Port Dickson and Melaka, Malaysia

Tue 22 Jan 2013 04:12

We left Raffles Marina on Sunday, 6 January for a 33 mile journey to Pulau Pisang where we anchored for the night.  Our aim was to attempt to do day sails along the Malacca Straits to avoid the drama of local fishing nets that we had encountered in Indonesia (the memories are still way too fresh!). As expected there was no wind and we motored during the day staying close to the edge of the main shipping lane.  Helen, Spanner and Greg were still in awe of the massive ships travelling the ocean highway.

The next morning we motor sailed for 72 miles to Pulau Besar, also known as the Water Islands. The weather was again very calm and we only had to go around 2 – 3 fishermen and their nets. We secured a great anchorage close to the ferry wharf and went ashore on the dinghy. Unfortunately the island has seen better days and several of the resort buildings have been abandoned – something that we would soon see everywhere in Malaysia.

On Tuesday morning we departed for Admiral Marina in Port Dickson where we would check in to Malaysia. The 42 mile trip was not as pleasant as the previous two days with a storm skirting around us and lumpy seas and strong winds on our approach to the shallow and very narrow marina entrance. We were very happy to arrive in the very impressive colonial style marina.  The staff were efficient and the Marina Manager, Kash was extremely helpful and welcoming.  We all had to catch a cab to the nearby town of Port Dickson to visit immigration – there is a new rule that everyone has to be fingerprinted. Dadang and I then headed to the Harbour Master and Customs to complete the clearance – we are permitted to stay 90 days in Malaysia.  It was a very seamless and short procedure with no charge – an absolute contrast to Indonesia! In Malaysia it is important that ‘crew’ be listed as passengers, otherwise they cannot fly in and out of the country and the captain of the vessel cannot leave or a massive bond must be paid. So Dadang is now the official captain of Rex as Helen, Spanner and Greg will all be flying back to Australia.

The next morning we organised a car to take us to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Melaka, 90 kms away to spend a few days. Melaka enjoys a strategic location on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia, along the historic Straits of Malacca. Established in 1403, it was an important trading post that attracted traders from all over the world. Melaka has over 600 years of history which is reflected in its ancient buildings from centuries of Portugese, Dutch and British rule. Malaysia’s current population is a mix of Malays, Chinese and Indians. Melaka is also well known for its mouth watering mix of cuisines – which we ate with gusto!

We stayed at a brand new hotel called the Hatton which was in a central location and enjoyed an ocean view room (not that we needed to see the ocean again!) and buffet breakfast for $65AUD! The buffet breakfast was the most extensive we have seen and we loved it – especially the freshly made roti with curry sauce or banana. It may sound sad but we found it hard to drag ourselves away and even had the buffet dinner both nights at the hotel – the food was sensational, especially the steamboat station where Helen and I stocked up on some amazing chinese greens and mushrooms and otak otak (spicy fish meat wrapped in banana leaf) It was also a great way for us to try the array of different cuisines (Nyonya, Chetti and Portugese) and we especially loved the Nyonya curries and sweet cakes (pandan coconut pancakes with palm sugar are my favourite). Nyonya cuisine is a marriage of Chinese cooking style with Malay ingredients and condiments. Being in a Muslim country, we were never offered alcohol with any of our meals.

We sadly left the comfort of the hotel buffet and visited the nearby Maritime Museum which is housed in a replica of the Flor de la Mar, a Portugese vessel that sank off the coast of Melaka. The Museum had great displays of the history of Melaka, beginning from the Sultanate of Melaka in the 14 century to the pre-independence era. Inside were models of ships, authentic maps, charts and old iron chests that were once used to store precious cargo.

We then ventured to the famous Jonker Street located in the older section of the city with an array of antique shops selling authentic artefacts and relics. Many shops date as far back as 300 years. We found some fantastic clothing stores, chinese artworks and hawker stalls. I managed to coerce Helen into trying the famous Nyonya Cendol – shaved ice with kidney beans, green jelly and aromatic palm sugar syrup and she was a fan. I was too scared to try the durian one – but I promise to try the ‘king of fruit’ before I leave Asia. We also tried the much sought after Melaka delicacy of  Hainanese chicken rice balls with chicken meat, cucumber and garlic – chilli sauce – all for the princely sum of $4AUD for 4 people. However a lot of the Hawker stalls leave a lot to be desired in terms of hygiene standards so we played it safe most of the time.

The shopping in Melaka was terrific and we all bought clothes and sneakers at very cheap prices. I also took Helen for her first reflexology massage session and decided it was the best so far in Asia – about $12 for an hour.

After our mini holiday in Melaka we headed back to the marina to fuel up, get more provisions and to check out of Port Dickson. I also got a new mobile sim and internet sim for Malaysia and was impressed with the low price and service. So far I am a big fan of Malaysia, its people, culture and food.