Thursday 18 December 2008
I’m happy to report that Malaika once again has a wet bottom. Floating free of the haul-out and motoring around to our mooring yesterday was absolutely the best feeling! We celebrated with the first beer at midday in a long time, and then had showers and headed for the Hard Dock Café with the crew of Lothlorien, who also splashed that morning. We hadn’t seen the Loths since they returned to Singapore after our first attempt on the Malacca Straits, but they turned up at Langkawi a few days before Ali and Jo got back, and ended up being placed on the hardstand right beside Malaika.
Now we’re doing a few small jobs - such as packing gear away ready to sail, and a spot of painting on the decks - before we leave here on the weekend. I’m about to head into town via the free speedboat ferry, and do some re-provisioning, with Christmas in mind.
Because we were waiting on the arrival of the new propeller shaft last week, we took the super fast ferry to Penang and stayed there three nights. We’d missed going into Penang on the way up the Straits because of weather concerns, so it was a good opportunity to get away from the marina and give Lex a break.
Penang was wonderful. It’s an old town full of crumbling, and not so crumbling, British Raj style buildings, crowded little shophouses in narrow streets, magnificent Chinese, Hindu and Burmese and Thai Buddhist temples, Christian churches and Islamic mosques. Little India was probably my favourite area. It’s quite small, only four streets really, but so crammed with life and colour they seem like a whole village. The shops, hawkers and restaurants spill out into the streets with Bollywood music filling in the gaps. We had dinner at a terrific Tandoori place, where our tables were actually in the street, with cars edging past the waiters and the food cooking right beside us. Our waiter was from Nepal, missing his family and delighted to meet people (Lex and Ali) who knew Kathmandu and Pokhra. Namaste!
We visited the magnificent old Eastern and Oriental Hotel, built by the family that built Raffles in Singapore. When the pith-helmeted bellboy, resplendent in khaki shorts and long socks, showed us into the main foyer, he stamped his feet hard on the marble floor, and the sound snapped and echoed around and around the beautiful dome in the ceiling above us. We should have warned him about showing Ali that particular trick…
And of course, what Penang is most famous for: the food. There are cafes and restaurants everywhere you look, offering almost everything you can think of. The main cuisines represented are the main ethnic groups – Chinese, Indian and Malay, but not as much Malay as we’d hoped. We were looking forward to some authentic Nonya food, but the only two listings we could find were closed. Indian was our favourite – fresh cooked chicken Tandoori, hot naan bread, banana rotis, dhall, curries of every kind – heaven on a stick.
Saturday 20 December 08
Time's going fast again - we've been busy and the internet has been fretful at Rebak. So now Thailand beckons, and a little island called Kol Kradung with a few other boats and a pile of kids is looking like our destination for Christmas Day. This afternoon we’ll sail across to Telaga to refuel, then back here to Rebak to collect the anchor chain that’s been a bit slow arriving. We’ll leave here Sunday morning for a tiny island a few hours’ sail northwards, and make our way to the rendezvous spot over a few days.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas, and a wonderful 2009!!
Jo, Lex and Ali