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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 16 - 18, 2012 Sailing from Port Dickson to Pangkor - Swelly, Smelly, Stormy, Strange and Just a Bit Scary

We knew that we would have a 2-knot current on the nose leaving Port Dickson, but that by 9 AM it should turn in our favor. Based on this information we decided to leave well after 8:00 AM.  No matter how well we tried to time it that countercurrent pushed against us until nearly 11:00 AM, but then by noon it had diminished bit by bit until we picked up the flow and rode with it. It is now 2 PM and we are flying at 10+ knots (SOG). We have not only picked up a 2.5-knot positive current, we also have a lovely 12 knots of wind abeam giving us a lift. We are inching closer into the shipping lanes as we near Port Klang, rather the shipping lanes are inching nearer to land and we are speeding over fishing nets with fingers crossed and prayers flowing upward that we do not get tangled. We've now moved our waypoint forward some 30 more miles because at this rate it would be a crying shame to stop. We hope to make that anchorage by dark.

The waters are becoming dirtier and dirtier resembling the color of café au lait. The entire front of Destiny's bow is slightly discolored from the waterways here. Several friends who have previously navigated these waters have told us that the shipyards in Langkawi and Phuket love to see yachts coming in from the Malacca Straits because they all need hull cleaning work! The water is also littered with trash and floating debris that has either fallen off ships and barges or has just been washed away from who-knows-where/what. This is not only hazardous sailing but nauseatingly odoriferous.

Right now we have entered the vein-like canals that meander through the islands outside of Port Klang. They are absolutely strewn with communities of floating fish farms. The stench is unbelievable. The waters are milkier and milkier and as we make our way along, we are passing dozens of boats playing out fishing buoys and nets. How can they tolerate this dead carcass stench? Obviously that is a rhetorical question, nonetheless, one that I continue to ask myself because right now I could just gag and am looking forward to getting through this area as quickly as possible. Fortunately, we still have a positive current of over 1 knot and should reach the anchorage within the hour. It has been a very interesting little journey to be sure.

Nearing the anchorage several other yachts emerged from another route through the rivers around Port Klang, racing us for the best spot to drop the hook. Isn't it funny how people not only do this in parking lots like Wal-Mart, but also in wide open waters? We backed off to let them rush on ahead – no point in crowding in - there is plenty of room but you can't tell them that. We spent an OK night until the swell moved in, which has become the norm here in Malaysia along with the terrifying evening rainstorms. When the nightly storm hit it sounded like a hurricane! No one warned us about these things when they sailed Malaysia in years past. I guess they didn't want to spoil our fun. It was not a pleasant night, although we did enjoy a beautiful sunset (the bonus) and snapped a photo of it with Bicho in the foreground.

We had one more night and two days sail to Pangkor. Taimada is a day ahead of us, sending waypoints for us to anchor along the way that they have found to be decent. It seems they are getting better weather than the rest of us. We hope conditions at the next anchorage are better than last night's. We enjoyed a cleaner journey on Saturday, arriving at the appointed stop knowing it was a bit odd from what Taimada had described to us. The actual "anchorage" was 200 meters away from a large house (hotel?) that had been built smack dab in the middle of the bay on massive pylons. 

How extraordinary. Land was miles away and in addition to the house, several lone pylons were scattered about in the water causing us no small amount of concern. We used up all of our guesses trying to figure out what this had been or is becoming. The depths were only 11 – 20 feet, and although it seems safe enough we soon discovered it is a thoroughfare for local fishing boats who buzzed us continuously coming and going making it very rocky. Not long after getting hooked we took a short rest before dinner – big mistake - I should have prepared dinner straight away because within the hour a hellish swell began and worsened as the night wore on. Dinner turned out to be cheese and crackers and as we braced ourselves to dine on this gourmet fare, a nasty storm hit us with the full force of Neptune's fury, churning up the shallow waters even more violently. We hardly slept from the thunderous cracks above and the slamming of waves against our hull. Daylight couldn't come early enough and as soon as it did we were out of there. The seas were calmer underway than they had been in the anchorage.

The sail to Pangkor was not bad, as we picked up a nice flowing current that took us nearly all the way to the little island called Pulau Pangkor, a pleasant spot outside of some resorts where at least a dozen of the Racing yachts were bobbing about restfully. Although we had an opportunity to go into shore for dinner, all we wanted to do was to sit peacefully on board and get a much needed rest.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 14 &15, 2012 – What do Mexican Train, My Daughter’s 30th Birthday, Batu Caves, Rubber Trees and Qwirkle Have in Common?

Absolutely nothing other than these were part of our itinerary until we left Port Dickson and "firsts" in one way or another. November 13th, my daughter Jennifer turned 30 years old. We sent her wishes twice since we celebrate the 13th one day ahead of America. She is a beautiful and amazing young lady & I'm just so proud of her and everything she has accomplished in her life.

That night we joined Isabel and Bob (Bicho Vermelho) aboard Taimada for a post dinner game of Mexican Train with Ute and Hans.  It was the first time any of them had played and was a great evening.

Very early Wednesday morning we boarded buses once again, this time the destination was Kuala Lumpur – KL. Frank wasn't keen on taking a one day tour there because we had already spent 4 days in KL a few years ago, but I wanted to go in the event we saw something new that we had missed before, and this was cheap, cheap, cheap – only 120 RM for us both ($40). This tour did in fact include sites we had not made on our previous trip.

The first stop was the former site of a massive rubber tree plantation. Sadly, all that is left are a few trees left standing on the side of the highway. The rest has been built over and turned into condominium complexes, office buildings and other symptoms of progress.  The buses pulled over to the side of the highway, we tumbled out and gathered around one of the rubber trees. Our guide explained the process of extracting the sap which, remarkably turns to white rubber when exposed. We could see trails of white that had seeped out of the tree and many, many scars from previous tapping. I pulled on a piece of sap and watched it stretch all the way out to three feet away without breaking. How simply marvelous! It was crawling with large ants and immediately we all thought of and began humming the song about the ant moving the rubber tree plant.

Our next stop was the famous and mysterious Batu Caves. 
Originally inhabited by indigenous Orang Asli people then later "discovered" by an American Naturalist in 1878 they are now a Hindu temple and shrine guarded by a massive statue of the deity Murugan, and now accessed by climbing 272 steep steps to the main Temple Cave. We noticed locals leaving their shoes at the base then entering barefoot. It is a magnificent natural wonder. Now the caves are inhabited by hundreds of scurrying and thieving little fang-toothed monkeys.
We were told to hang tight to anything we valued because they will swoop down and snatch your belongings before you know what hit you. Ascending the steps we dodged pelting droplets of water streaming down from the top some 100 meters above and sidestepped the large puddles they formed. The steps were very slick with streaming water and yet this did nothing to distract us from the magnificence of the caves. 
We entered trying to be respectful of the Hindu worshippers at the various small shrines and temples set all about among the alcoves and even in the main cavern, wherein microphoned priests attend to the faithful. We are after all intruding on their sacred place of worship.

Leaving there we asked to be dropped at the KLCC Twin Towers to do some touring on our own. We joined friends from s/v Imagine and s/v D'ol Selene for a delicious Thai lunch and a few hours of shopping and browsing before joining up with the tour group again at the KL Tower.

The buses drove us to several more sights including the largest mosque in KL and to a gallery depicting the 50-year plan for KL's future growth, ending the day at China town where we were given a few hours to eat dinner and do some of what I affectionately call "rip-off shopping". Here you can buy ANYTHING knock-off, from top designer watches to shoes, handbags, electronics…you name it.

I managed to buy only an average quality copy of "Revenge, Part One of Season Two", but we enjoyed a delicious Chinese dinner with a large group of fellow cruisers. I thought my daughter and grandson would have a great time shopping here, except that you are expected to haggle, and never pay more than ¼ the asking price. Sometimes that is much too much because they see our white faces coming and the price goes right up. This ended our tour and a very long day. We returned to the marina well after "cruisers midnight" which is 9 PM.

Thursday, November 15th we didn't' do much more than finish a few chores, go for a swim, have a little lunch and then invited Ute and Hans over for a game of Qwirkle that evening. They beat the pants off of us. Frank attributes that to "beginner's luck" and vows revenge the next time we meet. Frank usually wins at this game.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 11 - 13, 2012 – Port Dickson and Malacca/Melaka (Po-tay-to/po-tah-to?)

At Admiral Marina we tried in earnest to live up to everyone's expectations of doing nothing but lazing at the pool acting retired.  I swam a little but the most exertion Frank wanted to expend was walking into the pool while keeping his beer hand out of the water. This is the life, at least until the monsoon rains hit each afternoon causing everyone to race for shelter from the lightening part of the storms. We heard that yet another yacht has been hit. Sitting ducks is what we are and yet there isn't a thing to be done about it but pray. We have enjoyed reuniting with Bob and Isabel from the yacht, Bicho Vermelho, a Brazilian couple whom we'd met in Opua, NZ in 2009. We have introduced them to the Class of 2012 (the group with whom we are now cruising). 

Sunday was the Sail Malaysia Rally's official welcome reception and buffet. They keep feeding us like we are royalty. If we don't watch it we will all bear a strong resemblance to King Henry VIII!

Monday morning, we piled into large motor coaches to embark on a tour of the historic and ancient town of Malacca or Melaka (the historic name for the town) that is considered the birthplace of Malaysia. The town is a study in convergence of cultures, religions, and architecture. Originally settled by Sumatrans, then "discovered" by the Chinese, and greatly influenced by Dutch, Portuguese and Indians, it is now largely a tourist destination. Our first stop was a beautiful and rather small Chinese temple, followed by a trip to the Cheng Ho museum to see the history of Melaka from the Chinese perspective. It housed scores of artifacts from the Tang and Ming Dynasties and related the exploits of Zhen He, aka Cheng Ho, the Chinese eunuch cum explorer, mariner, admiral and diplomat. The museum was built over an excavation site where ancient wells and fields of Chinese pottery were unearthed. They were left intact, and have been marked by barriers. It was truly fascinating. Some of the pottery was brilliantly restored and preserved.

Walking through the modern city we passed a number of ruins from the 1500's and 1600's, stopping in at "Fort A Famosa" and the remains of the mission of St. Francis Xavier. Today of course there is not much left of either other than the droves of souvenir hawkers and artists. We purchased some charcoal sketches of the mission, the Chinese temple and the old town, looked down into an empty crypt at the mission where people toss coins, hoping for a Blessing and then moved on to the shopping district where, according to Frank we could purchase future garage sale items. Not true, but he was happy when I parked him with the boys and went shopping with Ute and Isabel. Soon the driver came for us motioning it was time to leave. We hadn't seen enough and wished we had followed the example of some friends who rode the bus in, got a hotel for the night and planned to find transport home tomorrow.  Because we are hoping to remain in Malaysia/Thailand for a year or so perhaps we'll get a chance to return.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 8 – 10, 2012 Cruising the Malacca Straits – Is This Dangerous?

The next official rally stop is Port Dickson, about 150 NM from Danga Bay, which translates to a three day trip for us, stopping to anchor at night. Throughout the briefings, we had a pretty good scare put into us about finding exactly the perfect path to navigate this passage up the Malaysian coastline. As the shortest link between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most heavily traveled shipping channels in the world. On the one hand is the shipping lane where the large tankers and cargo ships travel. Among this group and not keeping to any particular path are the tugs that pull the barges back and forth and up and down the straits. Add to this cocktail the commercial and smaller private fleet of fishermen with their nets and traps who engage the waters between the shipping lanes and the shoreline and you have a fair minefield to navigate for some 500 miles. There is also a history of piracy in this area but that has been diminished considerably in recent times to petty theft. One cruiser who had gone on ahead awoke one morning to find that his dinghy (which had been chained to the boat) was long gone.

Leaving Danga Bay, several cruisers were aquiver with trepidation in spite of some coaching from a couple of seasoned cruisers who have sailed these waters for years, assuring us that there is a safe way to do this which mainly involves traveling during the daytime about 50 meters from the edge of the shipping lanes, avoiding fishing boats and nets with little flags sticking up out of the water, and going right over the top of the larger deeper nets that are lined with small fender-like buoys. And whatever you do, do not get too close to shore! WHA? WHU? HUH?

I think I can, I think I can. Why, yes we can! How bad can this be?

Some of the yachts in our little fleet opted for the direct overnight trip, traveling nonstop to Port Dickson. We were in no hurry and felt no need whatsoever to follow their example, finding our sweet spot and although there was a bit of dodging a fishing net or two, we had a lovely motor-sail to the first targeted stop at Tunda Island. We managed to set the hook about half an hour before the drenching rains came-a-callin' at around 3 PM. The storm brought a fair bit of lightening and belly-rumbling thunder. We watched the spectacular light show and at the same time prayed our, "Lord, keep the strikes away from our mast" prayer.

Rising very early the next morning we made a 68-mile push for Water Island, encountering no problems whatsoever. The forces of Nature treated us kindly once again allowing the daily storm to hold off until we got settled at 5:30, just before dark before unleashing their fierce and mind-blowing tempest. It is a terrifying thing to be sitting on a yacht with a large lightening rod sticking up 68 feet into the air during an electrical storm. Already three of our fellow yachts have been struck, wiping out everything electronic: computers, phones, charts, GPS, auto pilot, iPads, iPods, televisions, you name it.

Leaving at 7:00 AM we had one more push to put us into Port Dickson's Admiral Marina by mid afternoon. This is a very nice marina with a gym, a pool and a decent restaurant. There are guards who open and close the gates for us, and a very friendly and helpful marina staff. Destiny has a happy home for the next week.

Friday, November 9, 2012

November 3 – 8, 2012 – Danga Bay Marina and Johor Bahru, Malaysia

The days here in Danga Bay were sort of a blur – mostly because it rains every single afternoon, so anything you want to do should get done in the earlier part of the day making us feel we had to rush around early each day, but Frank and I do not rush in the morning unless we have to (because we HAVE to so much when on the move). We managed to discover some very fine Chinese and Indian restaurants nearby where we absolutely feasted for next to nothing. There are public buses here that will take us to most places if you catch one and then there are also loads of taxis that will really "take you" since most of them seem to be absolute crooks. These guys are worse than even Mexico!  We rode the buses when convenient and the taxi's when not, although many of the drivers were a source of real irritation. At one point, Ute and I got put out with a driver who refused to take us to the marina for less than double the usual metered rate, although the sign on his door clearly states that "…this is a metered taxi, haggling is prohibited". They all have this sign but it is generally disregarded. Anyway, Ute said, "Let's call and report him!" So I grabbed a tablet and pen then peered into the cab for his name and ID. As I was writing, he became very agitated, waving his arms at me and yelling! Frank and Hans stood nearby weighted down with supplies pretending they no longer knew Ute and I. Men are so easily embarrassed :)

I continued writing and then began to pull out my mobile phone. At that, the driver threw up his hands and said, "OK, I take you". Ute asked "On the meter? No tricks?" He nodded, but then said he would not open the boot for less than 2 additional ringgits. We laughed at him and said, "Fine, we will carry them in the front". He shook his head, mumbling to himself the entire ride. He pulled onto the freeway driving at a speed of about 30 km p/h (less than 20 mph). I nudged him telling him to drive faster because all of the other traffic was speeding past us. The little devil was trying to run up his meter. He said we should not report him, but Ute assured him we planned to anyway (not really). In spite of a generous tip Frank left him in the end, he dropped us off about 100 meters short of the marina, causing us to lug heaps of heavy groceries to the wharf. The beer bag busted, nearly destroying 36 cans of Tiger beer. But Frank and Hans were quick to respond and managed to save their precious cargo.  So that is just one example of what it is like to deal with these taxi drivers. We had been warned but had not expected to be refused cabs, and extorted to pay more because we are Westerners. We were loathe to use them but they knew when they had us in a pinch.

Although we spent a lot of time running around trying to get supplies we were very pleased to find a great number of American, NZ, Australian and UK products in many of the shops. Of course if you buy local items the prices are much more reasonable, so one must ask oneself: " How much am I willing to pay to taste and feel the comforts of home?"  Frank was immensely pleased to hear that Pop Tarts and Snyder's pretzels are available at a grocery store called "Cold Storage" so on Saturday, Sheila (s/v Imagine) and I trotted off to do some shopping there. I finally had to stop when I could no longer push my shopping cart. As soon as Sheila and I headed out of the building, the afternoon rains hit. In spite of our men meeting us at the marina entrance to help us back to the boats with our groceries, everything got completely soaked. When it rains here, the sky just opens up dumping pitchforks and devil babies down upon us. It is a bad, bad rain with lots of loud thunder, lightening and angry wind.

Sunday, three large motor coaches arrived at 7:00 AM to take us all on a tour of Johor Bahru (JB to the locals). We learned of the history, which included the Japanese invasion and occupation during 1942, using Johor as a base to conquer Singapore.  Although we discovered JB is the second largest metropolis in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur, we had never heard of it.  I won't go into the history lesson here for something easily covered in Wikipedia. We visited the Parliament Buildings that are new and very beautiful, even venturing into the actual House chamber where we had a chance to peer at the Sultan's sky-blue velvet throne. Next we toured a pineapple museum. We'd never imagined an entire museum solely dedicated to pineapples, however, we now understand a bit more about them and furthermore, learned that fabric can be made from shredding pineapple leaves. They demonstrated the extraction of the fibers for us, let a few of us play around with the mechanism and then we were given some fresh pineapple to sample. Leaving there we passed several fresh markets and a bit further on the drivers stopped so that we could pick up some fruits and veggies. Afterward we were driven down to the southern most tip of mainland Asia where we strolled the boardwalks, gathered a bit more history, witnessed dozens of wild monkeys and snapped some nice photos. Afterward we were taken to a guesthouse and fed a delicious lunch of local food that consisted primarily of noodles and pastries including many fried & breaded dishes. They wrapped up the tour dropping us off at – of all places – the Premium Outlet (outdoor) Mall informing us we had 30 minutes to shop. We all looked at one another asking, "Is this a joke?" Oh, by the way, it was pouring buckets of rain. Half of us didn't want to get off the bus and the other half literally ran off hoping to find a bar. We stumbled upon most of the gang at Baskin Robbins ice cream store, and then on the way back to the bus found the rest of the group sitting in an Irish bar with large mugs of beer. Well, that is about all 30 minutes will get you anyway.  We arrived back at the marina at 6:00 PM, soaked and exhausted. But it had been an interesting day.

Monday we sat in briefings from 9 AM to 12 PM, getting "briefed" about technical procedures, anchorages, marinas, events and schedules. They did their darndest to impress upon us how dangerous cruising the Melaka/Malacca Straits are and had some of us starting our prayers early.

Monday night was the big gala event – dinner, singers, dancers and speeches from local dignitaries. We were told to dress up. It was so nice to see everyone in his or her finery, although we had to do several double-takes to recognize a few. I was one of those whom people walked up to, saying, "Is that you, Barbara?". Most of the men actually wore shoes, collared shirts and long pants. To see the ladies wearing makeup and dresses or slacks and pretty blouses with their hair styled is a rarity among cruisers, and something that I miss. Sometimes male and female cruisers can appear a bit crusty! The food was all gourmet and absolutely delicious. The singers and dancers were extremely professional,  performing a Las Vegas style show for us.  It was an evening that rivaled any event either of us had attended in the good old (working) days. Did I remember to bring the camera? Of course not.

The next two days were relatively routine other than taking care of our clearance on Tuesday and Fueling up on Wednesday.  I did manage to get to town with Ute for a broadband sim card for my internet dongle. Every place I'd been to was sold out of pre-paid broadband sims.  I guess we are like locusts – when cruisers arrive businesses tend to get wiped out of supplies. By early Thursday morning we were all ready to brave the Melaka/Malacca Straits.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November 2, 2012 – Moving on From Indonesia, Through the Busy Shipping Lanes of Singapore to Malaysia

I think the title is as long as this post. We cast the dock lines at around 6:00 AM and stuck our nose out into the busy channel, learning from others' experience that we should stay on the Indonesian side of the Singapore Strait as long as possible. It seems everyone else who has already done this reported back to us what a hellish experience they'd had dodging fast moving cargo ships, tugs and containers and getting hit with squalls that blotted out visibility. We were braced for the worst-case scenario.

Other than getting hit with a large wake or two that would roll Destiny like a toy boat in a bathtub, we had no such frights. We stayed to the Indonesian side of the channel long enough to avoid the dreadful stuff. The route took us around the bottom of Singapore to the river that separates it from Malaysia. Singapore sits at the bottom of Malaysia like a backwards italicized exclamation point. For a tiny country, until recently it has claimed the title of the busiest shipping port in the entire world. I think Shanghai has now beaten it. Nonetheless, sailing through these huge SHIPS feels like walking the streets of NYC, but the tall buildings are moving!  When we reached the mouth of the river, most of them were moored so we only dodged a few barges, tugs and ships before we managed to get across. No storms, no hair-pulling moments. I did try to take some photos but couldn't capture the experience as well as looking at our AIS, so I did the next best thing: I took some photos of the AIS screen to illustrate the intensity of the traffic. It truly is mind-boggling!
The red ones are potential targets, the ones with black dots are moored, and the ones with no dot are on the move
Destiny is depicted as the large red one with the white dot, although we are more the size of the dot!

Once we passed the shipping lanes the river was relatively devoid of traffic other than the many, many patrol boats on the Singapore side. Their border on the Malaysian side is much more fortified than the Texas/Mexico border. Interesting.

The rest of the ride was uneventful until we approached Danga Bay Marina. It is really a nightmare to get into. It sits at a part of the river that collects so much debris and silt from the shifting waters that half of the berths are unusable. Navigating into the actual marina is like walking a tightrope trying to follow the narrow passage that has been dredged. The marina itself has been managed very poorly. They have no workable VHF radio so trying to raise them about assigning us a berth was very difficult. They do not take reservations which overwhelmed them when several yachts arrived at one time (us included). Finally through the efforts of friends already in the marina, Ute on Taimada and Ian from Sea Eagle II, who managed to make contact with the Dock Master, we were told we had no berth and would have to find a place to anchor. Joy! God bless Ian who appealed to them to get us in, they double parked us on a 20 meter berth behind a smaller monohull, leaving us sticking out at least 10 feet beyond the pier. These guys had put tiny little boats in massive slips taking up all the berthing space. Why they didn't stack these smaller boats is beyond anyone's comprehension. We had no power access and the dock was missing cleats, but somehow we managed to get in there and were simply relieved not to have been forced to anchor in the shallow mud. Fortunately we made it in time for the 4:00 welcome reception for the Sail Malaysia Rally.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 1, 2012 – Last Day in Indonesia – A Mess on Destiny

Last night we arrived back t the Nongsa Point Marina just before the office closed. Frank ran our documents over to the manager hoping we could get cleared out of Indonesia today and leave tomorrow. The manager promised them back by 6 PM Nov 1st. I was heading off to the laundry room when I noticed massive black blobs of something floating around in the water between the finger piers. And then I looked at Destiny to see how close they were to us. Close? We were covered in it! Destiny's waterline was coated with tar that had created about a 6-inch high and ½-inch thick ring around her hull. I summoned Frank to come look and on closer inspection we found that the dock lines and fenders were also coated. What a mess! Frank immediately hotfooted it to the marina office to report it and to inquire about getting it power washed off.

I spent nearly the entire day getting laundry done. The washing machines here are wonderfully large, yet each load takes 80 minutes to complete. Comparatively the dryers are tiny and not very efficient, probably because most cruisers prefer to hang theirs to dry. Hanging clothes out isn't an option now because of the rain.  So I sat in a chair outside in the shade with my laptop and surfed the internet, checked emails and tried once again to Skype my daughter and parents but the signal wasn't strong enough for that. Frank finished some projects that he could now accomplish with our supplies from Singapore. Late afternoon a man finally arrived with the power washer, which did manage to blast about 60% of the tar off our waterline, but apparently he didn't understand the concept of aiming the thing, and a good bit of the muck was splattered upward unto our deck, cockpit, halyards and rails. The sun was doing a fine job turning the splattered bits to gummy baked-on goo. I tried to make a pass at it with mineral spirits but the mess was overwhelming.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October 28 – 31, 2012 – Visit to Singapore

Taking the ferry from Indonesia to Singapore is a pleasant journey, but once arriving at the terminal in Singapore if one does not pre-book a taxi then one pays a hefty price. We did not know to pre-book, and so on arrival the taxi driver told frank the minimum fare for the 2 of us starts at S$40! Frank nearly choked and asked if there was bus service. We purchased our bus ticket for S$1.50, but then had to transfer to the SMRT line to get into Singapore. Although the journey took ages longer (because we did not study the subway map first and had to change trains a couple of times), we managed to arrive at the Marina Mandarin Hotel for less than S$3.00 each. Not the preferred method if one is travel weary but it sure beat the much more expensive alternative.
View from our room (one side)

Frank had booked us on the Club Level, where we enjoyed concierge service and the club lounge: unlimited cocktails and various other drinks and food that was out of this world. We hardly needed to go out for meals because the breakfast spread alone was immense and more varied than any we had - seriously – ever seen, even rivaling Vegas. Evening cocktail hour provided more food than was even reasonable for a happy hour and closely resembled a 5-course dinner, including desserts. Anyone who knows us also knows our love of good food so it took great effort to tear ourselves away from the lounge, but alas we did want to see more of Singapore than the inside of our hotel. The view from our room on the 20th floor was spectacular! Our balcony window faced strait out at the Marina Sands Hotel, Singapore's newest and proudest icon. Frank had tried to book us into it but it was full, so we are quite happy with our present arrangement, plus we could watch the nightly laser light show from the comfort of our hotel balcony. Nice.
view from the other side of our room

Our primary purpose for coming to Singapore was for me to get pages added to my passport, which has but one left. My appointment with the US Consulate was scheduled for 9:00 AM on Monday, Sept 29th. Our other objectives are to pick up the boat parts and supplies that have been difficult to find in Indonesia. We also intend to each purchase an iPhone while here. So much to do we hope we get some time for sightseeing.

After unpacking we hit the streets. There is a shopping mall on nearly every block, and most are connected to the major hotels so you probably never have to see the outside if you want to avoid the heat and the sun, which can drop you to your knees in sweltering agony within a few minutes of exposure. No wonder the locals stay so fair and never appear to sweat. They must stay in tunnels most of the time! We hit famous Orchard Road, which can best be described as the top end retail district. There are no Apple stores in Singapore but there are a few authorized resellers. They were all completely sold out of iPhone 5's. They offered to order us one that would arrive in 5 – 6 weeks. After several more such inquiries, we realized an iPhone is not in our immediate future. Apple clearly underestimated their Asian market demand. We returned to the hotel in time for happy hour in our lounge and then hit the streets again afterward (stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys) to walk off the food and to see the city at night. It is an unreal world here that offers everything. I mean if there is anything (from home) you need or want (other than the latest iPhone) you can get it here - for a price of course.

Monday morning we hit the US Embassy, surrendered my passport and then spent the entire day shopping for items on our list. The problem for us was in knowing where to go and how to ask for what we wanted. By the end of our second day our feet and legs ached so, I hardly had the energy to shower and dress for dinner. We managed to knock several items off the list and then realized we had to get all of this back with us. So the non-essential stuff will have to wait. I of course HAD to stop at Bata to pick up 3 more pairs of sandals because the prices were so good.

We did not sign up for any of the organized tours, rather we "tubed" it, taking SMRT or walking the streets into Little India and skirting China town. You'd need a month to really see the place.  After picking up my passport with 48 new blank pages sewn into it we went to the Marina Sands, intending to sit at the top and have a drink. The entire complex is an incredible architectural feat, and the shopping unsurpassed. I mentioned to Frank that the shopping mall underneath is like Denver's Cherry Creek or Houston Galleria on steroids! We browsed the high-end shops and stopped at a delicious Chinese restaurant for dumplings. Then we continued to the top of Tower 1. If you are not a guest of the hotel you can't even bribe your way into the pool area at the top of Marina Sands. We walked over to the bar, were seated outside with a fabulous view over the bay and when I glanced at the drinks menu I stifled a gasp! In bold letters at the bottom of the menu we these words: Minimum purchase S$30++ per person required. The ++ equals service charge and tax, totaling 17%. So just to sit there and enjoy the view we were required to pay a minimum of S$70.20. We snapped a couple of photos and quickly left. Back at the lobby lounge, Frank ordered a beer and I enjoyed a cappuccino while we relaxed and people watched resting our tired feet. This was a little better, costing a bit less than the PP charge upstairs.
view from the Sands roof

view from the Marina Sands rooftop bar

That night we walked over to Prego, an Italian restaurant between the Swiss Hotel and the Fairmont where for no reason in particular, the manger Sasi, took an immediate liking to us and decided to send us on a tasting journey as he brought out pizzas and other delights for us to savor. He stopped by occasionally to chat and then in the end sent us limoncellos to clean our pallets. What a lovely man! We only paid for one pizza and Frank's two beers. We rolled out of there, moaning about how much we ate and surfing our inability to "just say NO". We walked the long route back to Marina Mandarin.

Our last day in Singapore was to be our touristy day, but it absolutely poured rain all day. We spent it indoors, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, then a stroll in the Marina Bay mall. I went for a nice long spa pedicure while Frank waited for me in the bar. Finally realizing the rain was not going to let up we decided to try to catch the 4:20 ferry.

As fate would have it, when it rains in Singapore there is not a cab to be found! It took 30 minutes for the hotel to get us a taxi. We arrived at the ferry terminal at 4:00 PM, just minutes too late. We found a tiny little café where we pulled out our deck of cards, ordered soft drinks and played Baja Rummy until boarding call for the 6:30 ferry to Nongsapura.