Penang, history, multicultural life, a Reunion and a Dream come True.

Penang, history, multicultural life, a Reunion and a Dream come True.

We bid farewell to our new friends at the marina and took the afternoon tide out of the shallow entrance. We were able to reach a small island just before dark and anchored with several other rally boats. Up at dawn and away through a huge fleet of fishing boats and on to Penang. The legs on this trip all seem to work out well for day hops, no over nighters needed.

Joining us for the next few stops we have a young girl, Kim, who has been cruising with her dad for months. We got to know her on the Indo Rally. Her Dad needed to wait for some parts so we have the joy of her company. Kim is from the land of wooden shoes, windmills and mmmm great Chocolate.

We entered the channel inside Penang Island and went under one of the largest bridges in the world. We now left any signs of primitive life; it was all big city now. The high rises abound as did commercial vessel traffic. Penang is the oldest British colony in Malaysia and still has a strong British influence.

We go to the ToJeng City Marina even though it has had bad reviews in several books and articles I have read. They warn against strong surge from the neighboring ferries and other traffic. It is also reported to be in poor repair and dirty. I picked this dismal place because it was right down town, no need for busses, (recall I fear busses) or lengthy cab rides to town. The last several marinas were so remote we did not see much of the adjoining cities.

We find the reports over stated, the swell is minimal and the staff very helpful, the marina is all but empty so finding a space is easy. It is a bit dirty and we see the corpse of a ROUS floating about (for the few people on earth who have not seen The Princess Bride, that is a Rodent of Unusual Size). The staff pushed the four foot critter out of the marina and sent it down stream. The worst part of the marina was not mentioned, the loud dance music coming from the adjacent bar. I actually broke out the noise cancelling head set I use in the engine room to try to sleep.

We all go walkabout in the city, Maggie finds a rickshaw driver and I take to the streets. The city is amazing, just two blocks from the marina is Little India, a real Little India with incense flowing down the crowded streets and the thumping of Baliwood music everywhere. Hindu Gods are displayed at every turn.

Just adjacent to Little India is China Town, with massive temples and many small shops. The aroma of Chinese food replaces the sweet smell of Indian Incense. I find a small food court and eat a tasty two dollar lunch.

Scattered about the cultural and very rustic buildings are the stately and brilliantly clean British churches and government houses, the contrast is amazing. We also find the Thai conciliate and get our 90 Thai visas with ease.

Within easy walking distance of the marina is a huge food court that we dine in several times. A great dinner for two, beer, iced tea and mmm ice cream for under ten bucks.

Just outside of the inner city lies a circle of ultra modern shopping malls. I visit several and they might as well be in Seattle or LA with every consumer product known to man. Prosperity and growth are very apparent in this part of Malaysia. The infrastructure indicates massive growth most of which is attributed to the former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed or lovingly known as Dr. M.

I had the pleasure of meeting this man in Friday Harbor in the mid 90’s. He had been cruising British Columbia on a 180’ Fedship his friend had chartered. They cleared customs in Friday Harbor and caused quite a stir, with every kind of federal law enforcement agency represented. As a Port Commissioner, I felt a formal greeting was in order and kinda bluffed my way to meet him. The PM as they called him was a gracious and clearly very intelligent man. When I mentioned our Orca Whales to his wife she became instantly interested. I excused myself and jumped in the bathroom quickly calling my whale watch captain buddy with a panicked, “where are they?” got the answer and we all took off, the Fedship and a massive escort of cop boats, to see the whales. A wonderful afternoon of whales, fine dining and royal companionship followed.

I still have his card and am trying to contact him as he invited to me to see him if I ever got to Malaysia. He gave me a wonderful book about a far off place called Lankawi, full of pictures of exotic islands. The PM said he lived there and it was like out San Juan Islands in its beauty. I have dreamed over this book for years. We have spent the last two days in places shown in the book. Another dream come true.

On a more down to earth note, I also looked up my old high school classmate, Dennis, who had been teaching in Penang for many years. Facebook again brought us together. Dennis and I ran for Student Body President in 1968, I as a radical hippy, he as an athlete and devote Christian. Dennis won and really did a fine job of leading our school the next year. Although we came for contentious positions in contentious times we always maintained a mutual respect.

Dennis is one of those rare people who knew his purpose in life at a very young age and never wavered. He spent his life working in the ministry and teaching. He had a lifelong ambition to teach in a foreign land and did so. We had a great dinner swapping old tales of our youth and sharing information on our scattered classmates. This is the second classmate I have found scattered about the world who left early and carved out a wonderful life in a foreign land. It is so good to see old friends living well.

We left Penang and headed for Langkawi stopping at Palau Payer overnight. Palau (island) Payer is a marine reserve and known dive site. We arrive just as the excursion boats all leave and take one of the huge moorings. The quiet of the island, being at a mooring and the still of the night is all appreciated and noted in our evening gratitude time. It is so good to be out of a marina!

After a quiet night’s sleep gently rolling in the head on swell I arose and thought of nothing but getting wet. It has been a month since we last dove in Indonesia, way too long. Troy and I slipped on the gear. I dove just in trunks as the water was 88 degrees!! Mmmm so warm.

The visibility was poor as we expected but the numbers and selection of fish was outstanding. This is one of the successful marine protected areas so no fishing and it shows. The SE Asian’s are becoming aware of their over fishing and also aware of the economic impact that eco tourism has. Live fish keep bringing income, dead ones do it once.

Although we planned on going straight to the marina, the beauty of the islands just south of Lankawi were too good to pass up so we anchored between two island featured in the book I mentioned earlier. Again we jumped into the 87 degree water for a swim, such a joy.

With our need for free spinning anchorage now satisfied we headed to another luxury marina to join our American friends and some who will be American for the day, for Thanksgiving. I find it increasingly important to celebrate such things the farther from home you get.