WEDNESDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER 2007
The marina is in Georgetown, the capital. This is a bustling town with car, bike and rickshaw traffic. The marina is situated by the ferry terminal. These ferries are large in shape and painted in different bright colours. We had to dodge many of these as we arrived.
Mid-morning Ross and Phil find a driver who is very knowledgeable and speaks excellent English. Everything is so cheap here, especially the delicious cuisine. The cuisine is, no doubt, the result of the three main cultures - Chinese, Malay and Indian - and the myriad of subcultures, and this diversity also makes the history of the place so interesting. Places visited:
• Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – 1880’s mansion, of a rags-to-riches Mandarin. A Chinese courtyard house;
• Chinese festival – a ceremony to get rid of ghosts by setting fire to paper replicas of part of their life.
Making artifacts for burials
THURSDAY, 6 SEPTEMBER 2007
Early morning run/walk by the coast. Places visited:
• Fort Cornwallis (well presented with an excellent history coverage). It was the first military and administrative base of the East India Company;
• State Museum – (very well presented).
We learned a great deal from all these visits.
We also experienced Indian cuisine and Nyonya cuisine (an exotic blend of Chinese and Malay savoury cuisines using a fine mixture of spices, herbs and onions, garlic and chillies).
Our special dinner to celebrate our anniversary is at a seafood restaurant on the coast. They have live seafood to choose from and it is cooked delectably.
Raja, our driver, explains that tourism and the economy are down, probably due to terrorism. If this restaurant is an indication, it is billed as the best in the area and we enjoy it very much, but it is “tired”.
FRIDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER 2007
Heading off before dawn again we motor (with the foresail up for some time) west of north to Pulau Payar Island, a marine park 19 nautical miles south of Langkawi. The snorkelling here in sheltered, clear water is wonderful with the warm sun on our backs. There are so many different fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. They are obviously fed as we are treated to them surrounding us as we swim over the coral. The mauve, soft corals are beautiful here.
We leave mid-afternoon to track up through the islands and to find a lovely place to drop anchor. We are planning to go to the south-west side of Pulau Dayang to walk into the Princess Lake, but the wind and rain come up against us so we change track and head alongside the beautiful islands up to Langkawi to moor at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club near the main ferry and customs jetty. This is a very attractive marina with a small but adequate infinity pool and a magnificent view. It is still raining and we are all tired so we have a lovely relaxed dinner on Free Spirit – much better than wandering around in the rain!
SATURDAY, 8 SEPTEMBER 2007
Saturday is spent sorting out yachting issues. This involves hiring a car and driving around to find different parts, mechanics, hardware, chandlery etc. It is a marvellous way to really see a place and meet the locals. We need some aluminium welding done on our dinghy motor. It is a beautiful drive out to Wave Master, a huge boat yard and marine centre. Unfortunately, the security man tells us it is closed until Monday morning.
Our second option is the Thai Village. This is not far from the very smart and professional marine centre. It is right on the coast in a lovely position but is very rundown and dilapidated. People are living in tents here and we wonder if they are “boat people”. We are told where to find the welder but discover he is away.
Guess who came to our rescue – Phil! He pop welded a bracket onto a stainless plate so as to make a lever arm to substitute for the broken throttle arm. It’s a better job than anyone else could have done.
Somewhere during the day we find a light Indian lunch and have dinner at the yacht club, which is such a beautiful setting, and we all feel happier not going out in the car again.
SUNDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2007
Sunday is a wonderful day. We drive up the west coast to Telaga Harbour to find “The Loaf”, a delightful bakery and bistro. This is considered of world class standard and, after eating delicious pastries overlooking the harbour, we all agree.
Then we drive south again looking for Bon Ton. We happen upon an Australian run delicatessen and fruit and vegetable outlet store which is a family concern. The lettuce are picked one day in Australia and arrive by air the next, and are then supplied to most of the hotels and some restaurants here. We find some useful items, especially as the fruit and vegetables available don’t seem of good quality elsewhere.
Bon Ton is a very stylish resort and restaurant with 19th century style Malay houses to stay in surrounded by a beautiful setting. It is lovely just to wander around here and take it all in.
Later we arrive at “The Lighthouse” restaurant in time to watch the sunset. Here we literally sit with our feet in the sand and not far from the gentle waves breaking on the shore. The weather is perfect and the cuisine outstanding. Definitely a highlight. We would have enjoyed doing one of the cooking classes offered here.
MONDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2007
We have to venture out to the fuel barge, which is never an easy exercise. We end up knocking the hull (we didn’t judge where to put the fenders correctly) and getting diesel all over the clean deck. So instead of heading off we return to the marina to clean up the boat again. We also have to clear customs here.
Eventually, we motor up the east coast of Langkawi. It is very picturesque coming up between the islands by the coast.
Unfortunately, we are delayed again by the dreaded problem of getting fishing net caught around the propeller. Ross has sighted a fishing boat which just crosses our bow laying the nets. This takes some time and many dives with a large knife to clear.
We anchor at the north-east of Langkawi at the “Hole in the Wall”. We enter this through a very narrow passage between very high rock formations. It is a beautiful and calm anchorage. There are several wedge-tailed eagles flying above and, apparently, a group of small monkeys on shore catching mud crabs.
There is also a small floating restaurant and fish farm here billed as serving fried rice which we decide to try. What a sensational meal with the rice and delicious, fresh prawns.
And another perfect, balmy night.
Phil and Robbie have met up with another cruiser, Jim and his son, who they met at Port Douglas. Jim is on his second circumnavigation and his wife joins him at different stages. They are from the USA.
We have only met a few other cruisers so far. The feeling is that the Indonesian rally of about 120 boats is so popular people tend to join that to do the first long leg in company.
TUESDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2007
We set off at 6.00 am in pitch darkness this morning. We are very glad to have a good spotlight as there are a few moored boats to weave our way through. It is a 70 nautical mile distance to travel and the north-west winds could come up in the late afternoon and be “on-the-nose”, which is very uncomfortable, so we want to make good way as early as possible to reach Koh Rok Nok.
The wind does come up in the west later so we can motor-sail with the headsail up, which allows us to average 6.5 to 7 knots per hour. There are little flagged buoys everywhere, and we think some may have nets attached, but we manage to steer clear of all of them. After fouling the fishing net yesterday we have to keep a close watch.
This is the most idyllic anchorage with beautiful beaches and a wonderful place to snorkel in crystal clear waters. It reminds us how amazing nature is when we see the tremendous variety of beautiful fish.
Anchored between these two small islands about 25 nautical miles from the coast gives us a lovely feeling of space. During the night about 30 fishing trawlers come in to drop anchor further out, and with all their lights on in the dark they looked quite a sight. A very small fishing boat adorned with brightly coloured lights anchored close off our bow in the early hours of the morning. It took Ross a while to work out what was happening.
WEDNESDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2007
After a walk up the tsunami escape route to higher ground and fabulous views and another lovely snorkel we head off to Phi Phi Don Island enjoying a sail of up to 8½ knots boat speed with 13 knots of wind.
We are disappointed when we go ashore. This is billed as the third most beautiful island in the world. It certainly is very lovely coming into anchor, but on shore the tide is right out with the wind blowing on shore at the main beach, and the town seems tawdry and obviously affected by the tsunami.
After enquiring and then searching we find a wonderfully cooked local dinner in a small “shed” café. Halfway through this meal we notice people running by in droves all in the same direction heading for higher ground. We soon learn there has been an earthquake in Sumatra and a warning of a possible tsunami. Understandably, after the last tsunami people here are very fragile about these warnings. We see some English television news, and speak with an English dive operator, who assures us it is alright as far as they are concerned, as it is just over 2 hours since the earthquake occurred and it would have reached here by now (the previous one was underwater and this one was on land, therefore, not as strong).
We also receive texts from the Joneses and the Williamses warning of this – they have just arrived in Phuket and have to change their hotel to one further from the coast.
Ross is happy with our anchorage as we have a lot of anchor chain out – enough to rise over the top of a huge wave. The greater problem would be if some of the large number of boats of all shapes and sizes in the port were to break free.
We leave the following morning to make our way south-west to Koh Racha Yai Island. Unfortunately, the winds are against us so we change track and go north-west towards Phuket to Ao Chalong Harbour. The weather is closing in and it is raining heavily so we are thrilled with Phil’s news that there are berths for us both at Boat Lagoon Marina. The entrance to this is very shallow and we can only come in on a full tide. We follow the dredged channel, but with care closer to the mariner where there isn’t much room. This is a very up-market marina, catering especially for large, garaged streamlined motor boats.
We take a hire car back to Ao Chalong to go through customs and immigration. We are pleased to have the yachts in the marina as it is a large crowded harbour and we would have had to come ashore by dinghy, possibly in inclement weather.
Unfortunately, these offices are closed so Phil and Ross plan to return in the morning. We provision on the way back to the marina, stow the boat, and have a lovely dinner at the marina by one of the open hanger garages looking over some amazing boats.
Ross and I spend time preparing the boat ready for the Joneses and the Williamses arrival the following morning. We are very excited about this and just hope this weather with its constant, heavy downpours relents soon. Apparently, at this time of the year you can expect a storm for an hour or two each day, which is welcome to clear the air, but not this constantly poor weather.