Sunday, December 18, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
We finally had wind to sail our last leg up the Malaysian coast to Pulau (Island) Langkawi and reached the beautiful island of Rebak. This area is the start of the karst topography of limestone cliffs which extend north along the coast of Northern Malaysia and Thailand. The rugged peaks covered in lush green vegetation arise dramatically from the ocean and are quite spectacular. The Sultan of this region has been ruling Malaysia for the last 5 years. He has declared it a duty free port and it has become a huge tourist attraction for Malays. His rule was finishing our first week here and some other regency will reap the benefits of having “their Sultan” rule for the next 5 years. We have reserved a berth alongside for two months in Rebak Marina which is in a lagoon within the island. It is owned and part of the Taj Resort which along with fancy condos has a lovely pool, restaurants, tennis court and a gym. Daily yoga and pilates classes will hopefully get my body back into shape as we live in air conditioned comfort—essential in these hot marinas. There are frequent small ferries to cross the 15 minutes to Langkawi. Fridays is the “veg man”. He brings his van to the Rebak ferry terminal on Langkawi and unloads the cases of vegs, fruit, meat, cheese and yoghurt which the cruisers quickly snap up. This is the first place since leaving Australia where “western food” is readily available. As the Caribbean is for North Americans many Australian cruisers use Langkawi as a seasonal base and alternate their year between Australia and sailing this beautiful area. It is near the Thai border and the sailing north from here is reputed to be wonderful. With the piracy in the Suez region spreading wider and wider many cruisers are faced with either shipping their boat to the Med--$50,000 for our boat—or sailing around South Africa so more and more boats are staying in this region. Unfortunately it is increasing the prices of boat work and decreasing the prices of used boats. Upon arrival we went to the final dinner for the Malaysia rally at a nearby resort. They had put on a lavish spread but unfortunately a seasonal monsoon literally put a damper on the festivities and it became an “eat and run” occasion. The next day was an open day at Rebak and we were able to bid a final farewell to many friends who had left Darwin with us and are readying to travel in divergent directions. Ken was in seventh heaven as there is a huge military air and marine show held every two years which was starting as we arrived. This meant that there was a constant flow of fighter planes flying in formation and doing loops right above us at the marina. Mr Din runs the car rental where for between $13 and $20 you can rent a car for the day. He meets our ferries and you hand him the cash and he hands you the keys and instructs you to leave it unlocked with the key under the mat when you return. We had reserved a car to pick up Ken and Tracy Calderwood (from Calgary) who were arriving on the ferry from Penang. We lucked out and got a great minivan which we drove as instructed directly to the service station to purchase the $5 of fuel we would need for our day!! We drove the 20 minutes to the ferry terminal where we purchased one of the scratch cards used as a parking ticket all over town. The system allows you to scratch either, 20 minutes for 6 cents, or 1 hour for 20 cents. If you want to park for a long time you scratch as many as you need. We met Tracy and Ken and realised the duty free attraction of Langkawi. We were excited to find a chocolate shop with all kinds of imported chocolates and liquor at amazingly low prices. As we walked the area we realized that there are dozens of similar shops with the same prices. The next few days were filled with a combination of enjoying the pool and gym at Rebak alternating with shopping trips. A huge craft exhibition was being held where we found some wonderful hand painted wall hangings. Tracy found some great jewellery and Ken found yet another knife—not hard to guess which “Ken” that was!!! Mr Din’s cars did not all live up to the standard we had lucked out with our first vehicle and it was a dash from the small ferry taking us to Langkawi to try and pick the “best car”. Ken spent a great day at the air show where you could purchase anything from fighter planes to missiles—luckily his visa card does not go to the billions required for such purchases. Tracy and I had fun finding $17 dresses and I will now be able to throw away some of my well worn “boat dresses”. This area is very Muslim and alcohol is not served in many restauarants but with perseverance we found one of the few restaurants which sold beer with food—a must for Ken C. We wanted to take Tracy and Ken for a few days sailing amongst the many beautiful islands. Our first stop was at Telaga Marina for fuel—marina fuel here is 90 cents a litre rather than the 65 cents we have been used to so will have to find a better way in future---The outer harbour was windy enough for pleasant anchorage and we went ashore to choose from the string of different ethnic restaurants—this is a yachtie strip so all restaurants serve beer. We opted for a Russian restaurant—odd choice in this part of the world but the food was good and a pleasant change from Asian. The next day after a bakery stop we set off with windy conditions to another pretty anchorage. The following day we sailed to an island which apparently has the best snorkelling in the area. We had great sailing conditions and were doing 8 knots for the 20 miles out there. Unfortunately great sailing conditions do not translate into great snorkelling conditions so we turned and had an equally fast 20 mile sail back. We hiked to the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden which is frequented by tourists who trek in to swim in the lake. We had a quick swim being sure that we did not swallow any of the questionable water and returned to the boat and sailed back to Rebak. One last shopping day and one more day hanging around the pool and it was time to take Tracy and Ken to the ferry for their return to Penang. We enjoyed having them with us and sharing our lifestyle—they were great company and left us with a huge amount of alcohol—we will have to lie our way through customs for the next few years—or drink quickly!!! We are settling into “marina life”, several musical evenings entertained by cruisers more talented than ourselves and we are adding more lights to celebrate the festive season. Dave and family will arrive later this week and we look forward to a “real family” Xmas.