Tuesday, October 28, 2014

River living Oct 2014

The Danga Bay Marina is gone!  They have started filling the area where we were docked just a couple of weeks earlier.  The barge moved in, banged up against one of the pilings and pushed it into a lean, got his anchor chain caught onthe wrong side of another piling and generally had a difficult time getting situated in the tight spaces between the little stationary tug barge and pilings.  Soon, though he began spewing sand off the end of the conveyor belt.  When they leave, there is always a lot of churning water as their props are partially out of the water as they've dumped their load and the entire boat has risen in the water by a few feet.  I'm finding it pretty interesting to watch this whole process.
 By the end of the day, you can see how much sand has already been dumped by a couple of big sand barges.  They rush in on the high tide and have to get out as soon as possible so another barge can come in and dump more while the water is deep enough for them to get in close enough to put the sand where it is wanted close to the shore.  Seems there is always one last barge that stays too long and has to struggle to get turned around and get out in the shallowing water.
Another view of the sand being unloaded.  I watched tourists and even a newlywed couple in their wedding finery come here to watch the spectacle and have their photos taken with the sand fountain in the background,

Jason in the "Yachtie Room" at Danga Bay Marina Club.  We spent our days in this air-conditioned room with free wifi. It's just too hot to sit on the boat during the day. Since there is nobody staying at the marina, we had good internet speed and got a lot done!  The marina manager is being paid to do nothing until the 'new marina' gets built.  They want to build a small marina for mega-yachts.  Nobody wants to deal with us little yachties.  We aren't really clear just where that new marina is to be.  If they keep piling sand on both sides of this river, there won't be room for a mega-yacht to get this far.
We noticed this monitor lizard on a ledge of a building walkway near downtown Johor Bahru ; he wasn't happy he was spotted and attacked his mirror image in a glass door before trying to escape away from out attention. We were coming back from submitting our applications for a visa to visit India.  We need visas before we leave for India and there are very few places for us to get them. They require that we fill out the forms online as they won't take hand written application forms any more. The system is designed to introduce you to the frustrating bureaucracy that requires infinite patience to deal with it.  I felt like banging my head on the door like the lizard had done.

They require biometric finger prints so we must submit the application in person.  They seemed almost unable to deal with my new passport as it didn't have a stamp showing I was even in Malaysia. Luckily, I had my old passport with the Immigration stamp date matching the issue date of the new passport, so they accepted our explanation and the submission of the application, but reminded us repeatedly that there were no refunds, even if the visas were denied.  And they don't give reasons for why they don't give you the visa requested.  Just throw lots of money out there and hope someone is feeling happy that day.
 We met up with a fellow Antares (the new company name after PDQ went bust) catamaran owner who happened to be in Singapore for a few months.  He wanted to talk about our experiences, so we headed across to Singapore for the day and he picked us up in his car and drove us around downtown Singapore showing us the sights we hadn't seen on our passport runs over here.  Christian's cat is in the States, but he hopes to begin cruising with is wife and 9-year-old son very soon.  The men talked boats all afternoon. This building below is the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel, owned by the same Sands Hotel chain as the guys in Las Vegas.  It rained off and on so many other photos had water spots in them.  Singapore has some pretty amazing architecture and interesting buildings and statues and such, but it's waaayyy beyond our budget to shop the brand names here.  The cost of owning a vehicle in this city are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars!  No car can be more than 10 years old.  Perhaps some of the cheap used car imports we saw in New Zealand came from here, too.
 We just finished the Deepavali/Dipavali holiday and the streets of Little India area in Singapore were still decorated.  The high-end stores in downtown are already displaying Christmas trees and ornaments and such.  So early!  It's not even Halloween yet.
 A temple roof in Little India.  We've seen these colorful ornate temples elsewhere, but this one was all clean and shiny.  Very pretty.
 We found the wet market and the food stalls around it for lunch.  This stainless steel drum was used for baking naan (Indian flatbread).  The man in the next photo used two long metal rods to hook the bread and lift it out of this charcoal-fired 'oven'.  Talk about hot and fresh!  Oh so yummy, too.
 Christian and Jason at our lunch table.  The food stall with the man cooking naan is in the background.  We had tasty tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, and butter chicken with rice.  The couple at the table next door had 3 mini-buckets of sauces--dahl and some coconut and other sauce that we dipped our bread in while filling up.
 Christian and Jason at lunch in Sinapore's Little India food stalls.Christian said the government mandates that there must be food stalls within 7 minutes walk from anywhere in the area.  Everything in Singapore is 'planned'.
 Jason got a chuckle out of this sign as we walked back to the car after lunch.  Beer here is so expensive that Christian said he stopped drinking it.  We know the feeling and are meting out our beers to last us until we reach Langkawi again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hangin' out in Danga Bay Oct 2014

Durian Boy and Jason in Singapore.  The stinky durian fruit is spiky green on the outside and creamy yellow on the inside.  Apparently there is a cartoon character who eats, sleeps, and dreams of nothing but eating more durian.  This is a statue in the Singapore Tourist Bureau where we stopped after dropping off our applications for new passports.

 Also in the Tourist Board building was this fish pond with huge koi in it.  Much bigger than my Dad's fish in his pond.  Some were so big they looked deformed.
On the way down to Singapore, this tern decided to be a freeloader for a while.  He didn't mind us walking past him.  He originally landed on the top of the davits but a gust of wind blew him off and he tumbled down to the seat and decided that this perch on our electric winch suited him best.  He'd sit for a while, take off and circle the boat and come back to rest.  He spent some time on the boom, too, but eventually winged away after a free ride for the afternoon.
 As we rounded Singapore we got caught in a viscous squall that created white-out conditions.  The ships slowed down and began using foghorn signals.  Of course, this was right at a choke point where the shipping channels turned.  We had ships on our left and coming out of a channel behind us, with islands to the right of us,so we pulled out of the traffic and hid behind a little island til the weather let up about an hour later.  Luckily, we didn't encounter this huge crane (biggest we've ever seen!) until we got to the other side.  The tug boat is backing up, pulling the barge and two more tugs were pushing it from behind.  You can get an idea of its size as that is a full-size container ship in the background between the tug and the crane.
 Coming up the Johor Strait between Singapore and Malaysia, the Singapore folks want to make sure you don't think you're going to come ashore on their side of the strait.
This is the big sand barge that ran into the end of the dock here in Danga Bay.
 These are the armed guards that watched the ordeal, too.  Why they need guns is beyond me.  There is no longer anything of value here at the marina.  Even the loud disco that just opened last November was closed down (the sultan said it was too loud and closed them down).
 Where we tied up a few months ago is now filled in with sand.  You can see the top of the pilings still sticking up out of the sand.
 The problem barge is working itself off the dock, but you can see how that conveyor off the front might do some damage if it pivoted and whacked the masts of the yacht.  A group of workers scrambled to retrieve their cleaning supplies off the end of the dock and were standing by the yacht, just in case....  The owner of the yacht was gone to Singapore for the day and missed all the excitement.
 As he backed out, another barge full of sand came in just behind him, oblivious to the problem or just didn't care.  That was a near collision, but he somehow got by without being hit.

 A raft of fishing boats as we entered Danga Bay. We had to weave our way around boats like this and the barges and the shallow places to reach the marina.
 No more boats on the jetties.  They began dismantling the dock you see the next day.  Notice all the cranes in the lot beyond here.  There is a building boom going on here and the money being spent to build high rises on the water here is dumbfounding.
 The Chinese owner of all this reclaimed land is a billionaire; he bought the rights to the bottom lands 16 years ago and got it all for a song.  Now that they are reclaiming the land and making it 'buildable (I still wonder how safe it will be) he is getting rich quick.  They set up this huge outdoor tented room, complete with air conditioning for their launch event for the sales of the 800+ condos in a 42-story, four-tower complex to be built just beyond those cranes in the distance.  Half a million ringitts would get you a one-bedroom studio-sized room with less than 570 sq. feet of space.  Tiny!  The owner kept the biggest penthouse for himself, but you could get one for about 2.2 million ringgits (USD$1=3.25 RM).  We watched the fashion show they put on one night inside the tent and we were invited to partake of the dinner and refreshments they offered free of charge.  They sold nearly 70% of the offerings in the first two days!  Chinese from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur make up most of their customers.  It's still cheaper here on this side of the causeway from Singapore and the money just flows continuously across the bridge.

 Spewing sand in the distance to reclaim land for building.  We were tied up to the dock inside of that pick-up just a few months earlier.
 Making waterfront property in Danga Bay.
 Some of the garbage in the yucky waters in this bay, aka Diaper Bay or Dung Bay.
 More garbage in the waters here.
 Our view from our new location outside of Country Garden, where all the cranes are working.  The marine manager wanted us to pay RM20/day to park the dinghy here, so we ended up motoring back around to Danga Bay and parking it tied up to an airboat at the end of the cruise boat dock.
 Eventually, all the boats had to leave Danga Bay.  The marina towed the disabled or derelict boats across the water to a tiny marina in front of the owner's mansion.  Now, no more jetties.  The began pulling out the pilings, too.
 Digging out the sand around the pilings that needed to be pulled after they'd dumped all the sand around them.  Perhaps not the most efficient way to handle the issue....
We went looking for the museum one day but it was closed for rennovation.  The sultan's motorcade drove up the drive and around and then back out; just checking on his peeps and properties, I guess.  While in Johor Bahru, we spotted this banner on a mosque.
 One day we noticed hundreds of dead fish floating in the bay.  They seemed to lead to the fish farms that line the entrance to Danga Bay.  They were bigger than most of the fish we see fishermen catching in nets.  We don't know what killed them, but someone just dumped them out into the bay and they began to stink as they floated and bloated.  Jason wondered why they didn't grind them up for fertilizer.  Even the birds wouldn't eat them.  I spotted a couple of otters on the dock where we left our dinghy and wondered if they'd eat the dead fish.  River eels poked their heads up out of the water here, too.  Hard to believe that anything could live in this dirty water.  Or that people would pay up to 2 million ringgits for a condo overlooking this water.
This is one of the fish farms along the entry to Danga Bay.  Empty blue jugs form the floating barriers that hold their pens.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Southbound to Singapore Sep-Oct 2014

Yep, that's me, Karen, with a huge python wrapped around my shoulders.  A guy at the Pernakan Festival in Kuala Terengganu (hereafter referred to as KT) was letting folks take pictures with it.  It was heavier than I'd have thought and I could feel the strength of the solid muscles as he tried to squirm away.  Beautiful colors up close, though, and smooth and cool to the touch.  Still, just a quick photo and I was glad to give him back.
This is the color of the water as seen through the escape hatch in our cabin on YOLO.  Such a brilliant green/chartreuse, eh?  We've seen it all colors in our travels.  While the water looked green under the boat while the sun shone, it left rusty orange stripes and spots along the water line and wherever the water touched,  We had to spend a day at Kapas Island snorkeling to wipe the orange stuff off.  YOLO is looking a bit yellowed now as it will take a lot of elbow grease or chemicals to get it all off.  It will wait for the haulout.
 YOLO at anchor outside the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.  That big motor vessel behind us belongs to the Universiti Malaysia and once in a while it makes runs out to the offshore islands to move student to their study of coral or turtles.  The other boats are passenger ferries that run between resort islands.
 Looking across the river from the marina to the town of Kuala Terengganu.  The fresh market would be to the far left of the shot, behind that white arch; Chinatown is along the waterfrong in the rest of the picture.
 These two guys cleaned the fuel injectors and checked the valve clearance in our engines.
 Colorful food at the Peranakan Festival in KT.  The bags in front contain soup.  People often buy drinks in a plastic bag with a straw rubber banded into a corner.  No plastic bottle to fill or dispose of.
 The fresh market at KT.  I could shop here every day!  The Chinese woman who had cilantro/coriander leaf and cherry tomatoes got to know me and would sell me what was fresh that day from her stall.  I spread my ringgits around to many different sellers, though.
 Just outside the market, sellers plied their wares, too.  Bananas here in all stages of ripeness.  Boxes of duku, jungle fruit and rambutans, too.  Durian, coconuts, limes and wavy beans are all here.
 Outside the market, Jason spotted this cat nibling on a fish skeleton, just like in the cartoons.  That is durian (the stinkiest fruit in the world) husks in the crate behind the cat.
 This cat also had an almost-normal tail for a change.
 A squall blew up one afternoon while the kids had their Optimists and Lasers out on the water.  Most of them got overturned and a few were damaged.  I counted eight overturned boats when it cleared.  Luckily, all the kids had been rescued.  One cried as his boat dragged down the side of YOLO, out of control and full of water.
 In Chinatown, in KT, the alley ways are all decorated with different themes.  This one is Turtle Alley and is filled with mosaic pictures of turtle scenes all along the walls.
A close up of a close up turtle encounter on the wall in Turtle Alley.
 This sculpture of a turtle hatching is at one end of the alley along the street in KT.  There was a place to leave dinghies on a stairway to the canal that runs along the city here, so Turtle Alley is a landmark for cruisers.
 A different alley had hearts with locks on the fence.  Something with a 'key to my heart' theme?
 This alley was covered with umbrellas hanging from above.
  Close up of the umbrellas in one of the alleys in Chinatown.
 One of the beef and chicken stalls in the market.  Fresh beef and frozen, imported beef can be bought here in the open air.  The chickens still have the heads and feet on them.  They price them by weight and weigh them with the heads and feet, even if you don't want them.  I think they chop them into tiny bits for cat food or use them in some dish I don't know of.
 Jason doing engine checks and working to keep YOLO running smoothly.  He does a great job of it.
 A Chinese temple lit up at night during the Peranakan Festival in Sept 2014 in Chinatown in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.
 A kebab cart on the street at night during the festival.  Friends of ours on Reflections ate several of them and raved about them.  You could have meat, fish, or veges fried in oil or steamed in water. Not a very common sight.
 Festival food like faces at a Japanese stall.  Folks cooked local foods and gave away samples.  Some of the VIP guests were mingling and one told me that the current generation are losing the ability to make the traditional dishes.  He pointed out that only the older women were making the foods in the stalls for local dishes.
 Heather and Jason are delayed in the street having a conversation about something.
 The festival included a yoyo contest the next day and this young lady was practicing her skills.
 A wall of plastic containers with Chinese fighting fish.  Only one per container as they will kill each other if put into the same water.  They were brilliant crimson and blues.  Pretty fish with a deadly reputation.
 Here's that python again on a little kid.  He's a little bigger than snack sized for this snake, but I'd still keep him from wrapping himself around me if I was him, too.
 The Sultan of Terengganu state showed up for the festival and in the background are some of the dance performers waiting for his arrival.  Like all heads of government here, they kept the crowd waiting.  We slipped up onto the seating dias for the VIPs and sat on the chairs in the back row to rest while the folks waited for the king/sultan to arrive.  Nobody kicked us out!  When we left, we took the goodie bags that had been on the chairs as nobody was there to claim them.  Just some snack foods and one bag had thousands of ants in it.  A few of them got onto the boat before I realized the issue.
 The parade was over an hour late getting started, and we'd decided to give it a miss, but the guy from another boat we'd given a ride to was no longer with us and we had to find him.  Couldn't leave him stranded across the river, so we waited by the dinghies while Jason went looking.  The Chinatown area isn't that big and he just did a big loop searching for him.  He got back to us before Jason returned, but by then, the parade had started so we just sat on the curb and watched.  I think Peranakan means the mixing of cultures and thisfestival is about the shared cultures and the heritage of the Chinese and Malaysians here in Terengganu.
 Blown up plastic shapes on sticks were part of the parade.
 A Chinese dragon gyrating along the street in a dance.
 The dragon standing still.
 YOLO in the Ri-Yaz Heritage Marina in KT.
 Jason and Karen eating in a local restaurant. Jason liked his meal so much, he ordered a second one.  But he's still thin as a rail.  A typical meal would be 5-12 Malaysian Ringgits, about $2-4, depending on the meat or seafood you got in it.  We generally had no idea of what was really in the meals as we just picked them off a picture board that had photos of the dish with a price.  We never really had a meal we didn't like.
 A lady sitting up above her stall in the market in KT.  Those brown-grey sticks are a local fish sausage that are famous in KT and made nowhere else.  Kerepok lemok is the name (or something close to that).  We'd tried it once in the rally.  They fry it up and serve it with a spicy chili sauce.  It's ok with the sauce on it, but I'd let it pass if it was just plain.  We didn't like it enough to buy some.
 Chiles and eggplant for sale along the wall of the market.  Spread out rice bags make a seller stall for this person.  I bought heaps of those red hot chili peppers during our stay in Malaysia and pickled a bunch of them.  You can't find salsa here, so I buy cilantro from the Chinese folks in the fresh markets and these chiles and make my own hot sauce.

 Another market shot in KT.  Colorful places, these markets.  That's ginger root in the front.  The dark stuff is tamarind and the red stuff in bags is chili sauce.  Lemon grass, long beans, eggplant , cucumbers and squash are evident in the front stall, and you can see the red and orange of tomatoes and carrots and chilis surrounding the lady in the stall across the aisle.  I never found out what to do with all the different greens and veges they sell here.  I'd need a personal guide to teach me how to use them all. Can't even tell you the names of many of the things I saw here.

 An egg seller in the market.  You could get class A, B, or C eggs, which relate to the size.  All eggs here are the brown eggs and they sell them one at a time or any number up to the full flat of 30.  I'd pay about 12 ringgits for a full tray of eggs, about $4.  They aren't refrigerated so I don't have to keep them in my fridge on the boat--a great help.  We go through a lot of eggs as it's an easy protein to obtain.  Eggs and chicken are everywhere here; beef can be found, but only Chinatown provides pork.

The tailings from this mining operation created colorful red and orange stripes of rock and gravel on this island we passed on our way south.
 This is the view from our anchor spot of the town of Cukai.  You can just make out the concrete stairs along the seawall where we could land our dinghy (provided the tide was up enough) and walk to the markets or shops in town.  We enjoyed Cukai for a couple of days on our way up and again on the way south.  This isn't a 'tourist town' by any stretch of the imagination.  We had to wind our way up the river to get here.  Fishing is the industry around here.
 Karen in her "international" sailing attire:  The headscarf is a scrap from the material I'd bought in Kuah, Malaysia that Myra made into a dress for me when she was back in Ireland; the sunglasses were found by Jason snorkeling in Nai Harn Bay in Thailand and probably had belonged to one of the thousands of Russians who tend to take over the beaches there; the facemask is from my trip in Vietnam, purchased just before our crossing to Laos via a dusty road in an open truck; the t-shirt is from Dominica in the Caribbean; the life jacket is an original purchase from our earliest days of training in sailing in the USA.
 The smoke in the air got so bad one day, I resorted to wearing the mask to breathe.  Jason's lungs hurt.  I don't know who is burning what (slash and burn is still common here), but is seems the entire country is on fire and the smoke is so heavy you can't see land sometimes from just a few miles away.  Everything looks grey and hazy.  The sun 'sets' early behind the haze and we lose at least a half an hour of daylight because it is so thick the sun can't get through it.

 These are a couple of the bazillions of little white eels we saw off the shallow coast between Rompin River and Tioman.  Jason caught a couple in the bucket to have a closer look.  They are only a few inches long.
 The island of Tioman as we sailed away from it.  The distinctive peaks at the south end are said to look like donkey ears.  Tioman is a duty free island and you can buy beer and spirits here at a reasonable price.  Alcohol is not permitted in the locals' religion so they don't make it easy to get.  If you find it elsewhere, it is prohibitively expensive.  18RM/beer on the island--about $6/can or bottle of beer. We won't drink at those prices.
 This tern decided to be lazy and ride instead of fly.  The slippery stainless steel of our davit caught him off-guard when a wind gust blew him down and he slipped between the poles and fell to the lower level.  He ended up on the winch controls below his original perch.
 Here he sat for nearly an hour, not minding when we walked right by him.  He'd take off once in a while and fly out and come back.  He spent some time on the end of the boom, too.  Eventually, we must've reached his stop as he took off for good, leaving only a poop mark that dribbled down the winch control.