We are tied up at the Rebak Marina, part of the five star Rebak Island Resort. We arrived yesterday morning. We spent the night before at the “Fjord anchorage” in southern Langkawi after a hot but fast (due to current, not wind) sail from Penang. It was only 10 more miles to Rebak Island.
This morning (Friday) was the weekly “veggie run” over to the big island of Langkawi. The resort/marina took us yachties over in a small ferry (about 15 – 18 passengers) to meet the veggie man who comes over in his van and lays out boxes of fruits and vegetables on the ground, plus styrofoam containers with frozen meat and fish and chilled yogurt and cheese. It is a mixture of Malaysian produce and Australian products. It was a better assortment of fruits and vegetables than we saw in Penang, the second largest city of Malaysia. I think the nice assortment of food derives from the supply chain for the five star resorts that are a major part of the economic life of Langkawi, the fact that Langkawi is a duty-free archipelago, and the international airport connecting Langkawi to sources of supply. We all came to buy — filling up bags with all kinds of good stuff. The veggie man did a lot of cash business in 30 minutes, and had a grateful bunch of customers,
Langkawi consists of 104 islands of which only four are inhabited. Rebak Island was apparently not inhabited until the Taj Hotel group built the resort and marina. The resort is popular with Saudis. We have seen many young Saudi couples (some on honeymoons) and families strolling around and riding the ferry. The women are dressed head-to-toe in black burkhas and sit by the pool to watch their husbands and children swim.
We will be here for a few weeks working on some boat projects and visiting with some sailing friends from last year and before.
View of Straits Quay Marina complex (Penang) in the morning mist
Yesterday, we ventured into Chinatown, Little India, and then to the Jewish Cemetery. The cemetery is on Zainal Abidin Road, but was called Jahudi Road in the past. The Indian-Malaysian caretaker lives in the cemetery with his family and was happy to open the gates and show us around.
There is only one Jewish-Malaysian passport holder left — Mr. Mordecai’s niece, who lives in Sydney, Australia.
One grave in the cemetery is kept up by the British government. It is that of Eliaho Hayeem Victor Cohen, a Lieutenant in the British Indian Army killed in an accident on 10 October 1941.
The Penang Jewish Community reached its peak numbers around 1900. Today only some Russian refugees are said to remain.
We went to the Hameediya Indian-Malay restaurant for lunch. Physically, it is not much to look at, but the food is great and cheap. We had some rendang beef, Laura’s favorite dish, as well as curry, martabah, and naan.
Tomorrow we will leave the Straits Quay Marina heading for the islands of Langkawi. We will anchor out in southern Langkawi the first night, and then make our way to the Rebak Marina on Rebak Island the next day.
Kek Lok Si is claimed to be the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. It is quite spectacular even though it was a hot day for walking around. There were shady places in pagodas and gardens.
By one accounting, Penang is one of the 10 places in the world that one has to see in one’s lifetime. In every article about Penang, the excellence and diversity of the cuisine always gets equal billing with the physical attractions. Not wanting to miss out on this facet by narrowly focusing on places and people, Laura and I have devoted substantial effort to sampling all of the foods of Penang, although only to gain more insight into the place. We have had duck in one form or another almost every day, plus chicken-rice, the national dish, dim sum, kangkung (spinach) in oyster sauce, satay in spicy peanut sauce, tandori chicken with naan and dal, ABC (Air Batu Campur – mixed ice) which is shaved ice, palm seed, red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, peanuts and condensed milk.
We have dined in restaurants and at food stalls and we tend to prefer the food stalls. There are collections of stalls everywhere. For example, there is an outdoor food court that is a 15 minute walk from the marina. In this food court, there are 40 or so stalls, each about 5 feet wide, serving a different food cooked for you at the time you order. A quarter crisply duck with rice and duck soup is Ringgit 9 ($3). In each food court there is only one vendor selling drinks. Laura always orders the carrot susu ais, fresh carrot juice with sweet milk on ice. I tend to get different fruit juices every time. All made fresh. There are plastic tables set up in the center of the food court that not assigned to a stall. We start by walking around the perimeter of the food court looking at whats cooking, ask some questions, order and point to a table. In five minutes, the food arrives.
There is a very nice restaurant 50 meters from the boat inside the Straits Quay Marina Mall called Cheeky Duck. We have had the duck and dim sum there and it has always been great. The bottom line is, Penang is justifiably famous for its food.
This morning we went to the Thai Consulate to apply for 90 visa. We had 5 hours to kill waiting for our passports to be stamped, so we visited two nearby Buddhist Temples, had an early lunch, and visited the Penang Museum.
The Penang Museum traces all of the peoples and religions that shaped Penang. Buddhists from Siam and Burma, Hindus from India, Arabs and Jews (Bagdadi Jews), Indonesians (Acehnese, Javanese, Minangkabau), Chinese, Malays, and Europeans. There are Confucian, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist temples, mosques, Catholic convents, and churches (the synagogue closed in 1976).
We started our sailing season in Pangkor and are now in Penang (in a marina outside of Georgetown). From here we go to Langkawi for a few weeks and then to Phuket, Thailand.
We spent a few hours walking around one section of Georgetown yesterday, taking in the sights and sounds and sampling food. Tomorrow we will try to see the old colonial section of town, plus get our Thai visas.
We left the Pangkor Marina on Wednesday and arrived in Penang Island yesterday (Friday) before noon. The sail was uneventful (except for the failure of our watermaker). There were lots of fishing boats, many of them trailing nets, light morning breezes from the northeast, and nice afternoon winds from the west. We sailed more than I expected. It was sunny and hot, and we had to get used to sleeping in a hot boat while anchored (at Pulau Talang and Pulau Rimau).
Yesterday morning we sailed up the east side of Penang, through the new bridge under construction, then under the old bridge, and around the top to the new marina at the massive and still incomplete complex being built by Eastern and Oriental (E&O). The marina, Straits Quay, was built as eye candy for the luxury condos and shops built on a few square miles of fill. There are 40 restaurants fronting on the marina, including Starbucks and Subway, and twice as many shops including Versace and all the fancy brands. There is a performing arts center, pools, spas, and exhibition space. Seven new highrise towers are being finished just to the west of the marina, and a few more to the north. There is a giant mall centered around a Tesco supermarket. A delightful oceanside walking path follows the coast for a mile in the direction of Georgetown (the main city), all of which is part of the same E&O development. The path fronts one and two story luxury homes, many still under construction. Many have private pools. There is a whole lot of new money floating around southeast Asia and it seems as if a lot of it is getting parked in Penang.
The marina is quite small but it is the nicest one we have seen since we left the US, and probably the nicest we have ever stayed. The cost — $17 day plus power (perhaps $5 day, metered). We booked 12 days here (reserved two months ago) and later today we will explore Georgetown. Penang is a UNESCO World Heritage site with many urban and physical attractions, and is considered to offer some of the finest food in the world. Duck is a famous specialty. We will report more on all this later.
We will leave the Pangkor Marina in about an hour (at 1100 local time) heading for the island of Penang. Today we will only go 16 nm and anchor behind Pulau Talang (Talang Island). Tomorrow we will anchor behind Pulau Rimau just to the southeast of Penang. Friday we will pass under the new bridge under construction that connects Penang to the mainland, and enter the Straits Marina on the north side of the island. It is hot and sunny and the wind seems to be right on the nose, although it is light . I think we may need to motor some of the way.
We were gently eased into the water by the Sealift at the end of the day on Monday. The engine started up right away, the bow thruster deployed, and water did not leak into the boat. All in all a good start. This morning we got the air conditioning working, which is a good thing considering the heat, and started putting away the pile of stuff we brought aboard. We hope to start heading north in 8 to 10 days. Since we are not going far to start, we do not have to get every issue on the boat resolved before setting out. The aft cabin is full of sails, a life raft, abandon ship bags, and assorted other stuff that needs to be put into their right places. It is good to be living aboard again. We were getting to like living ashore in the Best Western Hotel too much.