May 2016 - Malaysia

1 May 2016   Straits Quay Marina, Penang
We had yet another day on board.  We’re just waiting for Glenys to get her dental work done and with all this hanging around, we’re starting to get cabin fever.  I consolidated some of my research on the Anambas islands into one document and made a little bit more progress by contacting Bryan, a guy who lives in Singapore and runs a website called  

Brian visits the islands every couple of months and is trying to promote the Anambas as a tourist destination, so he’s given me a few contacts there.  Unfortunately, the islanders don’t use email very often, so it’ll be hard to contact them, but at least I’ve got a few people to talk to when we get to the main town of Tarempa.

Newly galvanised chain

I removed the seal from one of our leaking port holes and replaced it with a new piece that I’ve been carrying around for years.  It was a mission to clean out the silicone sealant from a tiny L-shaped groove and, in all, it took me a couple of hours of messing about to get the new seal fitted.  Unfortunately, the cross-section profile of the new rubber seal is different to the old one and I could barely close the window, putting great stress on the hinges and closing handles.

I contacted Lewmar in the UK and they tell me that the port-lights are so old that they no longer have the old profile seal, but the one that I have should be okay.  They say it will be tight initially, but after 1-2 weeks closed, the seal should compress.  I’m not convinced.

2 May 2016   Straits Quay Marina, Penang
The cabin fever finally got to us and we caught a couple of buses to Penang Hill for a tourist day out.   Penang Hill is one of the top tourist attractions in Penang with over 1.3 million visitors each year.  It’s basically a hill over-looking Georgetown, which was a cool retreat for the British colonists from the heat of the lowlands and threat of malaria.  In the late 1700’s, many bungalows were built on the summit of Penang Hill for government servants and army and a funicular railway was built in the 1920’s.

There were hundreds of people milling about at the base station for the funicular railway, surprisingly most of them seemed to be Malaysian families out for the day.  After the brief ride in the railway, we found ourselves in a set of paths, leading to the old colonial bungalows, scattered around the hill.  We wandered around the touristy area of the top station, past hawkers selling jewellery and henna tattoos.  There’s a very small hotel, a Hindu temple and a mosque.

Top Station at Penang Hill

We had a bite to eat at a café - I’ve decided that I don’t like the local, Penang version of Laksa, which I believe has a mackerel fish stock base and is much more fishy than the other type of Laksa that we’ve tried.  After lunch, we went for a walk around some of the paths on top of the hill and were pleased to spot a Dusky Leaf Monkey and a Black Giant Squirrel.  The old bungalows are still occupied, but getting to them must be a mission on the very narrow tracks.

After riding down on the train, we caught a bus to the Kek Lok Si Chinese temple, which is very impressive.

The Kek Lok Si Temple ("Temple of Supreme Bliss" or "Temple of Sukhavati" or "Jile Si") is a Buddhist temple situated in Air Itam in Penang facing the sea and commanding an impressive view, and is one of the best known temples on the island. It is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It is also an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia. 

This entire complex of temples was built over a period from 1890 to 1930, an inspirational initiative of Beow Lean, the Abbot. The main draw in the complex is the striking seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI (Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas) with 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha, and the 30.2 metres (99 ft) tall bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.

It was interesting to see the differences between the Chinese Buddhas and the temples that we’d seen in Myanmar.  I was fascinated to see the swastika symbol on most of the Buddhas.  This symbol was infamously used by the Nazis in the Second World War, but for thousands of years prior to that has been a religious symbol meaning “auspiciousness”.

Kek Lok Si Temple

Visitors are allowed to climb up the many stairs of the pagoda, which interestingly, is constructed in three different architectural styles - Chinese at the bottom, Thai in the middle and Burmese at the top.  We had a good day out.

3 May 2016   Straits Quay Marina, Penang
We’re still waiting for Glenys’s next dentist appointment, so we lurked around for another day, playing guitar and ukuele and doing research on places to visit over the next year.  I consolidated all my research about the Anambas into a document and spent a few hours on Google earth looking at possible anchorages.  I worked out a rough plan for our six week visit to the islands and added the probable anchorages to my document.  Hopefully everything will work out fine. 

4 May 2016   Straits Quay Marina, Penang
Having sat around for weeks, I’m feeling very blobby and trapped, so I went for a run before breakfast.  It was okay, but I still have an annoying ache and tightness in my chest between my shoulder blades, which makes it difficult to breathe deeply.  This has been lingering for over three months now, since I pulled a muscle in Phuket and the physiotherapy that I had hasn’t seemed to make much difference.  Perhaps it’s something more serious.

Glenys went to see the specialist dentist at the Adventist Hospital, to get a peg put in her tooth before she can have a crown fitted.  Unfortunately, the dentist refused to do any work because her blood pressure was too high at 170/95.  This came as a real shock to Glenys because her blood pressure is normally very stable at 125/80. 

The dentist told Glenys to go to see a doctor in the hospital and she spent the rest of the day hanging around the hospital, getting some blood tests done and then seeing a doctor, who has prescribed some tablets to lower her blood pressure and told her to come back next Monday (9th).  Not only is this change in her health a bit worrying, it also means that she can’t get the work done on her tooth until the 10th, which won’t leave enough time to get a crown fitted and for us to sail 240 miles south to Admiral Bay Marina before our flight leaves for the on the 18th May.  It’s turned into a logistical nightmare.

5 May 2016   Straits Quay Marina, Penang
After our shock about Glenys’ blood pressure, I woke up worrying about the tightness in my chest.  In the dark of night, things get exaggerated.  I’ve been taking medication for high blood pressure for decades.  Had I had some kind of stroke? Was it Angina?  I decided to go for a check-up.

Never had an ECG before

I caught the bus to the Adventist Hospital, which is a couple of miles away from Strait Quay Marina.  They were very efficient - within fifteen minutes, I was registered and they were sticking a needle into my arm to extract blood for a full set of blood tests.  I then had to hang around for two hours waiting for the test results.

In the heart centre, they used an ultrasound scanner to check my heart, which seemed normal.  They then wired me up to an ECG machine and put me on a treadmill to run for ten minutes to get my heart rate up to 160 bpm.  My blood pressure before and after the exercise was within limits.  

After a bit more waiting around, I saw a doctor, who said that I didn’t have any signs of cancer, my heart size was normal and my ECG under stress was fine.  My cholesterol was slightly high and my liver was slightly inflamed slightly - too much cheese and alcohol - no great surprise there.  Basically, I’m as fit as a fiddle and the doctor thinks that the pain in my back is just some pulled muscles - I need to exercise and stretch.  That’s a relief.

Back at the boat, Glenys had managed to persuade the dentist to “fast-track” the fitting of her crown.  She’s booked to see the doctor on the 9th; the specialist dentist on the 10th; the normal dentist to get the crown impression on the 11th; and will get the proper crown fitted on the 12th.  We’ll then just have enough time to sail 240 miles; have a couple of days to get the boat ready to leave; and fly out on the 18th - not quite the leisurely home-going that we’d originally planned.  

6 May 2016   Straits Quay Marina, Penang
Rather than another day sitting about waiting, we caught a bus to the Penang National Park, which is a short 30 minute ride from Straits Quay Marina.  We set off on a nice, well-kept trail, which follows the coast and is mostly in the shade in thick forest.  The trail is 4.7 kilometres past a couple of beaches and up to a lighthouse on the north-west tip of Penang.

Despite the shade, it was damn hot, but we had plenty of water.  After hour, Glenys was suffering with the same symptoms that she had on our last hike - lack of energy, a little nausea and a little dizziness.  We stopped for several rests and had a long break at Monkey Beach, which is a popular place for tourists, where we were able to buy an isotonic drink.

Hiking in Penang National Park

While wandering about the fringes of the beach we came across a mangrove swamp and in one of the pools suddenly spotted something skimming across the water.  This turned out to be a Giant Mud Skipper.  I found this information on the internet:

These fish are able to live both in water and on land, walking around on their pectorial fins . They are able to extract oxygen from their skin for a large part of their oxygen processing.  Mudskippers must always keep their mouths and skin moist, since the oxygen needs to diffuse with water before they can absorb it. They are completely amphibious fish, uniquely adapted to inter-tidal habitats, unlike most fish in such habitats, which survive the retreat of the tide by hiding under wet seaweed or in tidal pools. Mudskippers are quite active when out of water, feeding and interacting with one another, for example to defend their territories.

We decided to press on further up the steeper trail to the lighthouse, but after ten minutes, Glenys felt so bad that we had to turn around.  This was more than simple dehydration, because we’d been careful to drink lots of fluids and eat often.  After eating our sandwiches at Monkey Beach (where we saw a few Long-tailed Macaques), we headed back, but Glenys was feeling very nauseous, so after 30 minutes, we took a lift on a passing tourist-boat back to the National Park Centre.

Glenys had a refreshing shower and changed her clothes, but still looked decidedly dodgy, with pale lips and she still felt nauseous and dizzy.  We caught the bus back to the boat, where we measured her blood pressure, which was disturbingly low at 80/60.  After another shower and a nap for an hour, her blood pressure had returned to a more acceptable 120/80. Phew!

Glenys's Second Home

We did some research on the internet, and we think that, with the low blood pressure and some dehydration, she had the classic symptoms of shock.  There must be some underlying problem, so she’s going to get some more tests done before her appointment with the doctor on Monday 9th.  Unfortunately, being Seventh Day Adventists, the hospital is closed on Saturday, which is their Sabbath, so she’ll rest tomorrow and go on Sunday 8th.

7 May 2016   Straits Quay Marina, Penang
We had a very quiet day, pottering about and monitoring Glenys’ blood pressure every few hours.  Just before breakfast, it was low at 101/67, so she didn’t take the prescribed high blood pressure tablet.  By mid-morning, it was at a more normal 110/70 and stayed that way for the rest of the day. It’s all a bit worrying.