We decided that although we had been in a rally for the last four months we would join the ‘Sail Malaysia rally passage to Langkawi’ which started just after our arrival in Johur. The timing fitted well with our aim of being in Thailand by mid December and it was a good way to have a first look at what the west coast of Malaysia has to offer from a yachting perspective. Unlike in Indonesia this rally went from marina to marina with five stops in a month - we joined rather loosely - often making our own way and dipping in and out of the tours and dinners as we felt inclined. We had rather had our fill of cultural dances and buffet dinners by this stage and we soon realised that, although Malaysia is rather more organised and grownup than Indonesia (or so they like to think), there are many similarities .- to our surprise the language is virtually identical, Sara’s efforts to learn Bahasa were not wasted, although the level of english in Malaysia is excellent.
As we made our way up the coast we were appalled by the amount of rubbish and debris in the water. Sailing at night was quite hazardous so we tried to stick to day sailing if the distances between safe anchorages permitted. There are so many fishing boats laying nets, pots and trawling that it is hard to believe there are any fish left in the sea and the hundreds of boats moving in mostly unpredictable patterns made navigation quite a challenge.
Although the Malacca Straits coast of Malaysia was not particularly interesting and the water not very clear, we took the opportunity to take a day trip to Kuala Lumpur and spent a night in Melaka which is steeped in history. We were very excited to reach Penang where Chris had travelled several times on business and we had holidayed as a family when we lived in Hong Kong. Although it had changed quite a bit in the last 25 years the old part of George Town was largely the same and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring properly - its history and culture sharing much with Malacca. We had a wonderful morning on a Heritage and Taste bicycle tour of George Town. Our guide Ken was a real character and led us through the back streets on our ‘sit up and beg’ bikes whilst he blasted music from his mini ghetto blaster (or modern equivalent). The music ranged from Billy Joel, Elvis, Beatles to Celine Dion and the Gangham Style song. It was only the two of us and Ken so at junctions it was no problem, he put up his hand, blew his whistle repeatedly and the traffic stopped (mostly). We explored the Chinese clan jetties, Kongsi clan houses, temples, mosques, markets, street art and visited the Hong Kong Shoe Store where Jimmy Choo learned his trade and they still hand make shoes. We had breakfast of various rotis, visited the local market and then sampled Penang specialities such as Koay Teow and Penang laksa. Amazingly not once did Chris complain about riding the bike (not that the distances we that big). Penang was every bit as special as we remembered it and we look forward to sailing back down next year to explore further.
The same held for our next and final stop in Malaysia, Langkawi and we are looking forward to returning. The surrounding bays and islands are beautiful and the water getting much cleaner so it was lovely to be swimming again although not clear enough to snorkel (that could be a seasonal thing due to the heavy rains). Langkawi is a duty free island making it a great place to take delivery of imported boat parts so we picked up new nets (tramps) ordered from the States and fitted them whilst there as the old ones were no longer safe to stand on. We did not have long in Langkawi before it was time to say farewell to our rally friends and dash up to Phuket, get checked in and start finding our way around before the kids join us for Christmas. Apart from David joining us for two weeks in August we have not had anyone on the boat since leaving Australia and its amazing how you fill the space you have, so its time to stow things properly and get rid of a lot of the “we’d better keep that just in case” stuff.
We are going to be based in a marina in Phuket for the next three months and cruising locally from there. We are looking forward to it as we have been on the move for quite a while. Jonno, Bex, Will and Charlotte will be with us over Christmas and to say that we are excited would be the understatement of the year.......
Who knows what 2016 will hold for us. We shall be home in the UK for 3 months around Jonno and Bex’s wedding in April and then plan to come home to visit again later in the year before it gets too cold - its certainly much easier to get home from here than it has been for the last couple of years.