

The Similans were declared a marine National Park in 1982 and lie some 60 miles northwest of Phuket.  ‘Sembilan’ means ‘nine’ in Malay, and the group unsurprisingly comprises nine main islands.  With their clear water, abundant marine life and remarkable topography they attract yachties as well as hordes of day-trippers who arrive at about 1000, departing again about 1600, when mooring buoys become available and tranquillity reigns.

We took two days to get there, anchoring for the first night off Koh Kala at the north of Bang Tao Bay, Phuket, after a good breeze from Chalong (more about Koh Kala below).  Day two took us north to sail to Khao Lak Beach, making a reasonable stopover before departing on the shorter 34 mile passage to Koh Similan.  We timed our arrival perfectly to pick up a mooring, take in the rock formations in Donald Duck Bay (so-called because of the rock that, if you use your imagination, resembles DD’s beak) and don snorkelling gear.  Sadly what must have been a stunning reef had been decimated in the 2004 tsunami that hit Phuket and though we saw signs of regeneration, it has a long way to go.  We did however spot Titan, Ebony and Picasso Triggerfish, Threadfin butterflyfish, pufferfish, boxfish and many more besides.

Rock resembling Donald Duck's beak ...

Rock resembling Donald Duck’s beak …

Koh Miang about 6nm to the south was supposed to offer great snorkelling, so we slipped Koh Similan and picked up a mooring at Miang which turned out to be extremely uncomfortable.  Undaunted we made an expedition by dinghy to the eastern island which was equally choppy, had a quick look around, returned to a bucking Pipistrelle and slipped without further ado to head back to the shelter of Koh Similan.  The evening was calm and after a magnificent sunset we BBQd on board for the first time this year.

Setting sun ...

Setting sun …

... and half moon (15 minutes after sunset)

… and half moon (15 minutes after sunset)

Before any tourist boats arrived next day, a climb to Sailrock beckoned.  Views of the bay from this vantage point were superb.  Our stay cost 400 Baht each plus just 100 for Pipistrelle (about £25 in total) and tickets stamped with the Buddhist year ‘2557’!

Sail Rock

Sail Rock

Beach (that's our dinghy!)

Beach (that’s our dinghy!)

Pipistrelle basking in sunshine

Pipistrelle basking in sunshine

It was time to return to Phuket so we set off again for the 54 miles back to Koh Kala.  Anchoring in the evening, there was one other occupied yacht in the bay – Camomile.  James, Bill and Sue’s son was on board who had just been diving in Koh Tao, Gemma’s next destination but over the VHF some vital detail was lost, so we invited them all to Pipistrelle for coffee at 0830 next day.  Gemma picked up some great travel tips, packed, and we went ashore taking all her gear with us, landing in front of the Nikki Beach Resort.

A stunning beach

Stunning beach at Koh Kala, Bang Tao Bay

Nikki Beach

Nikki Beach Resort

With its sunbeds – literally mattresses with white covers, cushions galore, towels – copious sunshades and small pool with swim up bar, this was quite a location.  In the shade of the restaurant we enjoyed a superb lunch – thank you Gemma!  Then the two girls treated themselves to a traditional Thai massage.  While Gemma waited for her taxi to the airport that evening, we made for Pipistrelle and departed early on Tuesday 11th March for Ao Chalong.

Gemma enjoying fresh coconut

Gemma enjoying fresh coconut

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | March 19, 2014

Penang Revisited

Ready for take off again!

Ready for take off again!

When we sailed to Penang last November we both agreed our stay on this fascinating, vibrant island was too short and we should revisit sometime.  As a complete surprise for Elaine’s return to Malaysia, Bob had booked a short (35 minute) Firefly flight there from Langkawi for 4 days of R & R and sightseeing.  We overflew Rebak Marina shortly after takeoff – see photo on Pipistrelle’s Journey page – and got a bird’s-eye view of Pipistrelle!

While we were there we would also be able to obtain 2 month tourist visas from the Thai Consulate General – not otherwise available on entry to Thailand.   An uncomplicated procedure, we arrived at 0930, completed the requisite forms, handed in our passports, left for some sightseeing and returned at 1530 to pay the fee and collect our visas.

The Heritage Hotel in the heart of old George Town was our base.  Modern and comfortable with air conditioned rooms and ‘wifi’ facility, it is within easy walking distance of Armenian Street, numerous temples and a range of restaurants – ideal for us!  Not to mention the shopping malls nearby – but we won’t!

Hidden away among high rise blocks is a magnificent gold tower of the Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram Thai Temple.  Built in 1845, it houses the Reclining Buddha.  At 33 metres long and completely covered in gold leaf this Enlightened One is said to be the largest of its kind.  Finger and toenails are decorated in striking mother of pearl mosaic!

The golden tower

The golden tower

Pagoda in grounds of Thai Temple

Pagoda in grounds of Thai Temple

Guarding the temple entrance

Guarding the temple entrance

Laid back Buddha

Laid back Buddha

Just opposite is the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple founded in the early 19th century where halls, shrines, pagodas and goldfish ponds in the grounds are a haven of calm and serenity.

Noteworthy are a golden Buddha, standing about 10 metres tall with marble head and feet, and a hall of Buddhas in different facial and hand poses.

Standing Buddha

Standing Buddha

On a comical note are statues of two boys carrying a bell between them.

Laughing bell-boys

Laughing bell-boys

A pair of Guardians and Protectors or Panca-Rupa with elephant trunk and tusks, deer horns, horse’s legs and ears, body and tail of the fish and the wings of the mythical Garuda bird guard the world, where the Indian Ocean takes centre stage!

Guardian angels?

Guardian angels?

At 830 metres above sea level, Penang Hill dominates the island and we took the funicular railway to the top.  With signposts telling us we were 14,000 km from London, only 2,400 km from Hong Kong, and 2,000 km from Ho Chi Minh City, once more endorsing the centre of the universe obviously had a definite Asian focus.  A mass tourist attraction, unfortunately we found little to inspire us apart from a marvellous mural on a temple at the summit and the rather hazy outlook over the city.

Looking down onto town - tunnel built in 1922

Looking down onto town – tunnel built in 1922

Interesting mural!

Interesting mural!

In the distance we saw clearly Straits Quay Marina (SQM), and even a vessel making the approach.  It was none other than Oceans Dream with Jackie and Adrian on board, who had already invited us to supper with them that evening!

I spy ...

I spy …

The Botanic Gardens established by the British in 1884 from an old quarry is the only garden of its kind in Malaysia, reminiscent of one of the London parks on a much smaller scale and unfortunately parched in the driest months the region has known for some years.  Though disappointing overall, we saw some cheeky macaque monkeys, terrapins with lovely markings and the very unusual and beautiful flower of the cannonball tree, so called because the fruit resembles just that – a cannonball!

Terrapin

Terrapin

Cannonball flower

Cannonball flower

We strolled along Campbell Street, lit by Chinese lanterns at night, and during the day on the way back to our hotel came across a ramshackle shop front where a man was poring over a piece of oblong red card.  He was applying gold lettering to the card which when framed would become a prayer card to be deposited at a temple.

Campbell Street

Campbell Street

Intricate gold lettering

Intricate gold lettering

Back in Armenian Street we took in funky street art (see also Postcard from Penang), some created by Ernest Zacharevic.

Boy on a chair -  Acheen Street Malay mosque in background

Boy on a chair – Acheen Street Malay mosque in background

Kids on a bicycle

Kids on a bicycle

Cannon Street

Caption reads: “A cannon shot fired during the 1867 Penang Riots made a large hole in this area, hence the name ‘Cannon Street Core Zone’”

We walked along historic Cannon Street with its terraced houses and discovered the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi.

Khoo Kongsi

Khoo Kongsi

This fine Chinese clan house complex was completed in about 1906, having been built in the 1850s and destroyed by fire some years earlier.  It belonged to the Khoo clan who had emigrated from Hokkein Province in southern China and made their fortune as merchants trading in Malacca and Penang.  It was completely self-contained and self-governed, included educational facilities, shops, temple and opera stage.  Beautiful carvings and architecture abound.  An extensive and costly restoration project was concluded in 2001.  It was well worth paying the modest entry fee.

Intricate external roof sculpture

Intricate external roof sculpture

Ornate sculpture

Ornate sculpture

Penang

Temple

Tiger, tiger ...

Tiger, tiger …

Self explanatory!

Self explanatory!

To sum up, we love this enchanting island with its diversity of architecture, people and scenery.

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | March 5, 2014

Changes of scene!

At the end of January we exchanged the sodden south of England for an uncommonly dry West Malaysia where it had not rained for over a month.  The dry weather continues.

Despite high winds, storms, flooding and general damp we had experienced at home since the end of November, our time was action packed with events involving family and friends, notably a Ruby Wedding Anniversary celebration, quickly followed by a Royal Southampton Yacht Club 60’s evening (www.rsyc.org.uk), the annual regional Bentley Drivers Club (www.bdcl.org) Christmas lunch at Essebourne Manor with Elaine’s parents, and giving a presentation about our passage through the Pacific to the Offshore Cruising Club (www.sailoverlord.org.uk) at its AGM in January.   We also made several visits to London to see Chrissy and her family and one to the West Country so clocked up a few miles.  Unlike when at sea, though, we do not keep track of our mileage on land – suffice it to say the car hire company provided us with a succession of three different vehicles!

Guernsey - Lithou Island

Guernsey – Lihou Island – a fine, breezy day!

Our short stay on Guernsey just before Christmas brought us together not only with Andrew, Annie and their young family but also with Stephen and Katherine Paine, the previous owners of Pipistrelle (ex Batrachian) with whom we stayed at their home.  It was certainly a great pleasure to catch up with them again.  Having hung up their cruising gear, they have turned their not inconsiderable talents to micro-distilling damson gin and various fruit flavoured liqueurs. Their website is www.hautmaison.com.

Due to a gap in the tenancy at our cottage in Hampshire, we and a few pieces of furniture from our flat in Poole, moved back in temporarily and despite spending much of the time working hard on the property, it gave us the ideal and unique opportunity to enjoy entertaining in our own home again.   Even our Swedish friends came to stay for a week!

Beach at Branksome Chine, Poole

Beach at Branksome Chine, Poole

Bob returned to Langkawi to have Pipistrelle hauled at Rebak for antifouling and polishing and when Elaine joined him a week later our good ship was back in the water and shining again.    We decided R&R would be the next project for us, and set off for a quick flight and short stay in Penang again (see separate blog – Penang Revisited).  Restored, we then had a morning sail for Kuah, the main town on Langkawi where we put in to the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club and met Rosemarie Alecio on Ironhorse, a fellow Ocean Cruising Club member and along with her husband Alfred, are Roving Rear Commodores.  Rosemarie very generously invited us to lunch on board when we arrived.  Convivial conversation was enjoyed, of course, though we missed meeting Alfred who was in the UK attending to family business.

The eagle has landed!

The eagle has landed on Langkawi – literally ‘The Island of Eagles’!

 Returning to Rebak briefly we met Hans and Sylvia again who had just come back to their yacht Alumni and joined them for dinner at the resort restaurant before leaving again for Telaga to clear out of Malaysia.  As already mentioned, we managed to complete all paperwork despite the fact the Harbour Master was not working, Friday and Saturday being the Muslim weekend.   The charming lady Customs officer stood in for him.

View from fuel berth in Telaga

View from fuel berth in Telaga

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | March 1, 2014

Movin’ on up …

…to Phuket, Thailand

We’re on the move again, and cleared out of Telaga in Langkawi yesterday, despite it being Friday! Last night was spent at anchor among the Butang Group of islands, already in Thailand. Tonight it will be off Koh Rok Nok (yes – that’s right!) and tomorrow, Sunday we should arrive in Ao Chalong where we will anchor and complete clearing in formalities with the Thai authorities. Our progress can be followed as always here on the blog.

Waiting in the wings are two blog articles with updates about what we’ve been up to since last November which will be published with photos shortly.  One is Changes of Scene, the other Penang Revisited.

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | January 1, 2014

And now a review of the 2013 blog!

WordPress is the blogging tool and content-management system we use to publish the Pipistrelle blog.  The WordPress.com stats ‘helper monkeys’ have prepared a 2013 annual report for us.

Again information we thought worthwhile sharing.  Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. Our blog was viewed about 7,800 times in 2013.  If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | December 31, 2013

Happy New Year 2014!

About to sink??

About to sink??

Pipistrelle’s Year End Review 2013

As we reflect on Pipistrelle’s journey in 2013 from our armchair position in the UK where we have spent our first Yuletide in 6 years with family and friends, it occurs to us that a few stats to round off an exceptional year may be of interest.  This has been prompted in part by friends’ questions but also by our own curiosity which goes beyond keeping notes in our ship’s logbook.

In summary, we have lived on board for 306 days (and nights), a trifling 82% of the year!  Though accommodation and berths on Pipistrelle are very comfortable, the novelty of a ‘normal’ bed is unspeakable luxury.  We have had some great and not so great sailing but the good vastly outweighed the bad!

In exactly 6 months (12th May to 12th November) we sailed 6,670 nautical miles from Opua in New Zealand to Langkawi in West Malaysia and achieved a total of 7,300 nm this year.  That compares to 7,960 nm in 2011 when we crossed the Pacific.

Equivalent to approx. 8.400 statute miles or 13,520 kilometres, this journey took us through 42° of latitude and 76° of longitude heading west.

We crossed the Line to the Northern Hemisphere shortly before leaving Indonesia, having spent 18 months south of the Equator, mainly in the Pacific.

Our 17 passages took a total of 47.5 days with 39 nights at sea, with darkness in the Tropics lasting for about 12 hours, and each of us on 3 hour watches at night.  At 8 days (and nights!) the New Zealand to Vanuatu trip was the longest.  Day sails of over 5 hours each accounted for 41 days’ sailing, any 2 to 3 hour ‘potters’ not being discounted as not really sailing!

We motored for a total of 550 hours or 23 days, a highly frustrating 47% in Indonesia, ran the generator for 17 days or just over 400 hours, and burnt 2,500 litres of diesel!  Outboard engine petrol consumption is a mere drop in the ocean by comparison.

An overview of the places we visit and distances sailed appears in the Pipistrelle’s Journey page , and this year we have even recorded our Top Ten Highlights because our experiences have been so stunning – both afloat and ashore.

Finally we wish our fellow yachties fair winds and following seas in 2014, and our families, many friends and acquaintances a very Happy New Year.

Countdown to 2014

Five, four, three, two, one …

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | November 26, 2013

Languishing in Langkawi

We wish we were!

After a day sail (or motor sail) of 64 miles, we reached our final destination of the year – Rebak Marina, on Pulau Rebak Besar, an island that forms part of Langkawi.  This location came highly recommended by other yachties.  So far we are not disappointed and believe we made the right decision to sail the extra 400 odd miles from Danga Bay to leave Pipistrelle at a very safe haven while we fly home to the UK for a couple of months.  Rebak Marina is part of the Rebak Island Resort, and belongs to the Taj Resort group.  Their five star facilities are made available to visiting yachts – more later!

We were given a warm welcome by Tim and Rebekah on Kittiwake, who we first met in 2009 and had not seen for three years.  In the meantime, they have adorable 1 year old twin girls and we have managed to spend some time with them – in between the long list of boatie tasks.

Top priority is to mothball our good ship to withstand the intense heat and humidity of the area.  While the marina is calm and protected it is a sun and heat trap.  We both like the heat, and Bob can handle it better than Elaine, but at over 85% the humidity is somewhat trying and when we are not running the aircon, we are running in water – rather like being in our own private sauna!  Consequently, all the awnings we possess have been deployed and to keep the heat out of the pilot saloon we have completely covered the glass windows on the inside with car windscreen shades – not pretty but effective.  We thus seem to be living in a twilight world below decks.

We have removed the headsails to save 2 months’ UV damage; shipped the dinghy by cargo boat to Langkawi for repairs; disconnected the VHF and SSB aerials to protect against lightning destruction, and left the rest of the electronics in the oven (Faraday’s cage!), as well as leaving the boat as well protected against the sun and wind, as is possible, together with a myriad of other tasks.

Early one morning we enjoyed a nature walk in the jungle, organised by the hotel and spotted Oriental Pied Hornbills.

Hornbill pair

Hornbill pair

What a profile!

What a profile!

Every afternoon after a day of chores, we allowed ourselves the luxury of a cooling swim in the hotel pool.

Pool with swim-up bar!

Pool with swim-up bar!

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | November 26, 2013

Postcard from Penang

…or northwards through the Malacca Strait

Fishing boat in Malacca Strait

Fishing boat in Malacca Strait

Leaving Danga Bay Marina, we made our way through the West Johor Strait past numerous fishing farms off both banks and on to the Tuas Bridge (joining Malaysia to Singapore) with its clearance of 25m at the centre of the middle arch.  Pipistrelle’s mast complete with antenna measures 22.5m.  We approached under engine just after high water, with a spring tide, a following breeze and just over 1kn of favourable current.  In order to maintain total control we turned around and went through backwards, a rather unorthodox method of sailing, but considerably safer in the circumstances!   At a rough guess the clearance was about 1m.

From there we dodged a huge array of shipping, both on the move and at anchor, fishing floats and nets, floating detritus, logs and seaweed.  Unfortunately the wind was fluky so the iron mainsail was unfurled again at times, though we also managed to sail.  After just over 50nm and in failing evening light, we decided to anchor in shallow water well outside the extremely busy main northbound and inshore shipping lanes in the Malacca Strait.  Essentially, anchoring is possible anywhere just off the coast and is advisable at night simply because of the many obstacles.

The busy gateway from East to West, nonetheless astounding for us is the amount of traffic bound for far flung destinations including Nigeria, Brazil, Dubai, and South & West Africa.  That, together with tankers loading and unloading at numerous refineries and the inevitable tugs with tows was the scene from our living room window!

A second night at anchor saw us off Palau Upeh, near Malacca town itself, again having completed just over 50nm, thunder and lightning all around.  Fireworks displays to celebrate Diwali, the important Hindu festival of lights provided additional colour.   With its different architectural styles from the periods of Portuguese, Dutch and British rule, Malacca itself is supposedly worth a visit.

We proceeded next day through whirlpools and different colours of water towards Admiral Marina near Port Dickson where the welcome was friendly and we spent a very agreeable two days.  Hooked up to shore power allowing us to make full use of the air-conditioning, which must now have surely paid for itself!  The marina complex consists of a modern hotel, apartment blocks, villas and a swimming pool.

As it was a holiday weekend, the pool was a favourite with guests who took a dip fully clothed and wearing what resembled muslim head dress.  So appearing as we did in our western swimwear, we felt just slightly underdressed.

Port Dickson would have been worthwhile visiting and the marina provided a good jumping off point for a visit to Kuala Lumpur, 50 km inland to the north, but we had to press on northwards so excursions may be earmarked for the future.

For the 120 miles to Pangkor Marina, our next stop we decided to do an overnighter and nudge along the outside of the northbound shipping lane until it ended.  The combination of the lane finishing along with fishing boats darting this way and that with unrecognisable light configurations and a developing thunderstorm had us on our toes from about 0200.  Our arrival at the marina was delayed due to torrential rain so we anchored off a pretty bay on the south of Pangkor Island to let it pass.  Here we were entertained as naval recruits on a square rigger were undertaking what seemed to be a sea survival course, jumping from the yardarm, then from the bowsprit in life jackets and swimming what must have been about a mile to the shore, passing Pipistrelle on the way.  Late afternoon saw us alongside at the marina and we later caught up with Jeannie and Bruce from Jabula.

Built on reclaimed land on the mainland side near Lamut, and still ‘work in progress’, the development acts as a passenger ferry terminal to Pangkor Island, but apart from the pontoons, a lift out service and a good boatyard, it offers few facilities, so a car is essential.  Bruce very kindly chauffeured us to the ‘Giant’ hypermarket at Seri Manjung for some inevitable provisioning and that evening we all went to dinner at a German restaurant where we enjoyed delicious authentic food.

The other downside for us is that we must have taken Pipistrelle through very murky water at night, resulting in a huge black splodge on the portside bow.  Nothing would remove it from topsides, and finally from the dinghy after using much elbow grease and Jif, the marks became grey …. We had most certainly been through a crude oil slick.

Again after two nights it was time to say goodbye and move on to Penang, starting in pouring rain with some wind, both elements dying as the day wore on!

New bridge detail

New bridge detail

Penang ferry with bridge in background

Penang ferry with bridge in background

Skyline from the sea

Skyline from the sea

After anchoring off Pulau Rimau for the night, we made our way north under two bridges that join Penang island to the mainland.  The height of both is 28m, so theoretically we had ample clearance.  While one is still under construction, the other was completed in 1985.  We headed on through ferry traffic to The Straits Quay Marina, a new development and part of the retail complex of the same name to the northeast of Penang island.   The marina accommodates 40 boats, with only 10 being reserved for guests.  It is enclosed on three sides by a shopping mall, restaurants and apartments.  For us it was luxury!  A five minute walk took us to the local bus stop (and past a huge Tesco store – yes, TESCO) and Georgetown, the capital a 30 minute journey away.  It was also the first western style marina we had experienced since NZ, and is a credit to its manager, John Ferguson, Commander RN retd.  Everything ran just like clockwork, we look forward to re visiting!

Approaching the marina

Approaching the marina

Pipistrelle in the marina

Pipistrelle in SQM

Having intended to stay for two nights, we extended to three and spent two whole days exploring the ‘city’ on foot, by ‘Hop-on-hop-off’ bus and by trishaw.  Rather like Singapore, this was a whistlestop tour, which whetted our appetites for more if the opportunity arises and left us exhausted!  To put this into perspective, Penang is steeped in history.  It was the oldest of the Straits Settlements, established by the British in 1786, the other two being Malacca and Singapore.   All three were strategic locations on the routes from India to China.  Today’s blend of Colonial, Chinese, Muslim and Indian cultures and architecture exists side by side and is a fascinating experience.

Here some photos:

City Hall undergoing renovation

City Hall undergoing renovation

City Hall close-up

City Hall close-up

Town Hall

Town Hall

Colonial clock tower

Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Clock Tower

Old and new juxtaposed

Old and new juxtaposed

Chinese temple or kongsi

Yap Kongsi Temple

Roof detail

Roof detail

Joss stick offerings

Joss stick offerings

Garlands for the gods

Garlands for the gods

Lanterns ...

Chinese Lanterns …

...and lotus flowers

…and lotus flowers

Trishaws

Trishaws

And our search for phosphoric acid to attempt to remove the marks on the hull took us to a fascinating store where chemicals were piled high in plastic bags and assorted sacks…

The chemical store

The chemical store

Bye-bye Penang – until the next time!  See also Penang Revisited.

Mural in Armenia Street

Cute mural in Armenian Street

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | November 19, 2013

Ready for take-off!

We are currently at the airport waiting for our flight to depart from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur and on to London Heathrow. Pipistrelle is at Rebak Marina having a well-earned rest for two months.

Updates about Penang and Langkawi to follow as soon as we have a strong enough internet connection again.

Tropical flower

Tropical flower

Posted by: Elaine and Bob | October 31, 2013

Singapore Slings

While crossing the Singapore Straits turned out to be straightforward, we chose a crossing place where there were only two lanes of shipping traffic, as opposed to four and the transit took about 20 minutes.  We found a break in the eastbound traffic, and then passed immediately behind a freighter heading west.  The shipping in the Straits is incredibly heavy, comes from all directions at varying speeds, or is at anchor in what seems to huge parking lots.

Wall to wall vessels at anchor

Wall to wall anchoring

Once we were across, we turned 90 deg to port out of the main channel and dodged between the many islands to head for Malaysia, just to the north of Singapore.  The route we took was calm, we had up to 4kn of favourable current and were rewarded with a complete surprise.  None other than the Red Arrows were practising above and around us, albeit with only white smoke as opposed to red, white and blue.  Lasting for about an hour, it was like our private air show, and made us feel almost at home.

Red Arrows in formation

Red Arrows in formation

White smoke trail

White smoke trail

Leader and three

Leader and three

Starting to loop

Starting to loop

We made our way up the western waterway towards Malaysia and Danga Bay Marina, and briefly stopped at Puteri Marina to see if it would be a suitable location for us to stay.   Another surprise was in store for us … we were amazed to bump into Monica and Jon, a Swedish couple from ‘Blue Dame’, who we last saw in Whangarei, New Zealand in 2012.  They did not give recommendation we were seeking, so we slipped our lines and motored the rest of the way to Danga Bay and anchored off for the night as with our draft we cannot get in at low tide.  Next day we were relieved to find that Terrence Gregory, the Manager, offered us a berth.

Danga Bay Marina is close to Johor Bahru, on the border crossing to Singapore, and having stocked up with a few necessities for the boat, we set off to spend 3 days in the city, staying at the Holiday Inn Atrium within easy reach of the centre.

View from hotel room - 20th floor!

View from hotel room – 20th floor!

We have never seen a city like it!  With 5.4 million people living on an island of 716 sq. km, high rise blocks dominate but are interspersed with plenty of manicured trees, shrubs and green areas.  A highly efficient public transport system is used by the majority, and roads are not clogged because the cost of owning a car is extortionate.  There is a fee of the equivalent of £45,000 for a 10 year permit to own a vehicle, after which it is scrapped, and import duty doubles the cost of buying a car.  Having been in the wilderness of the very attractive yet relatively poor islands we have visited since leaving New Zealand, to say the Singapore experience was overwhelming would be a complete understatement!  Not only are skyscrapers very much in evidence, but the number of shopping malls, foodhalls, restaurants and cafes at every price range is astonishing.  Yet among all the modern architecture there are still the Colonial and old traditional buildings in Chinatown and the wharves.

The new ...

The new …

... and the old (Chinatown)

… and the old (Chinatown)

Shop front in Chinatown - pork delicacies for sale

Shop front in Chinatown – pork delicacies for sale

Ornate temple on Pagoda Street

Ornate ‘Gopuram’ or entrance tower to Sri Mariammam Temple on Pagoda Street

Elaine’s school friend Margaret and her husband Rees are currently living in Singapore and they kindly took us to Raffles Hotel to experience the famous Singapore Slings in the Long Bar where the atmosphere is very much centred on relaxation rather than formality.   Ground nuts are served as an accompanying snack, etiquette being to throw discarded shells on the floor!  Later, at Clarkes Quay, we enjoyed a meal ‘a deux’ overlooking the Singapore River.

The girls outside Raffles

The girls outside Raffles

In the Longbar

With the boys in the Longbar

The next day it was shopping for technology which was a priority in replacing hardware and bringing ourselves bang up to date.  We managed a visit to the SEA Aquarium on Sentosa Island, the largest in the world and very impressive.  Whilst many of the fish we had seen before on our diving expeditions, there was also a lot that was new, and made the visit worthwhile.  It was nonetheless weird to be viewing marine life from behind a screen and in street clothing instead of up close and personal in wet suits and fins!

There is so much to see and do in Singapore, 3 days was hardly adequate especially with our shopping list.

Sea horses

Sea horses

Sea dragons

Sea dragons

Jellyfish through rose tinted light

Jellyfish through rose tinted light

That evening we went to the Fullerton Bay Hotel to have cocktails and watch the sound and laser light show from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel across the river which was spectacular.

The Fullerton

The Fullerton Bay (foreground)

Laser beams ...

Laser beams …

Marina Bay Sands Hotel - seaward view

Marina Bay Sands Hotel – view from the Straits

It was more shopping till we dropped the following day, this time fortunately with Margaret’s help, and then a return journey by public transport to Danga Bay.

More skyscrapers

More skyscrapers

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