Saturday, 1 October 2016

Langkawi - the 1st 9 weeks after our sojourn away

Hi to all,
Once again we hope this finds y'all in the pink.
Our lovely old girl was fine when we got back after our 2 months away; maybe a little lonely, but she perked up no end. Makes us feel guilty about abandoning her on the fickle marketplace of secondhand yachts. But we always say that if she is lucky enough to attract a couple 20-30 years younger than us, then she will have an extended lease of life. In fact wooden boats, if they are well maintained (and that's actually not difficult) will last indefinitely - long past fiberglass or metal.
We've cleaned all the mouldy decks and generally got her shipshape again - not that there was much to do with Paul and Sheila looking after her.
Lots to do now with pulling all the loose ends together with the Medellin apartment purchase; this has involved late night phone calls authorizing various payments. It's interesting how the legal processes work in Colombia compared with NZ. In Colombia the purchaser pays all costs such as commissions and extraneous payments authorized by the vendor but they are all credited towards the property purchase, so effectively the vendor pays but a little convoluted compared to the NZ system.Takes a bit of getting used to it but it's all happened. And all this against the backdrop of our NZ bank's bureaucratic procedures surrounding getting funds out of NZ, not to mention that we had to withdraw funds from our offshore investments. These days you can't sneeze, let alone move funds from NZ to the USA to Colombia without answering a plethora of questions. It all gets extremely tiresome and it's worse for us because we have no scanning or printing facilities on the yacht so we have to re-email to the marina to get the necessary done.
It was all made worse because, probably as a result of our not telling the bank of our recent travel plans which resulted in them blocking our credit card briefly in the US, part of our internet banking was disabled, just at a time when we really needed it! Still, it's all been resolved since.
Then we've had computer problems. We had installed Windows 10 while still in Miami because Microsoft had instituted a deadline after which there would be an installation charge. Perry assisted and all was suitably backed up. And everything worked just fine until about 2 weeks after we arrived back in Langkawi. Then it just crashed and wouldn't boot up.So we took it to our friendly computer shop run by a very affable and helpful Chinese called Timothy! He fixed the problem and we are back again on W8.1! He said there was a problem with "firmware" which, although the computer was only about 16 months old, was a problem as, according to him the firmware was not compatible with W10. However, we understood from Perry that Windows always interrogates a computer before proceeding with any upgrades to make sure that there are no systemic problems like that. So, it's all a mystery. 
Then we decided to fly to Penang (only a 35 minute flight) for Jean to have a chest x-ray and to visit the LBM boatyard with a view to hauling out there in November. After we'd landed at Penang, a diminutive Chinese woman who could barely reach the overhead lockers made a wild lunge to get it open and the laptop fell out! After a bit of an issue with getting onto the wifi at our hotel, it started working and we thought all was well, but after arriving back at Langkawi, the same problem arose so we took it back to Timothy who discovered that the wifi adaptor had become unplugged, no doubt when it hit the deck. Lucky no further damage was done. These computer issues all at a time when we really needed internet access to further the Medellin purchase. Anyway, Penang...........
We flew into Penang in the morning and were met at the airport by a representative of Limbongan Batu Maung Boatyard and driven to the yard (close to the airport) where we met 2 young Chinese guys (one the son of one of the owners) and had a fruitful discussion as well as being shown around the yard. All seemed good, except that we will have to be careful of depths when we eventually do haul out. And also cross tidal currents so slack water will be important. Then they drove us to our hotel (the Museum Hotel in George Town). The hotel has been wonderfully restored and seemed to be almost totally original. High ceilings, wooden creaky floors (!), open air area behind columned porticos where breakfast was served and an impressive foyer. And very reasonable - low 60's NZD. On the first full day we went to the Island Hospital where Jean had a consultation with a Thoracic/ENT specialist who, after an x-ray confirmed that Jean has bronchial asthma. Not serious but just needs awareness and the use of a "puffer" from time to time. At least we can be confident now that there is nothing nasty lurking about to strike her later.
We had 3 days altogether in Penang which was longer than we've had in a while. Usually it's in and out to get a 2 + 1 Thai visa from the Thai Consulate there. This time there was no such pressure and we had a very pleasant few days just poking about George Town. Found a new restaurant and visited a Chinese one that we had first been to back in 2010.
Then came time to fly back to Langkawi. Normally this is straightforward, but there had been a substantial deterioration in the weather. Thank goodness we weren't on the ferry; one in fact actually turned back, which is rare. The Air Asia aircraft was very delayed getting into Penang from Langkawi due to the weather, but then we duly took off back to Langkawi again. However, as we were on final approach into Langkawi International (and we'd seen Rebak Is. on the port side), the power suddenly went on and we climbed steeply out of a rain squall. Then we stooged around Langkawi for half an hour or so in a fair amount of turbulence before making another abortive bombing run!! That didn't work and by then we were running low on fuel so we returned to Penang. By now it was getting well into the evening and we were contemplating another night in Penang at Air Asia's expense, but no; Air Asia wasn't wearing that, so off we went again. This time the bombing run was perfect  - no ack ack fire or anything and we were soon on the ground again. So, that ended our latest Penang experience. However, we must make mention of Jean's experience. We were separated on the flight because of Air Asia's peculiar seating allocations but that didn't matter. We see enough of each other as it is on the boat in a fairly cramped environment!!! She was seated next to a Saudi woman in a full black burqua. Only the eyes showing. That time was the height of the Saudi tourist diaspora to Langkawi which occurs every year. Being Jean, she struck up a conversation with the lady who eventually removed her burqua and it turned out she was a maths. and science teacher at a girls school in Saudi. If Jim had been sitting there there would have been NO contact at all. Her brother and his wife were sitting just in front and they were all very pleasant. Jean thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and ignores the physical barriers of the burquas.
An interesting aside - a NZ woman who lived in Saudi Arabia with her husband has written a book about attitudes to women in NZ. She mentions the customary separation of men and women at BBQ's and other gatherings which we're all familiar with no doubt and the pervasive attitude of relegating women to the domestic duties. Although this is improving, there is still this underlying lack of respect. However, in Saudi society, although oppressive to women in our eyes, they do respect their women for their defined roles in Saudi society as mothers and for their intellect in parts of NZ. She told Jean that she removes the burqua and wears jeans and T-shirt when teaching at the girls' school. A subtle distinction maybe, but nevertheless a difference and a significant one. Let's hope NZ continues to develop along the right lines and not as per the Donald in the USA!!! 
We must comment again about Malaysia - so different from vibrant and progressive Colombia. Nothing happens on time and when it does happen it's like the most inefficient process you can imagine. Just like NZ would be if it was run by the northern NZ Maoris (Ngapuhis). Not surprising since this is where they originally came from - we have commented on this before. People will no doubt accuse us of racial bias but right now in Malaysia there is outright and blatant racial and religious discrimination. Chinese/Peranakans and Indians who have been here for generations are frozen out of most government activities and benefits. They can't get places for their children in universities and they pay more than Malay/Bhumiputras in import duties when they buy a new car for example. It's disgraceful and these are but two of the examples of blatant racial discrimination that are commonly practised here on a daily basis. On top of that are the unbelievable disclosures of "financial irregularities" (read outright theft) from the Malaysian Sovereign Wealth Fund known as 1MDB. Enough said about that, except that the governments of the US, Switzerland, and Singapore are right now conducting criminal investigations into funds movements in and out of 1MDB accounts and have indeed frozen several 1MDB bank accounts in those countries. These "irregularities" involve many millions of US dollars. In fact it is now claimed by the US Dept. of Justice no less, that 3.5 BILLION US DOLLARS has been outright stolen from 1MDB and the Malaysian PM and other high ranking politicians are implicated up to their necks.
It's a tragedy for Malaysia and it is ruining its financial reputation abroad and impacting against its disadvantaged citizens at home The Malaysian ringgit is plummeting which of course helps us with drawing funds in NZD and USD. Enough said on that sad and vexed subject - otherwise we could find ourselves imprisoned for daring to criticize the government!! They've said it's disrespectful to criticize the government - otherwise you won't go to Islamist heaven!! We wonder what would be the reaction in NZ if Key & Co. uttered similar platitudes!! 
Apart from all that, we have ben wrestling with our refrigeration (not working thanks to sheer incompetence a few months ago in Thailand). See upcoming advices from us on the Noonsite website. We had been facing sheer intransigence on the part of Cirrus Refrigeration in Phuket and so far have employed a local guy to fix their substandard welds and get the freezer at least operating. The fridge was affected by faulty components or faulty installation and we are still embroiled in a fruitless argument with them for replacement of the components. The cost here is around NZD500. We've told them that their attitude is disingenuous at best and blatantly dishonest at worst. We will never get any work done on the boat in Thailand EVER AGAIN and we will make sure that as many fellow owners as possible are aware of that fact. Our cutlass bearing issue and the costs to  us of that fiasco (140,000 Thai Baht - NZD5,600) are another case in point. We were refunded 30,000 THB (NZD1,200) but that hardly scratched the surface.
We have obtained the refrigeration components from NZ in the end (one third cheaper than Phuket and delivered to Langkawi!). They are due to be re-fitted in 2 day's time and then the fridge needs re-gassing and then, lo and behold, we will have a working fridge and freezer once more - no thanks to the cowboys in Thailand.
We have decided to haul out at Penang (LBM) in November and visited the boatyard recently as above. Compared with the lackadaisical attitude on Langkawi  it is a breath of fresh air. We'll be there early to mid November. Watch this space. 
We have enjoyed being back here though, despite all its frustrations. We are getting around (we hire a car for MYR50 per day which is NZD17) and have met some interesting people. There are Nad and Mila - he is a semi retired French trained doctor and they have had many fascinating adventures. He works part of the year on La Reunion (a French island in the Indian Ocean) and they have many thousands of miles of ocean passage making under their belts - including getting dismasted twice! Then there are Brian (an American from Texas originally) and his Chinese wife Chuan. They were going to settle in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia but have become disillusioned with many things going on here - racial discrimination against Chinese, and the general slide into corrupt government among many others. They are shipping their boat to Florida and going to live in North Carolina; not sure that that's a good idea looking at where America is going. Makes us feel better and better about leaving and going to Colombia. 
We are getting non essential items off the boat in anticipation of a sale (soon?) and have 2 large suitcases (about 30 kgs ea.)  currently in storage here. The yacht has risen up about one inch on her lines!!
Finally there is the issue of the American Presidential elections. Either you are for Trump or against Trump? No mention of Clinton, and we think that's essentially what it comes down to. Certainly we would not want to be voters in the US and faced with that very poor choice.
With lots of love from us.............
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III