East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia!

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Wed 6 Jun 2012 23:19

04:49.05N  104:09.20E

Where in the World are Margie and Peter? Cruising up the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia!

We’ve covered quite a bit of ground since going around Singapore and turning up the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.  Happily, it’s been mostly smooth sailing with little or no drama but, we haven’t had a lot of wind so we’ve had to rely on “Hercules”, our 115 HP Yanmar engine, to push us along most of the time. 

FYI - Peter would like you to think that we endure gale force winds, electrical storms and massive cargo ships bearing down on us 24/7 but, in truth, our major obstacles are shallow water, reefs, rocks, fishing boats, fishing nets and floating buoys which we try to avoid as we zig-zag our way along the coast.  It’s mostly just keeping a sharp lookout everywhere we go.

To give you a little geographical orientation, I’ve added a map below.  We are cruising up the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia right now. Peninsular Malaysia is the long finger of land that extends down south from Thailand.  We're in the area around Tioman.  In a few weeks, we will cross the South China Sea to East Malaysia which is Malaysian Borneo – the northern part of the island of Borneo.  The southern part of Borneo is the Indonesian state of Kalimantan.  East Malaysia is divided into the states of Sarawak and Sabah with the tiny Kingdom of Brunei nestled between the two states.


So here we are off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and we’re definitely “…feeling HOT, HOT, HOT!” 

Now, I’m not talking about the popular dance anthem sung by the legendary Caribbean vocalist, Arrow.  I can guarantee...Sexy, we are not!!! 

This is the sweltering, skin-soaking, “Don’t touch me, I’m miserable!” kind of heat that shrouds you like a horse blanket!  Even with all the portholes and hatches open, it gets “wicked hot” (Yes, I'm from New England) down below and, since we only use our AC when we are at a marina, we are really struggling to acclimatize. 

The fact is there are not many cruisers on the east coast and, since we turned the corner at Singapore, there has not been one marina!
Apparently, this is a ‘La Nina’ year here in Malaysia and the temperature is hovering around 36 degrees Celsius which is about 96 degrees Fahrenheit.  And, those aren’t Las Vegas “dry heat” numbers I’m talking about!  This is hot, humid - “sweating bullets” - kind of heat! 

Onboard Peregrina, we have three 12 volt “Hella” fans, one which is mounted on a wooden pedestal so that I can carry it around with me and plug it in wherever I’m located.  I keep it pointed right at my face all through the night and, still…it’s hot, hot, hot!!!


Well, I better not complain too much or else you’ll have to get out those teeny, tiny violins to accompany this tale of woe…

So, anyway...we make our way up the coast, in day trips, averaging between 40-70 miles. We only travel during the day now because of all the fishing nets and buoys which are impossible to see at night.  At 5-7 knots per hour, depending on whether we are sailing or motoring, we can cover up to 75 miles in a 12 hour day but we don’t like to arrive at an anchorage after the sun goes down so we try not to push it beyond reasonable parameters. 

Three ports that we have particularly enjoyed in the past two weeks are Tanjung Pengelih, Pulau Aur and Pulau Tioman.  FYI - Pulau means “Island.” 

Let me re-cap some highlights…

Not far from the anchorage in Tanjung Pengelih, we visited a fruit farm.  Here’s Margie with some massive Jackfruit. 


Supposedly,you will have your “secret wish” granted if you can reach to the top of the banana tree and run your hands all the way down the sides of the stalk.  Sounded a little “kinky” to us but Peter gave it a go.  He didn’t quite reach the top, though.  Sorry, dear…no dream-come-true for you!


They had a beautiful fish pond at the farm and we created a feeding frenzy with some food pellets.


Keeping an eye on everything was this gorgeous ostrich.


Back on the boat, Peter gets ready to enjoy our new favorite fruit, the Rambutan.  Red, round and with dark hairy (really ugly!) spines on the outside but Rambutans are sweet, juicy and delicious on the inside!  The closest comparison would be a lychee but rambutans are more fleshy and lighter.  Yummy!!!


Next stop…Pulau Aur, 30 miles offshore, which we had all to ourselves for three nights.  It was a lovely, quiet anchorage in the channel between Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang.  We were the only sailing boat there. These two islands are known for their great diving and there’s also tiny Pu Lang, an uninhabited rocky outcrop with good snorkeling ½ mile to the west.  It was fantastic!!! (SURE WISH I HAD AN UNDERWATER CAMERA SO I COULD SHOW YOU BUT YOU KNOW WHO KILLED THE CAMERA!!!)

On land, we took a hike around the perimeter of the island which has been made easier by the addition of a series of walkways, bridges and ladders up and down the rocks and over ravines.  I say easier although the infrastructure here has not been maintained and some of the crossways and bridges were badly deteriorated.  Here are some shots of us making our way around the islandThe walkway started out fairly intact but as we got further away from the village, things went downhill fast…



We finally gave up when there were more holes than boards!

Pulau Tioman is a National Island Marine Park with Customs, Immigration, a small marina, ferry terminal and an airport with an alarmingly short runway!  It’s a popular tourist getaway for Malaysians and Singaporians.  The main town of Teluk Tekek has excellent restaurants, hotels, shopping (duty-free!) and excursions of all kinds.  The only downside was the busy anchorage which was quite rolly day and night due to all the ferries and fishing boats passing close by.

We celebrated Peter’s birthday in Tioman but I forgot the camera that night – Opps!!  However, we had a great party with about 60 people at a Chinese Restaurant.  Sazli, our Sail Malaysia coordinator, had brought a cake with him from Kuala Lumpur which got a little banged up during the landing on the aforementioned short runway but everyone got a piece and it was delicious.

We scuba-dived several times off Tioman and saw sharks, rays, turtles and tons of fish!  At one point, I swam a bit too far away from Peter and, before I knew it, I was getting swept out to sea with the fast moving current.  I surfaced but still no Peter so I figured out, reluctantly, that the best thing to do was to go back down a little deeper and head for the small island we were circling ASAP!!!  I’m not a big fan of deep water diving but it was easier to swim down there than at the surface of the water.  I made it to the rocky shore and sat on a ledge until Peter popped up and we both said, “What the #&$% happened to you?”

Turns out, we were lucky.  Our friends, Margaret and Will, from Atlantia, were diving in the same area and they really DID get pulled out to sea by the current.  A dive boat operator saw them struggling on the surface of the water a long, long way from the dive site and kindly picked them up before they were off in the middle of the South China Sea!  It was a good lesson for all of us.  We’ve since been bringing an extra person along to drive the dinghy behind our air bubbles and pick us up if necessary.

We had lots of fun on land in Tioman too!  Peter did a long, difficult hike organized by the Tourism Authority.  (I passed on that one as my ankle still isn’t back to normal)  They hiked up to the top of a mountain where there was good sized waterfall and a refreshing pool. 




There were 10-12 sailors and kids plus several representatives from the local government, including two young 20-something Muslim girls who were part of the support team.  Ain and Ya Ya were adorable sisters who spoke wonderful English and wanted to know all about what we were doing and where we were from.  Peter struck up a friendship with them and invited them to take a look at Peregrina.  They were so excited!!!  We had a wonderful time.  See their picture below


The annual Sail Malaysia stopover is a major event for the residents of Tioman.  Traditionally, the whole island turns out for the Sail Malaysia Outdoor Games Competition and this year was no exception.  It was a full day of food, music, entertainment and games for children of all ages!  Peter and I captained the 3-legged Race team to victory and he also participated on the winning Coconut Bowling Team for which we received two large Tupperware bowls as prizes. 




There was also a balloon toss and games we had never seen before such as The Nail in the Bottle Relay and Find the Hard Candy Underneath a Pile of Flour without Using Your Hands Relay (Hysterical!!!) and, of course, various combinations of Tug of War.







Last, but not least, all the children in various age groups had a chance to descend upon a tarpaulin full of hard candies with the objective of stuffing as many pieces as they could in any available pocket, shirt or pant.  It was mayhem!


All day long, we had a huge group of spectators who watched us with great interest, cheered us on and smiled widely even if they couldn’t understand a word we were saying!  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this was probably one of the highlights of their year.  It was an absolutely lovely day and one that Peter and I will remember forever.  Look at these faces…how beautiful are they???

In the next installment, I’ll tell you all about Chukai Town, another one of our favorite stops along Peregrina’s journey…