Penang to Langkawi and Boatman’s Heaven! 06Dec2010

The bridge at Penang headed in.

Towing towing towing!

For boats headed north through the Malacca Straits, the island of Langkawi is the last port of call in Malaysia before heading into Thailand. The whole island is also a duty-free zone for everything one wants to buy, find or order. The story (direct from George) is that apparently Penang used to be the ‘duty-free’ zone but former Prime Minister Mahathir who represented the Langkawi part of the world changed the rules and so Langkawi inherited the mantle as the best of places to visit on ones northern sojourn; it does however make sense given the proximity of Langkawi to Thailand, only a few hours by slow boat! Anyway one can get all sorts of boaty things cheap but the prices of beer, spirits and most other things alcoholic is cheap enough to make even non-drinkers reconsider their non-drinking habits. Of course what this means is that most boats heading north, or indeed south, depart with much less freeboard than when they arrived. It also makes small boat owners dearly wish they had a bigger boat with a lot more storage space; or toss out that gear that hasn’t been used for the past six months.

Taking it easy.

Mostly Simon's!!!

We had been looking forward to arriving in Langkawi as we had previously been regaled with stories by more worldly boaty types that a beer could be bought at the beach type cafes for one ringgit or about 35c Aus. Whilst this may have been a little on the optimistic side, food and drink was here exceptionally cheap. The only problem and as for Penang however, was when at the Moslem restaurants you couldn’t get a beer and the usual response to our standard beer request was ‘go to Chinese’!

The best looking temple.

And guess what?

But back to Penang, we spent four days all up anchored in the ‘Junk Anchorage’ out off the Chew-Jetty and did the usual see the sights stuff including the obligatory motor bike ride around the island. This was in company with the ‘Thyme’ and ‘Ultimate Dream’ people (Amanda, Simon, Richard and Susanah) and also with English Neil who joined here for the run up to Langkawi.

Our Tri-shaw pilot.

Back to that temple.

Motor bike day.

Also whilst ensconced in the ‘Hong Kong Bar’, the skipper was convinced by Italian Elisa that she should join us for the later passage from Langkawi to Phuket, this request coming via Michael who seemed to be chatting girls up at the Banana Bar just down the road. It was good here and a lot of fun scratching around Georgetown although the Tri-shaw drivers habit of trundling down the wrong side of the road directly into oncoming traffic was, to say the least, disconcerting. As for places like Singapore and Malacca, Penang and especially Georgetown seems to exude history and like everybody else that comes here and in pursuit of culture we also took the time to do the obligatory visits to temples, museums and of course to Fort Cornwallis; and in the interests of saving time :-

(From Wikipedia)

Fort Cornwallis.

Fort Cornwallis is an old star-shaped fort located on the northeastern coast of Penang, Malaysia. It is named after the late 18th century Governor-General of Bengal, India, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis. Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia.
Captain Sir Francis Light took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 and built the original fort. It was a nibong (Malay: palm trunk) stockade with no permanent structures, covering an area of 417.6 square feet (38.80 m2).

In 1804, Indian convict labour rebuilt the fort with bricks and stones during Colonel R.T. Farquhar’s term as Governor of Penang. Fort Cornwallis was later completed in 1810 during Norman Macalister’s term as Governor of Penang at the cost of $80,000. The fort was intended as a defense against the pirates, Kedah, and the French because of the Napoleonic Wars. A moat 9 meters wide by 2 meters deep once surrounded the fort but it was filled in in the 1920s due to a malaria outbreak in the area.

The Chapel at Fort Cornwallis was built in 1799 on the southwest bastion. It is the earliest roofed structure surviving in Penang from the colonial era. The first recorded marriage here took place that same year when John Timmers married Martina Rozells, the widow of Francis Light.

Even though the fort was originally built for the Royal artillery troops and the military, its function, historically, was more administrative than defensive. For example, the judge of the Supreme Court of Penang, Sir Edmond Stanley, was first housed at Fort Cornwallis when the court opened on 31 May, 1808.

In its entire history, the fort had never engaged in any battle. Apart from being used for the British Royal artillery troops, the fort was once occupied by the Sikh Police of the Straits Settlements during the 1920s. An archaeological survey was conducted by Royal Navy personnel under the direction of Rev. Peter Brown RN in July/August 1970.

Hong Kong bar.

But on more fundamental things and when looking at the way the locals get by and the massive resorts at the beaches down the road. Like everywhere else in Asia the dichotomy that exists between the standard of living for most of the people and that of a few is quite spectacular. The contrast is even more stark when one looks at the standard of accommodation and service provided for the average (but perhaps non yachty) tourist where the theme is to build ever more luxurious resorts that the vast majority of locals can only gawk at and wonder about, or work in as cleaners. But, to steal a line from a certain film, TIA, this is Asia.

We got away from Pinang/Penang at 0815 on the morning of 27 November headed for Song Song, an island 26 miles to the north and this wasn’t before time and all. If we had stayed too much longer one feels that the skipper may have needed to buy new anchor chain and maybe even a new anchor. The chain and anchor when they came up were black and the new galvanising was happily well on the road to disappearing. The sediments here would seemingly be so anoxic (and presumably toxic) that the only thing alive is probably, anaerobic bacteria, happily mincing their way through all that organic material down there (read that as raw sewage) and producing a lovely reducing environment. Not surprising really when you consider the toilet at the Chew-Jetty café which was basically a long-drop toilet that dropped straight into the intertidal zone. One supposes that the big bucket of water and scoop was for either decoration or to wash away the residue on exceptionally low tides; bet all of the toilets along the Chew Jetty are the same, don’t go swimming here! On departure there was also much discussion between boats as to what people pulled up on their anchors. On the Gadfly we became the proud owners of a very well worn bra that adorned our ground tackle for the next week, it was apparently too big for any of the girls although nobody tried it on!

The next stop was the island of Song Song where the anchorage was really just an open roadstead providing somewhat dubious shelter and rather deep conditions. The skipper was heard here mumbling about 23 metres getting to be about the limit of sensibility but unlike another boat we didn’t drag and aside from a bit of rolling it was all good for the night. Aside from the good ship Thyme, we were also in company here with English Rob on Ballyhoo, Ian on Scott Free and Daryl on ????.

Song Song itself is a pretty island not more than about 200 metres across with a sandy beach at one end and a small landing site under a cliff/hill that kept us out of the wind enough for a BBQ. There were here also a couple of the local and bigger fishing boats catching little sardines. We procured a bucket of these along with a few bigger fish and Amanda and Simon made fish patties with them for our fire and BBQ. This BBQ featured exploding rocks provided by Simon and the skipper who thought that those big flat rocks in the water would be excellent for propping up our hot-plate; brilliant, you could hear them exploding from a quarter mile away! Another oddity here was the big bullets or rather small cannon rounds scattered everywhere in the water and sand. These were about 25 mm across, rifled and had presumably been fired from the sea sometime in the last 100 years. We put it down to the Japs!

Next morning we headed out at long last for the cheap beers on Langkawi and after a brilliant sail and beam reach at 7 knots all the way we slipped between the myriad of islands at the bottom of Langkawi. This really is an exceptionally beautiful place and we put down our pick at a place called ‘Daying Bunting’ just around the corner from a part of the ‘Langkawi Geopark’ and a big fresh-water lake. So after waiting for Thyme to get in …….. we all decided a swim and tubs in the fresh-water was the go, whilst avoiding those bloody monkeys. Next day it was the 10 miles around to Bass Harbour and the town of Kuah, followed by three days in the Royal Langkawi marina. It was here we said our goodbyes to Manu, Niuma and English Neil who were continuing their respective travels or headed home and welcomed aboard Italian Elisa and Finnish Benita, both headed for Phuket or Krabbe.

Royal Langkawi at Bass Harbour.

Bass Harbour and the main town 'Kuah'.

Telaga and we are about here!

Geology 101 on Langkawi!

Geology 203 on Langkawi!!!!

Langkawi was to be of course our last destination in Malaysia so planning our clearance out and then into Thailand was something of a priority, as well as getting hold of all sorts of boaty things that one needs and might not be able to find once in Thailand. Of course it is one thing to own a boat, it’s another thing to keep the thing going and operational, as they say cruising = boat maintenance in exotic locations. We also did the now standard motor bike thing here, checked out the sights, marvelled at yet more Malaysian building follies, went swimming at more waterfalls, rode on the cable-car above Telaga, sought out the marine suppliers and tried not to get too carried away in the duty-free shops. After Kuah we headed around to Telaga, 10 miles away on the west coast of Langkawi and anchored just outside the marina. This was where we met up with George on Amable along with his girlfriend Mooky and mate Irish Brian. George is the friend of the skippers from way back University days who has been sculling around parts of SE Asia for the past six or seven years after bringing his Roberts 35 up from Townsville.

That cable car.

George and the skipper.

George, Mooky and Amanda.

Impressive really.

So after procuring all of our Christmas cheer and sorting our clearances on the 5th, on December 6 we upped anchor and headed out for the extraordinarily long run of 24 miles up to Koh Lipe in Thailand. The plan here was to spend around 10 days cruising through the multitude of islands between Langkawi and Phuket and to clear in at either Krabbe or Ao Chalong, then Christmas at Nai Harn on the SW corner of Phuket. New year then should be at Patong for the fireworks. More soon, cheers from the Gadfly.

Yet more waterfalls!

Seven wells above Telaga.

Quote, "He's not grown up, just big"!

Our glass blowing demonstration; how many swans can they make?

Temperance movement

A cartoon from Australia.

A temperance movement is a social movement urging reduced use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance movements may criticize excessive alcohol use, promote complete abstinence, or pressure the government to enact anti-alcohol legislation.
In Australia, the temperance movement began in the mid-1830s promoting moderation rather than abstinence. By the late 19th century a more successful abstinence-oriented movement emerged under the influence of the U.S. temperance movement. However, it failed to bring about prohibition despite a long campaign for local option. The movement’s major success was in prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages after 6:00 in the afternoon, laws which led to the notorious six o’clock swill. This refers to the practice whereby customers would rush to drinking establishments after work and consume alcohol heavily and rapidly in anticipation of the 6:00 closing.

Resort, a definition.

A resort is a place used for relaxation or recreation, attracting visitors for holidays or vacations. Resorts are places, towns or sometimes commercial establishment operated by a single company. Such a self-contained resort attempts to provide for most of a vacationer’s wants while remaining on the premises, such as food, drink, lodging, sports, entertainment, and shopping. The term “resort” may also be used to identify a hotel property that provides an array of amenities and typically includes entertainment and recreational activities.
A luxury resort is an expensive vacation facility which is fully staffed and has been rated with five stars.[by whom?] Luxury resorts often boast many visitor activities and attractions such as golf, watersports, spa and beauty facilities, skiing, natural ecology and tranquility. Because of the extent of amenities offered, a luxury resort is also considered a destination resort


2 Responses to “Penang to Langkawi and Boatman’s Heaven! 06Dec2010”

  1. Alexsandra Trevor Says:


    Loved the latest entry. You look like you are all having too much fun!
    Tying up details here, still planning on joining you in about 8 weeks. Is that still a go on your end?

    Any idea where you will be then??
    Possibly meeting up with a friend from N.Z. in Bali before joining you. Any input on that from you?

    Look forward to going where ever the wind is blowing.
    Hope to hear from you soon.

  2. Ian Mcinnes Says:

    FYI, Song Song island was used by the Australian Air Force (RAAF) based in Butterworth during the 70’s & 80’s as a firing range. Shells were fired from the air by Mirage jets.
    Regards Ian.

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