It’s hard to believe that we are just a handful of miles away from one of the world’s major cities. Temptress is tucked up in a snug, almost empty marina five miles up a muddy river in the south eastern tip of peninsular Malaysia at Sebana Cove Resort. If you are looking for an away from it all destination then this is definitely the place to be. Apart from the marina there’s the hotel restaurant aka The Boat Tavern (their Christmas Eve supper was a slightly odd but very tasty five courses), the smoky Pirate Creek Bar with its three piece band, a handful of tennis courts, the swimming pool and a golf course. Of all these the marina is cheap and cheerful and affordable, the pool is free whilst the bar prices are beyond our budget but they do have a corkage charge which means we can enjoy the Philippino band from time to time!
Some twenty minutes or so south by the twice a week minibus is the once sleepy coastal town of Sengei Ringitt (SR). Two streets of small businesses including half a dozen minimarts all seemingly selling the same foodstuffs, a few cafes and some hardware stores run parallel with the sea shore which lies beyond the rough market and schools. A couple of larger stores specialise in hard hats, hi vis jackets and other safety clothing. And the market seems to entirely be dedicated to denim!
Anchored off the town are a couple of laid up oil rigs and many tankers which gives a clue as to why SR is a bit of a gold rush like place. The main north south road on this side of the peninsula is being converted along its entire length from a country road through jungle, mangroves and palm oil plantations to a motorway width that abruptly stops at the t-junction just outside of town. In town itself there are no pavements, vehicles park at a slant to the premises who have expanded their businesses onto walkways under the traditional shophouse overhangs forcing pedestrians to mingle with the oneway traffic. The traffic is mostly dusty 4x4s and minibuses with the occasional motorbike; an odd mix for this part of the world but another clue to the future; SR is the nearest town to the huge RAPID project – Johor’s massive new petroleum complex of refineries, LNG and chemical works that will ultimately employ over eight thousand skilled workers and currently apparently has around 50K labourers on site. To support the project the government is investing in roads, power, water and other infrastructure projects whilst others are busy building housing etc. Some 20K acres of the Penerang district of Johor are being transformed from remote rural country into an industrial landscape.
Thirty minutes north of Sebana Cove in the outskirts of Banda Penawar is newish shopping street including a large well stocked supermarket and at the end of the row a new cafe firmly aimed at the expats working on the site as it sells draught beer at 22 MYR a pint and western food. The supermarket is one of the few places to buy meat (mostly chicken and minced beef) locally and the bus from Sebana Cove goes here on Sundays hence Temptress crew found themselves shopping on Christmas Day for their Christmas lunch! We then enjoyed a pontoon bbq at the “Bus Stop” (a shelter with a picnic table halfway down the pontoon that makes a great social spot for sundowners) with some of the other yachties here.
The marina itself though cheap is very empty, possibly because like the couple who turned up earlier this week and left before the end of the day being five miles up a river in rural Malaysia is just too remote for many. Even the ferry to Singapore is half an hour by taxi followed by another 30 minutes on the ferry – adding in the time for immigration at either end and the trip into town from Changi Ferry Terminal you are looking at over a couple of hours travel time to get to a chandlery. However if you have no urgent boat fixing to do or have the parts with you this is good a place to stop as any. The staff are friendly, the pool is cool with a shower block that has AC, there is plenty of wildlife like hornbills and monkeys to see on walks around the place whilst the remoteness makes life just that little bit more quirky.