2 September 2010 Thursday
05.24.861N 100.20.868E Tanjung City Marina, Penang
Distance sailed from Pulau Pangkor 76NM
I am trying very hard to like Penang; really, I am. In 2009 the New York Times travel section listed Penang as one of the top ten places worldwide to visit. Everyone we have met who has visited Penang has enjoyed their stay here. So, I am fighting the negativity and yearning to like this place.
The biggest complaint is that it is truly like pulling teeth to extract information from anyone. People give us vague answers or completely incorrect answers. I have about had all of Penang that I can take, and we have been here only three days. My frustration level is maxed. Twice today I was on the verge of tears when forced to ask twenty questions in order to get one straight answer - and I am not a teary type person.
The bad parts thus far have been:
1. Fishermen had nets buoyed completely across the south channel in several places as we arrived on Tuesday afternoon. This really, really pisses us off! They are not supposed to fish between the channel markers.
2. When we arrived at the marina, the slip we had been assigned was still occupied by a boat that was supposed to have left and didn't. The owners are from Philadelphia and the man was nice enough to help with our dock lines as we tied up on the outside of the T-dock since there was no other slip available. He said they would leave the next day.
3. Water at this marina is notoriously rough. The rolling is so bad that the marina only puts one boat into a slip built for two boats, and you cross-tie as many dock lines as you can fit across the entire dual slip. (Check daily for chafe!!) Our first night on the outside of the T-dock we were tied only on the starboard side. It was a very rolly and noisy night as our fenders screeched against the hull and dock all night long. The boat in our assigned slip did not depart until 16:30 the next day. Check-out time is noon. The marina should have made him either pay for another day or leave on time. He could have anchored in the nearby Junk Anchorage until he was ready to depart Penang later in the afternoon.
4. Clearing into Penang is supposedly very easy. That is what everyone says. We found Immigration with no problems and that was easy. But no one could tell us the exact location of the Harbour Master office. Everyone said it was just a few minutes walk left from Immigration. We finally found it. The Harbour Master office is on the second floor of the Affin Bank building, which is the first bank as you walk left out of Immigration. You walk around back (no signs), enter a doorway, and walk up one flight of stairs. Once you find the office, it is easy. Customs proved to be the toughest to locate. We were directed to the big yellow building past the traffic circle. Nope; a man in a uniform in that building directed us to the 7th floor of another big yellow building a block away. When we arrived there, another uniformed man sent us right back to the first big yellow building. We walked back there; found another uniformed man; and again explained that we wanted to clear in from Singapore. He took us out a rear door and walked through several alleyways to a white metal building - what back in the States we would call a temporary building. The official there had no idea what to do with us. He made no notes of our boat name or arrival or anything. He told us to come back to clear out with him 24-hours before we leave Penang. Hell, if he doesn't know we are here then how will he know if we have left? The entire process was silly beyond words. But at least we now know the location of the 3 offices when it is time to clear out.
5. The marina has a very nice "Boaters Lounge" with television, free wifi, pool table and lounging area. They do not provide free wifi anywhere else in the marina. Instead, they have an arrangement with another company that sells wifi service. That is fine. We don't mind paying for wifi on the boat. The only problem is that company's website is malfunctioning and you cannot purchase wifi online. You must buy prepaid scratch-off cards. After playing twenty questions several times with the lady in the marina office, we learned that the marina office normally sells the scratch-off wifi cards but is currently out-of-stock. They have no idea when they will receive a new supply of the cards. The telephone number they gave us for the wifi company does not work. Every store that the marina office has directed us to has also been out-of-stock on the wifi cards. This is getting ridiculous! Bill takes his iTouch up to the Boaters Lounge and receives email several times daily, but we cannot use our regular boat computers. I do not want to lug a laptop around. I want wifi on the boat.
6. Our only reason for coming to Penang was to obtain our Thai visas and hopefully also receive our India visas. Friends were in Penang a couple of months ago and had emailed us that it is very easy to obtain both the India visa and the Thai visa here in Penang. After we arrived we learned that this isn't quite true. The visas for India take at least 2 weeks because the passports are shipped down to Kuala Lumpur and back. We don't want to be stuck here in Penang if there might be an unforeseen delay, so we will get the India visas while we are in Houston in November. And our friend now tells us that the Thai visa must be started within 90 days of obtaining it. Supposedly, the visa is good for the stated period and that may exceed the 90 days from date of receipt; but we would have to arrive in Thailand within 90 days of obtaining the visa. We are flying home in late October and will not return to Langkawi until December 1. If we obtain the Thai visa now, it would be expired before we could get to Phuket. So we are hanging around Penang hopefully to obtain a Thai visa with a date that will allow us enough time to stock-up on food after our trip home and sail up to Phuket to clear into Thailand before the 90 day limit on starting the visas.
7. Today we found the number 103 bus to the Gurney Plaza and went shopping for fresh produce at the Cold Storage. While at the big mall we tried to see a movie, but Inception hasn't yet made it to Penang. I wouldn't sit through any of the movies they were showing even if someone paid me to. Then we could not find a bus stop for buses running in the opposite direction to return to the city, so ended up taking a taxi at 4 times the cost of the bus. Obviously I did not ask the correct twenty questions about bus stops from the right person.
There are a number of other things that have annoyed us since arriving in Penang, but those are the main irritants. And I was so much looking forward to enjoying this island. If we ever get wifi then we can research some things to do and see (as well as the visas). Until then, neither of us is enjoying Penang.
So far, the only good thing has been the pizza at the QE II - a bar/restaurant located right next to the marina. Their Margarita pizza is great! Made with halved grape tomatoes, fresh basil and a light sprinkling of mozzarella. And they also serve a darn good Greek salad!