Saturday, February 23, 2013

Island Time, Ready or Not

Everyone says the monsoon isn't over until a couple of weeks after Chinese New Year. But Kapas Island was mostly open and we were itching to get out there. We also have a new 'Fellow' to show around.

We got up way too early, and arrived in Marang with plenty of time to spare. Wandering around the market, I picked up a few snacks to try.

 I love the way they do them up in plastic bags with plenty of air to stop them being crushed. (I just hope they don't blow in the bags to fill them with air!) What is it? Well, the green things are little cakey things, sort of moist and jellyish, with coconut. The yellow things are corn kernels - sort of bigger and softer than you'd expect - with coconut (didn't really like them much!). The pink things are jelly, pink colour but no real flavour and hardly sweet at all, rather too firm ... with coconut.

While we were waiting on the jetty for the boat across to the island, we saw an unusual disturbance in the shallow estuary at low tide.

The local people told us it was 'memerang' - which is Malay for 'otter'. We watched him chewing away on a fish he caught. We were a bit surprised, thinking otters were cold weather animals.

We had chosen to travel in one of the bigger ferries - not being sure how Linda would feel about smashing along in a speed-boat. We were glad of it with the waves being a bit bigger than they usually are later in the season.

We had also chosen to stay in the resort we always used to stay in - called 'Pak Ya' (Uncle Ya). Unfortunately, with the departure from the island last year of our old friend Zai, the place has become fairly run down.

So we ended up walking down to the next bay to the resort known as "KBC" (Kapas Beach Chalets) for our meals.

This resort restaurant has a polished wooden floor, and varnished wooden tables!

AND it is a lovely place to relax and read a book. Quite civilised and pleasantly western! (That's Linda on the sofa. I'm sitting at one of the tables further back.)

We'll go back out in a couple of weeks. (Next weekend we have to present at a conference down in Kuantan, four hours drive from here.) And we are planning to stay at KBC this time.

The weather was cloudy, and pleasantly cool, and as soon as we got back the wind and the rain started up again - the monsoon isn't quite over. Hopefully it will be by next time.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

CNY - back to the Island, and a local Wedding

It's Chinese New Year - time for a few days off work. If we were in China there would be brilliant fireworks exploding all around ... but here they are mostly illegal so it is just the young chap in the house behind our building throwing crackers out of his window periodically (all through the night).

We were waiting for Chinese New Year because that's when it is normally expected that the Monsoon will end and after CNY is when the Kapas Island Resorts usually open. We phoned and found that some were still closed, but at least one was open already!

So we went to Qimi Resort - the most expensive on the island. They sent a boat for us - the usual boat services were running but on a fairly minimal schedule. The tide was exceptionally low, which made boarding the boat from the jetty on the mainland a little tricky ... but reaching the beach on the island was impossible. They had to tie the speed-boat to a buoy out past the reef in the deeper water, and we clambered across into a small dinghy, and then we scraped our way across the coral to the beach. (Later in the day, even that was impossible.)

At Qimi resort the huts are mostly built up in the trees. A couple of the huts built at ground level recently showed signs of white ant activity and had to be torn down - the workers were 'frantically' rebuilding them (take that word in a Malaysian island context ...!) because they had booked some people into them in a couple of days.

 (Evidence of frantic activity ... chuckle!)

Anyway, we were up in the trees in a charming villa called "Orchid".

This is one of the older villas, with all sorts of little artistic quirks - such as these beautifully varnished rough-bark railings, on which you can still see where there used to be a jungle vine twisted around the wood. Of course, you wouldn't be wanting to take a toddler up to the balcony with those spaced-out bars. Unfortunately when they were building the cement steps up to the villa they started off generous (large, shallow steps) and gradually realising their mistake so that by the time you get to the top the steps are barely big enough to get a foot onto and so tall they were up to my knees! Us oldies had a bit of a struggle getting up and down - going up on all fours and coming down backwards!!

Our experience on the island previously has taught us that there is usually a brief period every evening and morning when the mosquitoes are merciless - but (whether because of the trees or just different this year) here the mozzies kept it up all night. Our villa was equipped with a mozzie-net - unusual around here, I've never seen them in the shops. It seemed like a nice idea, except once inside, even with the pedestal fan blowing full force, it was like being inside a plastic bag with no movement of air whatsoever.

We did manage to clamber down the steps for a nice long dip in the briny.

Each of the villas in Qimi resort is different and full of quirky little artistic touches, all from the mind of Jackie.

This chap loves to show people around and explain how he has used local bits and pieces in the creation of these masterpieces. He was telling us how the remains of a carcass of a large ocean mammal had washed up on the island during the monsoon -  very smelly, but legally he couldn't touch it. When we mentioned about the very valuable ambergris (from inside whales) which people have found on the beach and made their fortunes ... he got a funny look on his face, like he knew he had seen some but couldn't remember where he threw it away.

Time for a Wedding

 We had to get back to the mainland because we had a wedding to go to. Two boatloads of people had just arrived from the mainland and had to be ferried across the reef in the tiny dinghy, and then there were food supplies to be ferried, and then they ferried us out to the waiting speed-boat. The ocean was glassy-smooth and the trip across was sheer pleasure, but when we got back to the jetty we were so far below the bottom step I had to clamber up on my knees with helping hands all around. We dropped into the local public loo and slipped into some better clothes and headed off to the wedding of the only daughter of one of our friends at work.

 Peter with Dzaki, our colleague whose daughter was getting married.

 The pavillion where the wedding took place.

 Excitement mounts as the groom arrives in traditional garb - including a kris (ceremonial sword).

 The bride and her entourage come out to meet him.

The lovely couple - they match!

 Some meeting and greeting going on, general shuffling around (me not looking like part of the crowd!)

 The procession up the red carpet to the dais where they will sit.

Bringing up the rear, our rhythm group from the IPG.

Yep, Malaysian style wedding - bit different from Australian!