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The Adventure ....

 
  
 
     
where are we ?
Sunday 24th January 2010
heading north, along the west coast of Thailand

this update - 2009 Monsoon season


After our fantastic holiday in Vietnam (August 2009) we returned to Danga Bay Marina, Johor Bahru, Malaysia where we'd left Destiny. The plan was to spend a few days sorting ourselves out (unpacking, laundry, airing out the boat, re-provisioning, water top up, etc.) and then sailing around Singapore towards the east Malaysian waters. But no, we'd missed the weather window - yachts arriving at Danga Bay from the east coast advised that the monsoon season had already set in, with unpleasant choppy seas and bad squalls.

No problem, we think - lots we can do here. And so for the next 4 months Danga Bay Marina became home. After years of vowing we'd never bother with air conditioning, yes, that's right, we went out and bought one - there's no other way to beat the monsoon humidity, especially if you've got access to shore power ! What a difference that made to life in general - we loved it. The daily routine became doing chores in the morning (unless it was raining) and then hunkering down in the saloon with aircon until late afternoon, when it was cool enough to survive outdoors again (unless it was raining).

After many months (possibly even years) of mentally designing a hard dodger, Brian decided it was as good as time as any to start building one and in no time the walkway alongside Destiny became "the workshop". Each morning there'd be a procession of blokes from the other yachts, popping by to discusss that day's building schedule, often returning in the evenings with beer in hand, to give Brian either encouragement or commiserations on what had happened that day. Which in turn, progressed into dock parties, and many were held alongside Destiny. There was a great community atmoshere at Danga Bay and we've made lots of "lifetime" friends, including Casey, the most wonderfully natured dog we've ever come across; and Phukat, our "adoptee" who we looked after while her parents were doing land travel :-)

working on the dodger's curves
We had lots of dock parties alongside Destiny
Dodger's taking shape
Brian's workshop
Casey, from The Lady C - she tried very hard to make friends with Phukat, but Phukat wasn't having anything to do with her
(image courtesy of The Lady C)
While we "babysat" Phukat she would join us in the evenings, purely to have human contact - we're sure she's thinks she's human


In September 2009 we were very fortunate, together with all the cruisers who happened to be living at the marina, to be invited to a Hari Raya Puasa "open house" lunch hosted by the Johor Bahru Member of Parliament, Dato Shahrir Bin Abdul Samad. In this instance, a large hall was set up with numerous tables with free-flow food and refreshments - it was an amazing feast - with people coming and going the whole time we were there. I later found out that the hosts did not leave until 7pm that evening! Hari Raya Puasa is usually the first day of the month following Ramadan (a month of fasting and abstinence for Muslims), beginning after sunset on the 29th day of Ramadan when Muslims break their daily fast. The day begins with Muslims praying in mosques early in the morning, followed by visits to the graveyards of loved ones.

Hari Raya Puasa "open house" - queues of people waiting to be fed
Vivid, colourful dresses - very stunning as a group
(image courtesy of The Lady C)


October 2009 was the Chinese Moon Cake Festival, with the cruisers again being invited to attend. The festival was kick started with a late afternoon visit to the brand new Chinese Museum - 3 floors jammed pack with very good displays and lots of information about how the Chinese settled in Johor Bahu - well worth the visit if you're ever here. At sunset, the street behind the Museum was closed to vehicle traffic - it was such good fun walking up and down the street, meeting lots of people and sampling the great food and yummy cakes on sale. Later that night the local community put on a brilliant street procession, with demonstrations of lion dancing, dragon twirling, acrobatics, martial arts, fan dancing, competing orchestra's - too many to mention them all. We even got interviewed and a mention in the local paper - have no idea what we were supposed to have said :-) (did cut and paste the Chinese text into Google Translator, but it didn't quite make sense)

Mooncake Festival - The rain stopped just as it was starting to get dark
(image courtesy of The Lady C)
Beautiful Mooncake Festival princesses
Such creativity! Just too good to place a lighted candle inside
We were interviewed and got a mention in the local paper
Another work of art - this one made out of empty colddrink cans
(left to right) front row - Sarah & friend;
back row - Cat, Brian, Gillian, Chan


Our friend Chan was instrumental in organising a full day trip (again for all the cruisers at Danga Bay Marina) to the Endau Rompin National Park, which "contains one of world's oldest rainforests and volcanic rocks dating 240 million years. The park's name is derived from the two rivers running through the park; the Endau river in the state of Johor (to the south) and the Rompin river in the state of Pahang (to the north)" (extracted from http://wikitravel.org). The endangered Sumatran Rhino and Asian Tiger live deep within the forest - sadly, we didn't get to see them as we were only sight seeing on the periphery of the park - although we did see photo's at the Visitors' Centre, so they do exist.

What an experience to get to and from the park - a 2hr bus ride from Johor Bahru, then transfers to 4WD vehicles - there are no tarred roads for the last 20km of the journey, only dirt roads with accompanying large potholes! Despite the 4WD drivers excellent driving skills, it was still a very long, bumpy, and dusty drive but absolutely great fun. We were well taken care of - lunch provided, transport around the park for sightseeing and National Park Ranger talk at the Visitor's Centre. It was such a wonderful day and we saw a part of Malaysia that we might never have the opportunity to get to again. A truly fantastic day and one we wouldn't have missed for the world :-) Many, many thanks Chan.

Just before our visit to the park, Chan had read in his local Chinese newspaper about the plight of Wei Lun, a wheel-chair bound handicapped teenager and resident of the Johor Bahru branch of Cheshire_Homes, who was trying to find funds to continue his studies in IT. Seeing the opportunity to introduce Wei Lun to the cruising community, we invited Wei Lun and his carers to join us on our trip to Endau Rompin National Park and I'm pleased to say that a considerable amount was raised - many thanks to those cruisers who donated much needed money :-)

We've now have a great relationship with Wei Lun and Cheshire Homes - a group of cruisers have visited Cheshire Homes for afternoon tea and a tour of their facilities; I've spent a few hours with Wei Lun tweaking his PC, loading multimedia software and showing him how to use on-line 3D tutorials; we chat on Facebook. And thanks to the genorousity of Sail Malaysia, we were able to use a stall at the Danga Bay "Malaysian Welcoming Centre" for the start of the 2009 Malaysian Western Rally, where again we were able to raise a considerable amount for the Home. Together with Sail Malaysia, we hope to make this an ongoing fund raising event.

It's an interesting story of how we met Chan. One day I was doing chores on the marina walkway, when Chan happened to walk past, in the hope of finding someone to teach him how to sail. Well, I'm not the right person to give advice about sailing (I'm crew, remember ?) so I suggested he join us that evening for the dock party, where he'd meet lots of people who'd be very willing to give advice. As luck would have it, Guy from the yacht Tissande who was sailing single-handed, invited Chan to join him on the Langkawi to Phuket leg. I believe that the sailing bug has bitten hard and Chan is well and truly hooked :-)

group photo at entrance to Endau Rompin National Park
the Endau river and volcanic rocks dating 240 million years
No prizes, but can anyone tell what's the name of this flower ?
(image courtesy of Ty Amor)
cruisers visit to Cheshire Homes - Front row, far left is Wei Lun


We'd now been at Danga Bay Marina, Johor Bahru for 4 months ! The longest time anywhere on our our journey where we've been stationed at one place ! Despite being very comfortable and loving Johor Bahru and all the facilities that Danga Bay Marina had provided for us, it was time to move on. The monsoon was easing, the winds were finally blowing from the right direction, Brian was getting restless. As hard as it was, we finally cast off the dock lines and started our journey back up the west coast of Malaysia - our 3rd trip into the Melacca Straits. Many thanks to Donny and all the staff at Danga Bay Marina who looked after us so well - you can be sure that we'll definitely be back on our way around to the east coast of Malaysia mid 2010.

Despite it's reputation, we had a very uneventful journey up the Melacca Straits - it was only when we got to Pangkor that we had a few hiccups. We were very fortunate to have skirted the most horrible looking storm - got some good winds though. After a few days of sitting out the effects of the storm (choppy seas, horrible swells in the anchorages, gusty winds), and when we'd decided it was OK to continue onto Penang, our anchor snagged - despite trying every trick in the book to unsnag it, Brian cut the chain and placed a float on the sacrificed chain so we could retrieve it once we'd sourced a diver on Pangkor. Thank god for the spare anchor! 150 Ringitt later and a whole day wasted, we got our main anchor back. And then the next problem - enroute back to the anchorage, we collected a white plastic rice bag on the propellor in 50 meters of water, just as it was getting dark, and right when we needed the motor! No damage done, just inconvenient as we couldn't leave early the next morning as we needed daylight to dive on the propellor to clear away the remains of the rice bag. Nothing's simple!

Penang, when we finally got there, was wonderful as always and we had a great time catching up with our friends Pat & Alan, and Chris, Jan & Rayon.

Once we got to Langkawi we spent some time in the "Hole_in_the_Wall", a marine geo-park on the Kilim River, north-east of Langkawi. For the average tourist, it's "join a crowd" on a 50-million mile an hour speed boat trip through the mangroves to watch eagle and fish feeding, and possibly have lunch. All a bit rushed and manic. But for us, it's a truly magnificent experience as we can take it nice and slow.

Even though the Kilim River is clearly defined on our maps, visually it's really hard to spot the entrance from the sea as sheer rock walls seem to block the way in. And then, as you get closer, suddenly there's an opening and once over the very shallow bar, a beautiful panorama of the snaking river, verdant green mangroves, jagged cliffs and swooping eagles, opens up before us. The river gets quite busy early morning, midday and late afternoon from the to-ing and fro-ing of the speed boats, but on the whole, once we've found our spot for anchoring, it's a blissful couple of days spent reading, exploring in the dingy, lunching at the restaurant. We loved it and wondered why we'd been too busy on previous trips to Langkawi to get here.

Storm brewing just off the island of Pangkor
Back in Langkawi
Hole in the Wall "yacht graveyard" - locked up for the moonsoon season
Monkeys waiting to be fed by tourists - shame on the tourists !
a day off from sailing and boat repair - someone has to :-)
Outdoor cooking - our trusty camping stove

The Hole in the Wall - sheer cliffs and lots of foliage

"Sailors Sausage" boerewors
delicious with mashed potatoes and tomato & onion mush


Our next stop was Phuket, Thailand as we'd arranged to meet up with our cruising buddies for Christmas Day. Eight yachts were anchored at Nai Yarn Bay, commonly referred to as the airport bay (within walking distance to Phuket airport and a great spot (in the right season) for picking up/dropping off visitors). Everyone contributed to the midday feast, and like last year, each boat brought a gift per person, of any item not needed on the boat or surplus to their needs (something that had possibly been sitting in a locker for the past 2 years and was in danger of being thrown out !). Some great presents were given - one of our presents was Pictionary, a very welcome gift and has been used so much since we got it, we've had to replace the drawing pads :-) A belated Merry Christmas to all our family and friends - you were all very much in our thoughts.

A new trend in trawling - tie two trawler bows together! Another reason why we don't like to sail at night, unless we can help it
beautiful scenery between Langkawi, Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand
"from the bilge" christmas presents A huge feast for Christmas Day lunch
Our cruising friends get-together for Christmas Day great views of aircraft landing - Nai Yang Bay, Christmas Day anchorage


We were suddenly in a whirlwind of activity as next item on the agenda was New Year celebrations. Seeing we were on the west coast of Phuket, we just had to be at Patong Bay as we'd heard that it was a sight not to be missed. And we weren't disappointed. There's no fixed schedule (which is very Thai :-) so fireworks were being set off all around the bay, from the different hotels and private parties, from just on dark at 7pm, with the really big bang happening at midnight, with festivities coming to a close around 4am.  You didn't know where to look. We celebrated the evening aboard a gynormous catamaran Makani Kai (Destiny could fit into Makani Kai's boat area at least 4 times !) with lots of cruiser friends - it was quite a night :-) Many thanks, Jay and Jodie - hope we can return the hospitality one day :-)

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS

The photo's are a bit blury (well, I was on a yacht!) but hopefully they give a sense of how much was happening on shore.
The red dots in the night sky, are launched prayer lanterns - it was the most beautiful sight
How the other half lives - note the helicopter !
Panwa, Phuket - the beach restaurant at one of our favourite anchorages
Only in Patong, Phuket would you find a sign like this !
Countdown traffic lights, Krabi - anyone know why there's a statue
of a cave man holding the traffic lights ?
?
Krabi market - fresh flower display - smelt great ... and the asian take on "fast food"


And then we were off to Krabi to meet up with our friends Debbie, Ian, Jake and Armelle who we'd last caught up with in Kuala Lumpur mid last year. They'd been holidaying in Cambodia and Vietnam and were "dropping in" for a few days on their way back to Australia. We used Destiny as a means of getting from A to B, travelling to the nearby islands, where we'd find land accommodation (only the accommodation in Krabi was prebooked, everywhere else was "walk in" enquiries) for a few days. Our first stop at Koh Pu or Koh Jam (depending on which guidebook or map your reading) was absolutely marvelous, particularly as we hadn't planned on stopping here but it was en-route to Koh Lanta (our original destination) and we were running out of time to get to Koh Lanta before dusk to find accommodation. It's a very, very, very laid back island and you can just imagine that this is probably how the rest of Thailand was before tourism. There isn't anything much to do other than swim, read, relax, sleep, eat - in no particular order.

Seasons Bungalows, Koh Pu/Jam - paradise ! Sunset at Season Bungalows, looking out to sea

Cooling off under way

Destiny's newest skipper
Getting to and from the island Are we chilling out or trying to ward off sea sickness ?


Next stop was Kantiang Bay, south Koh Lanta. Pimalai Resort, a very expensive resort on the hill in the southern end of the bay, probably helps to push up prices but the resort provides a floating jetty which is a godsend for us getting to and from shore. The bay itself is very pretty with the cheaper (although still a bit on the high side) accommodation situated in the northern part of the bay. The bay comes into it's own at night - the Why Not Bar has tables right on the beach, and damn fine food too :-) After dinner, we'd amble over to the beach pub and chill out over a few beers, listening to the easy grooves of the resident band. Bliss.

Just south of Koh Lanta lies Koh Muk, the home of the Emerald Cave and the most beautiful, isolated beach/anchorage we've ever been to. We'd been wishing to get back here since our first visit almost a year ago. The water was crystal clear and so inviting we all quickly jumped into the sea and swam ashore. The guys immediately started scouring for firewood but because of low tide (making it easier to get into the cave), Brian decided to take our friends by dingy to explore the Emerald Cave (a cathedral-like hong, accessed via a 80 metre pitch dark tunnel, either by swimming or paddling through on kayaks and dingy's) while I remained on the beach to set up camp for an evening BBQ. Shortly afterwards, our cruising friends Jerry and Jean on yacht Oema, arrived in the anchorage and in no time it was a party on the beach. Brian and Ian braved sleeping on the beach (they were really hanging out for coffee the next morning) while Debs, myself and the kids retired to Destiny - it was a bit of squeeze, but we managed it :-)

And Jake celebrated a birthday while he was with us - Happy birthday, Jake - hope you have many, many more :-)

Before we knew it, the Beveridges holiday and exploring of the southern islands was over and we needed to get everyone back to Krabi for their flight to Kuala Lumpur. We all had a great time and have already started planning where our next get-together is going to be. Probably somewhere in Borneo later this year ?????

Kantiang Bay, Koh Lanta
We got a surprise visit from an alien ! Novel approach to "highlighting" your restaurant on the beach
Why Not Bar, Kantiang Bay, Koh Lanta camp for evening BBQ on Koh Muk (many thanks to those who'd previously erected the canopy structure - greatly appreciated)
dam making - Koh Muk chilling out around the BBQ camp and fire, Koh Muk
We didn't have much equipment to cook with,
but boy, did that BBQ taste good
Another idyllic anchorage, complete with beautiful sunset


We're now finally up-to-date (phew! enough already) and in our next update we'll tell you all about the islands north of Phuket (we're currently en-route). So for another month, that's all folks, cheers from Destiny III, keep well and don't forget to send us an email from time to time.

Very best regards
B & G