Food and Friends, the best things in life

Food Glorious Food II

The next two entries have titles I used early on the voyage in Mexico. They cover topics well worth repeating: food and friends.

Our next stop on the way to Indonesia is Pinang. History abounds in this colonial town – British, Indian and Chinese cultures mix here where centuries of influence become apparent. The architecture tells the story. Stark white colonial buildings surrounded by huge white pillars show the British history. The foot moving music and smell of incense let you know you are in Little India, where garment shops display ornate traditional Indian attire reminding me of the cover of Sargent Pepper. Chinese merchants hawk just about anything imaginable.

The array of religions makes its mark too. Massive Christian churches can be found throughout Pinang, in particular the Seven Day Adventists, who have one of the best hospitals on the island. Hindu temples are scattered throughout the city and it is common to see people wearing the all-seeing Bindi, the third eye. Buddhist temples are also in evidence here. Furthur has been blessed in one of them several times with offerings to Buddha, burning incense and candles. The call to prayer bellows throughout the streets at the appropriate time from the many mosques built by the dominant Muslim population.

Buildings and places of worship may proliferate but Pinang’s real story is told in the food. My mouth starts watering as soon as I enter the city. Street vendors line the streets and restaurants representing every culture can be found on every block in town. My favorite eating experience is done in the massive food courts that dot the metropolitan area. Here you can dine in every country at the same table. Last night I sampled sushi from Japan, noodle soup from China, pork from the Philippines and seafood from Thailand, topped off with a good ole American banana split. All this gluttony for about ten bucks…Pinang is truly a low budget gourmet’s dream come true.

Mouthwatering food aside, there are practical reasons for stopping here. It is the home of all the Indonesian and Thai consulates. We make our pilgrimage to the little bit of Indo, as international consulates are actually extensions of the country they represent. We get our vitally important red-backed passport pictures, a unique requirement of this particular consulate and gather the needed documents, including the sponsorship letters from our Indo agent and start the ball rolling. It is a snap to do and our visas are ready the next day.

It is not the journey; it is the friends we meet along the way, II.

Another reason I like this stop is it has become home of one of my favorite past Furthur crew, Troy. Two years ago he left the boat here to start a career in the boat business. We stopped by last year to visit and this year we spent more time with Troy. He is now a bona fide bureaucrat working on several civic projects. He wines and dines with the government big wigs and manages a large crew. All a far cry from the Troy I met two years ago in Australia: I am quite proud of him.

So old friends met, paperwork done and bellies oh so full, we cast off from the Straits Quay Marina and headed south again. Next stop will bring us to more old friends and another familiar place, Pangkor.

We arrived at the entrance to Pangkor Marina a bit ahead of schedule and sufficient high tide so we anchored outside and took the dinghy ashore. This is not the best of stops, little to see or do, so finding my friends was the only reason to stop. Luckily that was no problem and we found Patamba on the hard in a state of chaos usual for a boat in a yard with many projects. Big Aussie smiles beamed down from the cockpit inviting us aboard, so we climbed the boarding ladder to meet Lorraine and Steve.

After the required introductions of the crew, we jumped into a gossipathon catching up on our mutual friends and their adventures. Lorraine is great at keeping in touch with all our cruising mates; she is the catalyst amongst us. I got the lowdown on who was where and what they were up to. Some good and some bad news was delivered as life at sea is just that, life.

It turns out we hit at a good time. The Patamba crew was about to celebrate their wedding anniversary, eleven years. We picked the perfect moment to see this duo, still undeniably in love. Not a gooey kind of love, nor the dependent kind, but a solid kind with a side of Laurel and Hardy humor. Lorraine and Steve are what I call the quintessential Aussie couple: they ooze Oz. They became one of my favorite couples in the 2011 Sail to Indonesia Rally and we have stayed close ever since. The original Patamba was a crude, yellow, home-built steel 32’ Westsail type craft, with a “boy’s club” looking house, but she was hell for stout. That boat got them from Melbourne to Thailand and cemented their love of cruising. In Phuket last year they bought the new Patamba, a Celestrial 48 sailing yacht. I am familiar with this boat, as I sold one years ago and was impressed by it back then. This boat had suffered some neglect and is in need of work, but in the end they will have a great cruising boat.

We made dinner plans and invited them to Furthur for a pupu platter before we went. The girls did a bang up job of making food for us and we enjoyed the evening coolness on the bridge. More tales of the sea and its sailors poured out of us and the girls took it all in. The cruising world is a small one, full of people who make fast and strong bonds. We are all unique folks, likely not always fitting in a “normal “life. When we all meet on the cruising path we seem to meld instantly. The Six Degrees of Separation theory comes alive on the sea; we all know someone in common and the distance is always bridged. So it was good to catch up on all the news.

So full of news and Aussie smiles, we left Pangkor on the rising tide and once again followed the big compass rose to SE to Indonesia.