Thursday, November 25, 2010

Palau Penang

November 25, 2010—Today is Thanksgiving Day for us here in Penang. On November 21 we left the marina on Marina Island at Pangkor and went 12 miles to Monkey Island to spend the night. There was not much protection at this island; however, we had a very pleasant and calm night. At 6:30 the next morning we got underway for Palau Penang. It was dawn, and a full moon was out, which helped our visibility, so we began to dodge the numerous fishing boats in our path. Luckily, about half of them went back to port for the day, so the numbers were easier to deal with. The boats that we encountered were going the same direction as we were, so it was just a matter of passing them without interfering with their nets.
We found ourselves, once again, motoring along, but this time the seas were almost like glass. Unfortunately, that meant no wind, and it was very hot. We thought about stopping for a swim but decided against it because we saw so many jelly fish in the water.

We arrived at Palau Penang (Palau meaning island) around 3:30 p.m. and began making our way up the channel. We found ourselves dodging the usual fishing lines, but at one point it was just too difficult so we simply motored up between the buoys marking the lines, put the engine in neutral, and coasted over the lines, which were just below the water. We would then watch the buoys to see if we were dragging them. We made it through all of them without any problems, although we did stress a few fishermen who were wildly waving at us to stop.

A new bridge is being built just south of Penang, and there were quite a few construction barges and tugs at work. We ended up going between two floating concrete platforms on which they were making the concrete for the bridge, and as we passed, we had smiles and waves from the workers on the platforms. A pile driver was also hard at work setting pilings for the bridge.

We continued on and approached the Penang Bridge, which was opened in 1985 and won an award for engineering excellence in the United States is 1986. The bridge spans 13.5 kilometers and connects Penang with mainland Malaysia. An annual marathon over the bridge was held while we were here, and it began at 12:30 in the morning so that it would be cool enough for the runners. It is always a little stressful going under a bridge, but this bridge was very high so we had room to spare.

We arrived at the Junk Anchorage, which is located right next to the ferry dock and a very short distance from the Tanjong City Marina. A racing rally was in Penang and had taken all the slips, so we just picked a good spot and dropped our hook in the anchorage at 5:30 in the afternoon. At 7 p.m. we joined Tin Soldier, once again, as well as Ruth and Tim on Victory Cat for dinner. We walked into town and through Little India, which is always fascinating. We decided to eat at Sri Ananda Bahwan Indian Restaurant, and, happily, it was air conditioned. We enjoyed a delicious meal of Butter Chicken Marsala, along with some naan or flat bread. After dinner we returned to the boat because we were tired, and the other two boats were leaving early in the morning for Langkawi.

On November 24 we decided to go ashore to look around. We were able to wave down a passing small boat and met Soon, who was happy to take us to shore for a small fee. We decided to first check in with the Port Captain and Customs. After taking care of those formalities, we walked across the street to Fort Cornwallis, which was built in 1786 when Captain Light from Britain stepped foot on the almost uninhabited island.

From there we took a pedicab ride, finally, over to China Town, where we walked down the streets looking in the interesting shops. We stopped for lunch at Restoran Tho Yuen, a favorite with the locals. We were the only anglos in the place, and some of the patrons found it humorous to watch my trying to eat with chopsticks.

After lunch we walked by the Kapitan Keling Mosque and were invited in for a tour. Steve had to wear a robe because he was in shorts, but my crop pants were long enough so I did not have to wear one. A young man was our guide, and he was quite entertaining. He also explained to us the etiquette that is followed when in the mosque. When the tour was finished, he took us to an air-conditioned room and asked us to sit down and have some water. He then gave us more information about Islam, which we found very informative. It seemed to us that this mosque was trying to foster goodwill.

After the mosque we returned to the boat for a few hours to rest during the very hot afternoon. Around 7 p.m. we called Soon to pick us up so that we could go to shore for dinner. On our way we stopped at the Mahamariamman Temple, built in 1883 and the oldest Hindu temple in Penang. A distinctive feature of the temple is its gopuram with 38 carved Hindu deities. A local took us inside the temple and allowed us to take pictures.

After the temple we walked to Restoran Kapitan and enjoyed another delicious Indian meal of Tangori chicken and naan. By now the wind had picked up, and we could see lightning overhead, so we decided to go back to the boat. Soon was not available; however, we happened to arrive just when another boat was taking some men out to a commercial ship, and the driver was happy to drop us off. We arrived just in time as it began to rain and the wind picked up to 20 knots. We spent the next two hours watching the eight boats in the anchorage dance around, some coming pretty close to others. We had a catamaran anchored by us that came close to us a few times. Finally we gave up worrying about it and went to bed figuring that we would survive the evening. Things did soon calm down, and we actually had a pretty decent night’s sleep.

Today we took the "Hop on Hop off" bus, which is free, to visit the Penang State Museum, which had some wonderful items on display. The history of Penang was also presented, and it was very interesting and informative. After that we walked through China Town one more time and found a fabulous bakery with a large variety of wonderful bread, so we, of course, bought several items. We then returned to Little India for one last fix of spicy Indian food. Then it was time to return to the boat to rest up from the heat and get ready for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner this year consisted of pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw, and fresh bread. We waited until later in the evening so that it would be cooler while I did the cooking. The meal was delicious, and for dessert we enjoyed a sweet role that we also bought at the bakery. Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family in the states.

We have really enjoyed our time here in Penang. It is an interesting and colorful city with friendly people and a wonderful history, and it is a nice mix of old and new.

We will leave early in the morning to go about 58 miles to an island just south of Langkawi, and we plan to stay there until December 1 when we will go into Rebak Marina.

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