The warm welcome we received on entering Malaysia at Puteri Harbour Marina was a harbinger for the friendliness and excellent facilities which awaited us, as we sailed north.
Malaysia is a modern country with good infrastructure, a varied manufacturing base and a country that seems to have pollution under control. After crossing the South China Sea which was busy in terms of marine traffic, the Strait of Singapore was an eye opener in respect of serious marine traffic, as reported in our previous post. Sailing and motoring north through the Strait of Malacca, between Sumatra and western Malaysia, traffic intensified even more, due in local fishing and cargo vessels.
Our first anchorage after leaving Puteri was at Pisang Island (Banana island). A further two days of motor sailing got us to Malacca. The Portuguese, later the Dutch and then the British, settled and administered Malacca as their trading outpost in this region. Lots of the original buildings are still standing and the old part of town has been declared a UNESCO world heritage area. The oldest church in Southeast Asia sits on the hill in the centre of Malacca and has an interesting history.
Malacca has however expanded incrementally and now is a modern city surrounding the old town. After three days of exploring the town and city, a two-day sail to Port Dickson followed, where we tied up at the Admiral Marina. Three days of stocking up, filling with diesel and trying to repair our dinghy, which suddenly started falling apart at the seams followed. Getting around was cheap and easy, as Uber and Grab operates in this part of the world.
There followed a 2.5-day sail via Port Klang the huge harbour for Kuala Lumpur, to Pangkor Marina Island. We managed to get a berth in the marina on our second day anchored outside. James Khoo, the manager is an exceptionally friendly and capable man, who arranges any spares, services etc. you may require. Apart from that, he also organises seriously good parties with free beer, which is a winner with the yachties.
One of James’s contacts Alan Quek from ATT Marine, came to inspect our over the hill lead acid batteries, wiring and charger controls. He quoted us to replace the four 110Ah service batteries with a 200Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) battery with BMS system, charger and control. His price, including installation, programming and commissioning was 50% of Sydney prices.
We had a wonderful time in Pangkor, with tours, parties and meeting new friends. After 12 days, we set sail for the Straits Quay Marina in Penang. We passed under Penang’s second and first bridges on the way to the marina. The second bridge which opened in 2014, is 24 km long and is the longest bridge crossing in Southeast Asia. It is also the longest rubber damped bridge in the world, designed to withstand a 7.5 scale earthquake.
George Town on Penang island, is also a UNESCO world heritage area and the centre of Malaysia’s first world medical services. I availed myself of the competitive rates, and had my bi-annual colonoscopy performed by Dr Chin Loong (G’day mate! He lived in Melbourne for 10 years, studied medicine at Melbourne University and did his specialisation at Melbourne hospitals). We also applied for our Thailand visas at the Thai consulate in George Town.
We have to confess, we love Malaysia. It is a sensible destination for any retiree. It has first world facilities, excellent medical and dental services and it is very affordable to live here. The government promotes their MM2H programme (My Malaysian Second Home) which encourages foreign ownership of houses, apartments and condominiums at a fraction of Sydney prices. A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in the Straits Marina complex (the low rise behind Esprit) for AUD 350,000! No taxes on offshore income and pensions. Also, Penang has island wide free internet broadband, provided by the local government! Maybe we come back here after our planned circumnavigation.
Alan Quek installed the new LiFePo4 service battery, additional battery charger and battery monitor on Esprit, the Saturday before we set sail north. We can wholeheartedly recommend his meticulous service .
We spent a day walking and exploring the World Heritage listed George Town. The old buildings, shops and restaurants in Little India and Chinatown are fascinating.
After Penang, we had a robust 20 knot one day sail to Langkawi island, in the north of Malaysia. Langkawi is a duty free port and requires checking in and out with Customs. The farewell party for the Sail Malaysia Rally participants at Rebak Marina was a huge success with around 100 sailors, fantastic catering, drinks and live music, worth more than the $120/boat entry fee for the rally! Langkawi with its 105 islands is beautiful and laid back. We will report in more detail on this area when we sail to Phuket and Krabi.