Another squall came as we set off on Saturday morning, which Paul describes in his post. This one was more intense and from the look of the sky it seemed to me that bad weather was set for the day. Once again, the force of the waves rocked us from side to side, and the wind reached speeds of up to 40 knots. Paul discovered his wet weather gear wasn’t waterproof while he was up above steering in extremely poor visibility and said he felt cold for the first time since we’d arrived.
Meanwhile, in the cabin, I succumbed to slight seasickness, having made the mistake of trying to read. I had to lay down on the port side sofa like a lady on a chaise lounge until it passed, which thankfully wasn’t long.
Conditions had improved by 1pm so I went above to help watch for buoys, fishing lines and ferries as we approached Penang Bridge. Obviously from away it looked as if our mast wouldn’t fit underneath it but it was most disconcerting that this perception didn’t alter as we got nearer. I just had to double check with Paul that it would – thus inviting the response that unless they’d lowered the bridge since he was here last, all would be fine…guess I asked for that.
My impression of Penang itself as we drew near wasn’t terribly favourable. High rise buildings, industrial units, and lots of debris in the murky water. At this point, Paul felt it prudent to tell me more about the place: the marina shower and toilet block was unusable due to its being filthy; there would be mosquitoes, and they would bite; the cockroaches I’d see wouldn’t be just any old cockroaches – these can fly; electricity and water might be intermittent; the nearby motorway was noisy and we would be rocked about by passing boats while on the emergency pontoon…oh, and let’s not forget that Paul got mugged last time he was here! Yet Paul loves it here – he describes it as Birkenhead North on steroids.
By the time we were tied up on the pontoon at 4pm in the sweltering heat, Paul had an addition to those negative pieces of information – it’s hotter here than Langkawi. Despite my concerns about how I’d cope with all that, I decided to wait a few days before I judged it too harshly. We went for dinner in the evening at one of the nearby Malay restaurants that Paul had eaten in when he was here in June. It was quite smelly on the walk there – stagnant water, mud, and other unidentifiable odours, and I saw a rat scuttle off down one of the building pipes. There are lots of scooters here. Several passed us as we walked the short distance to the restaurant and most of the riders slowed down to wave or give us a friendly greeting. The eating places looked like a street market from a distance – lit up and open plan with delicious smells emanating from them. Ours was very busy, pleasant-looking and specialised in seafood. Our request about the possibility of dishes without meat and fish threw our poor waiter a bit but we managed to order a mango salad and some paprika rice for me while Paul had a chicken dish. Neither of us were overly impressed with the food but I enjoyed the ambience, and the haphazard, chaotic service was somehow charming. When we went to pay, our check couldn’t be found and we had to stand aside while other people in the queue paid before us. When we eventually settled up, Paul was surprised by the amount and it was only later he discovered he’d been charged for a sea bass (we’d paid for someone else’s dinner).
Now that I’ve had my first full day here it really isn’t a squalid or undesirable place. It does seem hotter, but it’s a drier heat and you simply stay out of it while it’s fierce. The boat is cool enough and there’s always plenty to do on it, as there is in any dwelling. I’ve seen no cockroaches yet, although I have been bitten (possibly by mosquitoes or maybe sandflies) but they’re not as bad as the ones in Spain. The shower and toilet block is perfectly ok to use, and I can’t hear the traffic noise. We’re here for three weeks and there are lots of places to visit as well as the festival so I’m looking forward to seeing what else Penang has to offer.