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Cruising into Oct. conclusion….

Sunday 29 October, 2017

Johor coat of arms

It was 7.30am when the log book was opened and an entry written. Brahminy had just enough water under her keel but not enough to go around the fishermen with their netting buoys strung across the only passage that had some depths. While Burney went to observe from the bow, Hans stopped the engine on cue and thus the propeller, using the momentum to pass over the net. Then we were off.  +/- 50 nm to Pulau Pisang with a “lovely offshore breeze on the beam”.  Wind registered 13.5 knots and our speed was reaching 5.9 knots under sails. Large FAD’s (fish attracting devices) and fish farms dotted the passage. It was because we were so focused watching the approaching obstacles that we were fortunate to notice 2 bumps appear and disappear, breaking the water surface. ????? Thoughts rose and were cancelled in a millisecond, Turtle? Fish? Shark?  Stingray? Until Burney said “Sea Otters!” Yes.

Sea Otter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encounters with sea otters are few and very far between. Burney had her first experience when birding on Pangkor Island. One scampered out of the neighbouring bay and along a creek bank before disappearing into the lush vegetation overhanging the next bend. Then, while standing at the end of the Chew Clan Jetty gazing out into Junk Anchorage near Georgetown, Penang, two were spotted chasing fish. Our last sighting was while exploring the Lake Gardens of Taiping where we saw them on 2 consecutive days. However, this was the first time we had seen them doing a coastal passage. The area around us had some shoaling banks and was less than a mile offshore. Perhaps it was an ideal fishing ground.

With a wind shift the genoa was furled. Thunder rumbled although there was no obvious front rolling through. Nevertheless our anemometer had completed a 180° shift of the dial before settling on a direct head-on sodding blow. With another 20 miles to cover, we were looking at a late arrival.

More fortunate was a fleet of monohulls heading north. The AIS described some as of Australian and American registration. Since Burney thought they were perhaps part of the Sail Malaysia Rally, Hans contacted one vessel on the VHF radio. Indeed they were with the rally and were heading for Port Dickson further north. Friends were also anticipating a couple of the American boats in Pangkor. Whilst we felt like the salmon heading against the flow, we separated saying our “fair swells and fine winds”.

Sail Malaysia heading north

Our memories of having previously anchored on the southern side of the island, Pulau Pisang, were unfavourable. There was an uncomfortable roll and wrap-around backwash. This time with light fading we edged gingerly between neighbouring islets till we found a well sheltered location. The sea bottom was reported to be of mud and shell so we dropped the anchor and reversed her into a firm holding. Possible storms were brewing.

Banana Island (Pulau Pisang)

What a remarkably restful night, it was!! Sometimes we’re lucky. Or are we getting better at this?

With a relatively short junket of 20 nautical miles to our destination at Country Garden marina in Danga Bay, Johor Bahru, we settled in for the ride. This section of coast was particularly interesting as we were approaching the confluence of Malacca Straits, Johor Straits and the Singapore shipping lanes. Tankers, and cargo ships plied the lanes, tugs (with no AIS) towed barges, pilot boats raced to and fro and great rafts of flotsam streamed along our hull. Ever anxious that a rope or large sheet of plastic might foul us again, we sat close to the gear lever. Should the slightest sound possibly indicate a snag, we would have pushed it into neutral and possibly reversed her slightly.

Project image

Sand dredging for development

The sighting of sand dredgers was a regular occurrence. Both Singapore and Malaysia were creating new islands with development for multiple high-rise urban centers in the planning.

“run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run…”

Near Port Tanjung Pelepas, while alert for any incoming or departing Big Girls as we crossed the shipping channel, we noticed tankers taking on fuel from bunkers (huge fuel ships). Other vessels had their center hatches open while diggers filled their cargo holds with coal scooped off a barge. Business was happening at anchor, not along the wharves, which we were accustomed to seeing. With the AIS on our chartplotter going into overload due to all the Singapore Straits traffic, we gratefully hung a left and cruised into Johor Straits heading for the 2nd Link Bridge which connected Malaysia to Singapore.

More barges of coal

A tanker bound for Thailand taking on coal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An invisible line exists along the waterway separating the two countries. Any craft breaching the boundary was often politely but firmly approached by the Singapore Water Police. Whilst never actually crossing the border, we, like most crafts, were shadowed for several miles. A Police escort, if you will.

 

Police coast guard

Look how tall that mast is. Raffles Marina

Asean Lady: quite an unusual configuration of a high-volume main hull and smaller outrigger hull. 88 meters length, accommodation for 22 guests and 18 crew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching the 2nd Link Bridge with yet another dredger

Once back in Danga Bay and alongside our designated marina berth, 2 crew members from the Country Garden catamaran took our mooring lines. A full year later, we were reacquainting ourselves with the friendly people, the saluting security guards and the pool facilities of this gigantic residential complex.

Marina at Country Garden

Sharing the pool with some birds

The new beach bar with no beer, or wine or any alcohol actually. Mocktail, anyone?

All the towers had been completed with more than 50% of the apartment units having been sold. A few more shops had opened, too. For us, it was inexpensive berthing fees 1000 MYR (Aus $300) per month including water and electricity. We also had use of the pool, quite a bonus. With our beloved Elba cooling our home on the water, we settled in to plan our jaunt back to Brisbane for the month of December!

But first a few days birding the renowned Fraser Hill…..

Australian pumpkins
Oct 31st

 

 

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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

More about Muar

The usual anchorages between the Johor Straits and Port Dickson were Pulau Pisang and the Pulua Besar. The latter was actually a cluster of islands known as the Water Island Group. We had the experience of it being rather open to the wrap-around effects of swell and thus an uncomfortable anchorage with potential storms. There were a couple of unsuccessful marinas in the area; one was at Malacca and another at Muar. In the early 2000’s the government attempted to provide facilities and create a world-class cruising destination for yachts along the coast of Malaysia. Unfortunately, although completed several locations suffered from severe siltation and/or poor wave protection. In a serious westerly or “Sumatra” storm they would be untenable. Muar, however did provide a meandering river suitable for anchorage. The issue was getting over the banks outside of the river entrance.

The meandering Muar River. Google image

Wednesday afternoon, Oct 25th we were forced to anchor near the lateral beacons approx. 1 mile from the mouth of the river as the tide was ebbing and the depths were too risky. Although feeling exposed we were extremely favoured with a calm evening. The town sat neatly on either side of the river. To our starboard upon arriving we saw a trimmed and landscaped riverfront dotted with old and new buildings. All tidy and picture perfect.

Ferry Jetty Tanjung Emas ramp

Peteri Street, a riverside promenade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directly near our anchorage was Tanjung Emas Recreational Park jetty which serviced a short Muar River Cruise. It was there we would leave our tender locked to a pole on a boat ramp. Each shore visit prompted local interest with people gathering to exam the unusual inflated craft and the rarely seen caucasians visiting on a cruising boat. The typical dozen questions ensued: “Where you come from” “how long you stay here” How long from Australia” “ Just the two of you?”…. It was easy to gain information and assistance as the folk were so friendly. A lane of shady trees, benches, a promenade and a food court beckoned.

Mee Bandang Muah,
spicey but oh so nicey!

Hans unwraps Otak-Otak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tried our first example of the local specialty, Mee (noodles) Bandung Muar. It was noodles in a rich and thick prawn flavor soup made from a combination of sambal, shrimp paste, cuttlefish and beef. A couple of grilled Otak-Otak served as hors d’oeuvres while we waited for our noodle soup. The banana leaves were wrapped around a fish paste made from the local catch, spices, chili and coconut milk. Then the packet was grilled. The texture was similar to smoked meat and children often ate them as a healthy snack.

Bike Hire with a solar panel lock (Rental is via a mobile phone app)

Muar (derived its name from the Malay word muara or estuary) was a very walkable town being flat. Also, the local government provided free bicycles. Having been a British administration centre, a series of colonial buildings shouldered the riverside with Chinese style shophouses lining the adjoining streets. Many of the official buildings featured  designs popular in 19th-century Europe and British colonies. High ceilings, verandas, columns, arches, louvred windows, decorative plaster and balustrades were common elements of buildings of that period. However, in keeping with local cultural populations some adaptions were apparent.

Clocktower Pavilon at Dataran Tanjung Emas

On the opposite bank an identical replica, built 1999-2005

British Colonial design Mosque Sultan Ibrahim
built 1925-30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Muar Royal Customs & Excise Office. Erected in 1909.

In the riverside parklands was an old train engine. Muar was once served by its own railway network known as Muar State Railways (MSR). Operating from 1889 to 1925, it started just four years after the first railway line of the country from Taiping to Port Weld in Perak was inaugurated in 1885.

Hans in pink on “Mauve Street”

What were exceptionally charming were the matching coloured structures. Most of the promenade road had mauve shophouses, the next was yellow then pink. One of the cross streets was predominately blue and green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We appeared to be the only non-Asians out and about. People passing in cars wound down their windows to wave. Everyone was smiling and polite. Children gaped while parents wanted photographs of us holding their child. Why? We do not know. Furthermore, it was the cleanest town we had ever seen, other than Singapore in S.E. Asia. Seldom was a piece of plastic seen floating on the river. Most out-of-the-ordinary.

1930

1927

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the forecasted weather presenting less desirable conditions, we lingered longer until Sun 29th . On another excursion ashore Burney suggested a street art theme. Nearby our anchorage was a very popular public square, Dataran Tangjung Emas (possibly translates to Cape Gold Square). Most evenings, families and young folk walked the esplanade area, lingering by the water for a sunset experience or played on the square. Vendors sold bubble makers, ice creams, illuminating gadgets or motorized cars for kindy kids to ride. It was there we recorded our first mural and became acquainted with a large family enjoying the precinct.

Brahminy in the background

Syamil’s family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four different ethnic backgrounds taking a selfie

Clocktower mural

After that we wandered further along the back streets of the old town on a treasure hunt of street art.

An entire wall of a building

A real boat as part of the mural

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such clean streets, even the alley-ways

A recommended cruising destination, Muar

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Cruising into October continued….

 

2016, Oct 31 anticipating the Singapore Straits

October 31st 2016 was the day Brahminy Too exited CIQ Port Tangjung Pinang in Indonesia before making her way to Malaysia. It has been 1 year. Although, we first anchored near the Puteri Port Harbour in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, a few days later we moved to a birth at Country Gardens Marina, Danga Bay.

 

Country Gardens, Danga Bay

Faizal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there we were again. Reacquainting with our local friend Faizal and settling into the comforts of (inexpensive) resort living. Not bad for 1000 Maylaysian Ringits a month ( a tad over $300 including water and electricity). The journey south from Penang was painless. Indeed a joy! We had the wind, and there was wind, and currents with us most of the time as we day hopped revisiting previous marinas and anchorages and exploring a new town. That was a bonus.

Australian Pumpkins for 31 October 2017

Brahminy Too off again

Having moved Brahminy Too out of the marina with the high tide late one afternoon, our cruising diary began October 10th, just after 4.30am, with the anchor up near Jerejak Island. Although, our arrival was too late for a high tide entry into Pangkor Island Marina, it was fascinating to navigate the Dinding River of Lumut in search of an overnight anchorage. Apart from the ferries to Pangkor Island, the Port of Lumut hosted a high-tech bulk terminal and stationed the Royal Malaysian Navy’s biggest base on the west coast of Malaysia. When Burney visited Lumut in the 80’s it was a fisherman’s village.

A bit of weather, that didn’t get us …

then…a bit of sunshine

 

 

 

 

Anchored near the port

Lumut’s base for the
Royal Malaysian Navy

 

 

 

 

Next day with the high tide, we started our run into the marina around 7.30am when we saw sv Matilda on anchor. We’d not seen them since Oct. last year with the arrival of our rally into Malaysia.  A quick catch-up was shouted over our bows as we passed. Snuggly berthed and checked in, it was a time to socialise with several sailors we have come to know over the 18 mths we have been cruising overseas. Then a few days turned into 9 days before we could continue our south-bound jaunt.

 

Lunch with the catamaran crew from Hybresail and sv Matilda

Dinner with Pepe and Bear off Beez Neez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music

Sundowners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike our storm-ridden voyage north along the Malaysian west coast, we experienced many days of favourable winds and fine sailing. The first day of this leg was Friday Oct. 20th. The “skipping fish” were busy dancing away from our wake. Not flying fish but possibly gar-like Needlefish: jump, shimmy on the tail, jump again and shimmy. Brilliant! They could cover 30-50 meters escaping from our boat’s heft. The breeze was coming out of the north-east corner. Then, as the wind died, the south flowing current kicked in. Now that was what we had signed-on for. Well protected in the Burnham River, on the border between the states: Perak and Selangor, we settled in for a quiet afternoon on the pick. The “Klang run” the following day would be a long one.

Northbound in 2016

Malaysian fishing vessels are now required to have AIS

After dodging a fleet of fishing boats, we had the breeze and current with us again. Brahminy always preferred 15 knots of wind to keeping her sailing well but Hans decided to endure the pains of hoisting the spinnaker to effectively make-way with winds lighter than that. What a beautiful sight that colourful sail was.

WoW!! When the currents started to funnel between the submerged sandbanks and the breeze peaked to 15 knots we were hooting along! Excitedly, Burney sat calling the speed 8.8, 8.9, 9 KNOTS plus.

That was a first.

9.6 knots Angsa Banks to Klang

Although local news had reported a serious downturn in the shipping businesses using Port Klang as various companies moved their concerns to Singapore, it was still busy as we slipped through in the late afternoon. Watching those “Big Girls” had become a fascination since we moved so often near international shipping lanes.

Mighty tugs and a big gal

It had been a 12-hour-day at the office but a good one. Anchor down with the sun setting and sipping a cool beverage, we watched the cruise liner disembark fully lit. Dry lightning flickered in the distance but all was well.

Port Klang sunset, view from our anchorage

 

“Mariner of the Seas” Royal International Caribbean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hop, skip and one more day-jump and we were coming into Admiral Marina at Port Dickson on Sunday afternoon Oct 22nd.
Initially, we had been told there were no vacant berths available. Many yachts from the 2 x 2017 Indonesian Rallies were already travelling north booking marinas in advance, well before the programmed Sail Malaysian Rally dates of Nov 1-3 for Port Dickson. Although, we had Plan A & B prepared, we were right in assuming the north-bound fleet were hindered by the head-on winds. Better a paying customer at the door, than a no-show.

Passing Avanti Resort just north of our marina destination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resort publicity photo of accommodation

That evening, heavy thunder drummed around us with blinding lightning flashes. Fortunately, there were no strikes in the actual marina. Lightning strike has occurred in the same marina as we were told by 2 men we met while cruising around Langkawi. Their monohull was one of 5 vessels caught in a side-flash. People on a separate finger saw a spear of lightning directly hit a large catamaran then “run” along the finger zapping the neighbours. All their electronics had either melted or been rendered useless. Why the concern? It’s a myth that lightning never strikes in the same place twice. Indeed we recently made acquaintances with a catamaran owner claiming his vessel has been struck 3 times. (We quietly agreed never to park near him.)

Entering Admiral Marina

Brahminy ensconced once again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also visiting Admiral Marina was sv Charon. We had first met Richard Phillips, the skipper, when we came into Townsville with Brahminy, our first live-aboard vessel. He and his partner Marilyn had left Australia with the 2015 Sail 2 Indonesia Rally. Since then our paths have often been on reciprocal courses. As was the case, again, this time. A one night catch-up and off they went north covering our tracks to Penang.

Richard Phillips, the KFC colonel look-alike

As our log entry recorded, we coasted Cape Richado shortly after 7am a couple of days later with light winds heading us from the south-east. The previous day, had seen us trekking into that national park in quest of birds, but to no avail. The migratory route of the southbound raptors of April did not follow the same course north, in Oct-November. Actually, very few birds were seen.

The Cape at dawn

Cape Richado light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoops that wasn’t there last time

Cape storm damage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bypassing Melaka (Malacca) and tippy-toeing through miles of sleeping giants, we were bound for Muar.

Sleeping giants

The chartplotter showing many tankers at anchor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Malacca, Muar shared elements of Portuguese occupation during the era when Holland was vying for control of the Malacca Straits. Also Colonial Britain left its architectural mark on several official buildings. Since, we had read that others (sv Matilda and Liberte) had visited and enjoyed the location, we made it our desired anchorage, instead of the less protected usual overnight stop at Pulua Besar , The Water Islands.

Port Dickson-Mallacca-Muar

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

“Taiping, the city that tin built”.

 

Street mural

Like Ipoh, Taiping was a city “that tin built”.

Indeed most of the pioneering work of developing Malaysia was carried on the shoulders of tin mining. With the arrival of Chinese immigrants in Malaysia, panning commenced around the 1820’s and steadily grew until some clan and local Malay gang conflicts over mining rights and access to drinking water irrupted. This chaos was the formal precipitating cause of the British “forward movement” in the Peninsular, which culminated in the establishment of colonial control over the main tin mining Malay states in 1874. Thereafter, progress pushed forward with a stretch of railway line connecting the tin fields to the waiting ships at Port Weld. Malaysia’s first railway. Then the first trunk roads in Peninsular Malaysia was routed through the main tin towns of Taiping, Ipoh and Kuala Lumper, all resources were bound for the British Isles.

Stop that train! More street art.

We had traveled by bus from Penang to Taiping. Ipoh was further south.

Taiping was the tin capital of the state Perak until it was superseded by Ipoh. Because we enjoyed visiting Penang and Ipoh searching out the historical buildings and following the development of the country, it was natural to add Taiping to the list. Although crumbling and faded in places, it was a lovely place to visit and discover grand old colonial architecture, again. Boasting a further series of firsts, Taiping claimed: the first hill station in Malaysia, Maxwell Hill (Bukit Larut), the first museum, the first prison, and the first English language schools. Furthermore, Taiping’s beautiful Lake Gardens was the oldest public park in Malaysia.

Shophouses old and worn

Shophouses refreshed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately its nom de plume, “The Wettest City in Malaysia” did not bode well, particularly as we were visiting in the wet season!

Nevertheless, between cloudbursts we managed to follow much of the heritage self-guiding walk.

http://www.malaysia-traveller.com/taiping-heritage-trail

Bus stop near an information board for the Heritage Trail

Near our hotel on Jalan Stesen, King Edward VII school opened by the Sultan of Perak in 1906.

Our first foray was to the Lake Gardens. Passing firstly an imposing Government building, we read that it was constructed in 1895-98 to provide space for various council and government ministries. It continued to house offices for the regional area.

Government Offices

Then came the Taiping Lending Library which had taken up residence in a bungalow that once was constructed for a branch of Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, back in 1882.

Former bank building

The Lake Gardens which have been in use since 1884 was a very large series of landscaped parks, ponds and bridges.

Lake Gardens

Branches reached over the road.

Rain Trees over 100 years old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Created from abandoned tin mines, they were said to have been modeled on London’s Kensington Park and other royal parks in Britain. As we took shade under the grand old Rain Trees which lined the avenue, we came upon Jubilee Jetty. Looking across to a distant bank, we saw the biggest monitor lizard since we left the Kommodo Islands!! It swaggered slowly down the incline to immerse itself in the cooling waters but within seconds there was a thrashing surge under the surface and the lizard dashed out of the lake and back up the bank. What Happened? Was it a territorial dispute with another lizard lolling there? Burney continued to observe and eventually spotted two large otters. Now you don’t see that every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing a quaint bridge and distracted by an unidentified heron stalking the fish on an isolated reed bed, Hans pointed to a large bird flying over. Burney’s jaw dropped. It was a Rhinoceros Hornbill, a bird she’d not seen before and there she stood with no camera and no binoculars. When the second hornbill flew past the best she could do was use the camera on her mobile phone. Proof positive if one zoomed up.

Zoomed and heavily cropped

Look closely in the sky

Rhinoceros Hornbill
Photo by Kh Neh Oct 17 also in the Lake Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we wandered the streets looping back towards our hotel looking for a suitable eatery, we found the old and new clock towers. Adjacent to the rather retro looking new clock was a remarkable building with numerous wooden slats and high cathedral-like ironwork. The smell indicated that it was the wet market where fish (and probably meat) was sold.

Concret Clock tower

Wet market since 1884-85

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old clock tower was all that remained, surrounded and dwarfed by poorly maintained high-rise hotels. In bygone days, both the police and fire brigade were housed there in a larger building which resembled a fort when it was created.

1890

Once the residence of a wealthy importer and rice wine brewer, the corner structure was built according to the “Straits Eclectic” architectural style of 1928. ( A bit of this Asian Feng Shui and a dash of that British colonial)

Peace Hotel

These days, like several heritage buildings in Taiping, it was in need of a clean and a fresh paint job. While it advertised as the Peace Hotel, the converted ground floor was a food court  which still sported some old charm with delightful wall tiles.

Dinner: chicken broth with flat rice noodles, tofu, dimsum and fishballs (and a fertilised egg)

********************************************************************

Breakfast: Steamed pork buns

Assorted wontons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another excursion, while riding the bus towards the Maxwell Hill Station ticket office, Burney saw the stately whitewashed mansion which once served as the British Officers Mess. Apparently, it was still used by the Malaysian Army. Where was Hans? Unwell with a very chesty flu, back at the hotel.

Officers Mess

Quickly thereafter barbwire-topped walls appeared. Taiping Gaol which was established in 1879 when Chinese gangs ran the tin mines and were engaged in open conflict. Convict labour was used to build much of Taiping and also ran various trades from within the prison such as a laundry and bakery. It was still an active prison. Opposite stood the Museum. Set up by Sir Hugh Low when he was Resident of the state of Perak, the building itself dated from 1883.

Museum

St. George’s Institution, a Catholic boy’s school established in 1915. The original building was extended in 1928. During the WWII, according to the school website “It was converted into the headquarters for the Kempetai (military police). The rumoured brutality and torture committed by the Japanese military police during the tenure of the school is a source of ghostly legends commonly circulated by the students even till today.”

St. George’s Institution

But for something a little more light-hearted, wandering home after dining that day we found this.

“Paint with Passion”
street art

The light was real and illuminated.

The tree tops clambered with the roosting racket of parakeets settling in for the night. Also the loud recordings of Edible-nest Swiftlets had finally ceased, to be replaced by the real calls of the birds arriving back at their false caves in house attics where “nest farming” was practiced.

Long tailed Parakeet

Next: Burney spends a morning on Maxwell Hill birding. See burneysbirdblog.wordpress.com

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Cruising into October (2017)

Thank you and goodnight.

Brahminy Too on her berth in Rebak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our return to Langkawi from Cambodia, we readied Brahminy Too for our departure south. Bidding Rebak farewell, we donated our old solar panels to Zen on Singa Besar at the former Bluesman Paradise location, then motorsailed to Kuah to complete our port clearance procedures in a huge downpour of torrential rain. Apart from finding an uncharted rock submerged near Tuba Island, we arrived on the south west corner of Pulua Dayang Bunting and sheltered with the local squid boats in a well-protected anchorage for the evening. The recent scuds and wind made any anchorages south or west of the island untenable.

An unexpected stop-over

Having studied the tides and current direction, Hans made excellent time averaging 6.5knots in light winds. While the morning started grey and threatened a damp passage, our arrival was spot lit. Clouds parted, blue sky reigned and “The Pearl of the Orient” welcomed us with sunny warmth. No sooner had we traversed the busy ferry hub of Georgetown and begun our approach under the first Penang Bridge when Burney received a message on her phone from the Lochards,  a yachtie family temporarily residing in accommodation abeam of our location:- ”Hey guys are you sailing towards the bridge atm”. Hello, Penang, we’re back and the social engagements begin…

Ferry and cruise ship terminus

Hans, Karel from svTehani Li, Herve and Corrine from svMax and Burney

January had seen us spending a month exploring parts of the Penang Island and celebrating both the Gregorian and Chinese New Years. This time, in October we hoped to spend 2 weeks reacquainting ourselves with friends and favourite spots. Luckily after anchoring at the neighbouring island of Jerejak, Hans was able to convince the Director who managed the Harbour Master marina (Jabatan Laut Jeti and Marina) to allow us to come-in and berth. There had been some poor behavior by a visiting vessel that had offended the staff and led to the cessation of new arrivals being accepted, again. (The berthing fees were 1/3 of those at the only other marina on the island.) Once happily ensconced we started enjoying the food, festivities and friendship of Georgetown.

B. Too was located where the blue dot sits

Between boat jobs, the Penang National Park was visited. Although Burney had walked one of the tracks in January, it was a first for Hans. A scenic bus ride along the northern coastal beaches brought us to the smallest national park. At the end of the paved path, a little suspension bridge signaled the start of the two main trails, both narrow dirt tracks. Instead of the inland route, we followed the wave lapped shore towards Monkey Beach.

Lesser Sand-plover

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Previously having seen the Blue Mansion of Cheong Fatt Tze,  Burney took a tour of a different historic Chinese mansion: The Pinang Peranakan Mansion of Chung Keng Kwee who was commonly known as Kaptain Cina. 

Previous visit to the Blue Mansion

Peranakan Mansion on Church Street

Lower floor

Dining hall for British dignities

Peranakans or the Straits Chinese  had settled in the British Straits Settlements of Singapore, Taiping, Ipoh, Malacca and Penang. Enterprising clans adopted both the local Malay styles of cooking and incorporated the British colonial lifestyle.

 

 

 

 

 

Eclectic collection of Chinese inlaid furniture and the latest British mirrorware

Bridal suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typical of an affluent magnate, the 19th century house and attached temple combined Feng Shui principles with an eclectic combination of English floor tiles, Scottish ironwork, Chinese mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture and fabulous carved teak panels. Kaptain Cina had made his fortune with tin in Taiping and had secured a monopoly for tobacco, liquor, gambling and opium farms. Although he was a man with a colourful history being a triad leader, his position also led to the creation of schools, roads and employment.

Chung Keng Quee

Street art in Church Street with reference to triads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After enduring many decades of neglect, the mansion was restored to its former grandeur and extended to include The Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum. Various chambers displayed bridal rooms decorated according to the era: eg.1900-1920, Pre WWII or  dining halls lined with period porcelain and silverware, clothing through the ages and kitchen utensils. It was wonderful to take a step into history and peak into the lifestyle of (another) wealthy Peranakan.

Baby furniture

Baby’s “high” chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commode and chamber pot

Celebrated widely by the Chinese community in Penang, The Lantern Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival was a time when family and friends gathered together to admire the full moon while savouring Moon Cakes, Chinese Tea and parading around with colourful Chinese Lanterns. This year it fell on Oct 4th of the Gregorian calendar, closest to the fall equinox. Traditionally it was the time that rice matured and was harvested. Most food for the festival emphasised the season’s harvest, such as pumpkin, taro, and auspicious round foods including mooncakes.

Moon cakes

Chinese pastry, made from wheat flour and sweet stuffing, such as sugar and lotus seed powder.

It’s a symbol of family reunion, and the cake is traditionally cut into pieces that equal the number of people in the family

Loh won a Lucky Draw:
a 2 kg Mooncake

Daughter with a battery-operated lantern (free give away)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had the opportunity to reunite with Loh’s family with whom we celebrated Chinese New Year. This time it was a gala gathering at the Komtar Centre with lion dancers, classical musicians and food.

Komtar Center

Festival lanterns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also managed a 3 day road trip to the historical town of Taiping on the Malaysian Peninsular.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Sept Sojourns: Battambang continued..

Banan Temple
Located about 18km from Battambang (south), Wat Banan was an Angkor era temple which sat on top of a 400 meter hill close to the Sanker river. The steep steps up to the temple was worth the effort for the stunning 360 degree panoramic views from the top.  Whilst the structures were mostly intact, like so many Khmer ruins they have fallen victim to massive looting.

So many steps…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devoid of all decoration

Faces looted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furthermore, as part of the sad irony that was Cambodia, a place built for worship, harmony and tranquility was also utilised as a place for reigning war upon one’s fellow countrymen. There were a couple of big guns on the mountaintop next to the ruins. Still aiming down at the surrounding area as they had during the more recent years of the government-Khmer Rouge skirmishes, it was a sobering reminder. Then there were the notices:  STAY ON THE WORN PATHWAYS AND TRAILS- there may still be undiscovered landmines.

This temple remains a place of worship

At the bottom of the hill were a few food and drink stalls perched along the edge of a pond making it a pleasant place to while away some time. Several locals hired special picnic huts and lounged in hammocks by the cooling water. We had a date with an afterhours English Education class in Slarkram Village.

Folks languishing in the shade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One day while exploring the historical buildings around Battambang, we chatted with a very well-spoken Cambodian, Narath. Back in 2005, with the permission of the Director of the village school, he was able to establish a small English teaching class. A few years later, some of those students started teaching English to others and Narath could then run 3 classes. He asked us to volunteer in assisting with the correct pronunciation.

One afternoon, Hans went off with Narath on the back of his motorbike to play teacher. Slarkram English School was approx. 7km south of our hotel. On this occasion, after visiting the Banan Temple we both visited. In addition, our tutk-tuk driver who had also learnt English in a monastery became involved.

Waiting for class

Slarkram English School   www.slarkramenglishschool.com

This is a free service provided after normal school hours. They currently have 340 students aged between 5 and 22 years from the village and surrounding area. Narath learnt English as a boy in a Buddhist monastery and has made it his calling to help his community. For reasons of poverty and poor accessibility many children in the countryside did not have the opportunity to improve their career prospects. English skills may greatly enhance their employment as tourism and NGO positions increase.

Before the lesson began, we were kindly invited into Narath’s parent’s house. Renovations were occurring around us as a new bathroom was being built  in the home closer to the roadside/bank. The backporch, where the facility had been housed, had subsided due to the high water inundation. Narath’s story was instructive as Burney had asked: “How did you come to speak English so well?”

Narath’s Story: Both his parents had been teachers before the Cambodian civil war. Considered intellectuals, wearing glasses was also a symptom of being an intellectual; they were shot and left for dead. Fortunately, feigning death, they survived however, neither have been able to work again due to their wounds. Narath’s father who had once spoken English, French and Cambodian had great difficulty with any speak production due to the bullet he had carried in his brain. It took several years before his body actually shed the offending shell. (He requires expensive epilepsy medication, these days.) Unable to care for their own children, Narath and his siblings were placed in a Buddhist monastery. Like many children in Cambodia, thousands of children are nurtured in orphanages or by monasteries while they actually have a parent or relative. Poverty, abject poverty, made it impossible to provide for them, and like Narath, they may have fared better in life with an education.

[We can thoroughly recommend this organisation should you choose to offer your voluntary services. Interact for a lesson or stay for a month, make a small donation or fund-raise for their short term goals: a television, computer, dvd player and/or photocopy machine. They also have an ambitious long term goal to purchase a small plot of land and build a 8 classroom school.]

Burney’s job was to read a passage then critique the students pronunciation. Having been a speech therapist in a past life, she was adequately equipped with assisting with the tricky “TH” and “SH” sound production. It was quite comical, really.

“th”

That encounter further piqued Burney’s need for greater understanding of the background of that

violent recent history in the reign of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot’s totalitarian dictatorship.

This extremely violent regime killed up to 3 million people between 1975 to 1979, while the later guerrilla war between Vietnam didn’t end until 1994.

The genocide and other wars throughout the late 20th century took it’s toll, but the country was now bouncing back and had been at peace for over a decade.

The rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge

It has been revealed that the United States’ massive covert carpet bombing campaign in the late 1960s contributed to the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Burney read: “The Air Force began bombing the rural regions of Cambodia along its South Vietnam border in 1965 under the Johnson administration; this was four years earlier than previously believed. The “Menu Bombings” were an escalation of what had previously been tactical air attacks. Newly inaugurated President Richard Nixon authorized for the first time, use of long range B-52 heavy bombers to carpet bomb Cambodia.

48 of the bombers were secretly diverted across the Cambodian border and dropped 2,400 tons of bombs. The mission was designated “Breakfast”, after the morning Pentagon planning session at which it was devised. Menu Bombings covered many covert missions (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack, Dessert, and Supper). Nixon and Kissinger went to great lengths to keep the missions secret. In order to prevent criticism of the bombing

King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia who gained independence for his country from France, was never asked nor ever gave his approval. During the course of the Menu bombings, Sihanouk’s government formally protested “American violation[s] of Cambodian territory and airspace” although they had supported the US war against communist Vietnam. Then followed Operation Freedom Deal whereby bombing was expanded to a much larger area of Cambodia (at least one-half of the country) and continued for another 3 years until August 1973. An American congressional committee uncovered excuses and deceptions that were perhaps more alarming than those occurring simultaneously in the Watergate hearings. It has been asserted that the “Khmer Rouge were born out of the inferno that American policy did much to create”. The fear and loathing of the western campaign, a power vacuum, and different forms of communism and border disputes led to the rise of Pol Pot who was pro-Chinese and radically Maoist.

A few days after they took power in 1975, the Khmer Rouge forced approximately two million people in Phnom Penh and other cities into the countryside to undertake agricultural work. Thousands of people died during the evacuations. They wanted to transform Cambodia into a rural, classless society in which there were no rich people, no poor people, and no exploitation. To accomplish this, they abolished money, free markets, normal schooling, private property, foreign clothing styles, religious practices, and traditional Khmer culture. Public schools, pagodas, mosques, churches, universities, shops and government buildings were shut or turned into prisons, stables, reeducation camps and granaries. People were forbidden to travel beyond their cooperative. The regime banned anyone to gather and hold discussions. If three people gathered and talked, they could be accused of being enemies and arrested or executed. Over the next three years, they executed hundreds of thousands of intellectuals; city residents; minority people such as the Cham, Vietnamese and Chinese; and many of their own soldiers and party members, who were accused of being traitors.

The Khmer Rouge claimed that only pure people were qualified to build the revolution.

A prison in Cambodia, known as S-21, held approximately 14,000 prisoners while in operation. It is thought that only about 12 survived.

In December 1978, Vietnamese troops fought their way into Cambodia capturing Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. The Khmer Rouge leaders then fled to the western provinces and remained active in the areas near Battambang only suspending hostilities in 1996. During this period the city was off limits to most visitors as it was on the front line in the war against the Khmer Rouge. Typically the government forces would push the Khmer Rouge back towards the mountains of Pailin in the south west, in the dry season only to cede most of the gains once the monsoon rains came.

From 1996, Battambang was at peace for the first time in decades and experienced some growth. However it is only until very recently that tourists have come to the city in any numbers – most of the minefields have now been cleared and the main roads have been rehabilitated.

From Landmine Museum (archive image)

Street Art

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Sept. Sojourns: Battambang

Floating villages

When we flew to Cambodia, we noted the flooded plains  around Tonle Sap (Great Lake). Burney read that it may measure 2,590 square kilometres during the dry season but expands to 24,605 square kilometres during the monsoons. Leaving Siem Reap and heading to Battambang, we took a ferry, firstly south down Siem Reap River which then emptied into the vast lake, Tonle Sap.
It’s the largest lake in Southeast Asia, one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world and, a little creepily, holds the richest snake harvest in the world too. It’s home to an exceptional array of wildlife, so Burney spent most of the 4 hr trip looking for resident birds while Hans entertained a few of us blowing his harp.

Aerial view of part of the Tonle Sap inundation

Water Hyacinth clogs large parts of the lake.

Narrow passages through shrubs laden with grasshoppers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flooded forests

The ferry was occasionally met by small wooden boats. The locals would either utilise the ferry service as a goods courier or indeed clamber aboard themselves with bags of fishy produce for the market. Among the poorest of the poor were those who lived not by, but actually, on the lake itself. Some 130,000 people occupy 90 floating villages. (Many are Vietnamese who are not allowed to own land.) Nevertheless, they were quick with a cheery smile and a wave. Many of the small floating houses were literally surrounded by water hyacinth making navigation on the lake difficult in the dry season. Indeed, we had an unexpected “beaching” on a raft of greenery when we failed to break-through. There were quite a few anxious expressions on the passengers faces. Especially when we were showered with tiny grasshoppers who sought a safer perch (on us) since their hyacinth homes had been disturbed. Like our ferry, the rudders of the many long boats effectively chopped the water hyacinth up and thus propagated it further, adding to the problem. Interestingly, there was a company called: The Interior Trading Company that re-taught the local women to make woven products from harvested hyacinth thereby giving the women a sale-able trade and addressing the over abundance of the pest water weed.

Product selection photo from the company website

Sustainability

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inundated forests and shrubbery furnished the scenery till we eventually wound our way westward along the Sangkar River. Battambang straddled both banks of the river.

Floating village Buddhist temple

 

 

Sangkrei River banks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the French Governor’s residence

French colonial architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the actual city of Battambang was not particularly old, there’s reportedly evidence of occupation in the area for over 1000 years. Ancient Khmer ruins were also scattered around this location, one of which we visited. However between the 15th and 18th centuries, the Battambang territory was invaded by the Siamese army. Indeed the earlier history of the provinces on the north west, flip-flopped back and forth between Thailand (Siam) and Cambodia. 1795 Thailand annexed great sways of territory including Battambang and Siem Reap. Their rule lasted until 1907 when the province was ceded to the French to be part of their Indochina colony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much of the architecture still seen today in the centre of the town dates from the first half of the twentieth century. Along with the familiar Chinese shophouses, French colonial structures were found in the town centre. Some of the buildings had been spruced up but most were in various states of  decline. And then there were the gold-painted Buddist temples and the sound of prayers being broadcast on loud speakers.

Battambang:
Buddhist Temple

In keeping with the French theme, one afternoon, Hans provided a delightful sundowners picnic which we enjoyed by the river. Quite romantic.

French red wine, baguettes and soft brie. Yum!

Staying on the topic of food, a traditional Cambodian breakfast in Battambang was an informal stall set just back from the road serving Khmer noodle soup, known as kuy tiev, pork broth with noodles and vegetables. One morning, instead of muesli and fruit, we found a little cafe, Kinyei Café on Street 1½; where the 2013 Cambodian barista champion made coffee.

Typical street food

Battambang’s street names were numbers. Hence, the riverside esplanade was Street 1. Our café was found on a narrow lane between two main streets, Street 1½ logically.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khmer style rice porridge

Keen to learn more about traditional Khmer cookery, we both enrolled for a class one morning having enjoyed a similar experience in Vietnam. As with our previous cookery class, we first visited the local wet market to learn more about Cambodian produce and to acquire some ingredients before returning to Nary Kitchen to prepare 3 meals and a dessert. This, we gladly ate for lunch!

(No, we did not eat ants, snake, beetles or crickets but we saw them at the market)

fresh frog which we saw peeled before our eyes…still kicking!

eel

banana leaf

Chef Nary

Today’s lesson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch

Chef Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Uncategorized