30 September, 2008

So Long Borneo

And so to racing. A new experience for us as the results would testify but we improved a great deal with each race. Starting in Labuan, an island just off Brunei, we had the first day of racing round the cones. This was a nightmare. Didn’t leave the dock till late and ended up being about a mile from the start line when the whistle blew, and the wind died, and the current was against us !!!! One hour later we limped across the start line. The wind slowly picked up and so did our speed, alas too late. Never mind we learnt about starting. The next race was the 100 miler to Miri. As there is often very little to no wind you can motor in this race and they have a system of multiplying this time so it’s all pretty fair in the cruising class. Great start on the line and we kept a pretty fair wind till night time. Anyway one way or another we managed to come in second on adjusted time and were pretty thrilled with this. Now we have mentioned the oil wells before but here is another example of them.

About midnight, no moon and raining we are sailing through this huge oil field with good wind doing about 7 knots, oil wells everywhere with gas flares and lights, next thing this huge black shadow passes between us and a rig. “What was that” ? It turns out there are multiple capped well heads with no lights all through this area. It was a tad scary to say the least, hitting one of those with about 18 tons at 7 knots would not be a pretty sight. The heavy rain blocks out the radar so it was squinting through the rain and mist for a while. Still could have been worse, another yacht had his son on board as crew. Woke up hearing banging on the side of the boat. Found the son sound asleep on watch, with the boat banging down the side of a huge anchored ship!

All in all we had a great time and old “enzwell” didn’t do too bad. Giving us four nights in hotels, free marina, free meals and US$400 was very nice of them we thought.

After a few days in Miri it was off with LaBarque up the Rajang River to visit a long house that a few yachties have kind of adopted. Now a long house sounds rather exotic and the older traditional ones were, yes with skulls hanging from the ceilings, these were head hunters not so long ago. In the cultural village in Santubong where the music festival was held, were a couple of very traditional longhouses, really nice, and in Kuching was a replica of part of a long house, and I swear to you they were real skulls in the ceiling.

The present day long houses are not such a grand affair. Basically you put 20,30,40 or so houses beside each other, sharing dividing walls and roofline, and they all share a communal area in the front, like a long giant hall, with the front doors leading off this space. Kind of a marae environment. Not too grand as we said but real life and a great welcoming people.

We anchored right out front about 40 miles up a river and awaited our invite. Late afternoon we had visitors; most of the village came out and we showed them through our home – enzwell – and they also went and looked at LaBarque.

Give them a can of beer, any other gifts you may have, tee shirts, caps etc, and then they ask you to their home that night. Taking the Vat 69 donation, in you trot and you all gather in the front hall. Out comes their gongs and things plus the local brew, Tuak rice wine and you all get p*ssed, and bang gongs and things. Well since we took two bottles of whiskey and some beers, some of them got quite nicely thank you. We quietly supped the rice wine when offered and since we drink from shot glasses and it’s only about wine strength, we stayed pretty sober. All in all a great experience and meeting of cultures. I think Heath found a hidden talent on the gong.

Staying in the river was beautiful. Very peaceful and calm and at night right beside us was a tree full of fireflies twinkling away like christmas lights. Can’t be quite as rapturous about the mossies though!

The Rajang river, where the long house is, is huge, fed by various smaller rivers and it is the main logging area with logs piled up all along its banks. So if you want to know were the rainforest is going/going/gone, here it is, mostly into plywood.

Unfortunately with this many logs sitting on the edge when a big rain comes, logs just float away and you get to find them in the sea around this area, a real hazard to cruising yachties. Not so bad in daytime but at night you can’t see them. Then BANG, bang, bang down the side of the boat. Being steel we are not so bad; it is rather unnerving though.

Next stop was back to the Santubong river and Kuching. Picked up a few mementos and saw the Orangutans again. Not nearly as natural or interesting as the orangutans we saw up the Kumai river, but still worth while.

And so farewell to Borneo. Definitely the best and most interesting part of Malaysia. Next stop – over to Singapore. Now I forgot to mention that the auto helm gave up around Miri so we have been hand steering all the way and three days and two nights across the South China Sea is no fun. Fortunately we had a good run with light seas and moderate wind. We got a new part in Singapore, still thousands of huge ships in harbour,

and now it’s back in action steering us to Penang.

12 August, 2008


One thing that needed to be dealt with before the rally finally split up was the petanque contest. Now you see some time ago off Tioman Island an international was held and the kiwis, us that is, Tom and I off Matariki, kicked butt. The aussie contingent found some lame excuse to call that null and void and decided a rematch was to be held, while Tom is away. Now I won’t bring up underarm, but what can you say. The Aussie official, self-appointed seemed a little biased perhaps. Still holding all titles what can one do. Well done Sal. With new team member Marlene, we still came a credible second though.

Left Miri, with the seahorse guarding the way, and had a great sail up the coast to Kaula Lait, (I think) Brunei.

Brunei is a small independent state like Singapore. Very like singers actually with their currency interchangeable, and very wealthy thanks to oil in Brunei’s case. Still sinking wells up the coast. Amazing operation. They take this barge/ship thing out and then jack it up on stilts and away they go. Some time later the cash register is ringing again.

Now I haven’t taken you through the process of checking in and Brunei was a good example. First, find were to go. Fortunately others have been before and you usually have some idea of the location of the various offices. Here, like singers, they have set up a one stop shop which is great. Then any one of many options may be run into. Here, first people in uniform we met said “Go to customs first.” Gave them the clearance from the last country, OK that was easy. Next immigration. No sir, go to port authority first. OK, up the stairs. No they say go to immigration first. Down the stairs to immigration. Now this office has about six people all sitting around doing not much. “Oh, they said that ? OK, fill out this form, plus crew list, plus cargo manifest”. But we don’t have cargo, Oh,ummmm. Fill out this form then. Now go to port authority and get them to sign this then come back. OK up the stairs, can you sign this please. Sorry that man is out at the moment, tell immigration we will sign it later. Back down the stairs. Oh, OK, umm……..OK they fill out the rest of their bits, in triplicate of course, then, back up stairs. Man is back, signs, back to immigration, yep they’re happy. Now take all this back to port authority. OK. Sorry the man is not here and I can’t find him ?? Waiting, waiting…… he comes back takes his copy of the paperwork and just two short hours from walking in we walk out (Backchat and I) and find a well-deserved coffee. Now they aren’t all this bad, but pretty similar. Paper shufflers rule and all consider their bit vital. God save us from bureaucrats !!

So here I am in Brunei for a couple of days so I can get another three months on the passport when I go back to Malaysia, just a short boat trip to Labuan Island about 10 miles away. Heath is back home visiting her sick mum. Anchored off the yacht club, which is very welcoming with showers, washing machine and a good restaurant. They had a club picnic on Saturday which we got invited to.

Mostly ex-pats working here and it is like their social club. Happened to arrive when Brunei was having their big dragon boat festival, right beside us so we have had a great vantage point.

Serious stuff here with about 15 boats in each race and at the end, they have an all in covering about a mile. Hard work. They also had small speed boat contests and water taxi races etc etc. Big party on the beach, loads of food stalls and fireworks on the Saturday night. As I said, got my passport stamped and off to Labuan today, another duty free port so time to stock up the booze cabinet again. Can’t work out why, but Malaysia has three duty free islands, Langkawi, Tioman and Labuan. Maybe they had a raffle and these islands won?? It sure is a big money spinner for them. Till next time

04 August, 2008

Borneo rocks

Very odd things happening with the font ?????

So the rally is now over and we have to make our own plans. Since the last blog we have probably had the highlights of the entire trip through asia, with the odd low point, like crossing the south china sea for four days and nights. Parts where OK, when we had no wind and were motoring in smooth seas, then the wind kept getting up with 40 knots, rain, biggish sloopy seas, yuk. It really is total crap. At least we weren't alone in our turmoil with two others crossing about the same time breaking gear on the way. At least all we had was our headsail weather strip ripping apart which is now fixed.

We stopped at two islands on the west side before crossing over. Redang and Perhentian. Both really great. Beautiful Islands with clear water, diving, snorkeling, sand like talc and really friendly people. Managed to dive and swim with a turtle at Perhentian Island with my hand on his back for about 50m. It is starting to get developed big time at places like Redang with big resorts etc but is still a nice mix of old and new.

So after the crap crossing we arrived in the Santubong river near the city of Kuching. First walk in the Kampong, or village, was greeted with cleared roadsides and believe it or not…..rubbish bins at every house. Now this is a first for Malaysia. It's a real mix of west and east values, the best from both we think. Kuching is a lovely city, maybe the size of Hamilton, with a river running through it. Like all Malaysian cities the commercial area is mostly a china town or little India with two storey shop houses being the mainstay of trade. It also had the best and cheapest carvings, masks, drums etc we have seen so far, not to mention antiques. Like to buy an old Portuguese cannon ?

But, the main event and one of the main reasons to be here was the Rainforest World Music Festival. It was just awesome. Max of about 9000 per day for three days. During the day they had "workshops", which meant getting people of similar instruments from different parts of the world, from different groups together, talking and showing off their own stuff then jamming. What a treat. Drums where needless to say very popular, then violins playing with Greek and Japanese strings, guitars with lutes and other ethnic strings, and on and on. Then at night the groups from different parts of the world played. The hits where probably a group just formed, Akasa, with a guitar maestro from KL ex Aus, a sitar player and two tabla players, playing a fusion of blues, western and eastern traditional. Sounds weird but what a fantastic result.

Then a group from Poland plying Celtic with such passion and flare they probably stole the show. Indian group playing bollywood, Portuguese group playing like madmen. Ah so much. Great setting at the rainforest park around a big lake and with cheap, great food and beers for about NZ$3.20. Just to add to the occasion it was run with a craft show with great local art and craft. The weaving was far more delicate and fine than anything I've seen. Then of course being in the rainforest, it rained. Each night for about an hour, turning the mosh pit to a mud pit.

No one seemed to mind though as it is about 30 degrees and some great mud fights where had. It's also a bit of a rendezvous for any yachties within a couple hundred miles so we knew lots of people there and spent most of our time with a couple from Aussy, Ian and Christine, ex Rhodesia that we meet in Penang a while ago.

If you want a holiday with a difference, this would be it. But book early, all accom is booked out by about March and it gets more well known every year.

After that we spent another week in Kuching on a hired motor bike so had a real good look around then headed off. First stop was an island just out of the Santubong river where we were. Forgot the name but this is where the turtles come and do that egg laying thing. Crawl up the beach, at night, dig a big pit, drop in about 70-100 eggs and the cover it all up again. And it was turtle laying season. It's all national park so you aren't allowed out when they come up the beach and dig the hole 'cause they would bugger off, but after that you go out with your torch and have a nosey round. We saw a big green turtle, about 2.5 m burying it stash. Poor bugger, takes over an hour of very hard work to cover the eggs, what a great thing to see.

Time to move along though as the next and last rally stop was at Miri.

The trip up was a bit harrowing. We stopped in a river fro one night and it was a continuous flow of bits of old trees and logs coming down. The river bank was completely covered in old logs, teak, just rotting. Out at sea at night sailing up we heard a couple of huge bangs as we would run into logs floating at sea. Either washed down rivers or fallen off barges which are continuously taking logs to the mills, acres of them. The rainforest disappears as we speak to be replaced by palm oil trees. Billions of them.

Anyway, now in Miri and while here a few of us managed to get an invite to the local hash house harriers and as they said they had a walking group, I was in. Well, I don’t know about NZ harriers but this was no walk like I had been on. We are talking fairly serious Borneo jungle, wading through creeks and swamp, up and down steep muddy banks, through the vines and teak forest. Didn’t pay to think about the leech's and snakes they have here. Still about 120 people where on the “run” so it couldn't’t be too bad. Bit of advice though, when you are next asked to go into the jungle, don’t were your old crocs, those plastic shoes all yachties live in. A really memorable experience though. And, they are not called the drinking club with a running problem for nothing. Massive meal and free beer all night for NZ$14. Great club, great people,e great hangover !!

At each of the rally stops we do a local tour. Here we drove pout to the Niah Caves. Took the coast road out past HUGE mansions along the way. There is a lot of very serious money in the country. Anyway the caves where awesome. About 2 kms worth in the hill with heights from about 2m to 80m. They harvest guano from the floor, bird shit to you and me, and birds nests from the roofs for birds nest soup. They have poles coming straight down from the roof of the caves, only in the really high bits, and these they climb up. No safety ropes nothing, straight up and yes they lose people now and then. What we couldn't work out was how they got the poles hanging from the top in the first place? Also in the caves is an excavation from the 70’s were they found a n old skull, as in 38 000 years old. This was twice as old as homo sapien was supposed to be there so they got very excited. Just above the town here is the first well put down by some upstart company in the early 20’s which continued producing for Shell right up till 72. There are now hundreds of wells in the South China Sea and as you sail at night you can almost always see at least one flare burning in the distance.

Now if you want any expensive medical work done. Think of coming here. While at Kuching I decided to get an MRI on my back. Yes sir, how about at 4 today. No OK, Monday lunch suit. So in I go get the MRI, see the doc again. She says I should see the ortho doc and you can see him now, I’ll take you up. So, two visits to doc, one MRI, one specialist, Scottish trained, all in one day off the street NZ$360. Unreal.

25 June, 2008

The Rally continues......

21 June 2008

We are four weeks in to the Passage to the East rally, and things are going well! Ten boats eventually started in the rally. Although there were early stops at Penang and Port Dickson, the rally ‘proper’ started in Sebana Cove.

Our day trip in to Kuala Lumpur (with Sazli, our rally host) was interesting. We went to the Batu Caves, a special area to followers of the Hindu faith. A flight of 272 steps leads up to Temple Cave, which has Hindu shrines in it. Each year during the Thaipusan festival in January or February, up to a million Hindus come to the area near the caves. Some of the truly faithful devotees subject themselves to body piercings; they have spikes, skewers and other piercings through their skin, attached to which are offerings such as milk pots, feathers and flowers. Although it looks very painful, a trance-like state aapparently stops the followers from feeling pain. We were actually in KL during Thaipusan, but didn’t really fancy either the crowds, or seeing people with numerous body piercings with hooks from them, dragging things along the road!

We arrived at Sebana Cove early, and got the ferry over to Singapore for three days. We had to buy a few boat spares, and it meant we could also spend some time with my cousin Jo-Ann and her husband Terry again. Each Thursday evening they go to Scottish dancing, so off we went too! Shane’s and my ceroc and salsa dancing in Wellington must have stood us in good stead, as for rank amateurs on the Scottish dancing front, we didn’t do too bad!

While we were in Singapore, the Great Singapore Sale was on. I was very well restrained though, and didn’t buy anything! We also went to the movies and saw “Sex and the City” which we really enjoyed.
For our rally gala dinner at Sebana Cove, we were all presented with the traditional Malay dress to wear for the evening. It was lovely woven cotton, and very cool to wear. In the heat here, it makes a lot more sense than the tight-fitting clothing we are used to wearing.

Our day trip the following day took us to the Desaru fruit farm. We had a tour around the orchard, and then got to sample lots of the different fruits, some of which we had never had before. We had the chance to sample all the different fruit; we took it easy as we still had to visit the homestay village where we were having lunch! And that proved to be another feast…….

A friend has commented to me that these rallies seem to involve a lot of gala dinners and eating – she would be right! Fortunately I am keeping up with my running, otherwise I’m sure I would be not far off signing up for Jenny Craig!

Our next rally stop was Tioman Island. A lovely little island, with white sandy beaches and clear blue water. Let’s hope commercialism doesn’t move in and spoil the great atmosphere the island has……… While we were there, we went to the local school’s karnival, a bit like the school sports day we all participated in when we were at school years ago. Just before prizegiving they marched around the field in their house colours.

Another rally stopover, another gala dinner……. At least we did have a bit of a walk before dinner this time. A big squall blew through a couple of hours before we were due to be picked up, and a tree was blown over, blocking the main road on the island. Tioman only has a relatively short stretch of road; transport to most of the bays and villages is by water taxi. Tioman has become very popular because of its lovely clear water (great for diving and snorkelling). It’s duty free status hasn’t harmed it either – all the yachties stocked up on liquid refreshments.

After Tioman we went to Kuantan, the capital of Pahang state. Our anchorage there was in front of the very flash Hyatt Hotel. It was just a pity that it was quite a rolly anchorage, as most of us only stayed two nights. The Hyatt put on a wonderful night for our gala dinner – a great meal and some wonderful traditional dancing. Plus we all got a lovely woven carry bag each.

Our day tour took us to a batik factory, where we saw the intricate work being done. It is very labour intensive. The wax is put on by hand; after that most of the painting is hand-done by small paintbrush, rather than the whole piece of cloth being dyed. We also visited a traditional village where fish are dried, and rubber and palm oil tree plantations.

After Kuantan we stopped at two islands on our way north. The islands on the way north had lovely clear blue water, great for swimming and snorkelling. Not so great was the view that greeted us this morning – off Pulau Kapas the water is thick with jellyfish. Some of them have long tentacles at least 2-3 metres long. Shane is not looking forward to what is hanging off the anchor chain when we pull it up……

Later on this morning, we will head in to Terengganu marina. Our first mission is to find somewhere to watch the second All Blacks vs England rugby game. We missed watching the game last week, but the marina manager (an Aussie) assures us the game is on. We should be kept busy for the week we are going to be in the marina, as Shane has a few things to do on the boat, and there is a bit of work to be done by both of us before we do our five day passage over to Kuching, where we will spend 2-3 months over in Borneo Malaysia.

We both agree that the east coast of Malaysia leaves the west coast for dead – we can swim over here, and the water is lovely and clear. There is far less rubbish in the water, and way less fishing boats. The Passage to the East rally will certainly become more popular in years to come.

Heather and Shane

28 May, 2008

East Coast Rally

Prior to leaving Thailand, we got one last bit of work done on the boat. We came to the conclusion that our fridge was on it’s last legs. At anchor, we needed to have the engine on for about three hours each day, just so there was enough juice in the batteries to keep the fridge running. Of course, that was starting to wear the batteries out…….. So we bit the bullet, and got Siam Cooling on the job, and we now have a wonderful new fridge!

On our last night in Phuket, we went to Nai Yang beach, on the west coast near the airport. Only a few tourists go there, it is nothing like Patong. We found this great little restaurant called Mamma Mias, and sat and had our meal at the bar. There was a poster for the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary on the wall, with a couple of scrawled signatures on it. Yes, Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant had dined there! The second Bridget Jones movie was partly filmed in Thailand, near where we ate at Nai Yang. They stayed there while filming the movie. We just had to watch the movie, and also noticed that Ko Panyi, the Muslim village on stilts that we wrote about in our last blog, also featured in the film.

We stopped at Phi Phi Don on the way south. They got hit hard there by the tsunami, but tourism is totally up and running again. This is what the beachfront looks like during the day – longtails from one end to the other.

Just as we got to our next stop – Ko Lanta - our camera decided it didn’t want to play anymore, so that was the end of photos for a while.

We left Thailand, and arrived in Malaysia six days after having left Phuket. Our port of arrival was Langkawi - a duty free island – so we just had to stock up on beer and wine! There is a large expat community there, and because of this, quite a bit of western food. One of the big local supermarkets sells 2 kg blocks of NZ cheese. It’s amazing what you miss when you can’t buy it for a while! Suffice to say, I stocked up….

While at Langkawi, we stayed at Rebak Marina for a week. It really is a resort, with a marina attached. Yachties are treated just like hotel guests. There is a great pool and other creature comforts; no wonder some yachties stay there for months! We nicknamed it ‘Fantasy Island’, as although it is a great place, it is a little removed from the reality that is Malaysia.

And then it was south to Penang, and the ‘East Coast Passage’ – a rally starting in Penang, down to Singapore, then up the east coast of Malaysia and over to Borneo by early August. This is the first year the East Coast Passage has been run, and there are 14 boats doing it. Most are starting from Sebana Cove near Singapore; only three of us started in Penang. The rally can only get more popular in years to come, as the east coast is where all the great beaches and dive spots are, and the area is largely untapped as far as a yacht cruising destination goes.

The night before the rally started, we enjoyed the customary ‘gala dinner’. Quite a small event this time, given the small number of yachts starting in Penang.

On Monday morning 25 May we were off. We were the first yacht to leave, and managed to get under the Penang bridge without any problems. Although you know that the boat will go under the bridge, without the mast getting knocked off, it is still a little nerve-wracking until you have actually passed underneath! Shane wasn’t obviously too stressed, as he enjoyed his early morning cuppa…..

We arrived at Port Dickson yesterday afternoon, and head off on a day tour in to Kuala Lumpur this morning. We have been there before, but it should be good fun, as the host of the rally, Sazli, is taking us there.

I’ve just checked the date, and realised it is two years ago today that we moved on to Enzwell in Brisbane. Where has that two years gone??!!

For anyone that wants to check where the rally is taking us, go to
http://sailmalaysia.net/rally-info-east.html and if anyone wants to email us, the address is crew.enzwell@gmail.com

Heather and Shane

26 April, 2008


After a great holiday in NZ, it was back to the boat in Phuket. We enjoyed getting back to the warm weather again, as the weather had packed up for our last two days in Wellington. However, I don’t suppose we can complain too much, as Wellington had by all accounts had it’s best summer for years!

We decided to get a couple of things done on the boat when we got back. A new mainsail cover (the old one was falling to bits), and some davits on the back (so that we can lift the tender/dinghy out of the water when we are motoring or sailing). We have always had to drag the tender along behind us, which isn’t that good for it.

The guys came to do the davits, and put bamboo poles across the back of the back of the boat. For a while we weren’t sure whether we were getting bamboo davits, rather than the stainless steel ones we had asked for! All was soon revealed; the bamboo poles were simple ‘scaffolding’, to enable the guys to weld the davits on. Poor old Enzwell did get a few funny looks from other yachties though, wondering what the heck was being built on the back of our boat!

We hired a car one day, and did a bit of shopping and had a look around the island of Phuket. We went out in Patong at night, and after dinner went to a bar for a couple of drinks. I had a pina colada, and being in Patong and near all the ‘girlie’ bars, this is the glass it came in!

We were in the marina for two weeks, and then it was off to explore Phang Nga Bay. The bay is lovely and sheltered, so we didn’t get to sail at all, but the water was lovely and warm, so swimming was on the agenda each day. There are also a long of islands with hongs “rooms”, that are great for exploring. Teems of tourists come in each day, so we tried to do our exploring either first thing in the morning, or late in the afternoon after they had all gone.

We went to the first hong at Ko Phanak during the day. We followed in a bunch of tourists who had come on one of the tour boats. You can see them kayaking towards the hole in the cliff. It is totally dark inside, so we needed to wear a headlamp. We paddled in on the tender. There are bats in the cave, hanging from the roof, and the cave itself smells a bit. But once we paddled to the other end, it was worth it, as we came out into a huge big lagoon.

We also visited a Muslim village, which is built on stilts next to an island. Heaps of tourists visited during the day (you can see all the longtails – boats – in the photo) but we waited until the end of the day before we went ashore. We hired one of the locals to take us for a bit of a tour in his longtail.

We went through this cave, with huge limestone formations hanging from it. The scenery in Thailand is certainly quite spectacular, huge limestone cliffs and rocks everywhere.

Our Thai visa runs out this coming Wednesday, so we will be checking out and heading back down to Langkawi, primarily for a bit of R and R at one of the resort marinas there, but also to stock up on duty free wine! Our plans are to hang around Langkawi for a bit, and then to get down to Penang by the end of May, to start in a rally that goes down the west coast of Malaysia and then up the east coast, where all the great beaches are. Some of the yachties that we met in last year’s rally are doing the Malaysia too, so it will be good to catch up with people we haven’t seen for a while.

Till next time.
Heather and Shane

26 March, 2008

PART TWO - Thailand and home to NZ

(see Part 1 of this blog below)

Our next stop was at Phi Phi Le – famous as the location where the movie “The Beach” – starring Leonardo di Caprio - was filmed.

Tourist boats go there in their droves each day, so we got there late afternoon and had a lovely peaceful night with about five other yachts, and left before the tourist onslaught the following morning.

We checked in with Customs at Ao Chalong in Phuket, had a couple of great nights catching up with fellow Kiwi yachtie friends, and then headed up to the top of Phuket to Yacht Haven Marina. We were having about five nights there before heading to NZ.

We hired a motorbike one day, and did a tour of Phuket. We went to Patong Beach, which was really hard hit in the tsunami. The place has been totally rebuilt; there is no evidence of the tsunami at all. The beach was amazing – about two miles long, the entire length of the beach was about eight deep with deckchairs and beach umbrellas! The place was full of East Europeans and Russians – planes come in direct from there each day. We hardly heard another English voice the whole time we were at Patong.

So after spending a week in Thailand, it was time to jump on the big bird and head home to New Zealand…….

Our time in NZ has been great. We were initially booked to be here for three weeks, but business matters mean that we have had to extend that time by two weeks, so we are now back in Phuket on 1 April.

We got home to find Wellington having the best summer in over ten years, so we were pretty happy with that! It was great to be back, to get to ‘The Cake-tin’ to see the Hurricanes beat the Chiefs (the Super 14 rugby competition for the non-rugby followers out there!), and generally just hang out spending time with family and friends.

After ten days in Wellington we had the weekend in Hastings, and then went to Auckland to see Shane’s brothers. One of his brothers, Kim, was getting married at Tapuaetahi – near Kerikeri.

An idyllic spot. As soon as we arrived, that was it. Shane took one look at Kim surfing the waves, he was off to join him using a borrowed board and wetsuit, and I was left unloading the car.

Not a bad spot, with the surf right at the front door.

Kim and Diana’s wedding was the day after we arrived. With it being held at a beach batch, over 100 people coming, and a hangi to set down, there was plenty of work to be done, but everything was well in hand when we arrived.

The wedding day dawned lovely and fine, and everyone had a great time. Here’s the Hegan clan, with Kim and Diana on the far right.

After the wedding we had an overnight stop in Auckland, and then we drove back down to Wellington. Shane was kept busy for three days doing some repairs and decorating at our commercial rental property. I busied myself doing coffees and lunches with friends – so I think I got the good end of the deal!

We had a good Easter, spending it with Shane’s kids, and this last week in Wellington has been spent enjoying the still-fantastic weather here, and fitting a few more lunches and coffees in with friends. Only five more days to go, and we will be back on Enzwell, ready to continue to see more of Thailand before heading south.

Till next time.
Heather and Shane

PART ONE - Penang and Langkawi

Early February saw us in Penang. We were lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year, which was spectacular.

There were lots of celebrations on during the two weeks we were in Penang. Two events were quite memorable – visiting the Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple, also known as the Temple of Supreme Bliss. It was an amazing sight during the day, but even more so at night as it was beautifully lit up for the Chinese New Year period.

We also went with other yachties to a celebration being held near the marina.

It was like an ‘open home’ – there would have been over a thousand visitors; everyone was fed and provided with soft drink/coffee; there was entertainment all afternoon and evening, including a dragon dance and children doing a drum display; and the evening culminated in magnificent fireworks. It was pretty amazing that we could get to something like this, be a part of the local festivities, and it was all provided at no charge. Certainly a fantastic way for Penang to promote itself to visitors.

From Penang we travelled to Langkawi, stopping for two nights at beautiful anchorages just south of the main part of the island. We only had two days at Langkawi town itself, so hired a motorbike to have a look around the island. Langkawi is duty-free, and fairly laid-back, so has become a popular place for expats (particularly Brits) to settle.

We started to notice the change in the landscape – whereas Malaysia is fairly non-descript and low-lying near the coast, Langkawi has the limestone cliffs that Thailand is famous for.
We checked out of Malaysia at Langkawi, and had about a week to get up to Phuket and check in there.

On the way north up Thailand we stopped at Ko Muk, a beautiful anchorage with lovely clear aquamarine water.

Lots of tourist boats come to Ko Muk each day to visit Tham Morakot (Emerald Cave). It is a beautiful limestone tunnel that can be entered by boat at low tide, or by swimming through the cave.

It is named Emerald Cave for a reason; the tunnel stretches 80 metres in darkness before finally emerging into an open pool of emerald hue! It is truly an awesome sight.

Our first experience at Emerald Cave was somewhat spoilt by the people on a tourist boat who screamed the whole way through the tunnel; we went back to the cave again at the end of the day when all the tourists had gone and experienced the peace and tranquillity.

With spots like this we knew we were going to like Thailand!

02 February, 2008

Our adventures in Singapore!

Our last update ended as we arrived in Singapore and were enjoying everything that we had missed in a while – good coffee (and I actually managed to get Shane to enjoy a
Starbucks coffee – sacrilege I know!), good food, and a nice clean environment. We really enjoyed our time at One Degree 15 marina; it is very modern and new, and had a great gym and infinity pool. A membership there cost $35,000 so it was pretty swish.

The gym had great facilities – treadmills with a screen built in to the front that showed cable TV (headphones provided) and a view over the marina and pool – just the sort of inspiration I needed to start running again after a 13-month break.

As you can see, the marina wasn't a bad place to 'slum it' for a few weeks!

While we were there we met a cruising couple from Aussie who have been around these parts for a couple of years. Ley and Neil are a lovely couple, and have a wealth of knowledge on where to go to get things in Singapore. We spent one whole day walking around the streets near Little India, getting the low-down from Neil and Ley as to where to buy gas regulators, stainless steel items, and get our canopy repaired.

We also found out that Neil is a bit of a music buff and enjoys his jazz, as does Shane. The four of us went out one night to a jazz bar and had a few drinks. To give you an idea of booze prices in Singapore – we had two bottles of a cheap Aussie chardonnay that we would pick up at New World at home for about $10 each – at the jazz bar they were $60 a bottle! We just had to have a cocktail first though!

Given Singapore doesn’t have a lot of natural attractions, a lot of the entertainment and sights are man-made. One night we went to the ‘Songs of the Sea’ at Sentosa Island, a laser-light, water and music show. The accompanying narration and dance was more suited to young kids, but the light and water show was well done.

Singapore also dresses up quite spectacularly with Christmas lights. The display along Orchard Road (the main shopping street) apparently rivals that of Oxford Street in London. There was a free tour at night put on for tourists, to see the Christmas lights from the top of a double decker bus. I enjoyed it so much we did it twice! I have never managed to see the Christmas lights in London, so I suppose given Singapore’s reputation, seeing the lights in Orchard Road was the next best thing.

We spent three weeks in Singapore. We saw quite a few of the sights; I saw a lot of the shopping malls (until all the people at them in the week before Christmas almost drove me to distraction!); and I caught up with some friends I hadn’t seen for a while – Jo-Ann and Terry, and Chris and Svenja, along with an old work contact Tony. It was great meeting up with friends from home who were now living in Singapore. But after three weeks of giving the credit card a hiding it was time to move on to Sebana Cove Marina in Malaysia for Christmas.

So on December 19th we arrived at Sebana Cove. A few of the rally boats were there so it was good to catch up with them again.

Fairly soon after our arrival we met a cruising couple from Iceland – Aslaug and Kari - who I learnt were fairly keen runners. I went for a run with them and passed the test (i.e. I wasn’t too slow!). After that, a run first thing became my daily ritual!

On our third day at Sebana, as we were about to head off for our run, one of the other runners wished Aslaug a Happy Birthday. I didn’t know if I had heard right as it was my birthday that day too! We went out for dinner at the resort that night, along with Patrick and Elizabeth of Labarque. Luckily the cake didn’t get weighed down with too many candles!

Continue reading below as we move on to Sebana Cove and travel in Malaysia.

Our time at Sebana Cove marina

My birthday was just the start of a very social week at Sebana.

On December 24 we had our big Christmas dinner. The resort put on a veritable feast with all the Christmas extras – little goody bags for us all, party hats and crackers, and of course, the big guy himself (although being of slight Malay build, he needed a little padding out with cushions!).

Here we are with Father Christmas, Sebana style.

Christmas Day itself was a far more sedate affair. I went for a run first thing in the morning, and then mid morning Patrick and Elizabeth decided to teach the rest of us that very English of games, cricket. Being Kiwis, and keen sports fans, we knew the rules, but it was all double dutch to the Icelandics and Americans present. We had a second session in the afternoon, so everyone was well worn out by the end of the day.

That evening we avoided another huge meal. We had brought some tinned duck back with us from Paris, so had the crew of Labarque over for dinner to enjoy it with us. It was as good as we remembered Campbell (Shane’s brother) cooking it for us two months earlier in our little apartment in Paris!

On the rally we met Duncan and Irene, from the yacht Moose. They were now with us at Sebana. Irene is Dutch, and a tradition in Holland is to have a big Christmas celebration, where everyone makes a present for someone else, and also makes up a poem or game for that person.

We had this celebration on December 26th. It was a 3 pm start, with much eating, drinking, opening of presents, and reading of poems and games. Shane took this photo of us all from above Labarque’s pilothouse, of us all squished in to their cockpit! That’s Irene with the reindeer antlers on!

Sebana Cove was a much more relaxed affair than Singapore. The resort was a weekend type escape for Singaporeans, but has got a little rundown over the last few years. Despite that, the staff were great, and the resort/marina had a good pool. The resort was a few miles away from the nearest town, so everyone looked forward to visits into Sungai Rengit. It was hardly a roaring metropolis, but it had a supermarket, and the ‘meat-man’ came three days a week. There was also a good Indian restaurant, where we went to enjoy a roti chanai and teh tarik (Indian version of tea – sweet and milky, but very yummy) after doing the shopping.

The meat-man provided chicken and pork, and chopped it up to our individual requirements in the back of his station wagon. Here is Maddy from the yacht Tico-Tico getting her chicken; I was next in line ….The meat-man provided chicken and pork, and chopped it up to our individual requirements in the back of his station wagon. Here is Maddy from the yacht Tico-Tico getting her chicken; I was next in line ….

Before we left Sebana Cove, I made a quick overnighter trip back to Singapore to do some shopping.

I stayed with Jo-Ann and Terry; they had other friends staying while I was there so at night J and T took us to the Tanglin Club where they are members and we all enjoyed a Singapore Sling. Not quite Raffles, but I could tick the Singapore sling box this trip!

We stayed at Sebana Cove to celebrate Shane’s birthday, and the following day – January 13th – we headed off, Port Dickson bound.

Carry on below to read about our travels up the Malaysian west coast.