Mid-May around Tioman

Sat 13th May To Jason Bay

We were back out in the middle of one the world’s busiest shipping lanes (between Malaysia and Singapore) at 8 30 this morning. It was already hot, with very little breeze. We drew near to a huge oil platform not long after starting out, and the noise it was making sounded more ominous as it grew louder: a rhythmic sonorous drone of metal churning and drilling as it pumped up and down in the water.  At 11 30 Paul declared that we had crossed over from the Indian to The Pacific Ocean and I couldn’t help but wonder how the sea and oceanic borders came to be defined. I suspect books have been written that might enlighten me, or I could just ask Paul :).  The heat got a bit too much for me during the afternoon and I went below to sit by the fans – and then the rain began to fall.  It was refreshingly fine and cooling to begin with but by 2 o’clock we were in the middle of a full on squall. The waves increased in size surprisingly quickly and soon we were lurching from side to side; there was thunder, lightning, strong gusts of wind and very heavy rain which caused poor visibility. Paul was soaked within minutes, hand steering in the cockpit, but it wasn’t cold and we guessed he’d dry out quickly enough ;).

Steering during one of several squalls

An hour later, when all was calm again it was a lot cooler and squalls at least do a good job of washing the decks. For the rest of the way we had to keep our eyes peeled for all the fishing buoys that were in the area so I went up to the bow to be sure of spotting them in time. By 6 pm we were anchored in Jason Bay – not the prettiest of bays but it was peaceful and sheltered and it had a perfect bottom for the anchor to grip. During the evening we were visited by lots of flying insects in the cabin (I’m pretty sure they were flying ants) but importantly, they weren’t mosquitoes so we ignored them and they were gone by morning. We had the vegetable soup I’d made the previous day for dinner, another favourite meal for short sea passages, and afterwards I read more about Tioman.  Named after the Malaysian for mynah bird (tiong bird), it boasts ‘idyllic beaches fringed by swaying coconut palm trees, coral reefs in a myriad of colours and is great for diving and snorkelling’. More fanciful is the belief that the island was created when a dragon froze into rock while waiting interminably for its mate!

Sun 14th May Pulau Tinggi

There was no hurry to depart this morning so we had a leisurely coffee, enjoying the sun in the cockpit before it got too hot. The sea was flat calm when we motored off at 9 30, but not long after that the wind was strong enough to put the mainsail up and the engine was turned off, which is always nice. Captain Mainwaring took over the steering and we made good speed. I love those conditions, it was very relaxing lying on the cockpit cushions, reading and feeling the fresh breeze on my face.  I kept watch while Paul had a break and it wasn’t until 3 o’clock that the peace was shattered by the approach of another squall. Paul quickly got the mainsail down and we headed for the other side of the island where it was likely to be less rocky for a night’s anchorage. The rain started as we were doing this so hatches were battened and windows shut tight. At 4pm, taking advantage of what we thought was a lull in the rain, we dropped anchor just as it began to pelt down again so we had to do the whole process in a torrential downpour.  This made it difficult to hear each other from stern to bow but we have some hand signals to use on these occasions (polite ones, naturally ;)).  It was a lovely calm spot and the view was great. Paul went for a snorkel to check we were secure and discovered that we were indeed secure – the chain was securely wrapped around beautiful living coral formations. This is a definite no-no so we had to disentangle the chain and move to somewhere further out – deeper water but safely anchored in sand this time.

Checking the anchor the first time

Monday 15th May To Tioman

The headsail and the mainsail were up helping us, along with the engine on a hot, sunny and fairly windy morning. It was only a short passage to Tioman and inevitably, a squall appeared at 11 30, with the usual race to get the sails down before it hit. I’m getting better at guiding the boat into the wind when this happens – it’s a case of having to! We made use of the strong wind behind us post-squall, and turned the engine off using just a bit of headsail to propel us along. It’s interesting to listen to other crew chatting on the VHF during our journeys. Yesterday as we listened, Paul told me that ‘over and out’ is an incorrect term: it’s either over or out.  It’s useful to hear when others who are nearby spot an approaching squall or any other relevant information, although I think Paul was slightly envious when he heard that someone in the vicinity had just caught a huge tuna ;).  The aftermath of the squall left us with huge waves and a swell that made for a very rocky rest of the journey. Paul put the wind vane (also known as Uncle Arthur) up this afternoon to test it out in the windy conditions and we were pleased to see that it performed well, which will be a huge boon on longer Pacific passages.

Securing ‘Uncle Arthur’

Tioman came into clear view at 3pm as we steered towards its south side.  Even from a distance it was easy to see that it’s a holiday island. Chalet-style bungalows line the beaches, with larger accommodation in resorts nestling in the thick forest of casuarina trees behind them. We spotted the small (full) marina and a few boats at anchor once we were in the western bay, and Sister Midnight joined them, opposite the village of Tekek at 4 30. We decided to leave going ashore until he following day when the immigration building was more likely to be open. Paul launched the dinghy and went for a row in it just to check all was well.  The cabin seemed to have retained all the heat of the day so we stayed up above until long after sunset making the most of the cool evening breeze.

View from our anchorage, Tekek
The peaks known as ‘The Asses’ or Donkeys’ Ears’ on Pulau Tioman

Tuesday 16th May Tekek, Tioman

We dinghied ashore late morning to check in with the harbour master. There is a place for small craft to tie up to not far from the marina so we left the dinghy there while we went to do all the official stuff.

Dinghy Park (notice the Tiong (Mynah) Bird on top of the middle post

In the baking midday sun it was tough going walking even a short distance, and the few people we saw on the dusty main street weren’t doing a lot. Most people were underneath the shelter of roadside huts and shops and cafes. Lots of motor bikes were going up and down the road, and as in Thailand there is no requirement for crash helmets. Tiny children are perched precariously on the saddle in front of the drivers (who are quite often to be seen texting or chatting on their phones). The guy who checked us in told us we should visit the waterfall nearby and that the jungle trek through the rain forest to the other side of the island is worth doing. I’m not so sure about that, after past experiences in jungle foliage!  We explored the main road area after checking in. The tiny airport is on one side and the ferry terminal on the other, so a large duty-free shop is a little way down the road as well as some mini-marts, smaller duty-free shops and souvenir shops. It was very hot to walk around but we wanted to look at the airstrip – the very short runway that the weekly plane uses. We found out that Friday is its scheduled arrival/departure day and resolved to watch it land and take off if we were still in the area.

The runway at Tioman Airport

Thinking a map might be useful we went to one of several stalls with ‘Information’ as a heading but it turns out that these headings would be more accurate if they advertised ‘Boat Tours’ since it was mainly about the times and prices of various boat tours around the island. Our request for a map was met with a gesture at the laminated one on the desk, which showed where the boat tours could take you. Back at the jetty we went inside to see if the customs desk had reopened. I was beginning to feel the sun burning my skin because I hadn’t thought to put any sun cream on when we left the boat. I’d also forgotten to bring water, so when Paul returned from seeing the customs guy we went to a little café on the riverside for a drink. Paul had a fresh coconut with a straw in and I downed a bottle of icy cold water in one almost. There were lots of flies and ants around the table on the grass and then Paul noticed a wriggly black creature on his leg. I was out of my chair and onto the bridge faster than roadrunner! The people in the café must have been most perplexed by my hasty departure, especially as I was slapping at my legs and arms as I ran!

Beware of things lurking in the grass!

Wednesday 17th May Tekek

Woke up to a much cooler morning which was a welcome relief. With cool air flowing through the cabin it was possible to get a few cleaning jobs done. The temperature tends to hover around 30 -35 degrees on average but any exertion causes you to break out in a sweat and we need to use the fans sparingly in order to save on battery power. As the day wore on, it got too hot to do very much at all so it was another lazy, languid day. We dinghied over to say Hi to Deb and Bruce on their boat, Matilda at 4 30 and then went on to the village. Clouds had been gathering and the sky was darkening but we managed to tie the dinghy and get into the street before the rain started. It didn’t last long and the cooler air was good to walk in. We walked further up the road leading away from the airport and found more shops and restaurants. We also saw some monkeys running on the road and swinging on telephone lines and in the trees. One side road led to the beach and a pier near to the marina so we walked there to have a look at it. It’s small compared to most marinas we’ve been in and it seemed to us that most of the boats were long-stay ones.  The construction of the marina had caused some controversy due to the fact that it smothered the coral reef off the shores of Tekek with sedimentation.  Plans to extend the airport runway were shelved due to opposition from nature lovers though, so protests are sometimes successful.

We went for dinner in The Coral Reef Café which is next to the beach with a beautiful view overlooking the sea. The guy who served us was lovely. He understood my request for no meat and fish and advised Paul on the catch of the day which was Marlin. Later, Paul was certain they’d gone out to catch one judging by the time we had to wait before our meals came, but it wasn’t a bad place to wait after all, and the food was lovely when it did arrive. I had a veggie version of a dish called Nasi Lemuk which came with coconut rice, a spicy sauce and peanuts instead of anchovies.

View from our table

We were joined by several cats during the meal and one of them jumped onto a vacant chair for a better look at what we had. As we left, the owner/waiter had just arrived back from somewhere with a huge bag of cat food under his arm. He told us he feeds them – I was very impressed.  Our dinghy ride back was hampered slightly by vision problems. Paul had broken his glasses and the torch didn’t work so I kept my eyes peeled more closely during the short journey back to the boat.

Anything left for me?
On the beach at Tekek

Thursday and Friday – more laziness

We spent the next two days anchored at Tekek, enjoying the relaxation and the chance to catch up on a few things. Paul fitted a useful piece of elastic in the galley to prevent bottles sliding and crashing into the sink in rough sea states. I defrosted and cleaned the fridge, and washed the walls on the port side.  Deb and Bruce invited us to join them for dinner at a place that had been recommended to them which served good pizza, so at 6 that evening, the four of us headed across the bay in their dinghy for pizza on the beach. It was a pretty spot and the pizzas were great: cooked to order so I was able to have a roasted vegetable one without cheese. The only drawback to the day was that we had no internet and it’s frustrating being out of touch with people, and not having information to hand when you need it.  We intended to leave on Friday but the weather looked a bit threatening when we woke up and without the internet we hadn’t had access to a reliable forecast so we decided to stay another day.  This meant that we could watch for the plane in the morning. Unfortunately we missed its landing, mistaking the sound of the approaching plane for that of a boat’s engine. We did see the take-off though, and the little plane looked like a huge moth emerging from behind the trees – it was mostly empty, too from what I could see as it glided over the boat.

Tioman aeroplane

Did a lot of reading today and the internet came back in the afternoon so there was all that to catch up on too. We went ashore at 6 30, just a quick trip to get water and bread. It was time to move on in the morning.

Paul buying some chicken from a stall in the main street

Saturday 20th May Monkey Bay and Beyond

We didn’t move very far to start with – just around the corner to have a look at Monkey Bay which is one of the places advertised on the boat tour.  It didn’t take long to see that it was a sandy beach populated with day-trippers and monkeys. We had intended to stop and maybe have lunch and a swim,  and to go ashore and snorkel but there was a lot of coral on the sea bed which makes it tricky to anchor, and we guessed there would probably be more monkey beaches to see as we travel around.

Monkey Bay from the boat

I took a few pictures and we motored on towards Tulai Island, a short distance further on. It looked delightful as we drew closer, enhanced as it was by the early afternoon light. The sun was fiercely hot and as soon as we picked up a mooring buoy and were securely tied, we retreated below for some lunch under the cool of the fans.  Two scuba diving school boats were next to us having their first lesson by the look of it. They were having great fun egging each other on to flop backwards into the water but the equipment they have to strap to their bodies looks so restricting and cumbersome – it’s not something I would fancy trying. We did think the water looked cool and inviting, however so we got in the dinghy to check out the beach opposite to us. Paul taught me how to row and I actually managed to get the hang of that! The beach was fabulous, the water was clear and there were no big waves – ideal conditions for me to swim in. We stayed for an hour until we felt our skin beginning to burn, then rowed back to the boat to slap on some factor 30 before getting back into the dinghy to cruise around the bay a bit to photograph the coral and marine life in the clear shallow water.  Some pics below of a great afternoon on the beach.


Tioman and the squalls

Well I was offered a few days of programming work last week and it’s going to pay for the new batteries and solar panels, so I decided we could put up with a few more days looking out onto tropical rainforests and cooling down with dips in the sea. However the internet has been a pain and I ended up struggling to deliver and test the work. I’m mostly writing Database code using a language known as SQL, it’s very powerful, but very complicated and ‘does your head in’ sometimes on the complicated multi joined table queries. Still that’s complete so we can look at moving on. But first the repairs must be done.

One of the stanchions snapped off a few days ago, that’s repaired now, the stanchion was fine, it was the bolts holding it to the deck which had bad crevice corrosion and had all snapped off at deck level. We had been chilling on the boat when a ferocious squall blew in, it really went from idyllic sunny calm, to storm in about 2 minutes. I felt the boat lurch, then the wind was howling. I learnt a lot then. Firstly the canopy was trying to escape, and the wind was so strong the knots I tied it down with couldn’t be undone easily and I had to take a knife to some of them, as the rope was so taut, the clove hitches on the guardrail couldn’t be loosened. The dinghy, which was suspended by a halyard so it was out of the water and level with the cap rail was trying to flip over, it also still had the outboard on it so I was worried about that.I lowered the dinghy into the sea, which by now, just a few minutes after the squall started, was quite choppy. I temporarily tied the dinghy painter to a stanchion while I freed up another rope that was attached to it. A big wave hit the dinghy and it lurched, Kathy then spotted the stanchion had been ripped out of the deck. In a way I’m glad, nobody was hurt, but it could have been different if the stanchion had failed while we were making passage and I was working on the foredeck. The reason it failed was lack of sealant under the stanchion base, allowing water to get into the bolt thread  and being trapped there without any oxygen. In these conditions, crevice corrosion is guaranteed and will attack the best  stainless steel.  I suspect it was clamped down too tightly when fitting, it’s good now I have repaired it and I would hope for ten years at least, however, there’s another 15 stanchion bases, all need checking, and probably re-bedding, what fun! During this excitement our anchor was dragging, it moved about 80ft towards the shore, I suspect it stopped when we reached the edge of the coral reef, as it was quite difficult to haul out a few days later when we moved to a free mooring buoy that had just been laid by the harbour master. Also we were being called on the emergency channel 16 on VHF by a neighbour who had gone to rescue a boat that was dragging badly and heading for the shore. It had just arrived and the owners had gone ashore to checkin with the harbour master. He was great and had his motor launch out running around the yachts making sure everyone was ok. He helped get the dragging yacht onto a fixed mooring.

I rigged up the spinnaker pole just before the squall to try to work out how I could use it on a rolling foredeck, given its size and weight. I rigged up a halyard as an up-haul and proceeded to haul it up horizontal, I could get the headsail sheet into the hook at the end ok, and lowered the up-haul, then I tried to haul it up again and there was a mighty cracking sound followed by a spinnaker pole flying around trying to knock me over the side. It would appear that the bracket on the mast it was attached to wasn’t a good match and somehow the pole’s hook must have lodged itself under the hoop on the bracket and when I hauled up the pole to horizontal, it was acting like a giant lever on the bracket, which shattered. They’re not cheap either. So I’m trying to fabricate something I can use in the meantime.

A few nights ago we braved the monkeys on the main (only) road here to walk to the next village, we had a drink in a lovely beach bar, that was deserted, just amazing how quiet these places are considering how stunning the views are.Tonight we came across a few hundred bats hanging around in a tree.

The picture below was taken over in Juara on the east side, this is where a river meets the beach.

And here is the jetty in Juara where we found a tap at the end to fill our water bottles.

I need to fix the spinnaker pole tomorrow, then we can get some provisions and leave. Probably Thursday, as our new antipodean friends in the yacht Matilda are leaving then, having checked out the weather forecast.

There may be little or no internet in the Anambas islands, so we may not be posting a lot while we are there. but I hope that after a couple of weeks we will be back in Malaysia, albeit on the island of Borneo, in Sarawak, where I’m sure we will get good wifi again.


Paul Collister

May Days

Wednesday 10th May – A day in Johor Bahru

Late in the morning we booked an Uber taxi to take us into Johor’s capital: Johor Bahru. Our stay in the boatyard was to be slightly longer than expected due to a public holiday and an emergency job taking precedence over others. To break up the monotony of being on the boat we thought it would be good to visit the town, since we needed to get a few things anyway.  I had read the section on it in our guide book the night before and picked out some places worth seeing. One of these was The Grand Palace. It used to be the residence of a Sultan (a word that still has fairy tale connotations for me), and has hosted such illustrious names as Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred, Franz Ferdinand and King Edward VIII. The palace was opened to the public in 1991 and turned into a museum to celebrate Johor’s golden age. It is, says the guide book, reminiscent of rural England’s aristocratic homes and ‘there is no other museum in Southeast Asia quite like it’. Well, that description was too alluring to ignore so that was where we asked the driver to take us.

Waiting for one of the many Uber taxis

I thought the driver seemed a bit unsure of the destination but Paul showed him a picture on his phone and gave him the location to put into his satnav. Foolproof, I thought and sat back to relax. On the way Paul asked him what the public holiday was in honour of, but all we could make out from his mumbled reply was something about India. The street he dropped us off in looked promising. We found ourselves by a large impressive-looking mosque and walked around a bit expecting to see signs for the palace. Plenty of cars were parked on the roadside and families were walking towards the nearby petting zoo which we could see through the trees on the other side of the road. No palace here, however. Paul asked a lady with a clipboard who was addressing a small group of people if she knew where it was and she led us to the driver of a parked car who was sleepily reclining in his seat, and with a few words, unceremoniously passed us on to him. Probably feeling indignant at her for foisting confused Brits on him during his afternoon break, he pointed vaguely in a direction straight ahead when we repeated our query. I was beginning to think a museum to celebrate Johor’s golden age hadn’t been received, or indeed, advertised very well judging from the blank looks and lack of interest we experienced enquiring about it.

We were near the water by now and tried finding the elusive palace by looking at the picture on Paul’s phone. When this failed and we’d pretty much checked out the whole area we decided to hail a taxi and try again. The driver nodded enthusiastically when we told him where we wanted to go and then proceeded to ask us questions about where we were from and about our boat and what we thought of Malaysia as we drove along. Things got confusing when he asked where we wanted to be dropped off. Out came the phone again with the picture of the palace, and I repeated the name of the sultan (Abu Bakar) and the street name. He then told us that that was where he had picked us up from and assumed we wanted to go into town. He turned the car around and drove us right up to the palace gates (a bit further back from where we’d been looking). The ornate palace gates were firmly padlocked and the grounds were deserted. It was closed due to the public holiday! We gave up on the idea of sightseeing after that and got him to drive us to the mall at the ferry terminal, thinking we’d take advantage of the resort comprising ‘integrated hotel, duty-free shops, dining, bars and cafes’ that were promised in the guide book. Admittedly, this was recommended at night when Singaporeans flood there, attracted by ‘cheap drinks, a liberal atmosphere and a lively nightlife’. I didn’t expect it to be quite so deserted during the day, however. Only a handful of people were in the building, the shops on the top floor were all boarded up, and the small duty free shop had four people in it – all of them staff. The goods on offer were bars and packets of chocolate that were more expensive than the supermarket.  Clubs and bars were visible outside in the courtyard but were obviously closed. It was hard to imagine that the place would turn into a lively hub of fun and action later.  All that was needed to complete the picture of sheer desolation in the afternoon were some tumbleweeds.

It all kicks off here at night!

We entered the hotel next to the mall, the spacious reception area was empty apart from two Japanese girls in the lobby and two staff on duty behind a desk.  They were only too pleased to help us when we asked where we could find a large shopping mall with a supermarket, and provided the names and locations of two. So, into another Uber taxi (lucky they are so cheap) and the driver took us to one a couple of miles away. This one had a bookshop, coffee bars and quirky shops that sold products like ‘armpit masker’ instead of common old deodorant…and of course, it had a huge supermarket. I was happy to amble around for an hour while Paul got yet another taxi back to Puteri to collect a parcel. When he returned we had a late lunch of veggie burgers in a fast food veggie outlet I had discovered (Paul wasn’t overly impressed but I loved it). The menu is below. I couldn’t quite bring myself to trust that food described as goose/lamb/chicken free are actually meatless but I may be wrong. Fortified, it was time for the Tesco shop for wine (very expensive free of duty-free) and a few other (less important) items before heading back to the boatyard – in a taxi.

Veggie fast food cafe

Thursday 11th May –

Holiday over, the marine guys arrived promptly at 9 am to continue working on the propeller shaft. We didn’t have to get off the boat, and Paul took advantage of the haul out to do other tasks, as well as being on hand to help the guys.  They are all lovely – very friendly and cheerful, they all get on well and you get a sense of community in a workforce that lives on site as they do. It was a hive of activity all morning in the cockpit, with the lads clambering around in the lockers and up and down the steps, banging and sawing. The worst thing here is the prevalence of flies and crawling insects. It’s to be expected in a hot, dusty tropical environment where puddles and rubbish accumulate but at least there haven’t been too many mosquitoes to bother us. The work was finished just after lunch and it had all gone to plan. We were ready to set off the following morning.

After I helped Paul put all the stuff from the cockpit locker away we got ready to head out into town to find an ATM because Paul had to pay for the work in cash, so Uber was called upon again to take us there. We’d spotted an Aeon supermarket fairly close by and intended to go there.  While we were waiting near the main road, a motley pack of dogs we’d encountered there a couple of times began their usual barking chorus, sounding a lot fiercer than they actually are. Any attempt to approach them saw them backing hurriedly away. In the taxi, we told the driver that we wanted to go to Aeon, but it turned out there are two to choose from, so there followed another convoluted interaction involving pictures on mobile phones, both of us saying ‘nearest and closest’ a lot before we realised that he’d already entered the destination of the one he expected to take us to and he wasn’t going to change that. He barked a curt ‘NO’ at our requests, and we watched our chosen supermarket fade into the distance behind us as we sped along at an alarmingly fast rate. The roads here aren’t as bad as Thai roads but still have a fair few potholes and each time we went over one we almost literally hit the roof! It was a long journey in more ways than one.  Screeching to halt 30 minutes later, we saw a huge complex of shops in front of us and I was thankful to get out and bid the driver farewell. Inside, it was amazing – a very well put together mall, with one section dedicated to Japanese products. It was a shame that all we needed was cash but we had a good look around anyway.  It was a relief to get a more chilled out driver for the return journey 🙂

Friday 12th May – Launch, Dalac Marine Boatyard

Paul was up very early this morning to see the sunrise and took a walk around the yard. I was very envious when he told me he’d seen sea otters frolicking around in the shallow water. He also took a fabulous picture of the yard cats waiting for scraps from an early morning fisherman – they remind me of the cats on the 70s cartoon series Top Cat.

Waiting for scraps

The lads arrived at 10 30 to begin the process of getting us back in the water.  We were allowed to stay on board throughout the whole operation, which would never have been permitted in Britain.  It was a thrilling and fascinating process. Away went the chocks once the hull was secure in the sling and slowly and surely we were driven towards the water, while looking down from the cockpit. Hovering over the travel lift dock, we were lowered gently and slowly down until the hull was sitting safely on the water.

There were a few things to do before we could set off, like filling up the fuel tanks and refitting the backstay. The guys were only too willing to help with everything and when we left they all stood on the side to wave us off and wish us well. I wanted to take a picture but I had to have my eyes glued to the depth readings as we went through the shallow channel.  So at midday we were off, back on the water and making our way to our first stop en route to Pulau Tioman. I’d read that this island (one of the most beautiful in Southeast Asia according to our guide book) was the location for Bali Hai in the film South Pacific: yet another place in a favourite film that I never expected to see, but I later discovered that this is sadly not at all true. Four uneventful hours later we arrived at Kuala Lebam and were safely anchored by 3 pm, just opposite Singapore.

View from our anchorage


Pulau Tulai near P.Tioman

We have just arrived at the small village called Juara on the East coast of Tioman. this is after spending a very relaxing few days over in a lovely cove on Pula Tulai, just a few miles NW of Tioman.

You can see we went round to the NW of the island and snook into a small cove where we found a few other boats and a free mooring, usually used by dive boats, the mooring was a mass of ropes heading down 20 metres to coral rocks we couldn’t quite see. We tied up to this and chilled for a few days, it’s very safe there as long as the wind doesn’t blow from the NW, where it can get dangerous. Internet was very flakey there, in fact most of the time there wasn’t even a mobile signal. The signal isn’t much better now we have moved over to the main island of Tioman. So I can’t upload too many pictures, but I did take some great shots, and the underwater footage around the fringing reefs in the bay are great.

Telok Juara, where we are now anchored in sand in 8 metres looks lovely. We will dinghy ashore later to see if we can find any shops and somewhere to eat tonight, failing on that, it’s back to the boat for cheese butties (again).

Below is a local fishing boat that came in Tekek just before we left on Friday, it arrived with a lot of other fishing boats, just as the wind started to pipe up from the north. The wind is normally from the south here, so I wondered if they had knowledge of a storm coming in from the north. I postponed leaving for a bit to see what the wind did, however after lunch, the fishermen were all washing themselves down before donning their Sunday best, or in this case, Friday best, then a dinghy came and took them all ashore. I’m sure this was for Friday prayers, as they all arrived back in a few hours, changed into t-shirts and shorts and headed out back to sea.

Some coral from our anchorage in Tekek

Below, our anchorage in Pulau Tulai, The mooring you can see was just behind us, and three dive boats arrived and all rafted up on this mooring.

The boat nearest to me comprised of about 20 young Chinese women learning scuba dive,


Kathy seemed to like it here and came swimming on the lovely calm beach

Technically I am struggling with the boat, we don’t have enough power and we are reaching the end of the day with our batteries getting quite low on voltage. Consequently we have had to run the engine in the morning to get some power back. Especially if the day has a few overcast hours. I don’t know the history of the batteries, and as they are sealed I can’t test their electrolyte state, I think they were bought in Malaysia a few years ago, so will be of suspect quality. Then the Solar panels are very old, and one has a cracked glass panel and only produces 50% of its rated output, the solar regulator is quite old too, not the modern MPCC type. On top of that the LINK battery monitor, that tells me the state of charge, current in and out , and voltage, is flakey. It might be better when calibrated, but I thought I did that. Also I fitted the new blade to the wind turbine and it was way out of balance, not sure why, but I really should have bought two, so I could balance it better. So now I’m running with 4 blades, not six, and the wind gen doesn’t have a regulator as it was designed to, so I don’t really know what it’s contributing. Finally, the most I can get from the engine alternator is 20A, given that the invoice the PO had for the engine included a 60A alternator upgrade, I’m a bit confused. I think that may not have been fitted and has since grown legs.
Basically I need to review whole power system, replace the solar panels, controller, and maybe the batteries. I will also see about getting an alternator upgrade.
We are also getting low on water, and the only way to get any out here is to lug it in jerry cans, which we only have one of. We are currently going to a tap on the town and filling 5ltr bottles.

We will have a couple of nights here, then back to Tekek to check out of Malaysia and sail over to the Anambas Islands in Indonesia. We will be there for a few weeks I expect, and probably have very poor internet, so don’t be surprised if you don’t here from us for several days on end.

Paul Collister




Pictures from Tioman, Tekek

Had a lazy day today, I did a few basic chores around the boat, and tomorrow will be the same. The outboard is very sluggish now, feels like the petrol is stale, but it’s only 3-4 months old? I’m all tooled up to give it a service, so hopefully we can be back to razzing around shortly.

The anchor is still holding, but it wasn’t tested much today, and tonight it is so calm, I keep forgetting we are even at sea. Last night a big tug boat came in and tied to the jetty we are anchored off. It looked disused, so I didn’t expect any visitors, he stayed for 24 hours and popped off again.

Once the sun died down a bit we went ashore for dinner and a wander.

I snapped this picture of the Sister on our way in, the ominous looking clouds behind never amounted to much, but they do make the hull look whiter than she actually is.

It’s usual to find concrete roads here, Tarmac wouldn’t last as well and would cost more in upkeep.

Above is genuine tropical rainforest , below is genuine tropical monkey

Tropical Kathy, on the beach with a lot of electrical cable, entangled with fishing nets. I expect there is a story there.

Dinner, with a very nice view. And a cat wondering if we left any for him/her.


Paul Collister

Puteri To Dalac Marine Boatyard

The combination of the brilliant but tiring trip to Singapore, the jet lag and the humid heat meant that I was good for nothing for at least two days. I gave in to lethargy and sat in the cabin under the fans, mostly sleeping, reading, writing and listening to the radio. Not a bad way to recover ;). On Saturday I roused myself enough to take a bag of washing to the laundry and to have a look at the marina’s library. It’s basically a book swap facility from what I could tell, the difference being that the books are organised and they’re in a room (which also has admiralty charts and a table and chairs) instead of randomly piled on shelves in the bar or clubhouse. There was a wonderful old book in there on the development of literature but I couldn’t bring myself to take it without a book to swap. Unfortunately I never got the chance to take one up there again, so missed out on that delight. I wonder if it will still be there when/if we return.

We went for dinner that evening to one of the food outlets overlooking the marina. We thought it was an Indian fast food type of place (always good for veggies).  Before we even got to the counter, a lady descended on us as if they might be just about to close or something. Anyway since she was there, waiting for us to order, we questioned her about the choices listed on the menu. Quite a lengthy interaction took place about whether certain dishes had meat or fish in them (I know I should make an effort to learn the words and phrases regarding this but believe me it isn’t as straightforward as it sounds). I wasn’t convinced by her assurances, but when the chef came out and reaffirmed that he would prepare a noodle dish with no meat or fish, I gave him the go ahead. When it arrived, there was a huge pink, glistening prawn on top of it, so back it went.  After apologies and a bit of a wait, the second attempt arrived and as soon as I tasted it I knew it contained fish. I couldn’t eat it but didn’t want to send it back again. The reason I said it’s not easy to get across vegetarianism and veganism in Asia is because of their interpretation of it. Cooks and chefs in many places don’t count seafood or chicken in the meat/fish bracket, particularly if the sauces are made from stock using them (it’s just for flavour they claim (!)) so to explain preferences in Malaysian would be quite a convoluted affair. I think I’m safer (along with anyone allergic to seafood presumably) just having chips or plain rice when eating out, so when we stopped for a drink at the nearby Harbour Bar I had a nice bowl of fish-free spicy potato wedges.

We had another lazy day on Sunday (7th) due to the energy-sapping humidity. Paul checked us out at the office so that we could leave early in the morning, so we got the boat ready and planned the route to our first stop. This was to be just outside the boatyard where Sister Midnight would be hauled out for repairs to the cutlass bearing, caused by what will now forever be known as ‘the fishing line incident’ ;). We left the marina as planned at just before 7 am, with me steering us out. It was cool and cloudy – even a bit chilly – as we left the harbour and entered the open sea. By the time we approached the Second Link Bridge that links Singapore and Malaysia, it had warmed up and was fully light. We could see the traffic crawling along the road above us in the morning rush hour.

Singapore in the distance
Approaching Second Link Bridge

Paul had already been under this bridge when he journeyed to Puteri in April so he knew it was possible.  As with the one in Penang, however, it looked wholly impossible to me. Even when almost directly underneath, it seemed that the mast would hit the top. Apparently the best thing to do if the mast is set to break is to get as low as possible. It was fascinating to watch, and there really wasn’t a lot of spare room between the top of the mast and the underside of the road.

Paul checking we’re still going to fit underneath 🙂

Almost under

The bridge cleared, it was time to watch out for other potential obstacles. This list grew as we motored into the busy shipping lane just after 9 am. Paul brought his laptop up to the cockpit to study the AIS screen that displayed the location and direction of crafts in the vicinity and I took over the steering. As well as looking out for fishing buoys and fishing boats, other things to watch for and avoid were:

  • Fish sticks
  • Fish farms
  • Marker buoys
  • Floating pontoons
  • Ferries (car and passenger)
  • Dredgers
  • Oil rigs
  • Tugs
  • Cargo/container ships
  • Police and coastguard boats
  • Cruise ships
  • Large pieces of floating debris

We swapped roles after a while so that I could get the hang of how the AIS reports worked. It’s great once that ‘light bulb moment’ kicks in and understanding how it works becomes clear – it did take a bit of time, though I have to admit.

A tug and the floating pontoon
At the helm

At 10 am we were approached by a Singaporean police boat. It drew alongside us and we slowed down so that Paul could help them with their enquiries ;). It turned out they weren’t too keen on us cutting the corner that took us into their patrol area, and what’s more we didn’t have our AIS transmitter on. They were very nice, actually. They gave us advice, confirmed our AIS was now doing its job and even escorted us for a short time until they were satisfied we were heading in the right direction.

By lunchtime we had the Singapore skyline on our left and Indonesian islands on our right, while all around us we could still see huge container ships and ferries.  A wide assortment of debris floated past us amid all this. Along with the usual organic clusters of reeds and leaves, tree branches and coconuts, I spotted several shoes & sandals; a crash helmet; carrier bags full of rubbish; large polystyrene boxes; rope and various sports’ balls. We’re both very wary of anything getting tangled in the propeller again but it’s also a sad sight to see bags of trash, food containers and hundreds of plastic bottles littering the sea. It was a lovely day to be out on the water, though: sunny but with a cooling breeze and it felt good to be on the move again.

Before anchoring near the yard, Paul wanted to get fuel from a nearby dock but it proved quite difficult to find and then when we did, there was no place to tie to. Time was getting on and we wanted to anchor before dark so we left and headed for the boatyard.  It was a beautiful evening. At 6 o’clock, in watery sunlight, we saw eagles soaring overhead, becoming completely still before dropping into the water to bag the fish they’d spied. We were both tired by the time we got to the outside of Dalac Marine Boatyard and the sun was about to set, but we managed to anchor in between two fish farms in 7.5 metres of water.

We were able to enjoy a lie-in on Tuesday morning because we couldn’t enter the yard until 10 30 when the tide would be high enough. It was a bit hairy motoring through the shallow river entrance. I had to shout out the depth readings as they changed and at one point it was down to 1.8 metres! I thought we were all set to go aground but the boat skirted along the soft mud and we made it to the wall where marine staff were waiting to take our lines.  We stood and watched them lift the boat out and then I had a look around the yard that would be our home for the next couple of days. It wasn’t much to look at, but then I wasn’t expecting it to be. It’s a hot, dusty yard where major repairs are carried out on vessels of all shapes and sizes. Still, it had toilets and we didn’t need to buy anything so it wasn’t a lot different from being berthed in a marina – we would just be up high, supported by chocks (providing an irresistible temptation to yell ‘chocks away’ when it was time to go).

Haul out

The guys provided a set of steps so that we could climb up.  It was a bit vertigo inducing to start with but I got used to it.  Standing up on the bow just before sunset I looked around me and it struck me that the yard had a kind of beauty. The combination of evening sounds (crows cawing mainly), the fading light, the sight of the feral cats going about their business near the lake, and the marine guys chatting, laughing and listening to music, all combined to create a scene that appealed to me. The cats who roam around the yard seem healthy and the workers appear to be fond of them.  One cat was brave enough to climb the steps to our boat but could not be persuaded to come on board. Paul managed to get us some internet so we were able to listen to the radio and catch up on the news…and social media of course ;).




We had a lively trip up to Tioman from Tinggi, we started with the headsail and a full main, and we were making a nice 5 knots in about 10 knots of wind on a full run (wind directly behind us). I turned off onto a broad reach after a while as the wind dropped and the headsail kept collapsing. This point of sail meant we were about 20 deg off course, but we could jibe half way and reach on the other side, we go faster this way anyway, and it all works out much the same. I have a spinnaker pole which I could put out onto the headsail to help it when we are running, but I don’t know how it works on this boat yet. It’s something I must investigate, but frankly, it’s a little intimidating, the one on the baba was big, and I could manhandle it out onto the sails myself, but this one is another 50% all round, it’s going to have to be hoisted, probably with a winch, and needs to be steadied in several directions, for/aft, up/down. It’s a job I have set for this week. Charts of our route are below.


Not long after the wind calmed, a squall came through, we quickly dropped the main and rolled up half the headsail, this was enough to push us along at 6 knots towards our destination as the squall passed through us, it came from the west, whereas the prevailing wind had been southerly for the last few days, this meant that after an hour we had big waves rolling in from the side combining with smaller ones from behind. This made the next few hours quite ‘rock and roll’.

I hooked up the wind steering, conscious that we weren’t getting any charge from the engine and the autopilot can use a lot of power. Also I need to have confidence in this particular piece of kit. It worked very well and sailed the boat nicely for a couple of hours.
About 3 miles before Tioman, the wind dropped right off and we motored the last bit in quite a rolly sea into Tekek Harbour, the main port on the island.  We anchored in 18m of water, with about 80m of rope and chain, always a worry for me, I had a swim and I think we are outside of the coral, the anchor seemed to set well.

Tuesday morning and the anchor held, but then it was a very calm night. We headed into the port to check in with the harbour master and customs. Then a walk around town. There’s not a lot here, a few basic shops, a couple of duty free stores, as this is a duty free island.

The most amazing thing is that it has an Airport, 

For such a small island, the land rises quickly into rocky hills covered in trees. It must be quite a thrill flying into here.

Managed to spot a couple of project boats in the harbour here.

Back on the boat and another squall came through, when I went up to have a look, there was another boat about 20ft in front of me, close enough to chat to the skipper, he had just moved because the boat by him was dragging its anchor, and he had miscalculated where my anchor was and had laid his over mine, he moved even closer, then decided to head off and try again. All the time I was trying to work out if we were dragging our anchor. I think we are in sand, and that’s not great for anchors, mud is the best. I let out another ten metres of rode, so now we had 90 metres, but when you have 90m or about 300ft, you have a swinging circle with a 600ft diameter (ish), thats a large area, and these boats point one way, and can pull on the chain in another. The upshot is I spend a lot of time wondering what is going on. Since we dragged in Ko Lipe with 100m out, I’m very wary. As I write this the wind has dropped, and we have moved from some distance out to sea, back to where we started yesterday, so I think we are holding fine.

Paul Collister

Under attack and boarded by soldiers (The ant variety)

Quite horrible, a swarm of Flying Soldier Insects, Termites I suspect, left land in their hundreds, if not thousands and landed on our boat. They shed their wings then tried to take over, it was horrible, some of them were quite big. Most of them died on the deck, a few dozen wished they had kept their wings on as they couldn’t get out of the cockpit well, I suspect some found their way inside and went searching for some wood to munch on and make a new home in. This was on Friday evening as we were anchored in Johor Strait, off from a forest/jungle section. I spent the next morning spraying all the non teak wooden surfaces with a borax solution, which should see them off fairly quickly. I’m not going through the new bowsprit route again. I’m pretty confident we wont have any problems though.
We had left the boatyard that morning, and I took these pictures from the boat as we were craned to our launching spot.

From our anchorage a few hours from the boatyard, we headed off early on Saturday morning to put some distance between us and Singapore, and all the heavy shipping that goes with it. It was busy, but we were able to keep out of the shipping lanes and stay inshore, except inshore has mostly become new docks and oil/gas terminals now, and the charts, even though they are up to date in chart terms, they are out of date in reality. It took about 8 hours to reach Jason Bay, a quiet anchorage just up the eastern side of the Malaysian peninsular. We took these pictures along the way.

Kathy, keep a look out for oil platforms please


These jack up platforms are everywhere

We weaved our way through lots of tankers like this anchored along the coast.

The predicted wind didn’t materialise, except for a mini storm in the afternoon. It was mostly overcast and cool, which suited me. Jason bay had nothing special about it, it was just a way to break up the journey to Tioman, however it did provide us with another attack from the shore, this time smaller flying ants, they looked like little flies. They managed to fill the cabin while we had dinner. I had anchored a long way off shore in the hope nothing would get to us. By this morning, the ones I hadn’t killed had left of their own accord. I’m hopeful tonight will be bug free, but you do have to accept in this climate, when so close to jungle lined coast, there are going to be lots of living things wanting to join you.

So today we had a little Sunday morning lie in before heading North towards Tioman, we had a few options but settled on a protected area on the southern coast of Pulau Tinggi, The wind had been from the North yesterday and overnight, so I figured we would be safe there from any swell that might have built.
We had only just motored out of Jason Bay, past a dangerous reef, when the wind piped up from the SSE, which was great for us, it put the wind behind us, even though there was only about 10 knots, it pushed us along between 4 and 5 knots towards our goal. The engine went off and we sailed all the way to Tinggi. however the steady southerly built and by the time we reached Tinggi, the waves were getting big, we cut around inside the reef, Kathy Tried to drive us through the reef, and I had to point out that wouldn’t work, and a sharp left was made. Once behind the reef it was calmer but not that calm, especially if the wind increased, so we went for my fallback plan, which was a little cove on the north side of the island. Just 40 minutes motor away. Just as we decided that, a squall blew in causing a lot of wind, big waves and poor visibility,
We got soaked, and I just managed to get the electronics (iThings) hidden away before they got wrecked.

There are a lot of little islands, sixty or so, within 30 miles of Tioman Island, I think they are volcanic, but they all make up a national park, the waters are very clear here, there are lots of coral areas, protected by the state, and great snorkeling. So you have to be careful and not anchor on the reefs. I had the GPS co-ordinates of a sandy spot just on the north, were we were heading to, we arrived in this massive downpour, and found the area a bit deep, so we moved just a little further along and quickly dropped the hook in 7 meters of water. The chart had this as being out from the coral also. It didn’t land in sand, and as we reversed on it, I could feel the anchor bouncing by keeping a foot on the chain as we backed up. Not good I thought and hoped we would be onto sand any moment, pretty quickly the anchor seemed to dig in and we were set. However back in the cabin sheltering from the heavy rain, we could hear and feel vibration from the chain. I went up on deck, grabbed my snorkel and dived to look at the chain. What I saw shocked me, we were in fact over a lot of coral, not much sand in sight, and the anchor chain was wrapped around a few coral heads, whilst beautiful tropical fish swam all around.  I made a mental note of the convoluted path our chain took through the coral and went back up to the boat to try and get us out, without doing any more damage. It took a while of gently pulling on the chain and nudging the boat beyond some of the heads but we did it. I’m going to be a lot more careful from now on. I then went back to the original co-ordinates for the sandy bit and went offshore from there by about 50 metres until we were in 12 metres of water. I dived, and couldn’t see any coral, just a sandy bottom, so we dropped the hook, no vibrations this time, and it set well.

Tomorrow I want to dinghy over to some of the reefs here and have a proper snorkel.

All in all everything is going well, the Cutless bearing seems to be fine, I suspect the engine alignment might be improved on, as there is a little bit too much vibration when I run the engine flat out at 3000RPM, which is not something I would normally ever do anyway.

Tomorrow we will probably head to Tioman where we will explore the island and neighbouring area for a week or so.

Paul Collister



Off to Tioman

We have launched and we’re on our way to Pulau Tioman, an island on the Eastern side of the main Malaysian Peninsula, the location for the filming of South Pacific, even though it’s in the North Pacific.

So due to the holiday, and nothing happening on the boat, we popped into Johor Bahru town, I was keen to do a bit of cultural stuff, some Sultan, back in the day, built a lot of amazing buildings and we were keen to explore the main museum, which was meant to be amazing, but finding it was difficult, even the taxi drivers didn’t know where it was, asking them for the cultural sights would elicit the usual ‘No have any‘ response we get for anything slightly out of the normal. eventually we found it , but it was closed. we checked out the ‘happening’ down town duty free zone where all the clubs where, but it was mostly closed, the duty free zone was somewhat disappointing, so we headed over back to a local shopping mall. I left Kathy there to browse, while I jumped into an Uber and headed back to Puteri Harbour, to collect my parcel, the missing blade for the wind generator. then back to the boat.
Thursday arrived and I fitted the blade to the turbine, not very well as it turned out. The guys arrived earlier to fit the new cutless bearing and the engineer amongst them understood exactly what I meant about the stripped inside of the allen screw, I could tell by the groan and look of despair on his face. However after 40 minutes, he had drilled out the old screw, without damaging the thread at all.


Best ladder I have ever had in a yard

He instructed his assistant to cut out the old bearing with a hacksaw blade, a tedious job, it took me all day last time I tried this, but he had it done in 30 minutes, and the old cutless removed. The damage was clear, after I had pulled out the shredded rubber on haulout, there was about an inch of rubber missing, that still left 3 1/2 inches remaining, in good nick too, but I think it best to replace it, even if it might have continued working for a long time, I wouldn’t feel confident.

It all went back together fine, however they seemed to have some problems getting the shaft to fit into the collar on the coupling, but nothing had changed, so I think there might be a slight alignment problem. By mid afternoon they had completed everything, and I did a few jobs, mostly cleaning up and we were ready for a Friday morning launch.
The yard informed me I had to pay cash, so an ATM was called for, we decided to get an Uber into a big mall so we could stock up a little more. This was an amazing Mall, I don’t normally think much of Malls, but they had everything here, and I especially like one huge section called the Japanese village, full of Japanese shops, obviously I suppose, but all done very well.

I was up at 6:30 Friday, The sunrise was lovely, the light much nicer than the camera’s false blue haze. I managed to shoot a few good pics, at this time it was low water, on a spring tide, so very low, and there was only a few inches of water on the path we would have to take out. So it was good to be able to work out our exit route.

We launched at 12, Kathy and I stayed on board as the travel lift took us to the launch bay, I didn’t want to, in Europe it wouldn’t be allowed, H&S, but we had no choice they just took the steps away and started lifting the boat! As we lowered into the water, there were several disturbing jerks, where the wire supporting the front of the boat snagged then jumped, I reassured Kathy that we were over the water now so it would just make a big splash if the wire snapped, a very big splash I expect.
I rigged up a block and tackle to the topping lift, and was able to pull the mast back far enough to get the backstay onto it’s turnbuckle. I was worried I might have to slacken the Furlers, which is a major job, but it all went very smoothly, topped off the fuel from a drum raised up on a fork lift truck, (Malay style Fuel Stop) and we headed out. Now we are at anchor 4 hours away, close to the SE of Singapore. Tomorrow we head off towards Tioman, the wind has been consistent and good from the SW for a few days now, I wonder if this is the SW monsoon settling in now, I hope so, as it means good sailing tomorrow. We will find an anchorage half way to Tioman off the coast of Malaysia tomorrow, and maybe another before we arrive.
It’s good to be afloat again. At the moment, our delay has made me think it’s too late to make Japan and then America, so it’s looking much more likely we will do that next year, when we are better prepared. So I’m really looking forward to just chilling in Tioman.

Some pics from this morning before work started

Paul Collister

Singapore, and Raffles Hotel, 2nd and 3rd May 2017

I had been excited about this trip ever since I’d learned we would be going there.  This is mainly due to my fascination with Raffles Hotel. It featured in Somerset Maugham’s short stories, a great favourite of mine, and also in the 80s drama series Tenko which told the story of a group of women who were taken prisoner in 1942 after getting caught up in the Japanese occupation after the fall of Singapore.  As with the location of ‘The Beach’ in Thailand, I never thought I would have the chance to visit it. So, despite the lingering lethargy from jet lag and heat, I was eager to get going on Tuesday morning. Thwarted in our intention to travel the short distance across the water via an Uber taxi, we asked the driver to take us to the Malaysian immigration building where we could get a bus across the Second Link Bridge which traverses the Strait of Johor. The taxi driver was most apologetic that she couldn’t take us (she hadn’t brought her passport and Uber drivers don’t necessarily know the destination when they take the booking), but she told us the bus service is regular and efficient. Once inside the building we joined a queue, our passports were stamped and we walked outside to wait for the bus. After a journey of about 5 minutes, we had crossed the mile long bridge into Singapore and we all trooped off the bus straight into another building to queue for the Singapore immigration process. This took slightly longer, especially as we had to sidestep the queue while immigration forms were found for us to fill in. This slight delay meant we missed the first bus into Jurong where we needed to be to get a train to our hotel in Chinatown.  It was raining heavily by then, so our first day in Singapore began somewhat unpromisingly in a cheerless, barn-like bus depot with several other people, wondering when the next bus would come along.

The first part of the journey to Jurong took us through through an industrial landscape of factories, trading estates and multi-storey office complexes. As we entered more rural areas, I noticed how well-maintained and wide the roads were. Further on, the views confirmed Singapore’s reputation as one of Southeast Asia’s wealthiest countries. The cars and motorbikes are mostly new and modern, while roadside shops, cafes, houses and even billboards all convey high standards of living and general affluence. The contrast to Thailand is staggering: there, the roads are bumpy and rock-strewn, cars and particularly motorbikes are often dangerously dilapidated. Singapore, at 580 square km is only slightly larger than the Isle of Wight but as the bus drew into Jurong and more and more skyscrapers appeared, it seemed incredible that we were in a small country. Its airport alone is a major hub for flights all over the world; one of the world’s busiest in fact. Looking around me at the huge town that isn’t even the capital I found it amazing to contemplate that the two islands are similar in size.

Just some of Singapore’s skyscrapers

Navigating the MRT subway system proved to be gloriously simple. We bought cards that provided unlimited travel and boarded the train bound for Chinatown. Needless to say, the stations and trains are clean, spacious and efficient (chewing gum and eating on the subway carry sizeable fines).  It was 1 pm by the time we got to our hotel but we couldn’t access our room until 2 so we left our bags there and went for a wander around the area. The black and white-themed Mono Hotel is in the middle of charming Mosque Street which has some beautiful colonial-style buildings.

Mosque Street, Chinatown
Hotel Mono

Chinatown itself was a delightfully busy hub of noise, colour and appetising smells, much like Chinatowns globally tend to be I guess, but this one seemed to me to convey an additional upmarket, wealthy vibe in its streets. One street we passed had a plaque displaying information about its history. Boon Tat Street used to known as Japanese Street because it was the street where the Japanese brothels were located. It states that in the early 19th century, the prostitutes ‘plied their trade in an oddly noble effort to finance their country’s military campaigns’. Other streets used to be full of opium dens and illegal gambling venues. It was all happening there!

Colourful Chinatown, Singapore

It got steadily hotter as we walked so we went for lunch in an air-conditioned mall which offered an abundance of food options.  There were a lot more healthy choices here than I’ve seen in any other part of SE Asia. We opted for a place that was a bit like Subway but which used flavoured wraps instead of bread. After a bit of confusion and dithering on our part about how to choose from the options and deals, which the server handled with admirable patience and good humour, we ordered spinach wraps and chose from a delicious array of fillings (including a ‘protein’ section).  Back at the hotel, soon after we checked in, I felt ready to flake out again so Paul went off to buy some of the items on his list from SIMLIM, a huge shopping complex solely devoted to selling technical parts and components, while I slept for a couple of hours.

Chinatown had really begun to liven up early in the evening when we went out again. People were filling its prettily-lit streets looking for places to eat, or browsing the stalls and street markets. We headed for the waterfront, a short walk from Chinatown where the Singapore River runs through the central area of the city and empties into the ocean at Marina Bay. The river was lined on both sides with plush bars and restaurants offering al fresco dining where the average price for a glass of wine was, we worked out, £8 a glass! We bought a small bottle of wine, some water and a coke for half of that price in a Seven Eleven and sat on a riverside wall – thus achieving the same effect for a whole lot cheaper ;).

The Singapore River

We ambled around the bay area and bought vegetable samosas from one of the street vendors to munch on as we walked. There was a warm wind blowing across the river but it was the coolest we had felt all day. Singapore’s skyline is famous for three buildings with what I think looks like a plane but is in fact a ship lying across the top of them. We hadn’t seen it during the day but came upon the view of it by chance further along the riverside. It’s quite striking in the dark, the blinking lights on the ‘fuselage’ giving the appearance that it is still operating while stationary in its incongruous position.

Ship or plane? 🙂
Same structure but from a distance

The structure as a whole is The Marina Bay Sands Resort, completed in 2010, with a state of the art hotel, shopping malls and casinos – the ship on top is a 340 metre SkyPark complete with a 150 metre infinity pool! Would you fancy a swim in there?!

Infinity Pool, Marina Bay Sands Hotel (pic from the internet)

As the hotel didn’t include breakfast, we went out to find something nice after having coffee in the room.  It was quite late by the time we hit the streets so when Paul led the way to a Chinese vegetarian place he’d found online, I was hungry enough to agree to the prospect of what was bound to be more substantial fare than cereal or toast.  It turned out to be absolutely amazing! Everything in the bain-marie dishes on display was vegetarian and the helpful Chinese lady who served us explained what all of them were (although it has to be said we were none the wiser with some of the dishes). We were both game enough to try anything, though so we simply pointed and she heaped our plates. We took them to a table on the pavement outside and ate like the locals. It was unusual and delicious and vegan and it set us up for the rest of the day.

Chinese veggie breakfasts 🙂

I needed that sustenance for the next venture. After a quick change in our room we headed for Little India on the metro to collect more of the things Paul needed for the boat.  I got to see the SIMLIM complex that had impressed Paul the previous day. Keen to save my flagging energy for Raffles, I elected to stay in a café nursing a single glass of coke and reading while Paul browsed and shopped to his heart’s content. I think I even dozed off at one point I was so relaxed in there. I soon woke up when it was time to head to Raffles. It was only a short journey on the metro and a five minute walk from the station before the legendary beautiful building came into view. I still smile when I think of how pleasurable that sight was. Surrounded as it is by modern high rise apartments and hotels, Raffles shines both literally and metaphorically. The sunlight lit up the brilliant white façade and emphasised its immaculate, elegant appearance. The hotel doormen, dressed in Imperial Indian soldiers’ uniform, who were helping people out of a limousine as we approached completed the impression that this is still a place of opulence and luxury.

Raffles Hotel

Visitors are welcome in the grounds and certain parts of the hotel but there is a dress code for specific areas. For afternoon tea it is smart casual – no shorts, bare shoulders or flip flops. We weren’t interested in that (especially at £36 a head), although I couldn’t resist a peek through the window at the three tier cake stands on tables loaded with dainty sandwiches, scones and fancy cakes and pastries. Refurbishment is taking place in some of the bars and restaurants so The Long Bar, where the famous Singapore Sling is usually served is closed and has moved to The Bar and Billiard Room, where there is thankfully no dress code. Before going there, though I had a browse in the souvenir shop while Paul sat in the courtyard to take a phone call.

Near the courtyard
Souvenir shop on the left

There were enticing items in there (none of the usual ‘tat’ but the prices reflected that) and some intriguing books with information on the hotel’s development and history. I contented myself with some bookmarks and a small print of the building in colonial days. That it is expensive is not surprising – its reputation is built on its exclusivity: room rates here start at around £400 a night. I had wanted to see The Writers’ Bar but one of the doormen we asked explained that we couldn’t go in because it was open to residents’ only. Seeing my disappointment, however, the smartly dressed Indian doorman offered to escort me inside to show it to me (Paul couldn’t because he had shorts on). So I entered the palatial lobby and he led me over to the surprisingly small but stylish bar where writers, including Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Noel Coward and Rudyard Kipling used to drink, and it’s largely unchanged he told me.  It was really kind of him, and it also gave me a chance to see the beautiful grand staircase in the lobby (I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside unfortunately).

On we went to get a Singapore Sling – well it would have been a shame to miss out :). Immaculately dressed staff wait to escort people to a table where they are then presented with a menu listing the drinks and snacks on offer. The prices were eye-watering! I knew Paul wouldn’t have entered the place had it not been for me, and since even the soft drinks were extortionately expensive, we ordered just one Singapore Sling for the princely sum of 31 Ringgit (about £6). I just hoped they wouldn’t bring two straws! The bar reminded us of some that we’d been to in London and, it has to be said, some Wetherspoons’ pubs – except that guests were provided with complimentary sacks of peanuts in their shells and were invited to follow the custom of throwing the empty shells on the floor. The floor was littered with them and we added to it by consuming copious amounts of those nuts – they weren’t just any nuts after all, they were ‘Raffles’ nuts.

The drink was nice enough, a bit sweet for my taste and it may have been the sweetness which masked the alcohol but I’m not convinced there was much alcohol in it at all. The ingredients are listed on my souvenir bookmark, shown below, but I would have got more from my usual white wine and soda. Still, it was nice to sit there people watching for an hour.

How to make a Singapore Sling

On the way out, I paid the cashier 36 ringgit (the hike in price was for service apparently) while Paul took a few shots on the billiard table. The story goes that in 1902 a wild tiger had found its way into the hotel and was hiding underneath a billiard table in this very room. A local man was called upon to remove it and fired five shots under the table before finally hitting it between the eyes. It’s said that this was the last tiger to be shot in Singapore, but the hotel claims that the tiger was not wild – it had in fact escaped from a travelling circus. I couldn’t resist looking under the table and trying to imagine the scared tiger cowering under there :(.

Returning to Chinatown late in the afternoon, we collected our bags from the hotel, got the train to Bugis and walked to Queen Street near the border control to find a taxi rank. It was a huge relief that Paul was able to get a taxi to take us all the way back to Puteri. My legs and feet were really aching and we had heavier bags than we’d arrived with.  All we had to do once we were sat in the back seat was hand our passports to the driver who presented them at the immigration and customs points along with his own. The immigration officer looked at us closely from his booth and held our passports up, said our names and we nodded.  Paul was questioned about his immigration stamp, probably because it wasn’t from an airport like mine was, but we were waved through with no delays. The boat was like a furnace after being shut up all day when we got back on board in the evening but I had a feeling we wouldn’t be awake long enough for it to be too troublesome.

Some more images of Singapore below


Guess what used to be driven down this road!
Ornate Chinese balconies
Pig’s organ soup anyone?