Yesterday we spent a very enjoyable 12 hours with a local Chinese gentlemen, riding around in his car while he checked on his plantations. We met Teh the previous day while at a large shopping mall. He was ahead of us in the cashier line of a supermarket. He looked at our cart and asked in perfect English if we were from the marina. Guess our purchase of a case of beer and a couple of 6-packs of Diet Coke was a dead giveaway. Most beer in this muslim country is sold by the individual can. This led to a conversation and an invitation to accompany him on his excursion today. Teh had already invited another cruising couple to accompany him and there was room in his car to hold 5 people. Sounded like a plan to us. Let's go see the countryside. The other couple is from Australia, Reese and Linda on S/V Windy Spirit. They own a catamaran which they built themselves and this is their first year out cruising. This was our first time to meet Reece and Linda.
Teh is an impressive man. His specialty is economics but he also is a history buff. Bill and I also enjoy history and we spent hours talking about the Tartars, Ottoman Empire, the various dynasties of China, Persian wars, all of Asia with an emphasis on Malaysia and many other topics. His stories of the Tong people fighting in the jungles against the Japanese invaders and occupiers during WWII were particularly interesting. I can't remember when we have spent a more enjoyable day discussing such a wide variety of topics with so intelligent and friendly a man. Teh filled us in on a number of local customs and mind-sets which might help us from performing some unintended faux pas. Teh is from a wealthy Chinese family so thus was afforded a quality education. He has traveled worldwide and has homes in several countries. He is a joy to talk with.
After driving for what seemed like forever we arrived in Sungai Rengit in the Pengerang area of Johor, where we enjoyed a superb lunch at the Jade Garden Seafood Corner. This is the sultan's favorite restaurant. It is not fancy; the decor is simple plastic chairs and basic large round tables and a tile floor. This is typical throughout Malaysia and also in Singapore. People are concerned only with the quality of the food, not the ambience and decor of a restaurant. Oftentimes the best meals are found in less-than-impressive or dumpy establishments. The Jade Garden is one of those.
Our meal was wonderful. The 5 of us shared 5 dishes: fried jumbo prawns coated in rolled oats (absolutely delicious!), steamed fish (to die for!), stir-fried prawns and vegetables (always good), homemade tofu (lightly breaded and fried and served with a sweet sauce and vegetables -- very tasty combination), and ostrich with spring onions and ginger. The ostrich was my least favorite dish, but it was okay and the others liked it more than me. It was a bit heavy and rich for my taste. All the seafood dishes were much better in my opinion. Linda does not eat seafood so she preferred the ostrich. The steamed fish was fabulous. It was very mild and served with a blend of dark soy sauce, light soy sauce and sesame oil with unidentified spices. It was a large freshwater fish called a Kurau. I have no idea what that is. This was quite a feast.
After lunch we drove to Sebana Cove Marina. No real reason, just to see what it is like. Reese and Linda might go there eventually as they plan to go up to Hong Kong. But going to Sebana would mean backtracking for us and we have no desire to go backwards. Sebana is on the northern side of Singapore, which would mean going around Singapore island and up the shipping channels before turning west to reach the river that leads to Sebana. Pretty little marina but not for us.
Then we finally drove through Teh's plantations and he checked on the health of his palm oil trees and Josephine pineapples. On the long drive back to Puteri Teh pointed out a couple of buildings that were built to house swallows for the harvesting of birds nests to be used in birds nest soup. One of these buildings belongs to a man who was not able to get a permit for a commercial birdhouse or birds nest farm house. So he obtained a permit to build a residential house. He built a concrete house, complete with non-functional windows. I don't see how anyone inspecting this "house" even with a cursory drive-by inspection could possibly consider it a human residence. It has little holes all over it for the birds egress and it doesn't look like anything a person would inhabit. But, hey, this is Malaysia. The inspector probably wouldn't care as long as the proper donation was made to his favorite cause.
BTW, the name of our marina is strange to our western tongues. Puteri is pronounced POOT-tree. The "e" is not totally silent, but the voice should skim over it ever so lightly -- as if saying lottery with a very soft southern accent making it only 2 syllables. Bill talked with the marina manager and worked out an agreeable rate for long-term berthing. The marina is complete (and totally filled with boats at the moment), but there is still lots and lots of other construction going on in this development. Basically, they are building an entire new city; and the province or state government offices of Johor have already been relocated to their new buildings nearby. Another phase will be the travel lift and hardstand area near the marina. Another phase is a large shopping mall. Another phase is an indoor family=oriented theme park or amusement park. Plus several types of residential habitations covering quite a large area. All of this is under various stages of construction; the streets and roads and freeways and utilities have already been completed. So there is quite a lot of construction nearby. We are paying for 9 months in this marina at such a bargain price that we won't feel a whit wasteful if we leave months early. This should give us plenty of time to research and do some Asian land travel. Guess we ought to start figuring out where we want to visit and when.