The weather is heating up in day 2 of our trip to Penang – with wind blowing haze from Indonesia’s logging industry and illegal burnoff. Temperature is starting to sore higher with humidiy reaching over 80 percent. It is hot and not for the faint hearted tourists who are not accustomed to the hot and humid weather of Penang.
We took a PenangRapid bus to George Town. It was a long wait for the bus outside Queensbay Mall, which was unusual. Waited and waited. One bus finally arrived after 30 minutes! It was not the bus number that I wanted us to take, which was 401E – express bus with limited stops running along the coastal highway into the city. This particular bus, number 304 took us along several busy roads before arriving into the central part of George Town – Komtar, the first major redevelopment of Penang, which started construction in 1974. It stands at 65 storeys with 4 storeys of podium and the largest shopping mall at the time. It is the main building housing most of Penang state government departments and ministries, including the Chief Minister’s office. Over the years and in recent time, Komtar was getting neglected. It was the pride of Penangites, but soon became an eyesore with poor property management overseeing the maintenance of the buildings. It started to loose its attractions and glitters, with more and better shops and shopping malls being built outside the city. Penangites love shopping – “window shopping” precisely, to escape the heat of the weather. Without the people at Komtar, shops started to shutdown. However, in the last 5 years things are starting to change again for Komtar, with more life being brought back to the area and the State government promising to revitalise the area as a result of the crowning of George Town as a world heritage site.
We got off the bus at Penang Road, oustide the main entrance of Komtar, and walked towards the old part of George Town. I have fond memories of the area. My parents used to take me, my brother and my sister to this particular section of Penang Road. There was and “still is” a photo studio where my parents like to take our formal family portraits – from a baby photo to starting first grade in school. There is the famous kopitiam where we frequently visited – especially the “asam laksa” stand where it used to be owned by one distant relative. And, then there was the famous family owned, riched in Penang tradition old institution of “Lok Tai Ku” restaurant at the corner of Penang Road and Burmah Road. I still remember my dad frequently took us to eat at this restaurant. Our favourite table was on on the top floor overlooking the two major roads of George Town. I am glad to see restoration work is being done on the building, which was sitting derelict for many years.
Walking along Penang Road is not the same as when I grew up. It is noisy and busy with traffics. The shops are getting old and neglected. There is hardly any shoppers walking along this section of Penang Road. But, today was a public holiday – Hari Raya Aidilfitri. This explains why all the shops were shut.
We made our way to the old part of George Town – first along Rope Walk, “Jalan Pantai Tali” to find another favourite of mine, an old insitution serving Penang’s style dim sum for all I can remember – “Leong Kee Tim Sum”. It is at the corner of Kimberley Street and Rope Walk.
The service here is good, fast, chaotic and tourist friendly. It is mostly the local Penangites eating here. It started early and finished before midday. It is very reasonable priced as well. We ate almost 8 different variety of dim sum and it costs us only Malaysian Ringgit 19.10, an equivalent of less than AUD$7. The dim sum taste, texture and flavour are quite different from the cantonese or Hong Kong version that we had in Australia. They had more subtle flavours with, I believed, no added MSG. The table turnover was fast and efficient. It was packed, but didn’t take long for us to get a table. They are mostly round big tables, and sharing the table with another group of customers is common. It is almost fun just to watch the noise and buzz of this place, and theatrical high pitch voices of the women pushing the dim sum trolleys.
I decided to use the toilet before moving on. It was interesting visiting the toilet, passing through the main kitchen where there was a goup of men making the fresh dough. This is truly a Penang scene – a living culture.
After a nice short break of dim sum and rest, we made our way to one of the largest and well known heritage site, “Khoo Kongsi”. I felt a sense of great pride whenever I visit the Khoo Kongsi, as part of my heritage and ancestry. It costs Malaysian Ringgit 10 dollar for entry to this site. Free if you are a “Khoo”. It is worth the visit and a must for tourists who are interested in the culture of Penang and understanding the early history of Chinese settlers in Penang.
Along the way, I have captured more local scenes of George Town.
The Khoo Kongsi and the architectural marvel of the main temple building.
There are many things to see within a 2-3 kilometers radius of the Khoo Kongsi. Pick up a tourist’s heritage trail map, which is self guided around the UNESCO heritage site. It is full of treasures and rich in Penang living culture. My partner could not take the heat anymore after our Khoo Kongsi visit. I was glad to be alone. I took my time to walk around to capture the old memories. Each time I returned to this place, I will find new and fascinating things. I was also on the lookout as to where I can find the street stage for the “Hungry Ghost Festival”. I found one at Queens Street. I may have to return at night time later in the week to soak in the tradition and atmosphere of the one of the most celebrated cultural event in Penang.
The historic “Kuan Yin temple” and surroundings.
In preparation for the “Hungry Ghost Festival” in Queen Street. A huge stage being erected for the live, street performance.
Some very unique and interesting street arts in old part of George Town.
This art work was actually taken inside the “China House“. I had previously written a post on this.
A trishaw peddler taking a break in reading his newspaper.
My last stop before I take the bus home – the historic floating villages along Weld Quay. This time I visited the Lim Jetty. I have previously written a post on Chew Jetty. It was getting really hot in the mid afternoon. I could feel the heat on my exposed skins, and sweat all over my T-shirt. This was my last stop before I get home and dip into the pool to cool down.
Lim Jetty is the first jetty closest to the Weld Quay Ferry Terminal, and RapidPenang bus terminus. It is smaller in scale in comparison with the more famous Chew Jetty, but equally rich in living culture.