North West Malaysia
After 14hours under engine we arrived at Lumut, predominantly a Muslim town. It is a small place, nice change after KL. The boat demanded more work from us, before sunset we were finished but exhausted. In the evening we were so tired that we decided to eat a cheap meal out. It was a Muslim Indian restaurant, food was good and we watched Rugby on a big screen.
Zsizsi and Tamas drove from KL for a day sail, all we managed was to motor due to lack of wind. We left the marina and headed for Pangkor, a island 10 miles away. Pangkor is nice, mountainous and green, also a holiday resort. On the west side it has some nice bays, unfortunately a bit rolly, but the scenery was the best we seen in Malaysia so far. In the evening we headed back to anchor in front of the marina to drop our guests off on terra firma.
We could not bother to get up early to leave for Penang. This is a 80 miles trip and we had to start early in order to get in at day light. Instead we went back to Pangkor and cleaned off some of the dirt on the hull left from the River Klang. The wind picked up in the afternoon and the anchorage was very rolly, so we left for a night passage to Penang. There were so many fishing boat around and the motion of the boat was quite unbearable, so neither of us slept much. But at last we were sailing!!!!
Just as sun was coming up we entered the harbour in Penang. Penang is an island linked to mainland by a 13 km bridge. It is predominantly Chinese. The anchorage was in the middle of the harbour, nowhere to land the dinghy. After much hesitation we decided to take the dinghy to the marina, but to get there we had to get past the ferries and its violent wash. From the harbour Georgetown looks grim, with more high rising buildings and slums, but once on land it is interesting. Penang has lots of colonial buildings, although some are very decayed. The jetties are very interesting. Each jetty belongs to a different Chinese family, each one has a Chinese temple and the houses are built on the stilts over the muddy bank. We visited Lee Jetty and Mr. Lee welcomed us into his family's temple. He was so eager to tell us about the Gods, beliefs and his family's history. Unfortunately with his strong accent, we found very difficult to understand him, which was a shame. However we did understand that there is a huge Chinese celebration here in Georgetown that happens every 60 years. The last one was in 1984, a lot of people came from mainland to Penang for the celebration. The ferry bringing the people across was overloaded and sunk, killing lots of people. He also told us about the atrocities that the Japanese did to the Chinese here in Penang during WWII.
The intention was to get up to Penang Hill with the funicular railway. We jumped on the bus and somehow instead of going to Air Hitam we ended up in Air Itam, exactly the opposite side of the hill where the funicular is located. So instead we visited Kek LokSi Temple, apparently one of the finest Buddhist temples in South East Asia. Built in tiers, the temple stands on the hill, with magnificent views. It took us about 3 hours to walk through the different temples, the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddha's, gardens, turtle ponds, shrines and sculptures. Another couple jumped on the bus with us; it took us a while to remember where we met them before. It was Martina and Stephan, last saw them long way back, at the Panama Canal. After that we had a look around the market with some exotic fruits like dragon berries and gigantic pamplemouses. The dragon berries are nothing like berries, it resembles a beetroot and it has a consistency and taste of a kiwi fruit. Before heading back we had a Assam Laksa, a typical Malay soup, it had a tangy taste, with pineapples, noodles, fish and herbs. Sounds odd but it is very good.
Penang is all about food, the variety is incredible, from different types of Chinese to Indian and Malay, all very cheap. There are more hawkers’ food stalls in the streets then shops! After trying different food in different stalls we went for a walk to the Fort Cornwallis. This is the most inadequate fort we have been to. First was built from palms, then reconstructed with bricks , but the walls are so low that any adult could jump over it!
Langkawi is a group of islands in the border with Thailand. Today we had a record day sailing, great winds (18-20 knots) and flat seas we did 60 miles in less than 9 hours. The bottom island has a lake in the middle and stunning scenery. The lake Dayang Bunting, which means The lake of the pregnant woman, is very popular with the Muslims Malay holiday makers. Despite that, the women for obvious reasons don’t swim and very few men were in the water. Whoever was in the water was fully y dressed and wearing lifejackets. Western women do get some stares from the Muslim women, because we are not covering our heads and are wearing western clothes, but swimming fully dressed was out of question for us. Instead we went for a walk in the woods. Quickly we changed our minds when we saw a tourist in front of us being attacked by a monkey. The monkey was after her plastic bag, jumped on her, it was howling and showing some sharp teeth. Nasty little primate. The whole group just turned around and left the woods.
Land of cheap beer!!! We arrived here just as we had run out of Indonesian beer. Kuah is the main town of Langkawi and a paradise for duty free, apart from that there is not much to the town. Beer is about Ł0.25 for a can; spirits are around Ł3.00 for a bottle. Bearing in mind that after Thailand we are in Arab countries so no chance of any supplies, we are stocking the boat with enough booze to last us until Europe. We only wish that we had a bigger boat.
Half of our beer provisioning is done, the other half we will do before we leave, somehow we plan to load 50 boxes of beer on the boat, which means rearranging everything around. In the morning we headed to Rebak, a nice little island. There is a beautiful resort and a marina, but that is all. Dinner was in the cheap restaurant together with Nancy and Steve, from yacht Toboggan and Pete and Felicity. We haven't seen Toboggan since Bora Bora, over a year ago.
Just 5 miles west of Rebak is Pantai Kok. A nice idyllic beach surrounded with little islands. From here the cable car and the Seven Wells are of easy access. The cable car, although right under our noses, was quite difficult to get to. Firstly today is bank holiday, so it didn't open until 12 pm. After couple of hours it shut down due to bad weather. So we gave up on it and instead went to the Seven Wells. It was an excruciating walk up, with 500 steps, around 450 m off sea level. The cascading waters are broken by seven natural pools, then forming a big waterfall further down. It is claimed to be a marvel, shame about the rubbish all around. But this is something we have seen in Indonesia as well, the rubbish problem...
Again we tried to get on the cable car, from the anchorage we saw that it was working so we headed there. As we landed on the beach we were astonished to see a woman sunbathing. The strange detail was that she was wearing full on black Burka, only her eyes were uncovered. These Burka's are out of the world, although we know about them it is always shocking to see women wearing one. Malaysia still not following the fundamentalist Muslim line, but there are many Saudi's here on holidays. For our relief we found out that the cable car is Swiss engineering and not Malaysian. It claims to be the longest span between supports and one of the steepest inclines in the world. Indeed it does look very steep, so much that I wasn't too keen on going up. The cars are minuscule, fits about 6 people with glass all around. Going up to the first level is scary, and then it got a lot better. The views at 750 m are amazing; Langkawi can be fully appreciated from the top, so as the Seven Wells and the neighbouring Thai island. There is also a suspension bridge built between two peaks of the Mt. Matchincang, quite an engineering structure.
Checking out of the country was very easy. We only had clearance until Port Klang and never checked into Langkawi, but that did not bother the officials. As soon as we showed some sort of paper it was fine for them. Toboggan paid 10 Ringgit but for some reason they didn't charged us a penny.
Finally we were ready to go, motoring out of Kuah, clouds were forming. Soon it was 25 knots of headwinds and rain. Instead of taking the offshore route we ducked behind the islands for protection from the swell. If it wasn't the rain it would have been a scenic trip. The islands are very high and the passage in between very narrow, it was stunning. The rain and headwinds didn't last long. When we arrived at the hole in the wall the sun was out again. A narrow gap in the solid rock wall opens up to the River Kilim. In the river, there are lots of channels and mangroves, it is fantastic. The north part of Langkawi is very dramatic, shame we didn't have much time to explore. The final night in Malaysia was spent anchored in a beautiful bay, watching the eagles. Langkawi means brown eagle, which are abundant here. We could also see the neighbouring Thai island, only 8 miles away. No other country we have explored more than Malaysia, going inland and doing lots of sightseeing. Next stop is Koh Lipe , Thailand, 30 miles away.