Mid-way though March, the marina/resort informed us that Malaysia would be implementing a Restricted Movement Order that took effect on March 18-31 to try and curb the COVID-19 outbreak. This would also include the resort/marina facilities closing during this period.
Luckily, we were informed early enough so that we could plan a trip for provisions and water. On the Monday (March 16), Shaun and I headed down the road with a rental car to pickup groceries to last us for 2 weeks. We were able to grab a good assortment of items to get us through.
The following day, Shaun went to the Immigration office in the nearby town of Seramban, which is 30 minutes away. We needed to find out about extending our Malaysian social visitor's visa which, would expire April 8th. The officer handed him 4 extension forms and suggested he return April 1 to maximize the 60 day extension.
Normally, to renew a visa and receive a fresh 90 days, we need to leave Malaysia for 24 hours and then re-enter and have a new stamp put into our passport. As long as you are not working in Malaysia, the authorities are fine with you doing this and supporting their economy. Our boat neighbor Andy has been here 5 years, going back and forth to Singapore as required. The plan was to venture inland to the various neighboring countries and time our travel with the need to reset our Malaysian visas. We had it all planned out....or so we thought. Once the virus started wreaking havoc, the whole country shut down, including the border and the immigration offices. The rules were changing rapidly and there was a distinct possibility that we would be required to leave the country.
At this point, we had to consider our options. Potentially over stay our visas and wait out the virus then, renew/extend or fly back to Canada. After initially looking at affordable travel options, we determined that returning to Canada would entail, three airports, three planes and finally the 14 days of self quarantine. We discussed our options at length, including the girls in the conversations to figure out which solution best fit our family. We all concluded that, for our family's health and well-being, it was best to stay put in Port Dickson, Malaysia. The resort/marina complex Element is moored in is extremely isolated and with only a few people living on their vessels. We were safe, healthy, had plenty of food and water, unlimited high speed wifi and power. The girls were also able to continue working through their distance education school year uninterrupted.
We later read in a news article and heard from other foreigners, that all social visitor visas were automatically being extended until the MCO ended. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued on with our daily lives, while we watched news updates online and hoped that the world would get a handle on the virus.
Fast forward eight weeks, and our social visitor's visas have expired......
We have had several extensions of the Movement Control Order (MCO) since mid March, however on May 4th the MCO was reduced to a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), a slightly more relaxed version of the MCO, allowing more essential businesses to open and the 10pm curfew being lifted. Travel across district lines is still prohibited and controlled by police and military checkpoints. So, no traveling to Kuala Lumpur for us. Our daily life was bumping along pretty much unchanged until, I started reading some conflicting news about social visitor visa holders being denied extensions while others were being extended. Including a married couple, where one personal was a Malaysian citizen and the partner not. On May 13th, the immigration offices re-opened and they were requesting that people use an online system to create an appointment. I attempted to create an appointment multiple times without success so, Shaun and I decided to take the chance of a long lineup and drive the 30 minutes to visit the immigration office. When we arrived, we were in luck, officials were setup with desks outside, there was no line up and we were able to speak to two immigration officers immediately.
After they looked at our passports and realized that we held expired visitor visas, we were told that we have to leave Malaysia by June 3 and only return, once the borders re-open. Only citizens and diplomats may enter Malaysia at this time. Citizens returning to Malaysia have a forced quarantine at a hotel for 14 days at a cost of $50 CAD per day. The big question is, how long until the border re-opens? As we were sitting in the car, a bit shell stocked, we started to wonder where the officers got the June 3rd exit date? After contemplating, we later came to the conclusion that it is 30 days after the original MCO ended (which was May 4) and the CMCO took effect.
We have always known that there was a possibility that we could be forced to leave. Now, it is staring us in the face. It is scary having to leave our floating home for an undetermined amount of time and even scarier having to travel internationally with Covid-19 floating around.
A place to live. Three weeks ago we received notice that our tenant was moving out at the end of May due to her loss of employment, so our apartment will be empty. We contemplated going to stay with Shaun's parents in Saskatoon, however with an unknown timeline, not to mention in the case of an extended stay, Saskatoon is frigid during winter, so we decided against this option.
We have a support network. A friend that lives in the same complex has agreed to supervise the move of our belongings into the apartment that we have arranged through a mover.
We can be nourished during our 14 day quarantine. We can purchase groceries online and arrange for delivery to our door, once we arrive.
We are together. Most importantly, we will be together. Paige and Shaun were originally supposed to be touring various universities in Canada when the first wave of the virus hit and travel became restricted.
There is a saying amongst sailors, "Plans are written in the sand at low tide." Our plans may be changing but, we will continue to move forward together and look forward to setting sail once more...
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