We are sailing through the famous Malacca Strait as I write. Even though the wind is mostly on the nose, it’s a good time of the year to go through as the weather is calm, with less chance of violent thunderstorms and Sumatra winds. We’ve had the sails up a few times, but mostly we will be motoring all the way.
It’s not the thunderstorms, nor the pirates (they’ve been mostly scared away since the government took action a few years ago), nor the busy traffic of huge tankers that worries us. It’s the fishermen. And not the fishermen themselves, but the kilometres-long unmarked and unlit nets they put out. It makes sailing at night nigh on impossible.
We’ve made a stop in Pulau Pisang (aka Banana Island) and Pulau Bessar. The latter is part of the Water Islands, named so because of the fresh water wells. In the olden days, ships used to stop here to re-victual. Today it’s a place of pilgrimage for muslims who come and visit the ancient graves of Sultans and other historical leaders that were buried here. There’s a resort and golf course too.
Our next stop was Port Dickson, where we took a few days rest and the opportunity to visit the ancient town of Malacca (also know as Melaka).
One day really wasn’t enough to do this fascinating historical place justice. The long colonial history (Portuguese, then Dutch, then British) is visible all through town and the historic centre has been classified a UNESCO world heritage site. But, most visible is the rich Chinese heritage which started long before the first Europeans arrived, when the daughter of the Chinese Emperor married the first Sultan and brought 500 ‘attendants’ with her, who all married and mixed with the local Malay. The famous mariner, explorer and diplomat Cheng Ho (1371-1438) stopped in Malacca five times during his seven legendary voyages. He was instrumental in getting Malacca on the map as a major trading hub and port. At one point, this port could accommodate 2000 ships. Right now there’s isn’t even anywhere to anchor Rehua! It’s all been silted up.