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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.

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