Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Penang - Solo Walk Tour

It was a work itself, getting those heavy eyelids of mine to open up. The room was still in darkness so maybe it was still early and I could still get some sleep. I looked at my phone and realized it was already 5.45am. Damn it, I overslept. There's no way now to be able to reach Weld Quay and still see the day begin.

There was a moment of battle between my desire and my plan. I was supposed to get up early and go to explore Penang on my feet for the first time since coming here 3 years ago but had been lacking in sleep these few days. However, my will overcame my moment of weakness and I quickly settled myself and began my exploration.

It was about 6.30am and already cars were roaming the roads like wild. Teenagers were waiting at the bus stop for their rides to schools to arrive. I was waiting for my transportation alongside with foreigner workers about to begin their works and senior citizens who were heading to town in early morning.

As expected, the sun has already risen up, hence, no point in going to the jetty any more. Just has to move along with the itinerary of the day, that is to appreciate and absorb the historical richness of Georgetown.

The sun was already rise and shine when I reached Georgetown

Penang is truly amazing for cultural observation and in learning more about the history of the country. Nothing teaches history better than to experience history yourself out in the open, not even those sleep-inducing Sejarah textbooks. History is everywhere you go especially in Georgetown where nothing but hundreds years of stories waiting to be told.

The Wawasan University Penang campus or administration office

Custom Office

Some vacant building

No idea what building is this

The famous St. George Church

Penang Museum 

Almost every building bears the marks from the British colonization period, a time where Penang was the most important port in Southeast Asia and was bustling with Chinese immigrants. Other than the British influenced structures, there are the Chinese style shops, Baba Nyonya buildings, and many more. A cultural potpourri and haven for architecture students.

A Chinese style shop

Chinese temple somewhere along Victoria Street

Behind the gate is the Penang Peranakan Museum

Speaking of Chinese immigrants, if I'm not mistaken, during those time, usually the males of the families came to Penang as they viewed the island as a gold mine. They were willing to leave behind their families in order to make more money to send back home. Being in a foreign land with no familiar faces other than those following you along, those of the same surnames often stick together as they were more or less of the same ancestral history. Together they worked hard and with those money earned, they built houses and temples for their families to live together. Sooner, these houses and temples had become the clan houses or kongsi as known by the locals.

The most famous clan house here in Penang would be the Khoo Kongsi and understandably so. Grand and majestic, Khoo Kongsi is definitely a class of its own. However, it has gone commercial and an entrance fee of RM 5 has to be paid to savour its cultural cuisines. If you do not want to spend the money, then, you can always walk around and surely will bump into another clan's kongsi. In fact, just a few walks away from Khoo Kongsi is the underrated Cheah Kongsi. It is actually the Cheah Kongsi that I went to on this walking tour.

Why it is underrated? Well, for starter, it is not as widely known as Khoo Kongsi despite being one of the oldest clan houses in Penang or maybe the world. According to a friendly member of the clan who I talked to today, they recently found a document, so ancient that a simple touch would turn the paper into dust, that could bring into light that the kongsi is almost 200 years old. Imagine the amount of tales occupied the complex! The maintenance is top notch and also less crowded, giving a more personal touch to it. And it is free.

The shop that started it all

What actually drew me in to the complex? Well, I was actually taking the picture of the shop next to it when an auntie talked to me and began to tell me tales of about the Cheah Kongsi. It would be a lovely tale if she had not smother me with Chinese idioms and those four characters and eight characters phrases which are abundant in the Chinese language. She often mixed her story with English with occasional drop of Hokkien and Cantonese phrases but I was even more clueless when she did that as I was totally unaware that it was English.

The entrance to Cheah Kongsi

What I did understand from the good 10 minutes plus chat was that the constructions of the complex were heavily influenced by the feng shui (at least that what I believed she was saying) and something about how the girls in the old days being unable to go out of the houses and when their lovers were on sail, they would be looking outside from their windows high up their houses. Somehow, this tale has something to do with the narrow road in front of the complex. Like I said, I spent a good 10 minutes being clueless.

The temple inside the complex

The interior of the 1st floor of the building

At least, thanks to her, I ventured into complex and can enjoy the rich cultures and beautiful carvings and paintings decorated the walls of the temple and the doors. I even had a good chat with the said member mentioned just now, a Mr. Cheah, presumably, since he is the member of the clan. We talked about the building and how important it is to preserve our cultures and not forgetting our roots.

Some of the beautiful paintings and carvings and decorations in the complex
He informed me that the clan house is still in use and every three years, there is a Cheah Day where all the Cheahs around the world would gather at one location and have a feast. I also learnt from him that there a Chuah Kongsi somewhere around the junction between Perak Road and Dato' Keramat Road and prompted me to go have a look at it and to find out more about my ancestral. This time around, the talking has been very wonderful and informative and that the 20 or 30 minutes of so were well spent.

The window where the ladies stood inside looking at the outside, so said the auntie

Malaysians are truly friendly and nice and being one myself, I dare say I do have these traits inside me.


Sharing is caring. A word of advice and a piece of information.

Don't worry if you do not have a car when coming up here in Penang for the public buses here are great. Rapid Penang bus is truly a great addition to the public transportation in Penang. It is clean and comfortable, plus as punctual as they can be. Even without a car would not hinder your travelling plan in Penang. The Rapid Penang bus is quite frequent, with a lapse of about 10 to 30 minutes between buses, and covers a wide area of Penang. You can look through their website here to find out more about the which buses go which areas, the frequency, and the rate. If buses are not your thing, you can opt for taxis but be prepared to pay a lump sum.

P/S All these photographs were captured with my friend's DSLR. Click here to have a look at his photographs. Thanks, man, for lending me your 宝贝 for a day. Really appreciate it.

My friend's DSLR


  1. Typo error in btw 7th n 8th picture.

  2. Where's the typo??? I can't see!

  3. again, thanks a lot for your 宝贝...enjoy playing with it...

  4. Been to Penang a couple of times and still cannot get enough, the places as well as the food to taste.

  5. you simply can't get enough of it as Penang is a huge island with many great things to see...and lord, the foods!!!

  6. Jessie, you really need to. It's just so beautiful.