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.

Kuala Lumpur

Admiral Marina at Port Dickson was another good stop. Once again, good staff, and a great pool! A lot of yachties use PD as a base to leave their yacht for a few days, and go inland to visit Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. We were no different, and so after two days at PD we set off. Public transport is VERY cheap in Malaysia, so we used the bus for the 2 ½ hr trip to KL. The trip to KL – for both of us – cost 16 ringitts, about $NZ6.

Kuala Lumpur means ‘muddy confluence’, and the city began at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers in the mid-19th century. It is now a bustling city, with many diverse cultures and distinct areas. We booked in to a hotel right in the middle of Chinatown, in Jalan Pentaling. At night the street is full of stalls selling pirated DVDs, handbags, shoes, and all the other stuff that you find in markets in Asia.

At dusk on the first day in KL, we went to the Petronas Towers. When first built in 1998, they were the tallest buildings in the world. (Although they are no longer the tallest individual buildings, they are still the tallest ‘twin towers’.) They are two mirror-image towers, and each has 88 stories in its 1482 feet of elevation. The towers are connected by a ‘sky-bridge’ at the 41st and 42nd floors 558 feet above ground.

The towers were a sight to behold. Given their exterior construction is stainless steel and glass, the towers looked like two crystal columns reaching high in to the sky. Shane was mightily impressed, and that takes a bit these days!

KL has some other fantastic architecture – one building that we both thought was spectacular is the Moorish styled Sultan Abdul Samad building. It was built in 1887, and now houses the Malaysian Supreme and High courts.

We also took the time while in KL to visit a couple of mosques – the National Mosque and Masjid Jamek (the oldest mosque).

Given our dress – we were both wearing shorts and to go within a mosque area ones legs need to be covered – we had to don lovely lilac capes at the National Mosque. We weren’t allowed in to the actual mosque itself. We all look like a swarm of ghosts floating around!!

On our first full day we got up early to go and stand in line for tickets to go up the sky-bridge at the Petronas Towers. The tickets are free, but they only let a certain number of people go up every day, so you have to get there early. We booked to go up late in the afternoon. The views from the sky-bridge were nowhere near as great as we thought they would be. Maybe it was because although KL has a population of 1.4 million the city isn’t as spread out as say Auckland or Sydney, or maybe it was the lack of a harbour, but after seeing the towers lit up the night before, it was a little underwhelming.

That night we ate in Chinatown; great food from a street stall. Good for people watching too!

We left KL the following morning, but not before we visited one last mosque, and went past Merdeka Square. It was there that the Malaysian flag was raised for the first time on August 31 1957, replacing the Union Jack, signifying the end of British rule over Malaya. The flagpole in the square is the tallest one in the world, according to something I read while in KL.

After two days in KL it was time to jump on another bus. We headed for Melaka, the port city on the Mellaca Straits (we still aren’t too sure about the two variations on the spelling!!)


Melaka has had an interesting past. The Portuguese came in 1511 and colonized the town. The reason being that Melaka was seen as a very strategic location in terms of trade between Europe and China. Just over a hundred years later, the Dutch took over after defeating the Portuguese. In the early 1800s, the English defeated the Dutch, and had their turn at ruling in Melaka. They stayed until Malaya got independence, apart from a brief period during WW2 when the Japanese invaded and ruled.
There are more Malays than Chinese in Melaka, but the most apparent ethnicity has been and remains Chinese. The Chinese are highly visible in Melaka. The Chinese influence on Melaka’s past is readily apparent, and today there is still an active and vibrant China town.

This is a photo looking up Jonker Street (the main tourist street) during the day. At the weekend the street gets closed for traffic, as it is a hive of activity with tourists. While we were in Melaka, the streets were decorated with Chinese lanterns, and at night the buildings were all lit up with red lights. We suspected this is because Chinese New Year is in two weeks. We were staying in a guesthouse just one street over from Jonker St. The guesthouse was very long and narrow, as in earlier times the owners paid rates based on the street frontage of their premises. For this reason, most of the buildings in the original part of Melaka are built like this.

The only relic of the Portuguese era is the main gate to A’Famosa, a fortress built in 1511. The maritime museum includes the Portuguese galleon – Flor De La Mar – that sank in the Straits of Melaka on its way to Portugal; however, the one at the museum is a replica.

One of the most picturesque shots in Melaka is around the Town Square. The Dutch influence is obvious in Stadthuys; built in 1650 as the residence of the Dutch Governors and their officers. It shows the Dutch architecture of the time. Christ Church is next to Stadthuys. It was built in 1753, and can be seen near the centre of the photo. Melaka must also have more museums per head of population than anywhere else in the world! There was the Museum of Enduring Beauty, the Stamp Museum, the Education Museum, the Islam Museum, the Literary Museum, just to name a few…….

And to go from one cultural extreme to the other, Melaka is also famous (??!!) for its trishaws – like rickshaws powered by a bicycle. These are throughout town and are used by locals as well as tourists. All of them are decorated with artificial flowers, and most have streamers and umbrellas. We didn’t go on one – Shane refused!- but I just had to take a photo!

So after five full-on days sightseeing, we went back to PD and left to head up the coast. One thing that has astounded us as we travel up the coast is the amount of rubbish in the sea, particularly plastic drink bottles. They are visible, floating on top of the water, from quite a way off. Everyone is concerned about shopping bags taking so long to disappear, plastic drink bottles are going to take forever. However, that won’t worry the fish. Given the number of fishing boats, in five years we don’t think there will be a fish left in the ocean around here. Oh, and by the way, enzwell has turned more in to a motorboat than a yacht. The winds are minimal, with very calm seas, so we aren’t getting too much practice at showing off our sailing expertise.
We have just spent the last five nights anchored off Pulau Pangkor (Pangkor Island).

Lovely white sand and clear water in which to swim. It is the first time we have swum in the sea since our last week in Indonesia. It has been really hot lately, so it has been good to be able to just jump off the boat and cool off! It is really laid-back on the island, and very cheap to eat out, so I have been granted leave from the kitchen!
We will be in Penang in a couple of days, and will stay there to join in the Chinese New Year celebrations. Then it will be a quick trip to Langkawi, before we head up to Phuket to leave the boat there when we fly home on February 25th. See you all soon!

Heather and Shane