Friday 31 March 2017

Langkawi - Malaysia. Our experience, with information for cruisers.

Pulau Langkawi …

South Bunting - the bay to anchor for a tender ride to see the Princess Lake.
After the Sail Malaysia Rally finished up at Rebak Marina, Langkawi in December 2016 we were keen to find some alone time so we left the marina shortly after the final farewell and headed out to Telaga Harbour to catch our breath and reflect on the last few weeks. From the comfort of our cockpit we were able to get a good grasp on the sailing grounds of Langkawi, and after talking to some locals we were soon to find it a place we could easily stay on for some time. It’s easy to understand once you’re here why so many cruisers stop here and basically never leave, it’s a fantastic location. Thailand is literally on your door step and Penang is a day sail away.

Bass Harbour - Kuah at sunset.
To give you an idea of its size: Langkawi’s total area is 478.4km², where the as the Whitsundays is 282.82km² according to Wikipedia.  Langkawi has 99 islands and the Whitsundays has 74. Incredibly only 4 of the 99 islands are inhabited here. What we do wonder is if all those 99 islands are really islands or just enormous rocks with growth on them protruding out of the water as not all of them are even suitable to anchor beside, let alone walk on. They are however very impressive and very different to those in the Whitsundays. Its easy to see why the area has become over run with tourists. Statistics give the numbers from 2005, 1.84 million tourists then on to 2015 3.62 million and rapidly increasing.

Delivery boat for the restaurants in The Hole in the Wall.
The trademark symbol of Langkawi is their eagle, a Brahminy Kite. As you enter the main ferry terminal in Bass Harbour at Kuah you are greeted with an enormous 12 meter full size statue of the eagle in flight. One interpretation says Langkawi is made up of two Malay words: Lang = eagle and kawi = the colour reddish brown. Since the Brahminy Kite is well at home here, it obviously seemed fitting at the time. 90% of the population are Malays and they are Islamic by faith.  However it seems there is a little unrest with some leaders calling for the demolishing of the 12 meter eagle icon on the grounds that it is against Islamic faith to make full size statues of animals (and people) and it is against Islamic faith for men to stand and be photographed with animals. A situation which the Ministry of Tourism is fighting, as the eagle has now stood for 20 years and is an iconic tourist spot.

The mighty eagle at the main hub of Kuah.
To check in and out of Langkawi you have two locations to visit. You can anchor in the main harbor at Kuah, that’s Bass Harbour and go into the Harbour Masters office there via your tender or taxi, or you can go around to Telaga Harbour and go up to the Harbour masters office there. Both are easy to find and easy to deal with. They have the process down very well. You must check in and out of Langkawi even if you have already checked in prior at say Puteri Harbour, why we are not exactly sure but that’s the way it is here. In short the process is this: Sail Boat check in: Immigration, Harbour Master, Customs and check out is Harbour Master, Customs, Immigration. It is imperative you have your last original port of clearance with you and obviously your passports. Life is so much easier (and quicker) if you logon to check in and out. Here is the web address:  

A good easy to follow sign for yachts entering Langkawi.

This is immigration at Kuah. They are on the ground floor and if not 'open' just knock.

Kuah - the Harbour Masters office hours.

The building that houses: immigration, harbour master and customs.

Kuah - yacht check in and the ramp where we left our tender to walk in. Its safe and secure (wear good shoes - loads of little rocks and slippery).

Telaga Harbour check in station is just up that ramp. You can see the tenders out the front.
Langkawi is also a duty free port. The rules can change weekly on the amounts you can and cannot purchase re cigarettes and alcohol. The best advice we can give you is to ask the officers at the shop you’re in for the latest rule on that.  Remember to take in your passport – no passport no purchase.

If marinas are your thing there are three main places: Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Rebak Marina and Telaga Harbour marina. We took a berth at Rebak due to the rally finishing there. If you want a marina that is very well protected in case the weather is turning foul, this is your best option. It is incredibly well protected. The down side of this is it is incredibly hot here, there is little to no wind and it is surrounded by fairly high hills. It is a part of the Rebak Resort and you are allowed to use the pool as you are a guest. Needless to say the pool here is well used by the yachties. There are no shops for serious provisioning. There is a very small chandlery and a very basic store. For better options you need to board one of the free ferrys , which run regularly to mainland Langkawi for shopping & eating out. You can eat at the resort but it does get expensive, however the food is very good. Internet coverage in the marina is very poor, yet much better by the pool – another reason why the yachties all merge over there all day. There is no fuel here but you can haul out. A word of warning, the monkeys will enter your boat looking or food, if you leave the companionway open. They have a very good hardstand and working yard. Its also a great location for guests who are flying in and out as it is close to the airport.

Rebak's pool and wifi hub!
Telaga Harbour Marina is also well protected, but not as much as Rebak. However its in a good position if you want to go to the cable car, waterfalls, fuel up, get water and check in/out. The entrance is shallow, so if you draw 2mtrs like us you will need mid to rising tide to enter. There is no yard here to haul out, but the internet is very strong. If you don’t want to use the marina, you can drop anchor in the outside basin. We found the water in the western area deeper and felt more comfortable there, it can get quite shallow in some spots so watch your depth carefully.

The anchorage at sunset in Telaga basin (just outside the marina).
Royal Langkawi Yacht Club is very well situated. It has fuel, strong internet but no hard stand or haul out facilities. It is very close to shops at Billion Supermarket for supplies. It caters for super yachts which at times can very entertaining. The precinct at the RLYC has a good range of places to eat, which have a good reputation. The ferry terminal is very close by so great if you are picking up and dropping off guests who use that service. The marina however is prone to surge. We had some work done on our head sail here and each time we went to the repairer the boats where all rubbing in their berths on their fenders.

RLYC - Royal Langkawi Yacht Club.
There are also a handful of shipyards in Langkawi. B&V Marine, Boustead Langkawi Shipyard, DK Composites and Seaspray Marine Services. For all information use noonsite or Google.

We believe what makes Langkawi so good is its ease of re supplying. You don't only have Kuah to resupply but its so handy to everywhere. If you are at Telaga you will have to hire a taxi, from the RLYC you can walk but you will need a taxi depending on how much you need to gather and from Rebak this would also be a taxi ride. The taxi’s are cheap, reliable and there are loads of them. The reason there are loads of them is because Langkawi has no bus service. Once at Kuah, you have loads of options. Just do your research. If you anchor in the Kuah anchorage its very easy to walk everywhere. This anchorage puts you right in the main town. You have two options to leave your dingy: the blue jetty which you will pay RM3 to leave your tender, but puts you closer to Billion supermarket or there is the bridge jetty with the fisherman. We used this jetty a lot. Everyone is very friendly and your tender is very safe for no charge – you just walk across the road, over the bridge and you’re in town. Keep in mind that being a Muslim town, Fridays are prayer day, and most shops are closed.

Tender dock we used every time we went into Kuah's main town. Its secure and safe, easy walking distance to the shops and cafes.
Depending on what you want to do while you’re in Langkawi it has loads of options. Whether you want to find a quiet bay to chill for a while, hire a car to see some sights or sit amongst the tourist chaos it’s all here. Sometimes for us part of the fun is actually finding places to go visit and to resupply. It can sometimes take us days to find things, and feel quite proud once we locate whatever it was we were looking for. Between our bad Malay Bahasa, the locals broken English, mud maps and word of mouth directions it can be a test, especially on a hot day. We found what we needed fairly quickly and again it just reinforced why so many people stay on, it’s all too easy here.

A couple of places well worth taking the time to visit here are The Hole in the Wall by boat, The Princess Lake,then by car up to the lookout up at Gunung Raja and the Sky Cable Car at Telaga. The Hole in the Wall is quite unique. We motor sailed there, one day from Kuah anchorage out and around towards the east between Pulau Bumbon Besar and Pulau Langkawi. The Hole in the Wall is a UNESCO Geoforest Park. Which was given to the area in 2007 due to its unique flora and fauna, however it is in danger of losing the title due to the overrun of tourism and little to no restrictions on what they can and cannot do. While there you can visit (by tender or hire a long tail boat) the bat cave, the crocodile cave and the feeding of the eagles. We took our tender up and in the mangrove forests and saw loads of monkeys. We ate at one of the floating restaurants. To be quite honest the food wasn’t very good and once we talked to a few people not one person said the food was any good. A word of warning each restaurant has its own fish farms which you choose your fish from and they also have their own toilets which flush directly into the water below – you can make you own choice from here (we did not order fish). The area is overrun with long tails and high powered (500HP) speed boats bringing in their tourists but still we enjoyed it especially once they all left to take their guests back to their hotels. Be careful and keep your wits about you as the long tail drivers like to race each other and are not always looking out, especially for little tenders puttering around the water ways.

Matilda entering The Hole in the Wall - along with one of 100's of fast boats that bring in guests daily.

Geoforest sign.
The Princess Lake is worth a visit. It’s one of the only natural fresh water lakes in Langkawai. It is situated inside Pulau Dayang. As are most things in Asia it is full of superstition and legend story telling. The lake is said to be able to make barren women fertile. Its easy to anchor outside in the small bay and take your tender in. The walk in is easy and its not too far. Take your insect repellent – loads of mosquitoes. There is also a nice cafĂ© there as well to have a snack at. If you can go early so you miss the hordes of tourist being bought in on fast boats by the 100’s.

The pretty Princess Lake.

Princess Lake ready for their tourists.

Here come the tourists for the day.
If you can afford it, hire a car and take the trip up to the 360° look out at Gunung Raja, it’s amazing. The drive is easy and well sign posted. You will get to see loads of monkeys on the way up and you can stop at the Craft Centre and have lunch. It’s a great day out with views to die for. It puts a great perspective on the islands of Langkawi. Well worth doing.

The view from Gunung Raja is just stunning. Try to go up on a clear day.
At Telaga Harbour there is easy access to the Sky Bridge Cable Car ride. It’s definitely a high light. If you purse strings can extend, buy the VIP pass. It’s well worth every single cent. The ride up and down is extraordinary and loads of fun. The sky walk is quite a thrill to walk around. All over the grounds at the base of the cable car area are shops, cafes, restaurants and fun things to do like the 3D ride.

Not for everyone but quite a thrill to do it. The view is incredible.

Again, not for everyone. This structure is a master piece in itself.
Places & Services we used while in Langkawi:

Car rental – Anytime Holidays. If you take your tender the fishing dock (not the blue building floating dock), walk up the ramp, and turn right. Keep walking, cross the road directly in front of you (not the main road to your left) you will see shops. Anytime Holidays can’t be missed, it’s quite colorful. We hired a car from David several times and always a good experience. Phone the office on 6049668669 or 60175448669. Or call David on 60124087327 or Anas 60184700553. Email:

Sail repairs – Hugo & Joanna who are based at the RLYC on their 72ft yacht (which they do paid cruises on). They are honest, work hard and we believe well priced. Phone: 0124980377 or 0164807137. Email:

PL Soon is a little shop (there are few around) that sold alcohol, cheese, meat and few other bits and pieces that are hard to find. Take your passport to purchase alcohol. Bulk supermarket about 800 metres from main traffic light intersection in Matsirat on road to Kuah. Small section next to checkout devoted to imported foods. Next door is a warehouse where cases of beer can be purchased very cheaply.

Hawker centre – Water Garden. Excellent pork rice. Easy to locate. Cross the road from the tender jetty (in the river) walk across the road, take the first right and walk up the main street keeping the left hand side. Its on the corner (there is only one), about a 5 minute walk.

24/7 Indian cafes x 2. Our favourite was the Restoran Nasi Kandar Alaman. Easy to find. Once you park your tender at either jetty walk to the cluster of shops towards the main road. just look for the Baron sign (there are a few) but the one with the pink building is your Indian cafe. The service is fabulous and the food is delicious. The second one is called Restoran Haji Ali, food and service the same as Alaman. This is a bit further to walk, but if your going down this way its worth having lunch/dinner at. You need to walk away from the big eagle on the main street. Cross over to the walkway on the water side. At the V intersection look to your right - its there.

Fruit and vegi man – Ms. Hin. Phone: 0123132540. Email: Facebook: Vegie Run. Excellent produce and service. Can be flexible re delivery points.

Outboard prop for our Suzuki – Yamaha Dealer, Yamaha Outboard Engines:
New/Second hand & repairs. Spare parts, tune-ups, re-builds. Reliable & inexpensive.
In side street off main highway, up from traffic lights, just before KFC, near T/S. Huat.
Contact: Teng Cheng Eng: Tel/Fax: (6)04-9666299 or H/P: (6)012-4982299

Hardware Shop - we found a great hardware shop that sold water filters, oil and an absolute astounding array of bits and pieces just up from the jetty dock. Multi Quip Trading (L) Sdn Bhd
Engine spares, impellers, electrical supplies. Jotun & Kossan marine paints, anti-foul, Epoxy, Epoxy Glue, Fibreglass etc. etc. Power tools, oil & fuel filters, some stock of stainless deck hardware. Will order in parts. Central Kuah (1st street in from waterfront), 28-30 Jalan Pandak Mayah, Kuah.
Tel: +6 04 966 6953   &   +6 04 966 2988 Fax:+6 04 966 7219  -   Mr. Yong: h/p: 012-4331068 email: Generally known for fair prices.

S.K. Intertrade is mostly a photocopying shops, who will also do up business size passport cards for you. they are very handy to know, and very helpful. 89, JalanPandak Mayah 1, Kuah, Tel.: +6 04 966 7778 - They also sell: Sea Charts, Navigational Book and Flags, custom made Flags (give them some time) and boat labeling. Experienced and helpful.

CIMB banks (with Westpac no international fees are charged at their ATM's)

Post Office – down near the Billion shopping centre

Gas – Rebak Marina will arrange refilling gas bottles.

There is also loads of information to be found on the web at the Langkawi Gazette. 

To the left of the C88 (Like a 7/11) is PL Soon's shop. Here you can buy alcohol (you  must produce your passport), meat, cheese and a few groceries. She is not open on a Friday.

To the right of Planet Watch is the photo copier shop - very handy. (He also sells charts and guide books).

Our sail repair place at the RLYC.

The Jotun shop was the hardware place we found and bought water & engine filters and engine oil.

Another favorite Indian cafe, but a bit further up to walk - however worth every step. (Its the one on the corner to the right with a dead end street out the front).

Easily our favorite Indian cafe. We went here for breakfast a fair bit - good cheap food.

Teng Cheng Eng Trading were able to assist us with parts for our Suzuki tender outboard.

Great pork rice to be had at the Water Garden Hawker Centre.

While in Malaysia we used U Mobile. To dial Australia: use 1310, 61 then the area code or the mobile number less the '0' .35rm a minute. Rates are good but no unlimited options. Coverage is excellent.

You can get fuel at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, the fuel barge in Bass Harbour – Kuah and the fuel dock at Telaga Harbour. To use the fuel dock at the RLYC, give them a ring first. For the fuel barge at Kuah, ring  019 455 6267 and at the time of writing (early 2017) it was approx.. AU .60c p/l. To buy fuel at Telaga you need to book first for anything over 500 litres. Ring (604) 959 3225 0830. Note the fuel dock has nothing to do with the marina office, you are dealing with the Petronas petrol station.

Telaga - this is where you get water from. (Its also the dock to see the Harbour Master).

Telaga fuel dock. Its a little run down on the walkway up to pay, watch your step.

You can also get water at the water dock ( AKA the Thai Ferry Dock) 69 on VHF, hours: 1000 - 1200 and 1500 - 1700. Cost = RM40 which is right next to the fuel dock at Telaga. 

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Thailand - Check In / Check Out at Ao Chalong (Phuket) and a Tuk Tuk driver 2017

The sign on the door (sorry about the shading).
Checking in and checking out of Thailand at Ao Chalong is a painless process for a few reasons. First of all - all the services you need are in the one location and secondly the process has been streamlined and is very efficient. Please note that if you do no have an MMSI you can not check in.

** As at March 2017 the online system to register your yacht & crew's details was not working you must go to the office to register.

Phuket Yacht Control Center building..
The building is called the Phuket Yacht Control Center (PYCC) and is at the end of Chalong Pier, it opens at 9am. We found the best way to get to the PYCC was by dingy. There is a tender dock provided which brings its own complexities but worth using. Lock everything on and lock on the tender on to a cleat.

There are bins provided at the top of the walkway. Please do not dump your rubbish in the piles that seem to accumulate on the dingy dock. Even though the dingy dock needs you take care, there are lots of trip hazards but its very handy. If you take your tender right to the beach you have a fairly decent walk to go back up to the office and the tide goes out a very long way - you need high tide to get in and out at the beach.

This is Chalong pier looking from the road side - its very long. That's the PYCC building right up the very end.
The steps are simple:

  1. Have at lease 4 copies each of: passports for Captain and crew, crew lists and ship registration papers. If you are checking in take photos of your vessel and passport photos.
  2. Have all your documentation in a folder ready to go
  3. Know your MMSI number
  4. Be neat and tidy, take a cool drink and patience (they are very busy)
  5. Due to not being able to register electronically we had to go to the first door (where the sign above is displayed) and log on via their computers and register our details
  6. Then walk up the steps and go see the Harbour Master 
  7. Then go next door to the Immigration
  8. (If your checking in you also need to go see Quarantine - who are next door)
  9. Then next door again to Customs.
The Chalong Pier look out.
The service is available 7 days a week but if you check in/out on the weekend you will pay extra. For example when we checked out in March 2017 we paid 200 baht to both immigration and customs. If we had of done this on the weekend, we would have paid 1000 baht for each service (2000 baht).

Fuel and Water barge.
Interesting to note in Ao Chalong there is a fuel and water barge available in the bay. However, it doesn't look like a barge. You can pull along either side, but go in your dingy first. We didn't do this as we did not need this service. Check the water is suitable for drinking before you fill your tank/s.

While in Ao Chalong we often used the same driver and his tuk tuk. His name is Danai and can be reached on 082 270 2110. His English is a little scratchy but we all managed and had loads of laughs in the process. If we needed somewhere specific eg. Rolly Tasker's Sail loft, I took along the phone number for him to call someone so he could liaise in Thai - we always got to our destination and Danai is a very safe & slow driver. 

To share the cost of travelling with Danai is interesting. He will not quote, he will let you decide what you think is fair. We had never come across this method before. As an example: we hired him from Makro shopping center back to Chalong Pier (right down to the PYCC) and he went to the service station for us, 4 people, loads of shopping and we paid him 100 baht per person. Another day we hired Danai to take us to Rolly Tuskers Sail loft, we took approximately 2.5 hours and paid him 500 baht plus 100 baht tip (our choice), there was 4 of us in the tuk tuk plus a sail on the way back. Another time we hired him to take us to the Big Buddha & back to Rolly Taskers (we forgot to buy something) and where gone approximately 4 hours and paid him 600 baht.

Sunrise over Ao Chalong Bay.