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If youíre making a one-way trip through SE Asia, like we did, it helps to know whatís available where, and what isnít. We sailed from Australia through to the Seychelles in one year. The only time we backtracked was from Thailand back to Langkawi before sailing west for Sri Lanka.
If youíre interested in diesel, outboard engine fuel or LPG info, see below. The first part deals with food.
Australia has just about anything and everything you could want (food-wise and otherwise). Arriving by boat from outside the country involves dealing with Australian Quarantine, which we've covered in our section on Arriving in Australia. Everything gets easier when it's time to leave Australia. That's the time to really stock up on a lot of stuff. We left Darwin with the Darwin-Indonesia Rally in July 2006, so most of what I write about here has to do with a one-way journey from Australia north to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
SOUTH EAST ASIA
A new shopping center in Mataram, Lombok
Food shopping in SE Asia is totally fun, as long as you're not desperate to find a specific item! The fresh markets abound with color and variety and in the larger towns the supermarkets are usually cool places where you can retreat from the heat of the day and spend time scouring the shelves to see just what there is. I have to admit to being a food-shopping fanatic!
Small shop in Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia
Along the route we sailed these were the main food shopping areas, usually accessible by foot from the marina or anchorage:
Indonesia: Kupang, Timur had a basic supermarket as did Mataram, Lombok. The suburbs around Dempasar, Bali had huge supermarkets like Makro. We found fresh markets at Kupang, Lembata, Riung, Labuan Bajo, Lombok, Bali, and Kumai. Be prepared to bargain (or try offering about 1/2 and see what they give you for that amount). Much produce is sold by individuals by the side of the road, out in the sun and dust. Small shops carry very basic things.
Singapore: You'll be amazed by the modern malls and supermarkets accessible by bus and MRT from the marinas. Everything listed below (and more) is available in Singapore!
Small grocery, Sri Lanka
Malaysia: Port Dickson had small shops only. Penang had many small shops and probably supermarkets, but we didn't stay long enough to find any. Langkawi had several supermarkets plus small shops and fresh markets. In Kuah (Langkawi) you'll find small shops that carry duty free liquor and specialty things like whole wheat flour and brown rice.
Thailand: In Phuket you can find just about anything. Unless you're anchored in Patong (where you can walk to Carrefour) or Ao Chalong (where you can walk to the wet market) you'll need to take a bus or tuk-tuk or, probably better for a big provision, rent a car. We found bakerís supplies (whole wheat flour, grains, chocolate chips, cheddar cheese and cream cheese) in Phuket town at Gerbera House on Bangkok Road. There are fresh produce markets in Phuket town, Ao Chalong and Patong. The big supermarkets in the center of the island are: Tesco, Big C, and Festival. Big C is most like a K-Mart in USA (lots of items besides food), and has the cheapest Thai products. Festival and Tesco are good for meats and imports. Carrefour is the other big supermarket, which is in Patong. It's a French chain and has awesome imported cheeses and specialty items, plus all the normal supermarket things.
Sri Lanka: In Galle there were several small supermarkets plus fresh fruit/veg stalls and the main fresh market. You could get more "European" food through Mikeís Yacht Services. The government sets prices on bulk and canned items, and alcohol. Check on the bottle or container for the price.
Maldives: We only visited Addu Atoll, in the south. Everything is imported there, so there are no fresh markets. There is a small shop called Two Plus One on Feydoo which has a good cruiser's selection and delivers for free. The owner, Mulla, can also get things specially from Male (the capital) if you place an order with the owner.
Here's an overview of what's available where, as of 2006-2007. This is just a rough guide, and can change, of course, over time. Just about anything you could want is available in Singapore, so I've not included it on the table.
Makro in Bali
|Sri Lanka has a strong dairy industry with nice cheeses and yogurts.|
|Butter, Yogurt||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Canned butter available in supermarkets|
|Yes. plus chocolate||No||No||Yes||Yes||Canned evaporated
milk was more common
|Powdered milk||Sweetened||Mostly for kids||Yes. Choices||Children's milk is usually
flavored and sweet
palm (in logs)
|White, brown||White, brown
|White||Cocoa is everywhere. Thai bee honey is good. Dark chocolate is hard to find in SL & Maldives.|
|Whole wheat flour||At supermarkets||Yes||Maybe||White flour everywhere. Beware old/moldy flour in Sri Lanka & Maldives|
|Pasta||At all big stores, but sometimes only spaghetti||Rice noodles and bean noodles are common|
|Peanuts & cashews||Yes, at fresh markets. Either raw or roasted.||Unknown||Indonesia has candlenuts, good for curries|
|Peanut butter||Everywhere, but cheapest in Malaysia and Thailand|
|Granola, Cereal||Bali only||Some. expensive||Best choice||Little choice||No||Oats & corn flakes are everywhere|
|Yellow, red, brown everywhere.
Also split peas, kidneys, butter beans etc.
|Sold as bulk in markets
or packaged in stores
|Rice||Jasmine||Jasmine. brown in big stores||Basmati||Basmati||"Local" Maldives rice has bad earthy flavor|
|Crackers||Everywhere, and inexpensive||Those wrapped in little packets keep longer|
|Juices||Cordials, like Sunquick are everywhere. Some boxed UHT juices at high prices|
|Alcohol||Beer & local arrack
|Everything, in duty free Langkawi||Cheap beer, expensive
|Beer & local
|None||The golden colored arrack in SL is similar to Caribbean rum and is cheap|
|Canned veggies||Very little choice except for canned corn||Canned tomatoes are sold in supermarkets|
|Canned fruit||Very little choice except lychees or pineapple||Some dried fruits (always raisins) at big stores|
|Canned fish||Canned tuna is everywhere, but prices vary a lot & may not be dolphin safe|
|We boycott palm oil for environmental reasons. Olive oil can be found at upscale supermarkets.|
|Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Cheap & easier to use than
fresh coconut. Great for curries
|Personal items||Toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand soap sold in shops.
Deodorant choice limited
|Toilet paper||Sold in
|yes||Not commonly used in Indonesia, Malaysia or Sri Lanka so no selection.|
|Mosquito repellent||Citronella candles and mosquito coils are common.
Personal DEET-containing repellent is rare
|Bug killing sprays
are sold everywhere
SE Asia is the spice capital of the world! You name it, itís here, both fresh and powdered: cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cloves, cardamom, coriander, anise, cumin, turmeric, mixed masala, pre-mixed curry powders. Use your nose to determine the freshness of the product. Usually bulk in the markets is the best, but if you want just small quantities, you can find things pre-packaged in the stores. If they're fresh, you can smell the spice through the thin plastic.
Dried herbs are not so easy to find. The staples are oregano and basil. Fresh Thai basil is everywhere in Thailand. Fresh mint can be found in Langkawi and Thailand.
Hiding a smile. Potato seller in Timor, Indonesia
Coconut milk powder keeps
better than fresh coconuts
Indonesian markets are a feast of fresh produce. Bargaining is advised.
Some Bahasa Indonesia words and numbers are good to know. Water spinach is
called "kankung" in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Mangoes and avos are very seasonal, so donít expect them year round. Papayas seem to be always available everywhere.
Un-refrigerated eggs, "telur" in Bahasa are available at the fresh markets (the supermarkets seem to keep them cold) but you might want to bring an egg carton or youíll be taking eggs back to the boat in a little tied up plastic bag.
Thailand and Sri Lanka are much better than Langkawi for stocking up on fresh fruit and veg which is all brought from the mainland. In a pinch, in Kuah, you can find small stores with fresh greens, mint, papaya, pineapple and the usual onions and potatoes, eggplant and cabbage.
The choice of produce in Maldives (Gan) depends on what the store owner has brought down from Male recently.
Onions, potatoes and pumpkin are found everywhere. For the adventurous there are local root crops like cassava and sweet potatoes. Coconuts, both green as drinking nuts, and brown as dry nuts are everywhere. If you use a lot of coconut in curries you might want to stock up on powdered coconut milk and cream which is cheap, keeps for months and takes a lot less room than the nuts.
Sri Lankan cheese. Yum.
I've outlined it briefly in the table above, but it helps to
know that dairy products (with the exception of yogurt) are not used very much
in the local cuisine of Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand.
In contrast, Sri Lanka has a huge dairy industry with fresh buffalo curd (yogurt), butter, cheeses (hard and soft, aged or not) and fresh milk. Plain (whole or skim) powdered milk was difficult to find outside of Singapore, Thailand or Sri Lanka. Most milk is marketed for babies and is fortified or filled with sweeteners or vanilla flavoring. Look for packages with pictures of adults on them and it may be plain flavored. If you want instant, be sure to read the labels well -- some of the powdered milks took professional blenders to mix!
We did get dairy products in Maldives, but that's probably because Mulla, the owner of Two Plus One grocery store, stocks for yachties.
Fresh fish market in eastern Indonesia
MEAT AND FISH
Green mussels in Thailand
There's not much pork in Indonesia except in Bali where beef is hard to
find. Chinese markets in (Muslim) Malaysia will have pork.
Thai meat (pork, beef, lamb, chicken) is the best of all SE Asia. Also salted cockroaches, snake, and crickets, if you're so inclined....
Chicken may be tough and stringy at the markets. You can find good imported frozen chicken at the upscale supermarkets.
Fresh and dried fish is sold at all markets, everywhere. If you want it fresh from the sea, you can buy or trade for fresh fish, shellfish and lobster (be sure the females arenít berried) in Indonesia and Thailand.
We bought beautiful, tasty green mussels in Thailand right from a fisherman and his wife.
Filling with diesel & gas in Lombok
Indonesia : The national price (in 2006) was 4500 R (about 45 US cents) per liter, but given that we had to pay middle-men, or pay for transport of the diesel in jerry jugs to docks, we usually paid about 5500. The Rally boats objected strongly when the people in Bali tried to sell them diesel at Serangan Island for an outrageous R8500. We got it easily by jerry jug in Kupang, Lombok, Bali, Kumai. Make sure you're full when leaving Kupang as we were running a bit low by the time we got to Lombok - the winds were light so we had to motor much of the time. Note that Kupang also had the last ATM before Lombok (by road to the capital) or Bali. Itís critical to filter the diesel as it goes into your tank, although it often looked very clean.
Singapore: There's no fuel dock at One 15 Marina.
Malaysia: We got fuel by jerry jugs in a friend's car at Admiral Marina, Port Dickson (the fuel dock was broken), then again at Telaga Harbor Marina, Langkawi, once by jerry jug and once directly to Ocelot at the fuel pontoon. The gas station is literally right next to the fuel dock, and they charge quite a bit less. We still used the Baja Filter. Canít remember the price.
Thailand: We got fuel by jerry jug via rented car to Nai Harn Bay. Ao Chalong would also be a convenient place. Canít remember the price but it was pretty cheap.
Sri Lanka: We used jerry jugs, and Mikeís Yacht Services delivered right to the dock in the security area - $.60/liter. If you use GAC (which claims a monopoly) they'll charge you an extra 10%.
Maldives: We had it delivered to the wall in Gan, organized by Mulla from Two Plus One store, but it's easy to arrange yourself. Just go to the fuel station half way up Feydoo and ask. However, the meter on the fuel truck over-reads by a good 10%, so the fuel will cost you that 10% extra. Don't know how good the metering is at the station, but the truck and the station are owned by the same company.
Don't be tempted. These are quick stop
gas stations for motorcycles only.
Indonesia: In Kupang the rally helpers on the beach schlepped our
jerry jugs (for a
hefty surcharge). It's probably cheaper to hire a bemo or small truck for a
couple of bucks and make a run to the fuel station yourself. The roadside stands
with liters of fuel are for the ever-present motorcycles.
In Lombok we got it in jugs, via truck, with Mohammadís brother, again for a hefty surcharge.
In Bali we took jerry jugs to a petrol station via rental car. Don't get the premix as it's not the correct oil for (cool running) outboard motors.
In Kumai, Kalimantan, Herry of Herry's Borneo Wilderness Eco Tours can arrange for fuel.
Malaysia: From Port Dickson, we bought gas in jerry jugs, transported with a friend's car.
In Telaga, Langkawi we took jerry jugs by foot to the petrol station that's 50 meters from the fuel dock. It's cheaper that way.
Thailand: We got gasoline by jerry jugs and rental car from Nai Harn Bay, Phuket.
Sri Lanka: Mikeís Yacht Services brought it right to the dock in our jerry jugs.
Maldives: We could have gotten gas from Mulla, (Two Plus One) but didnít need it.
Mulla, the very helpful store-owner
in Addu Atoll, Maldives
If you're headed for Chagos, be sure to carry lots of outboard fuel, as the atolls are big, and people use dinghies for fishing.
We swapped a French for an Aussie tank in Aus, so now have all US/Aus fittings (some with newer US outer threads). Our bottles are the standard 20 lb (8.5 kg) size. They were all full leaving Darwin. Make sure the valves have bleed-screws, necessary when gravity feeding from 1 bottle to another (or when filling in Aus).
In Bali there's a big LPG station close to Serangan anchorage, closed weekends
In Kumai Herry at Kumai Yacht services got us LPG.
Thailand: We used a rental car (but you could easily go by tuk-tuk) to get to the actual LPG dealer in central Phuket.
Sri Lanka: They couldnít use our fittings, so we tried gravity feed, to no success.
Maldives: We bought a full bottle via Mulla and succeeded in gravity feeding to ours.
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