Friday, March 27, 2020

Locked Down in Malaysia

Malaysia’s neighbor, Singapore, had an early start to the COVID-19 coronavirus from travelers during Chinese New Year.  However, Singapore had learned many lessons from the 2003 SARS epidemic and was ready for the challenge. 

Shopping the day before MKO

About 3 weeks ago, Singapore closed their borders to all non-nationals, started aggressive testing, tracking, and quarantine.

As oblivious cruisers, our big concern was where to go for visa renewals if not Singapore.  In reality, the COVID growth in Malaysia was accelerating. 

Take-away Naan Bread from the tandoori
Malaysia had a big spike in cases from a religious pilgrimage at the end of February in Sri Petaling, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur.  16,000 people were in close contact and exposed to the virus.

Malaysia accepted WHO assistance to track and test the attendees to avoid further exposure to the general population.  These exposures made Malaysia the country with the highest number of cases in SE Asia.

Marina Island Checkpoint
The government of Mayalsia has a good working relationship with South Korea, Hong Kong, and China.  

They didn’t go into denial but instead listened to the lessons learned from SARS and N1H1.

On March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, Malaysia ordered a 2 week Movement Control Order (MKO)

Empty Checkout lines during the MKO
The MKO is basically a nationwide shutdown.  The borders are closed.  All businesses except markets and convenience stores, gas stations, power plants, the post, and the military are closed.  

No hardware stores, retail, nor are services open.  

Foreigners are not permitted to enter the country and no Malaysian may leave.  Inter-city checkpoints block all traffic except essential commerce.

Restaurants can be open for take away only but since business is so slow, it doesn’t make sense economically to stay open.  The economy of the country is essentially shut down.

We went food shopping before the MKO and the stores were busy but still stocked.

Now, during the MKO, only the head of the household can enter, must wear a face mask, while the security guard gives you hand sanitizer.  The checkout people have been wearing masks and gloves long before the MKO.
They are very serious here

We are doing fine and are glad that we are in a country that cares enough about its people to go through these extreme measures.  The isolation is weird but nowhere near as bad as our month long passage from Mexico to French Polynesia.

The 14 day MKO has now been extended for another 2 weeks.  We feel very safe here and do not mind these restrictions.  Malaysia is very serious about the spread of this disease.  It would be nice if the United States was also.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Still Spraying and Sanding

Wet Sanding Setup
By the way, we are not just traveling around SE Asia.  We are still working on the boat.   

Scratches from prior sanding
Since every instrument, hinge, winch, holder, bolt, and screw was removed from the cockpit, it really was a priority to get it back together.  Psychologically the need to actually fully complete a section of the boat was also important.  

More important were all the holes from where things were removed and were just covered with tape and had the chance of leaking.   

The last thing you need to have is a boat leak when you are gone and have the boat fill up with water.  In a closed boat sitting in  the 100 degree heat of Malaysia, mold would grow fast on everything.

The cockpit was one of the places where there are a lot of corners and detail that makes the sanding go slow.

Scratches from hand sanding with 60 grit
We did the standard 100 grit initial sanding after spraying super thinned out Black Oxide Primer guide coat.   

We then wiped on the next application of guide coat with a rag and then wet sanded with 240 grit.  After that was complete, more guide coat was applied.    

Guide coat is darker with more scratches
We tried to jump to 800 grit sandpaper but it was taking quite a long time to remove the scratches and using up quite a few discs so we reverted to 400 grit.  More guide coat applied and then the final sanding with 800 grit.

Booker then went around with acetone and cleaned and excess guide.

and lighter with each subsequent finer sanding
Buffing then started with Extra Course Rubbing compound.  Then, another buffing using standard rubbing compound and a final buffing using 3M swirl remover.

The last step was only done where things were to be remounted.   

The rest of the cockpit will be done with swirl remover during the final detailing.

Here are some pictures showing the scratches that had to be sanded out.  I have tried to sand without the guide coat but it is just not possible to see all the scratches.  I feel that using guide coat before every sanding is the only way to remove all the imperfections.

In this last photo, a significant difference in color can be seen between the cockpit and locker lids.

The locker lid gelcoat was from a company in Singapore and applied during our design and trail phase.  Obviously it is not acceptable and we will have to do the lids again with the new gelcoat sourced from RP Malaysia in Johor Bahru.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Vientiene, Laos

The Presidential Palace
Dollar Large Beer

Our 90 day Malaysian visas were not going to last until we wanted to leave at the end of April so we needed to make a ‘visa run’ somewhere.   

The only country in Southeast Asia that we haven’t visited is Laos.  So why not check that box.
Roundtrip plane tickets were $300 for both of us for the 3 hour flight on AirAsia from Kuala Lumput to Vientiene.    

We spent 4 full days there in the heart of town. 

Vientiene is a very small Capital city with a population of ½ million.  The entire population of Laos is 7 million.

The telephone man from Honduras was here
Laos uses the US dollar and the Lao KIP as their currency.  About 10,000 Kip equals a US Dollar.  However, nobody wanted our US money unless it was in immaculate condition which only a few bills were.
Fortunately, a 100 dollar withdrawl from the ATM got us a million KIP.   

We thought we had been to some pretty inexpensive places but Laos was by far the cheapest.

A large Beerlao beer will cost $1-2 which is also the cost of a meal.  Best of all, a glass of wine runs about $2.  Quite a change from Malaysia where you are paying US prices of $6-8.

The best word to explain Vientiene is ‘calm’.  The pace is slow, the traffic is slow, there are no people begging or bothering you to buy anything.  It was just calm.

Our Tuk-Tuk guy
We were going to rent bikes but cars are parked all over the sidewalks and blocking the shoulders so we thought it would be better to hire a tuk-tuk.  We found a guy sleeping in a hammock in the back of his tuk-tuk and had him take us around to see the major sights of town.

Many street signs were missing or in Sanskrit so we had to rely on landmarks to find our way around.    

Pha That Luang Temple
There was one street that we called Massage Street due to the abundance of guess what, massage places.

I ended up with a one hour $6 reflexology and Booker got the full $8 massage.  At that price I felt like going for another round.

There was no shortage of Buddhist temples.  We saw probably 8 or 9 that were in our area or the tuk-tuk tour.

Patuxai - The Lao Arc de Triomphe
An interesting observation we made was that while Vietnam hated their French occupation and have tried to remove all signs of this colonial period.

The Lao people have somewhat embraced their history.  French is spoken by a significant minority and is the language of higher professions and diplomats.  We saw a majority of French expats in the restaurants and bars.

Commercialization of the Reclining Buddah
While we’re on the subject of food.  Our hotel had a good breakfast buffet.  We thought that since Laos borders Thailand, Thai food would be plentiful.  We really only saw a few places with Pad Thai and all in all it was mediocre.

We did find a great Indian/Bangladeshi place but another upscale Indian restaurant had all the frills but flavorless food.
Dinner Menu. It doesn't get any cheaper

The big Night Market was kind of disappointing.  We expected a market with Lao handicrafts but instead saw booth after booth of clothing and phone accessories.

During the day, the dusty streets were almost empty of foot traffic.  At night things changed and people were out everywhere.  

The Mekong River Side Night Market
There are plentiful fountains that were turned off during the day but sunset gave rise to the pumps and lights.  

Musicians and dancers were on the stages of open air parks.  The night market was a moving mass of people.  The bars started to get crowded as they commenced their Happy Hour prices.

Music and Dancing at the Park
All in all, it was a great trip.  We could have shortened it by a day but now the Laos box has been checked.

The Fountains come to life at night
Plenty of Elephants

The Black Stupa (That Dam)

Korma, Rafesi, Naan with Beerlao

Dragons always seem to be guarding the Temples

Elephant made from pottery

The President's Guard Shack

Wat Ong Teu