Straits Quay Marina Penang to Langkawi
Sun 11 Dec 2016 10:29
Wednesday, 30th November we upped anchor and left the disgustingly filthy anchorage outside Straits Quay Marina and set off on the final leg of the Malaysian Rally to Langkawi.
First stop was a small uninhabited island called Songsong 21 miles in the direction of Langkawi, we anchored behind a sand spit and the sea was clean and with no jellyfish lurking so a swim was first priority.
Another dawn start 1st December and we headed out from Songsong into a blackening ominous looking sky. Sails went straight up and we set off on a very nice reach, the sky got blacker and this time we were prepared with a reef in the mainsail and the genoa ready to reduce as the wind picked up and the heavens opened. Over we heeled and the boat speed picked up to 9 knots as the wind was gusting up to 35 knots within the squall. Syd had a big smile on his face. The worst of the squall soon passed but the wind continued along with the rain and with Syd helming (it was too much for ‘George’ autohelm), he managed to keep the speed up between 8-9 knots. We were soaked and the sea had built up considerably so Gaviota was bashing into waves but we were speeding on towards Langkawi.
We passed through a group of islands called Pulau Payer a marine park which in different conditions we had considered stopping at but with the wind and sea as wild as this we forged on and saw the jagged outline of Langkawi appearing out of the dense cloud.
We sailed into the majestic fjord like entrance and immediately the sea dropped. We dropped anchor off Dayang Bunting Forest Reserve at 1.30pm – a good 4 hours ahead of schedule. It was the first decent days sail Syd had had since leaving Australia!
Dayang Bunting Forest Reserve is a tourist attraction because it has a large freshwater swimming lake which was formed many years ago when the roof of a huge limestone cavern collapsed and the base of the cavern filled with rain water. This attraction is called ‘the lake of the pregnant maiden’?????? This we had to see, so we rowed over in the dinghy, paid our £1 each and climbed the many stone steps which took us through rain forest with monkeys swinging from the branches, down to the lake which had been made into swimming ponds. The depth of the lake is 15 metres but we must have looked as though we were’nt going to drown as no-one asked us to wear life jackets (either that or maybe non muslim tourist’s lives don’t count). Into the water we dived, it was really nice swimming in fresh water but very pond like and a bit murky. We still hadn’t sussed out why this was the ‘the lake of the pregnant maiden’ then we spotted an information sign which showed the contours of the land surrounding the lake resembled a pregnant woman – we looked hard but it was definitely a case of artistic license!
Next day we headed into the main town of Kuah – after 2 days there I would have to say Coo ehr what a dump! Certainly the most uninspiring place we have been to for a long time and not at all what we expected Langkawi to be like. Langkawi is a duty free island so first stop was the supermarket to buy some wine which has been prohibitively expensive and scarce up until now. Once provisioned ,we left and anchored in a bay off the tourist beaches at the West end of the Island.
The final Rally day was on Tuesday, 6th December so on Monday we headed into Rebak Marina Island. This is a privately owned resort island that was bought by the Taj Hotel group with ambitious plans for a 5 star resort and up market Marina – sadly whilst the Hotel is still going the Marina part was pretty run down but the berthing rates were cheap and yachties got to use all the Hotel facilities including a pretty nice swimming pool. There was also a 25% discount on any food or drinks in the Hotel. The down side was that being surrounded by dense jungle the mosquitoes were vicious, at sun down we had to spray the boat and us and ensure everything was netted, even with all this we were woken up each night with the sound of high pitched buzzing and a midnight battle with insect sprays took place! 2 days of that was enough but we went via the island speedboat over to join the coach tour of the Island on Tuesday, 6th. Our first stop was Kuah (we learned it was Malay for gravy – don’t ask it’s a long rambling tale of giants fighting!!!!). Next stop was the amazing cable car ride to the top of the highest peak. Langkawi has been given Geopark status by Unesco and had a lot of money given for this reason. Having seen the cable cars suspended on the near vertical rock face Syd chickened out so I was on my own but it was an amazing trip up to the top where you can walk the Skybridge with it’s glass panels and view the Islands off Thailand.
Cold beers on Cenang beach followed then it was off to the Rice Museum for the final Gala Dinner with traditional dancing and speeches. The end of the Malaysian Rally which has been incredibly well organized and well worth doing. It was a lot of farewells to people though in yachting inevitably you meet up again along the way.
We left the ever hungry mosquitoes in Rebak Marina and motored up to Telaga in the far West of the Island as we had arranged to join the local Hash House Harriers for their Friday run. Telaga is another grandly planned Marina and shops complex which didn’t happen and has a very run down feeling, we anchored in the outer harbour with nice views of the mountains and nearby cable car.
Langkawi Beach Hash House Harriers made us very welcome and kindly picked us up for their run at 5.30 on Friday, they are a small group with some good runners, King Penguin welcomed us in the circle and off we went. The run was mainly on tracks and paths through the jungle and had several false trails, it was about 6 kms and with the heat and humidity we were struggling towards the end but made it back for the beers and a brilliant après-hash meal at a Chinese restaurant on the beach with yet more beers.
Our few days in Telaga has been a good break, we are now fueled up (the first sail up to fuel dock since we left Darwin!!!) and provisioned, we also have a full tank of water so next stop Thailand . . . . . . . . .