Yesterday, Bob and Nancy told us we had to come out this morning to see the Chinese grocer. He comes at 1030 every Friday, and it is something the boaters all look forward to each week. In Islam, the Sabbath is on Fridays, and most businesses are closed, including all the grocery stores. There is an enterprising Chinese man who brings groceries out to the boaters on Fridays.
This morning we had a hard time getting up. We finally rolled out of bed at 1015. We quickly made ourselves presentable and went out to the parking lot next to the marina office, where a small crowd was standing around and waiting. A mini-van pulled up a few minutes later and backed into the parking space closest to the crowd. Instantly, the yachties opened the back door and started unloading the baskets that were neatly stacked inside. There were a couple dozen baskets in total, and the yachties put the baskets on the ground in rows. The yachties quickly started rummaging through the baskets, picking out food items. Once they had rummaged through each basket, they got in line at the back door of the van to pay. The entertainment value was more in watching the yachties get so excited over groceries that they couldn’t even wait for the grocer to set up than the grocer himself.
Christi waited for the crowd to thin a little before looking through the baskets. Most contained fruits and vegetables. There were also meat, dairy, fish and bread products. The selection was surprisingly good for coming out of such a small van. She picked up a few things and got in line. The grocer was sitting in the newly opened space at the back of the van with a scale and calculator. He quickly weighed the produce and totaled up the bill. Needless to say, it was cash only.
Once the groceries were put away, Eric went up to the marina office to inquire about renting a car. When he said he wanted to rent a car, the girl behind the desk asked “When?” Eric said “Now”. She said “OK” and handed him a set of keys. Eric asked if there was any paperwork or anything to fill out and she said “No”. Eric went to scope out the car. It is an 80′s hatch back. The gas tank was empty and a tire was flat. Eric took it next door to the gas station, where he filled up, bought a map, and had the tire fixed. We were ready to roll!
We headed towards the main town of Kuah on the west side of the island. We followed the same route we had taken to the grocery store the day before. Not too long past the grocery store, we weren’t sure where we were anymore. The roads are very nice and well marked, but there are a couple roads with the same number and the map isn’t very good, so we weren’t sure which of the #112 roads we were on. It really didn’t matter. It is a small island and you can’t get too lost.
The drive was pretty. It was reminiscent of the drive from Port Dickson to Melaka, with consistent buildings along the road, some very nice, some OK, none too bad. It looked pretty deserted everywhere except the mosques. Around the mosques there were crowds of tightly packed cars, sometimes parked in several rows that encroached out into the middle of the traffic lane. We could see glimpses of jungle behind the buildings.
As we neared the city, the road got wider, going from a two lane to four lane highway. The city looks like once upon a time it was similar to Port Dickson, with most of the buildings being old two story row houses in need of repair. But Port Dickson has been forgotten, and Kuah hasn’t. In and amongst the row houses are many new and very nice buildings, mostly shopping centers and hotels. There is also some construction going on along the waterfront. There were a few yachts anchored out in the bay.
We looped around the city in search of a place to eat. The town is small and the food choices were very limited since most everything was closed. We settled on a Thai restaurant. Christi was still feeling very sick, and just wanted fruit. She ordered a mango salad, expecting slices of mango. Clue one should have been when the waitress asked if Christi wanted it spicy or not. Eric ordered a tofu dish with mushrooms, green onion and garlic, as well as fried rice. The fried rice was very spicy. The garlic in the tofu dish was so overpowering that garlic was all you could taste. The mango in the salad was julienned along with carrots and onions, with peanuts on top. Christi took a bite and was surprised to find that it was salty, tangy and fishy. It was disgusting. Upon closer inspection, there were tiny pieces of dried fish mixed in with the mango. She tried to salvage the meal by picking the fish pieces out, but they were small and hard to see, and even without the fish it was still pretty gross.
We left the restaurant disappointed and wondering how we would like the food in Thailand. During lunch we had perused Lonely Planet to see what there was to do. Just outside of town there is a museum called Galeria Perdana that looked interesting. It is a collection of all the gifts the former prime minister Dr. Mahathir received while in office from 1981 to 2003. The building definitely stood out, with two high peaked roofed mansions side by side. One of the two is pictured below. We pulled into the parking lot, where we were the only car. We figured it was closed since it is the Sabbath and no one was there. Christi went up to the entrance to check and yes, they were open. We bought tickets and were told it was an extra 60 cents USD to bring in a camera, but if we paid the 60 cents we could take pictures of everything. So we paid the camera fee. The second picture is of the ceiling inside, to give you a sense of the opulence of the interior.
To be continued…