Saturday, December 17, 2016


Graves of the last victims killed as S-21 was being overthrown.
Just like you would imagine any holocaust museum to be, S-21 is a very interesting but sobering place.  The torture and death that happened here is on a scale and level of inhumanity that we could have never imagined existed in this world and really quite scary. 

Racks of leg irons used to restrain the victims

S-21 housed 1500 victims at any one time.  During the 4 year rule of the Khmer Rouge around 20,000 people were exterminated with only 7 survivors.  Most of the victims included soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, and engineers.  Even people who wore eyeglasses were determined to be intellectuals, because they must have read too much, and were brought here to be tortured.

The typewriter repair man.
 The Khmer Rouge kept well documented records and photos of the victims.  They fortunately did not have enough time to destroy all the records before being over-run by the Vietnamese Army so much historical content still exists.   

We met an old man that was detained there.  The staff discovered he knew how to fix their broken typewriters.  He was one of the 7 survivors.

Close up of the leg irons
The wire covering was to keep victims from jumping to commit suicide
Innocent people were brought to S-21 to make forced confessions for committing espionage and forced to implicate friends and family members.  The torture system was designed to make a prisoner confess to whatever claims the interrogator wanted.  They used lashings, electric shock, water boarding, suffocation with plastic bags, and whatever else they could think up.  After a victim signed the typewritten confession, they were sent away to be killed for the espionage that they never committed or used for 'medical experiments".  Many tried to commit suicide rather than live to be tortured.  To others, death was probably welcomed after their 2-3 month ordeal.

The Gallows
There was a converted children's swing set turned in to 'The Gallows'. People had their hands bound behind their backs and hauled up by their wrists to hang from the gallows until they passed out from the pain of their dislocated shoulders.  Then they were let down and had their heads plunged into the pots of urine and excrement until they were revived and then the process was repeated until they confessed to something else.

These are not some fake props of the museum.  They were real people.
We planned on visiting the famous Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a mass burial site outside Phnom Penh but psychologically just couldn't handle it after visiting S-21.

Just like Hitler's Holocaust in Germany, the Cambodians accept this dark period of their history and having this museum to educate them about the atrocities of General Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge so that something like this will not be repeated.  30,000 Cambodians visit this museum every year. 

It's fortunate that this was such a short piece of Cambodia's history because there is so much more good about this country and it's people.  

Our next post will definitely be more upbeat.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Phnom Penh

Statues at the National Museum

We spent a few hours at the National Museum of Cambodia which houses historical culture, archaeology, and art.  It was quite impressive considering many of these artifacts could have, or were partially destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

Hot souvenir t-shirt at the Royal Palace

It's good to be the king
We went to a few Buddhist Temples with the highlight was the Royal Palace.  It was extremely hot and Booker had to buy a t-shirt to wear over her other shirt since exposed shoulders were not allowed.  That was alot of trouble but worth the experience.  At least there were no monkeys here to steal Booker's earrings.

Buddhists only allowed
After enough great food, museums, pagodas, and temples, we took a day long bus ride to Siem Rep where our goal was to see the Temples of Angkor Wat and then fly to Hong Kong for our connection to Newark Airport.   

The bus ride took us north through plains and agricultural communities.  The people have a very subsistence living.  It was the end of the dry season and things were very brown and dry in the 100 degree heat.

It doesn't get much better than 50 cent beers

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge well documented their activities
The history of Cambodia is quite troublesome for us as Americans because our government was complicit in so much that happened here.

The Khmer Rouge, based in Cambodia, were supporting the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.  The US bombed the hell out of them from 1970 - 1973 trying to disrupt the supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail.  This helped the Khmer gain support from the eastern rural areas and they emerged victorious from their civil war in 1975.   
Mass graves

During the time that the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia from 1975 to 1978, they murdered 2-3 million of the roughly 7 million total population in a mass genocide of educated people and their families.  If my math is correct, that's over 1 person per minute killed 24 hours a day for 4 years straight.
Add caption

Mass grave at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields
To understand Cambodians is to understand their history.  Until we learned what happened during the Khmer Rouge, we were surprised to see so few old people.  We now know why.  90% of the population is younger than 50 years old and 50% of the population is younger than 24.  The 'kids' that we thought were hotel and store workers, were actually the owners.  This is what happens when you kill a third of the adult population 40 years ago. 
Monument at the Killing Fields
In Phnom Penh there is a High School that the Khmer Rouge converted in to an 'interrogation' prison that is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, but more easily referred to as S-21 (Security Prison #21).  We thought we would visit it during our Tuk Tuk sightseeing tour.  After all, how many Buddhist Temples can you actually see.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuk Tuks and Cambodia

It's been a while since the last post and I need to catch up before returning to the boat next month.

Our Tuk Tuk transport
When we leave Malaysia by boat, we will be heading to Thailand and then across the Indian Ocean.  There are plenty of places to see in S.E. Asia that we will not be going by boat so we need to consolidate some of those trips in our travels to and from the US.

Our departure plan at the end of our 90 day visas was to take the bus to Kuala Lumpur and fly to Cambodia, tour around and continue to the US.

They have the same electrician as Honduras.
A full family Tuk Tuk
We arrived in Phnom Penh without doing any in depth research.  We were surprised at the airport when we saw we needed visas.  The good thing, unlike other countries, was that we could obtain them right there at the airport immigration office.  There were signs telling how much to pay so before as we have done so many times before when entering other countries, we went to the ATM before getting in line to get local currency.  However, the only choice for the ATM currency was US dollars.  Guess what, this country uses the US dollar as their official currency.  Amazing.  Their local currency, the Riel, is only in denominations for less than a dollar.  They are essentially like our coins except in paper.  So there are no coins only paper money.

Tuk Tuk Truck
From the airport to our hotel, we hired a TukTuk. This is a kind of motorized rickshaw powered by a motorbike,.  One thing we noticed right away was that the car drivers were much less aggressive and safer than in Malaysia.  What a nice change considering that Tuk Tuk's are ubiquitous and only go 15-20 mph.  

The Mekong River

We booked a hotel a few days prior but had no idea what part of town it was in.  Turns out, we were pretty close to the center of the action.  For future reference,  about 3 blocks away, along the road facing the Mekong River is really where the action is. 

Our included hotel breakfast.  Interesting.
While getting a feel for the area, we arranged for the following day to have a full day of personal Tuk Tuk transport to be our guide around town for the outrageous price of $20.  More to follow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cameron Highlands

This is a late blog post and we'll have a few more to catch up on before we return to Malaysia in September.

When we returned to Tortuguita in January, we planned to take some time to do some inland touring.  As usual, it looked like there wouldn't be enough time for our grand plan.  Since we now have a car, we decided to visit the Cameron Highlands.   The Cameron Highlands are a nice 4 hour drive from Pangkor.  

The winding roads were in good condition and it's almost mile high elevation is the highest place in Malaysia accessible by car.  Due to the elevation and being located essentially at the equator, the daytime temperature is always in the low 70's.  The mountains are shrouded in clouds with rain, even in the dry season.
View of Tanah Rata in light mist from our hotel
Coastal Malaysia is not a very good for agriculture.  It is hot and has months long dry seasons.  The British originally developed the Cameron Highlands for agriculture 100 years ago due to it's moderate climate.  Most of the vegetables for the entire country are grown in the Highlands.  After the Japanese Occupation during World War II ended, the area saw growth in the residential and tourist sectors.  We timed our visit the week following the very busy Term Break school vacation.  We stayed at the Heritage Hotel in Tanah Rata and had the place almost all to ourselves.

Snake Necklace

Bookers New Friend

Leaf Insect, Great Disguise
I can't believe Booker is actually touching a bug
Stick Bug
We took a day tour to a butterfly farm, strawberry plantation, tea plantation, flower farm, outdoor market, and a Buddhist temple.  We were the only people on the tour.  Timing is everything.

Melons grow and hang 365 days a year from trellises.
We had great Thai food at a few different restaurants.  We did quite a bit of walking and had a Thai massage with foot reflexology.  It was a great break from the coastal heat and boatyard work.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Life on the Hard, Malaysia Style

Our cruising itinerary is mostly determined by where we can have Tortuguita hauled out of the water and put on land for maintenance and storage.  In the past 10 years, we have hauled in the Chesapeake, Grenada, Bahamas, Honduras, Mexico, Australia twice, and now Malaysia.  Prior to Australia, we always lived aboard 'on the hard', even though many of the boatyards were hot, buggy, dusty, dirty, and remote.  We just bit the bullet due to the economics.  In Australia, the boatyard did not allow liveaboards on the 'hardstand' due to it's commercial zoning status.  However, it did allow marina liveaboards.  This forced us to do something most cruisers don't like to do, spend money unnecessarily.  It was expensive for an apartment in Oz but we really did enjoy getting 'away from it all' at the end of the day.  We really got to experience and learn the area much more that way too.  We also had to rent a car, another expense, which did give us more freedom to explore.

The House
So here we are, in Malaysia, one of the best cost of living countries in the world.  If we could afford Australia, then Malaysia should be a dream.  Owing to the 100+ degree daytime temperatures and the need for a big floor space to set up the sewing machine, we decided to share a house with Kiwi Mike from FINE SPIRIT.   The house belongs to the marina owner's mother and is about 15 minutes away.  The rent is $450 US per month for this 5 bedroom furnished house.  So our share, $225/month, is less than what 1 week cost us in Australia.

Our daily commute

A small car can be rented from Hertz in the marina for $350/week. Since this is so outrageously expensive, there is a cottage industry of Malaysians renting private vehicles.  They can usually be rented for around $350/month.  Mike bought a beater car for $1500.  He plans to stay around for a few years so buying a car to him was a no-brainer.  We are not sure how long we'll be sticking around so it is difficult to make the cost analysis but in the end we figured buying is better than renting. 

The car parked in the 'driveway' of our house
The hunt for a car began.  I had the best luck on the website which is similar to craigslist, or it's Australia cousin gumtree.  After trying to contact about 10 sellers with no luck, I got a response from guy selling a Volvo S40 in the town of Taiping, about 2 hours away.  Mike took us up there.  We met at the DMV, which they call JPJ.  The price was good, $2500, the miles were low, 150K km, and it was in great shape.  I never owned a Volvo but am quite impressed with the engineering detail in this vehicle.  It is right hand drive, of course, but we had plenty of right hand driving experience in Australia.  Unlike the United States, there is no sales tax on second hand vehicles.  The road tax is $100/year.  Liability insurance is also $100/year. So that afternoon, Booker and I were driving back to our air conditioned rental house in our very own car.  Life's not so hard on the hard, in Malaysia. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hauling Out a Privilege Catamaran with a SeaLift Trailer

There are 3 ways to lift out a boat.  A Travelift, trailer, and crane.  Our owners manual has a detailed section on using the Travelift and crane but has nothing about the trailer.

We're tied to a tree and this trailer needs to be perfectly positioned
I contacted Privilege about using the trailer and got a very non-committal answer saying "we don't recommend it".  Other catamarans however claim that it is the preferred way to haul them out.  In the past 10 years, we have been hauled out 8 times and always by a Travelift.  We heard the FULL MONTY, a privilege 48, was hauled out with a trailer in Tahiti and cracked both their escape hatches.  In Australia, we saw a Privilege 48 being hauled by a SeaLift trailer and it seemed to work out fine.  So we figured why not give it a try.  It may also be a handy thing to know about for use in other parts of the world.

Trailer going down the ramp and under Tortuguita
Pangkor Marina has a SeaLift and the best price going for boatyard storage so we figured why not give it a try.  SeaLifts seem to be becoming a popular means to haul out since they are much cheaper to buy than a Travelift and the boats can be packed closer in the boatyard which increases the number of boats and therefore profit for the yard.

Pneumatic tubes (strapped to steel) that support the boat

We're finally being lifted.
They SeaLift goes down a ramp like a regular trailer and the boat is positioned over 4 pneumatic tubes.  The Catamaran is lifted from under the deck and a monohull is lifted by the sides of the hull.  The trailer needs to be submerged completely beneath the boat and due to the depth of the boat ramp at Pangkor Marina, high tides are a must.  They also only schedule one launch and one haul out each day.

Here are the blocks and timbers lifting the stern

On a Privilege catamaran, the underside of the bridge deck has two different levels.  It is lower where you step in to the salon.  If not compensated for, the tube would crush at this corner and the steel supporting the tubes would be hitting the fiberglass.  At the very least, there would be very high point loads created in this area.  To solve this problem, timbers are placed across the back of the tubes with wood blocks stacked on top.  This allows the aft structural part of the boat to be lifted albeit only at two places.  It also keeps the pneumatic tubes from cracking the Plexiglas in the escape hatches. 

All done and pressure washed.  It actually worked.

We thought we had everything arranged with the crew prior to 'the day'.  They were shown pictures from the lift in Australia, we made measurements.  They knew what timbers we needed to help support the hulls, etc.  Except when 'the time' came, it wasn't correct.  The board was too long and they had no real way to cut it or get one so late in the day.  There was also a huge language barrier.  My Malaysian was about as good as their English.

On the road again, with training wheels.
I ended up in the water with the workers stacking timbers and padding until we finally got it to work.   Booker was onboard when the weight shifted from the floating hulls to the center deck and she said it felt as if the boat was bending severely.  Not ideal, but next time the timbers will be the correct length.  I also think the tube air pressure should be lower to help spread out the load better.  It's really not something to screw around with because 17 tons of boat weight in the wrong place can do some real damage in a hurry.   

So, yes Privilege, it can be done.  As long as you are careful.  But that's true of anything.  Total time to haul, 2 hours.