Friday, October 30, 2009

More sightseeing in Singapore

Our second full day in Singapore was again spent running around on the MRT and seeing the usual touristy places downtown. First stop was China Town for a Thai lunch at one of the hawker places. Food was good but prices were not the ultra-cheap that some of our friends have talked about. A simple lunch for 2 with one beer and one iced tea was $25 SGD. The food court at Vivo City had food for the same prices and it looked and smelled just as good if not better. China Town was good for the local atmosphere but I am afraid the hawker food stands (at least in China Town) are overrated.

Back to the MRT to continue sightseeing. We managed to change from the NE line to the NS line on the subway and reach the intended destination of the City Hall station. But as we were walking outside Bill informed me that he was not the slightest bit interested in visiting the famous Raffles Hotel and having a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar -- the home of this world-renowned drink. Bill said he has never tasted a Singapore Sling and had no interest in trying one now. Well, duh; couldn't he have said something about this before we got off the subway?

On to Plan B. Next on the itinerary was to visit the Asian Civilisations Museum. Yeah, I know that civilization is spelled wrong; but that is how the Brits and locals spell it. The Asian Civilisations Museum has 3 locations. We wanted to visit the Asian Civilisations Museum II which is located at #1 Empress Place on the northern side of the Singapore River. It wasn't that far of a walk; so rather than going back underground and riding the subway to the next (closer) exit, we decided to hoof it. Without a street map. And not knowing exactly where we were or where we going. But we found it. We also found the Old Parliament House, the new Parliament building, the Supreme Court and a really pretty stark white church on St. Andrews Road, which one must assume is St. Andrews Church.

The Asian Civilisations Museum should be the starting point for any Singapore visitor interested in Asian history. Their exhibits rank first class. The oldest artifacts we saw were dated 1700 B.C.E. There was a special gallery exhibit from China that was spectacular. There were no explanations in English for the exhibit from China but everything was still interesting to me. There was also a special exhibit from the Phillippines called "Land of the Morning" that was really interesting. Would have loved to take photos of some of the Phillippines exhibit but photography was not allowed. Did you know that there was a common Austronesian language spoken all the way up into the Phillippines more than 7000 years ago? I find that astounding. The culture in this part of the world is so much older than we were taught in school 5 decades ago. Oh, and BTW, since Bill and I are each over the age of 60 the museum charged us a discounted admission price of only $4 SGD each. In Australia the senior discounts only applied to Australian citizens; but here in Singapore we old folks are granted discount admission prices. The one and only good thing about being old.

By the time we finished touring the museum we were both exhausted for some reason. Have no idea why we both were so tired, but there you are. We walked back to Raffles City to pick up the MRT at the same place where we had exited earlier and re-traced our routes back to Harbourfront Center and Vivo City. We found the larger and less expensive supermarket located down on the B2 level of the mall and learned they will deliver to the marina if we purchase more than $200 worth of groceries (not including beer or wine). Sounds like a plan to us. But I honestly don't feel that we need to do such a major provisioning right now since we will be leaving in 6 weeks for the trip home for Christmas. I enjoyed a cappuccino milkshake in the mall. A milkshake here in no way resembles a milkshake in the states. It does not contain ice cream. It is lots of ice cubes whirled in a blender with some clear flavored syrup and protein powder. Then they added a dipper of coffee flavored balls that are chewy like gummy bears, and it is served with a wide straw. You suck up the coffee flavored gummy bears along with they icy slush. I didn't care for it at first. Chewing those gummy coffee balls was strange. But I was addicted to this silly type drink by the time I finished it. Want another one or two before we leave S'pore. This icy drink is very refreshing in this hot, humid climate.

Saturday we made arrangements with friends to meet them at the MRT station in Little India. We stood there for 1 1/2 hours and they never showed up. Found out later that we missed them by 10 minutes. They are staying way out at Raffles Marina and had missed their first bus and were over an hour late getting started on their trip into the city. I am so glad we chose One° 15 Marina. It is so convenient for getting into the central business district or to anywhere serviced by the MRT subway. Our EZ Link cards are also good for travel on buses but we haven't yet needed to use a bus except to get in and out of the marina/Sentosa Island and that is not part of the MRT system.

We walked through the Little India section for a very short distance and decided to try one of the food stands for lunch. Bill had nasi ayam (Indonesian chicken and rice dish) and I had chicken briyami (an Indian dish). Both were good and cost only $3-$4 each. I think you could find any kind of food you might desire at those food stands in the Tekkah Markets, all very reasonably priced. Everything looked delicious. We bought a few produce items in the market. Unfortunately the meat market adjoins the produce market and the smells of the meat were overwhelming so neither of us wanted to linger in the market area. The tiny eggplants the size of plums looked interesting, although I did not even recognize many of the vegetables. We were not interested in seeing any of the temples or the mosque so that was enough of Little India for us.

Back on the subway, changed lines and got on the most crowded traincar seen in S'pore so far. Soon we were at the infamous Orchard Road shopping district. This was one busy place!

The subway egress is below the multi-level ION Orchard shopping complex. The shops are fairly high-end; the type stores we shopped in back during our working years. Zegna, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, etc., all had individual stores and all appeared to have shopping customers. We made our way up to the street level and sat on a bench beneath some trees and people-watched for awhile. ION Orchard blended into one after another of big buildings of more retail stores. The next impressive "mall" was the Ngee Ann City where there were even more high-dollar retail stores. Must be a lot of money in this town. This is a very vibrant section of the city and business looked to be thriving.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

China Town

Our first day in Singapore was spent figuring out how to catch the right bus from the marina to Harbourfront Center; finding a working ATM; exploring the truly enormous Vivo City shopping mall; figuring out the MRT; exploring China Town; getting back to Vivo City and doing a bit of shopping; and then finding the right bus back to the marina. There was some big golfing tournament held on Sentosa island today and it took us 4 attempts to find the right bus off this island; the first 3 buses were just golf tournament shuttles. By the time we found the right bus I was about ready to say to hell with it and just leave this marina and go to Raffles. But the day got better once we got away from the marina.

Vivo City is a 3 to 5 level shopping mall that is just enormous. It is larger than Houston's Galleria 1, 2 and 3 combined, with the free-standing Dillards and Nordstroms added in. This is the largest shopping mall that we have seen anywhere. And filled with upscale shops. There is one small supermarket tucked in a corner and we found more American products there than we have seen since leaving the good old USA. Of course, everything carries a hefty price, too. A six-pack of Heineken beer priced at $20. A half-pound of bacon for $11.50. A tiny box of Bisquick costs $8.75. You get the picture.

The MRT terminal is beneath the mall. This is the subway and it is really, really nice. The ticket clerk tried to talk us into a day pass for $18, allowing unlimited travel with $10 refunded at the end of the day. Or we could pay individual tickets for each segment we traveled. We opted to purchase an EasyLink Card for $15; $5 for the card and $10 value for travel. This card can be replenished with a credit card at any terminal machine. Plus the rate charge for each segment of travel is reduced when you use an EasyLink Card. The EasyLink Card can also be used on any bus. Seemed like a no-brainer to us.

We rode the MRT to China Town and walked around for hours. It seemed to never end; the narrow streets just went on and on and on and on. With vendors of every kind lining the sidewalks. With hawkers trying to convince us to stop and shop. It was fun. We wished we had waited to eat lunch at one of the hawker eateries instead of eating at Vivo City before we set out to play on the MRT. So we probably will go back to China Town tomorrow for lunch. Lots more small shops and big Chinese stores to check out.

The first thing I did in China Town was have my face and eyebrows threaded. I have always wanted to try this. Unlike most women I cannot have my eyebrows or anything else waxed because it tears off the top layer of my skin. Over the past 2 decades I have tried 4 separate spas where they were skilled in waxing, but my skin is just too delicate for this process and it leaves raw oozing places where the top layer of the skin is ripped off with the hot wax and cloth strips. So threading has intrigued me but I just never found the opportunity to try it. We were walking down a narrow alley and saw a sign for various spa treatments, including facial threading. Full face for only $15 SGD. How could I turn that down! So I trekked up a long narrow flight of dark stairs and found the tiny spa staffed by 2 young Chinese women. They asked me to remove my shoes to enter the shop. Soon I was lying down and one of the women held the thread between her teeth and in each of her hands and deftly removed every trace of blonde peach fuzz from my face and around my eyebrows. It stung a little bit but nothing bad. My face is now smoother than a newborn's bottom. If we lived here I would have this done once a month. If you have never heard of threading, it is a process that Asian women have used for centuries to keep their faces (and sometimes arms and legs and other parts of the anatomy) silky smooth. Tis a bit painful but you know the price of beauty must be paid.

After we were shopped out in China Town we road MRT back to Vivo City. Did a quick tour back through part of that mall and picked up a few salad items at the expensive grocery store. It was easy finding the bus back to the marina. We arrived home seconds before a thunderstorm struck with lots of lightning flashing. No nearby strikes this time. These lightning storms seem to occur daily in these parts but they usually don't last long; not like that 9-hour lightning storm over Borneo a couple of weeks ago.

All in all it was a good first day in the big city.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Singapore arrival

Crossing the 4 shipping lanes of the Singapore Strait wasn't as tense as I had feared.

Boats less than 20 meters in length have no rights-of-way in the shipping lanes. Since S/V BeBe is only 16 meters long that meant that in the shipping lanes we are never the stand-on vessel. Regardless of the situation, we are the give-way vessel. Also, small boats like us are supposed to cross the shipping lanes at a 90-degree angle to the shipping traffic. The other important rule is using sails is forbidden in all Singapore waters. Anchoring is also forbidden except for the few minutes that one is required to stop in the designated Quarantine anchorages for Immigration clearance prior to approaching the island of Singapore. Another relatively new rule is that all vessels are required to rent an AIS transponder and obtain a special permit when moving between marinas or from a marina to a boatyard. That won't affect us because we have no intentions of moving from this marina slip until the day we depart Singapore.

The first 2 shipping lanes were a breeze to cross. We waited for a break in the traffic and followed a fast ferry straight across. There is a separation zone that provides a few moments of break before tackling the second set of shipping lanes. This second set was more challenging. It was slightly nerve-wracking to time our crossing while avoiding 2 fast ferries, 2 tug boats pulling large barges, and 2 cargo ships coming toward us from the starboard side; while at the same time there were 2 cargo ships coming toward us from the port side and 2 more fast ferries overtaking us from the rear. And, remember, we are supposed to keep the bow of our boat perpendicular to the traffic; so we were not supposed to turn to go behind any of these ships or barges. Well, that just wasn't possible. The only safe way to get across through all this traffic was to turn to starboard and point to the stern of the second barge and then to the stern of the second ship on the starboard side. The port side traffic seemed to handle itself and we were never in their way. But we did have to turn to go behind traffic from the starboard side. Then we were across and what a relief that was!

We arrived in the Western Quarantine Anchorage and hailed for clearance as instructed. The anchorage was full of cargo ships and we did not want to drop an anchor in the midst of all those large ships. The depth was 19 to 32 meters and that was another reason we didn't want to put down our anchor. Instead we idled and circled on the fringe of the ships while waiting for the Immigration officials to deal with us. We had all the paperwork ready. After an hour they finally approached our boat. A man held out a net on a long pole and took our paperwork. They stamped our passports and gave us the Immigration Clearance and we were off to the marina which was a very short distance away. We will let the marina handle our clearance with Customs and Harbor Master. They charge approximately $30 in and $30 out for this service, plus they collect the $30 fee for the Harbor Master. Fine with us; let them do the running around for this paperwork dance. Worth $60 for them to do it and us not have to deal with finding the offices to do it ourselves.

One°15 Marina is nice but the facilities are private. There are several upscale restaurants onsite that are open to us any time even though we are not members. There is also a gorgeous swimming pool that supposedly we are allowed to use Monday through Thursday only as long as there is not a private function being held. The outside wall of the pool is a water wall and there are tables and chairs sunken in a spa section back in a corner near the bar. Technically the pool is only open to members and marina guests are not members, so if someone at the pool asked to see our membership card we would be asked to leave. That is just not our style so likely we won't be using this nice swimming pool. We chose One°15 because of its close proximity to downtown Singapore where we will be sight-seeing. Friends went to Raffles Marina which is way out on the southern tip of the island. From their description Raffles Marina is nicer than One°15. But we aren't moving now. Tomorrow we will begin exploring on the MRT--subway, train, buses.

When we were checking out the marina facilities I encountered the first Asian style toilet in the ladies' showers. I had heard about these. Bill said the toilets in the men's room are just normal toilets. But in the ladies' room the toilet is installed recessed into the floor. There are 2 foot pads on either side of the toilet that is flush even with the floor level. I assume one is supposed to squat over it and let nature take its course. No wonder most of the women here wear skirts. I would imagine it takes a bit of contortionist to accomplish this feat with a pair of tight jeans scrunched around your ankles and keep them dry. There is a hand-held spray faucet mounted on the wall for rinsing off instead of the normal toilet paper. Guess you are expected to drip dry after rinsing. Welcome to Asia.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Final comments on Indonesia

Hard to believe we will have been in Nonga Point Marina for an entire week tomorrow. Several boats that had participated in the Sail Indonesia Rally arrived several days after us. We knew none of these folks so it has been a week of getting to know new people while enjoying the amenities of this nice marina. Linda and Michael on S/V B'Sheret arrived on Sunday and it was nice catching up with them and hearing about their river tour on Borneo (Kalimantan) to see the wild orangutans.

Saturday night the marina had a special barbeque set up around their beautiful swimming pool. That was an enjoyable evening hearing lots of stories from the rally folks about their adventures in various parts of Indonesia over the past 3 months. Most of these folks are now heading straight to the Sail Malaysia Rally and will skip Singapore altogether. Singapore has a reputation for being expensive for marinas and clearance fees so they are going straight to Malaysia for the rally that starts on November 1st. These rallies can be fun with parties and celebrations and do promote a sense of comradarie among the participants, as well as often providing substantial discounts at marinas along the scheduled route. So it is easy to understand the attraction of participating in a rally. Unfortunately, the Sail Indonesia dates were impossible for our schedule for the past 4 months; and the Sail Malaysia dates are also impossible for our intended schedule for the next 2 months. We have yet again changed our plans and won't be going to Langkawi before we fly home for Christmas.

We have decided to stay put in the Malaysia-Singapore area for at least 6 months and do land travel from there. There are far better and far less expensive flights out of both Singapore and from Kuala Lumpur for SE Asia travel than the flights from Langkawi. Plus, and this is a big plus, we found a marina that is offering huge discounts for long-term berthing. The new Puteri Harbour Marina is in Malaysia. More about that in a future posting after we get over there and check it out. If it meets with our approval then S/V BeBe will be staying there for at least 6 months while we fly home and then do some land travel in Asia.

Since leaving Opua, New Zealand on May 5 we have sailed a total of 6406.1 nautical miles (that is 7,046.7 statute miles for you landlubbers). I have decided we need a break from sailing or motoring and Bill is in full agreement.

Our final notes on Indonesia:
1. The Indonesian people are friendly and greet you with smiles, except for a few places where they are sullen and obviously don't want the intrusion of visitors. We avoided the dangerous zones of Sumatra and Java altogether.
2. The poverty is depressing in some places, although the people in the poorest areas were some of the nicest people encountered.
3. Bali is lovely and the Balinese people are the nicest of all the Indonesian islands.
4. According to our sailing guide, the archaepalago of Indonesia consists of 13,677 islands -- they must be counting every single rock that sticks above the sea surface because it doesn't seem like there are that many islands on our charts.
5. I think we have seen every type of boat imaginable.
6. The jellyfish in this area are downright scary. The main body usually is about 3 feet in diameter, with tentacles 12-15 feet long. The bodies look like flowers--all pink, orange and yellow. And they float a foot or so below the surface of the water. Definitely get your attention and we definitely don't want to tangle with one.
7. As with other places we have visited, the rumors are worse than the reality. These people are generally friendly and Indonesia is no more dangerous, and possibly less dangerous, than the Caribbean islands.
8. Sailing in this part of the world during this time of the year is difficult because of the strong currents and light winds. That rally should be renamed to Motor Indonesia rather than Sail Indonesia.
9. Indonesia has been over-fished. So badly over-fished that I don't know that these waters could ever repopulate even if all fishing ceased today. In some areas they are even using explosives to fish and are taking fish that aren't even 6 inches long. It is so sad. Guess it was inevitable when a traditional fishing culture grew to a population of over 270 million people.
10. Flies are terrible. Every place we stopped had lots of flies, even way out in the anchorages. The flies at Nongsa Point Marina nearly drove us crazy. The marina sprayed pesticides nightly but the flies still swarmed out around our boat which was in the last outward slip from land.

The marina office is supposed to handle our clearance out of Indonesia early tomorrow morning and we should be out of here by 10 a.m. Then we are off to motor the short distance over to Singapore.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nongsa Point Marina -- final stop in Indonesia

On Tuesday morning we departed Kentar and motored about 30 miles northwest to the island of Mesanak. Three other cruising boats (2 American and 1 Australian) had arrived in Kentar a couple of days previously, and all 3 of them followed us up to the northwestern anchorage at Mesanak. At one point we had to turn almost completely backward to avoid a long line of floats. We could not tell if these floats marked fish traps or a fish net, so to be on the save side we detoured around them. Later we heard one of the other boats say on the radio that these markers were for fish traps and that we could have gone between the floats. Better safe than sorry. Prudent move was to avoid that long line of floats and I don't regret wasting a half-hour making that detour.

Before dawn on Wednesday morning we weighed anchor and headed northwest between the islands of Batam and Bintan. The other 3 boats were still asleep; guess they were planning to hang around another day or 2. We were ready to put this trip behind us as quickly as possible. Only 55 miles to go and we could sleep in air-conditioned comfort at a marina! We left at beginning of ascending tide in Singapore and had a 1 1/2 to 2 knot favorable current the whole way until we reached the top of Batam and turned left. Then it was 2 knots against us for the final 2 hours. Several miles north of Mesanak we noticed 3 masts sticking up from the sea surface. This was in 14 meters water depth. Obviously this was a shipwreck. Must have been relatively recent because it was not indicated on our charts dated 2005. Glad the sun was well up from the horizon before we encountered this little surprise. We noted the location so we could email friends who will be coming this way next week and warn them of this hazard.

As we progressed northward between the islands the number of small fishing boats decreased and the large shipping traffic increased. By the time we reached the northern 1/3 of Batam we were in a large mooring field for large ships. There were more than a dozen cargo ships either moored or anchored, several of which were being loaded from barges with cranes. Apparently there is not a deep-water port in this shallow part of Indonesia and the cargo ships must be loaded and unloaded while at anchor. This area is very close to the separated shipping traffic scheme for the Singapore Strait. We were picking up at least 40 AIS targets in this area. Busy place! And the VHF radio traffic was awful. Channel 16 never stopped. Gets on your nerves after a while but you have to listen just in case one of them hails your boat. Was very nice to hear a US Navy ship at one point. Rarely have we heard American voices on the VHF radio in months and months.

The marina had requested via email that we hail them on VHF channel 72 when we were 10 minutes from the marina entrance. Well, with all the excessive radio chatter it was impossible to break in on channel 72 to hail the marina. We started trying to hail them when we were 30 minutes away. Bill pulled out the cell phone and tried calling them, but the phone number connected with the wrong marina office. The reception office couldn't help us. When we were close to the marina entrance we finally made VHF contact and the marina manager sent a small launch out to guide us in. There are some submerged rocks near the entrance and several shoal areas to avoid, so the launch guide is a nice service. We were docked in our slip before 2 p.m. at latitude 01.11.82N, longitude 104.05.82E. Plan at this moment is to stay here for one week and then get over to Singapore if the marina there has a slip available for us as reserved.

Nongsa Point Marina is very nice. It is new; the old marina was damaged in a storm just a couple of years ago. The new floating concrete docks are very nice. The slips are very long (far longer than necessary for our 16 meter boat) and these are the widest slips we have ever seen. Very, very spacious. Everything is super clean and well-staffed. They fog for mosquitoes each evening. This is a resort hotel so there is a nice restaurant, bar and swimming pool. And there is almost no one here. It is a very quiet place. When the weather is very clear we can see the skyline of the big city of Singapore in the distance across the shipping lanes.

For our first night here we treated ourselves to a nice dinner in the resort restaurant. Bill had nasi goreng (rice dish) and I had mee goreng (noodle dish). Both were good. I tasted the accompanying little bowl of sweet brown sauce filled with sliced peppers and decided it wasn't too spicy so I dumped the entire bowl of sauce on top of the mee goreng. After all, I do normally like spicy food. It tasted delicious until I picked up a whole mouthful of the tiny sliced peppers hiding beneath the noodles and set my mouth on fire! That set off a coughing fit. Then I separated out the rest of the tiny sliced peppers and was more careful about what was on each forkful. All this time Bill was enjoying his nasi goreng. He does love rice. There were several components arranged attractively on this plate of nasi goreng -- shrimp, chicken satay, fried chicken piece and sliced fresh vegetables. Bill thought he was eating a couple of small green beans and darn near caused a heart attack. They were raw little peppers, just like the tiny sliced peppers in my sweet brown sauce. His eyes, neck and face turned beet red and he couldn't speak. Literally took his breath away. Drinking water doesn't do a thing for hot peppers. Luckily, he still had a half glass of beer because beer did cut the heat of the peppers. As soon as he could get the waitress' attention he motioned for another beer. Then I convinced him to eat a large bowl of chocolate ice cream. Milk or cream coats the stomach and digestive tract to help alleviate problems that the peppers might cause. We were afraid that peppers this hot might cause a reaction from his Crohn's disease. He normally avoids spicy food these days. Guess the beer and the ice cream worked because he was pain free all night. We both will be more careful in the future about peppers while here in SE Asia. They do like their food spicy.

The resort/marina has a car that we can hire like a taxi. For 210,000 rupiah (about $22 USD) round-trip they will drive us to the town of Nongsa and wait 2 hours for us to shop or eat lunch or dinner or whatever. Whole trip takes about 3 hours. We planned to explore the town today but it is raining so we are sitting in our nice air-conditioned boat and playing with the free WiFi instead. Life is good.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Across the Bali Sea, the Java Sea and part of the South China Sea

We departed Serangan on southeast tip of Bali at 0800 on Thursday 8 October at beginning of slack low tide in order to catch the counter-current that sometimes runs northward along the shore. The counter-current only runs at precisely Upper Transit or Lower Transit of the moon, or at precisely Upper Transit or Lower Transit plus 10 hours. Since we do not have a nautical almanac we had no way of knowing when UT or LT of moon cycle would occur, but we WAGged it and just happened to guess right. (WAG = wild ass guess) Our friends were using a different tide program and according to them we were leaving at 2 1/2 hours before high tide. But according to the tidal information in Maxsea we left at precisely the beginning of slack low tide. Whichever timing of the tidal cycle it was, it worked beautifully.

It was calm motoring out to the edge of the reef where we turned northward through some very strong eddies that twisted us about a bit. After getting through the eddies we picked up the counter-current near the shore and were able to ride it all the way up the island. In the counter-current there was only 1 1/2 to 2 knots head current against us, as opposed to the 5 to 7 knots of head current (south-setting current) that is normally in the Lombok Strait during the SE monsoon season. October is a transition month from SE monsoon to NW monsoon. Once the NW monsoon season is fully established then the current in Lombok Strait will reverse and become northerly-setting. The current always runs opposite direction of the prevailing winds for some strange reason. The day we left there was a good SE wind and we hoped that it remained from that direction until we reached Singapore.

No one told us about the current in the Bali Sea and there was no indication on our charts! There were lots of warnings about the strong currents in the various straits, but no one had mentioned that we would face a 1 1/2 to 2 knot head current all the way SE to NW across the Bali Sea. The wind died down and we were forced to motor all day and night. As we neared the island of Pulau Raas the seas became like a washing machine during agitation cycle. But once we entered the pass between the islands that separate the Bali Sea from the Java Sea, the water instantly calmed. Once through that pass we immediately picked up a westerly-setting current. Yeah!! A current in our favor for a change! We decided not to stop at Pulau Raas and pushed on toward the island of Bawean.

That night off the northern coast of the island of Java we passed through at least 50 small fishing boats -- all lit up in the craziest manner. None of these craft were lit with the conventional lighting scheme of red on port side, green on starboard and white on stern. These little boats had flashing green lights or flashing red lights or flashing white lights or sometimes all 3 colors. Very few had static lights, almost all were flashing brightly. Christmas lights off Java in October. It was impossible to tell which direction any boat was heading. And every once and awhile one of those very large Indonesian ships would pass us by. Also the normal cargo ships, but at least those had AIS and correct lighting. Made for a very stressful evening.

About 9 p.m. I realized that I had fever because it suddenly seemed very cold. And there was no way that it was really cold in this hot area. Sure enough, the thermometer read 103. I really wanted to stick it out and let Bill sleep until at least midnight, but he woke up at 10:30 and saw that I was sick and he took over. Good thing he did. I was down for the count. A fever that high wears a person out. Bill had been telling me for 2 days that my face was very bright red, but it is normal for my face to be red when I get hot; so I just figured it was the heat. Should have listened to Bill and dug out the thermometer sooner. Bill stayed on watch for the rest of the night and until we reached the anchorage at Bawean shortly after noon. I started taking Cipro. Had no idea what was wrong, but this area of the world has a number of common diseases: dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid and yellow fever -- just to name a few. We had vaccine updates for typhoid and yellow fever last February in New Zealand, but dengue or malaria or encephalitis were possibilities. We had tried to wash our hands every time we touched the dinghy painter because the water in the harbor in Bali was so dirty. Who knows what we had been exposed to in those crowds at the temples we visited. Figured that taking the antibiotics might not help but it surely wouldn't hurt, regardless of what ailed me. Fever remained high grade for 2 days, then diminished to low-grade fever for another several days. By Monday I was feeling good enough to press on toward Singapore. After all, all we do on passages is sit in the cockpit and I could do that with a slight temp.

BTW, Bawean was a great anchorage. Nicely protected from sea motions and had good cool breeze coming down off the high hills. Just had to ignore the caterwauling call to prayers from the loud speakers at 2 villages several times daily. This probably would not be a pleasant anchorage during NW monsoon but was great during the SE winds.

Monday morning we set sail across the Java Sea. We had decided to skip Borneo, or Kalimantan as it is currently called. Most everyone else planned to visit Kumai on Borneo and make a trip up the river to see the orangutans. This rates right up there with those Komodo dragons on another Indonesian island. Houston has a wonderful zoo. We have seen orangutans and were not interested in making a trip up a river where I would likely be eaten alive by insects (which never seem to bite any other people around me). Since I was just getting over being sick (possibly from an insect bite), we saw no reason to push our luck. So we set sail from Bawean headed NW across the Java Sea to Pulau Karangraya near the Karimati Strait. This is west of Borneo and is where the Java Sea joins the South China Sea.

It was great sailing with 20 knots winds from SE. Large lumpy quartering seas made for a lot of movement, but nothing uncomfortable. It would have been great if this weather had continued but that was not to be. The winds died and we were soon back to motoring. Highlight of crossing the Java Sea was sighting 2 extremely colorful boats with curving high prows. How exotic! Will try to post photos when we get internet access.

One night we motored an enormous field of anchored fishing boats. These are the strangest things. They had long poles sticking out in every direction all around the boat, with nets on the poles. They would anchor the boat and lower all the poles and turn on these extremely bright lights. From a distance beyond the horizon these bright lights looked like a city. As we approached each boat it looked like a small oil platform. But these were fishing boats. I counted 39 in one patch one night.

Each island has its unique way of building boats and of fishing. Off the northern coast of Bali we had seen hundreds and hundreds of those water spider type boats that could be affixed with lateen sails. The first photo with this blog posting is of that mountainous part of Bali. On the beach in that photo are hundreds of those spider-looking boats dragged up onto the beach. That area was also plagued by wood and bamboo rafts, each with A-frames built on top and with a single palm frond standing upright like a mast. We have no idea what the significance of these rafts might be. But, later, at Bawean we saw a different type raft. These were much more crudely built, but still had a single upright palm frond. Maybe these things are to attract marine life to encourage fish to congregate beneath the rafts. Who knows! Maybe there is some religious significance. All we know is that they are a hazard to boats like ours. Those rafts could sure mess up the gel coat on our boat. And it was positively impossible to see these rafts at night. We were very glad to get far enough out to sea that there were not any more rafts still floating.

We decided to skip stopping at Karangraya. Instead we went around that small group of islands and took the Karimata Strait into the South China Sea, then northwest up toward Singapore. We stopped yesterday afternoon at Lingga island. There was no breeze there so we motored today up to the island of Kentar and anchored at latitude 00.03.64N longitude 104.45.77E We plan to stay here a few days. Do laundry and rest up. We have covered 940.2 miles since leaving Bali and have about 90 miles left to Singapore.

Did you catch that latitude in the previous paragraph?

Yep, we crossed the equator again this morning shortly before noon. We are again in the northern hemisphere. And, let me tell you, it is very hot and very humid on this spot of the equator!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick update

Just realized it has been a week since we left Bali so thought we should post a quick note to let everyone know that all is fine aboard S/V BeBe. Still underway towards Singapore. Hoping to reach an anchorage before dark tomorrow. Will update again in a couple of days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Leaving Bali

After the road tour and seeing so many temples, we are done with Bali. We are skipping some of the "must see" tourist things -- like the monkey temple because I don't like monkeys; and all the shopping because we don't need anything or want souvenirs; and sunset at Kuta beach because we don't see how that sunset could possibly be better than other sunsets we have seen either on islands, mountains or at sea.

The photo at left is one of the thousands of statues in the middle of road intersections. This photo was taken with a cell phone so it isn't as good as if taken with a real camera, and it does not show the large base of the statue. This statue is very, very tall and elaborate.

So today we caught a "taksi" to Carrefour and bought fresh veggies and fruit for our next passages. Plan (at least today's plan) is to depart Bali tomorrow morning. We will be doing passages ranging from 28 miles to 300 miles per segment on our way to Nongsa on the island of Batam, where we will clear out of Indonesia. Nongsa is only 19 miles from the marina in Singapore where we supposedly have a reservation. I made the reservation last January but other cruisers tell us that all the marinas in Singapore are now full, so who knows if our reservation will be honored or not. We are ready to get started on this next 1000 miles and looking forward to leaving tomorrow morning.

Carrefour supermarket is huge and is located on the 4th or top floor of a shopping complex. On the ground level are an A&W Root Beer shop and a KFC. A piece of home. Several of us cruisers couldn't wait for a cold root beer in this heat, and it sure tasted like home. We bought some KFC to eat on this next passage. It is too darned hot to cook and fried chicken can be eaten cold. Carrefour also had wonderful freshly baked breads and we really loaded up on those. Bill found great looking pan au chocolate (croissants) for only 70 cents each, so he is fixed for a couple of breakfasts on this passage. The bakery section of Carrefour sucked us in and it was difficult to pull ourselves out of there!

BTW, I added a number of postings to this blog today. If you click on Indonesia on the left side of the main page under "Places we have visited" you will find all the new postings. They don't all show up on the main page today since I added so many.

After mentioning our crew list used to clear in here at Bali in a previous posting, we received a request to publish a copy of this crew list. We have another official boat stamp that has all the pertinent information on our boat. The "official seal" is not our boat stamp. We bring the self-inking boat stamp when we clear in. Officials really like that also and we recommend that every cruiser have a "official boat stamp."

A Cremation and some phasmids

During our drive up to see the first temple on top of the mountain we passed a cremation in process. Gede stopped and we took photos. We felt a bit sensitive about taking photos of this event but were assured that it was quite okay and the family would not mind.

When someone dies in Bali the body is usually buried right away, but the cremation often takes place a year or more later because it is very expensive and takes a long time to organize. Sometimes the buried body is actually disinterred and moved in ceremonial procession for the cremation. But very often only personal items of the deceased and some Sanskrit writing about the deceased are burned in the cremation ceremony and the actual body is left in its original burial spot in the cemetery. Gede’s father passed away last February and his body was buried. In August (the most common month for cremation ceremonies) the family held the father’s cremation. Only some papers with Sanskrit writing were burned in the cremation ceremony, not his father’s actual body.

However, in this roadside ceremony, they were actually cremating the body of the deceased.

The processional tower was set off to one side. The body was placed on a bamboo platform that was surrounded by a bamboo fence of sorts. Then large wreaths of flowers were placed around the fence. This shielded the actual burning body from view of the family and bystanders. Some cremations are fired in the old manner of burning wood and can take all day (or longer) for the corpse to burn. But this particular cremation was fired by a forced-fan propane system, so it was making quick work of the cremation process.

Off to the left of the cremation site were small towers with offerings placed on top. The towers were wrapped with white cloths. Gede told us that these were offerings to the evil spirits which always live at the burial grounds and cremation sites. To maintain the balance of good and evil they must first placate the evil spirits before performing the cremation so the spirit of the deceased won’t be interfered with as it goes to Heaven. Always the balance between good and bad must be maintained both in life and death.

The banjar (village adult married males) sat beneath the trees along the roadside. Almost everyone kept his back to the cremation. The family sat together on the ground beneath the big trees and faced the cremation. No one is allowed to cry during a burial or a cremation because that is considered a sign of trying to hold back the spirit of the deceased from going to Heaven. If anyone feels overcome with emotion and cannot control their tears, then that person must walk away from the cemetery or cremation until they gather self-control.

After the deceased or his possessions/Sanskrit markings are cremated, there is another ceremony for the burning of the decorative tower that was used to carry the deceased (or his stuff) to the cremation place. Twelve days later there is another processional ceremony to take the ashes and spirit of the cremated deceased to the family’s home temple. Every home in Bali has a family temple. Some of these are in courtyards and have several pagodas or carved towers. And some of these are very fancy and impressive. You see these everywhere as you drive around.


Halfway between the large city of Denpassar and the first mountaintop temple we stopped at a butterfly park. We have seen several butterfly parks and aren’t particularly impressed with them anymore. But this one had something entirely different. Something we had not seen since our childhoods and never any this impressive – phasmids.

Phasmids are insects that disguise themselves to their surroundings – commonly known as walking stick insects. This butterfly park has a collection of phasmids that couldn’t be beat. There were the phasmids that looked like brittle brown sticks. These are the ones Bill and I were familiar with from our childhood days.

They also had thick lighter brown phasmids that we had not seen before. And they had a lot of them!

The most interesting phasmid of all was the one that looked like a walking patch of leaves. You literally could not tell which leaf was simply a leaf on that tree and which was an insect pretending to be a leaf.

The only butterfly of interest to me was the Barong Butterfly native to Bali. This is a huge brown patterned butterfly – each wing as large as one of my hands. This beautiful butterfly lives only 5 days.

Tour Day #2 -- MountainTemples Rice Terraces

On the second day of touring Gede drove us to a more western area of the island, not far west but about central west. To go farther west would have involved staying overnight in a hotel and we did not want to leave the boat overnight. Seemed like we would never get away from the heavily populated areas. But eventually we made it through the capital of Denpassar and were headed up the mountainside to a temple at the top of a mountain.

Every temple has posted signs regarding who is allowed to enter. Most of these rules are the same for every temple. Here is a sample of the rules which were posted on this particular mountaintop temple:

“Those who are not allowed to enter the temple:
1. Ladies who are pregnant
2. Ladies whose children have not got their first teeth
3. Children whose first teeth have not fallen out yet
4. Ladies during their period
5. Devotees getting impure due to death
6. Mad ladies or gentlemen
7. Those not properly dressed
All devotees entering the temple should maintain cleanliness and environmental conservation.”

I guess number 5 means people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness. And I don’t think number 6 means angry people but crazy people. Every temple banned women who are menstruating. That seems to really bother those male priests for some reason. Reminds me of the book, “Clan of the Cave Bear.”

This temple was built in the 13th century and is a very large complex with a lake off to one side. Some of the statuary was worn smooth to the point that the statues were no longer identifiable. Priests were busily scraping lichen off the stone walls. This temple appeared to require a lot of maintenance. Possibly the very humid high-altitude jungle location contributed to the maintenance issue.

The temple grounds seem to go on forever as we walked up and down wide esplanades of stone steps from one temple to another. Many of the areas were off-limits to tourists. Other areas were open only for day-visitors for meditation. There was such an aura of peacefulness and tranquility. Here is a photo of Bill and Michael walking toward the lake with the shrine in the center. Up and down stone steps for hours.

A group of older women were inside the main courtyard of the temple making and weaving various items for an upcoming celebration ceremony. They had been weaving baskets for 5 days and had accumulated quite a pile already.

In the rear area which was forbidden to tourists were lots of pagodas. We have no idea of the significance of all these pagodas.

Rice Terraces
After the mountaintop temple Gede took us for a drive through the mountains to view the rice terraces. These are so pretty. Exactly what I wanted to see on Bali. We stopped for lunch at a hillside café with a pretty view, marred in my photos only by the telephone lines strung on the poles along the roadside.

We enjoyed a good lunch of traditional Balinese foods. Mine and Linda's were the traditional style spicy and tasted very good. Bill and Michael stuck to the bland tourist version of Balinese dishes. They served us red rice which is not sold in the stores but is grown locally. I bought a kilo just because it is so unique. The rice grains themselves are actually colored light red. The rice is a bit coarser and chewier than white rice. Another dish was the traditional Balinese finely chopped spicy green beans. Those were very tasty. Bill’s meal was served with a tiny bowl of ginger flower spicy pepper condiment. It was too spicy for him so he gave it to me and it complimented my meal perfectly. Bill and Michael drank a local Bitang beer. If I can get the photo uploaded, check out the size of those bottles.

After lunch we went back to touring temples. Bill and Michael were getting tired of temples by now. But the scenery in the mountains between the temples and with all the large and small rice terraces was breathtaking. BTW, the hillside rice terraces are irrigated from the top (of course); but the flow of the water is controlled by the property owner at the bottom of each terrace.

Crater Lake Temple
The next temple was originally built on a crater lake. It was way up on the top of a mountain in a volcano crater that filled to form a large lake. The original temple was a small pagoda with accompanying structure. These 2 structures seem to be stone floating on the lake. They have lots of carved stone frog statues surrounding the 2 temple buildings on the water.

Today there is a much larger temple on the ground near the original pagoda temple. It is divided into 3 major temple areas with impressive stone structures and courtyards. This temple is different than the others we visited. It just feels different.

There was a huge tree on the grounds where many people were gathered to make offerings and to pray. Remember, everything has a spirit and they believe a special spirit occupies that large tree.

Most of the temple grounds were devoted to well-landscaped gardens and pathways. Bill was getting his fill of temples by this point and was getting a bit silly. He needed a little time-out sitting under a tree.

Mengwi Moat Temple

Pura Taman Ayun Temple is located in the village of Mengwi, which is 18 kilometers west of Denpassar. This was our last temple of our tours. Taman Ayun temple is surrounded by a moat. Actually, it is surrounded by 2 moats. There is a large wide moat surrounding the entire temple complex and park. Near the center of the complex is the old temple and it also is surrounded by a smaller moat filled with the most unusual water lilies.

The history of this temple is closely associated with the beginning of the Raja of Mengwi. It was built in 1643 A.D. and was the Royal Family temple of the Raja. The temple is a place to worship and honor the Royal ancestors.

Following the pattern of most Balinese temples, there are 3 connecting temple yards. The innermost sanctum is surrounded by a chest-high stone wall and the water-lily moat. Visitors are forbidden in this inner sanctum. This innermost area is known at the Utama Mandala or highest circle. The middle yard is known as the Madia Mandala or the circle in between. The outer space is known as the Nista Mandala or the humblest circle. The various pagodas serve various purposes, including the housing of ancestors’ spirits of the Royal Family. Only special priests are allowed entry to this inner sanctum.

There are several shrines in the inner sanctum besides the one dedicated to the ancestors. These other shrines were built by the Raja to ensure that his kingdom and people would be able to share in the prosperity of the nation, and also to enable all the people at the village of Mengwi to conduct the religious ceremonies customary to Balinese life. The Royal Family no longer lives on the temple grounds. Today they live in a palace block or so away.

Bill has seen all the temples he cares to see. Hopefully he will recuperate from temple overload before we do a land tour of Cambodia next year for their magnificent temples. How can you visit Asia and not see this stuff!