Discovering Penang’s Inner City – Day 3

Clear sky over Penang

Day 3 – 0710 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
Having slept early the night before, we woke up invigorated and all excited. The sky was clear with white clouds. We were sure it would not rain again. We have two more places to visit. Wuan wanted to go to the Khoo Kongsi while I wanted photos of the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. We requested for late check-out as we did not want to be locked out of our room if we returned late. Our 12 noon check-out was extended to 2pm. Breakfast was the usual Western and Oriental fare. Not wanting to overload our digestive system, lest we get sleepy again, we ate mostly fruits and light snacks.

Shadow play at Stewart Lane Penang

Day 3 – 0932 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
I know those roads around SXI well but I think Wuan is beginning to become familiar with them too. For the past two days, we had traversed the same road several times daily. Our first destination was the Goddess of Mercy Temple. From the hotel, we walked down Farquhar Street, turned into Love lane and then into Stewart Lane. The archways of the house beside Stewart Lane looked interesting with the morning sun casting strong shadows.

Antique tiles at Stewart Lane

Day 3 – 0934 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
Some of the houses there looked rather old, not occupied and were secured with chains and bolts. Wuan liked the old tiles plastered on some of the walls. They looked really nice even after so many years. Their colours were striking and one cannot get tiles with such designs anymore.

Goddess of Mercy Temple Penang

Day 3 – 0940 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
The exterior of the Goddess of Mercy Temple has not changed over the years. It was as I had remembered it, except maybe the red roof looked rather clean. There were not a lot of worshippers when we were there but whenever there is a festival, it would be packed to the brim and the whole area would be filled with acrid fumes from burning incense.

Day 3 – 0945 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
As parts of the Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling were paved with roughly hewn blocks which made it very uncomfortable for me on a wheelchair and difficult for Wuan to push, we cut across the road into China Street to avoid the idiocy of the hare-brained scheme. We were in Little India again, with stalls selling teh tarik and an assortment of Indian merchandise.

Maha Mariamman Temple Penang

Day 3 – 0950 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
The facade of the Maha Mariamman Temple was striking. Colourful sculptures of Hindu deities in various poses looked down from the top of the entrance that was guarded by two lions. We could not but marvel at the excellent skills of the artisans who created the sculptures. One surely cannot miss this temple which rises prominently in Queen Street.

Day 3 – 1001 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
Since the Cheah Kongsi was close by, Wuan wanted to go in and take more photos of the clan house. I waited from a distance, not wanting to be splattered by pigeon droppings. Those birds reside inside the entrance arch of the building. I was nearly soiled by one impish pigeon while waiting for Wuan there the day before.

Khoo Kongsi Penang

Day 3 – 1011 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
The temple of the Khoo Kongsi was surrounded by houses. These houses were very much like fortification walls protecting the clan house and the temple that were situated in the middle. It is not visible from outside and one can easily miss it if not for the small signs that lead the way to the entrance. Entrance is RM5 per person inclusive of a souvenir postcard.

By now, the sun was getting very hot. I waited in the shade while Wuan had a field day taking photographs. From where I waited, I could see the elaborate figures and motifs that decorated the temple. I could not enter the temple because of the many steps but one of the caretakers offered to help me into the museum on the ground floor. It housed various artefacts of the clan like swords, tools used to construct the building, genealogy book and pictorial of the clan’s history in Penang. Wuan took about fifty shots of the Khoo Kongsi. There was a look of satisfaction on her face when we emerged from the museum.

Acheen Street Penang

Day 3 – 1106 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
We wanted to take more photos of the Acheen Street Mosque but could not find a nice angle. Instead, Wuan snapped a shot of Acheen Street replete with its old houses, ramps on the pavement and benches for weary tourists to sit and rest their aching feet.

Day 3 – 1113 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
We followed the same roads that we took yesterday to return to the hotel, passing Cannon Street, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Buckingham Street, Canarvon Street, Chulia Street, Love Lane and Farquhar Street.

Day 3 – 1137 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
When we reached the hotel, it was still too early to check-out. In the coolness of the lobby, we rested a while, catching our breath from a really breathtaking morning. The photos that we took at E & O Hotel yesterday did not look too good because of the rain and dark clouds. Seeing that the weather was just perfect, we headed to E & O Hotel again to snap more nice photos to remember our little adventure by.

Day 3 – 1159 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
The sea was rather calm and the sun was shinning down harshly. The seafront of the E & O Hotel was deserted. I took shelter under a huge shady frangipani tree while Wuan went around the seafront taking shots of anything that caught her fancy. There were 2 large cannons facing out to the sea, a row of coconut palms, the frangipani tree and a towering kapok tree that provided convenient shelter from the heat.

Rooftop view of Penang's Inner City

Day 3 – 1243 hrs, Wednesday, June 23
Just before we went back to our room to pack up, we stood at the lift lobby of the fifteenth floor that looked out to the inner city. The red and ochre roofs spread all over the landscape and right up to the edge of the land where it met the sea. I have lived in Penang all my life but I have never really had the opportunity to see all the sights of the inner city. Wuan gave me that opportunity to get to know my hometown better. I could not have gone on this sightseeing trip if not for her. We stood there for a long while, feeling a little nostalgic and sad at the same time for having to leave this place that will give us many happy memories in years to come.

Go to the Gallery for more photos of our three day escapade. Most of the photos were taken by Wuan with Nikon Coolpix 3100. We used a 256Mb compact flash which was sufficient for three days worth of shooting 363 frames in 3 megapixel normal resolution. For information on the places of interest to visit in Penang’s inner city, go to Penang Heritage Trust or Tourism Penang.

Exploring Penang’s Inner City – Day 2

Grotto at Church of the Assumption Penang

Day 2 – 0726 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We awoke early and dropped in at the Church of the Assumption to say a prayer before beginning our adventure for the day. We had a full day ahead and hoped that the weather would be forgiving. Both of us looked every bit like tourists except we were not wearing hats.

Campbell Street Market

Day 2 – 0748 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
The road before the Campbell Street Market was closed to traffic. Hawkers had set up stall to sell their wares. There were stalls selling fish, roasted pork, vegetables, groceries, clothes and incense. Not finding anything that interested us, we decided to go back to the hotel for our breakfast.

Day 2 – 0917 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Feeling stuffed after the scrumptious breakfast which consisted of Western and Oriental fare, we went back to our room to freshen up. I felt a little tired and wanted to nap for a short while. Before I knew it, I had slept through lunch. Wuan had also finished reading her papers by then. We packed our things and got ready to roam the streets of Penang again.

Day 2 – 1434 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Just as we were to go out, it began to rain. Strong winds were swaying the branches of trees outside. We figured that if there is wind, the rain clouds would soon be blown away. We loitered around the lobby until the rain stopped.

Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang, E & O Hotel

Day 2 – 1438 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
First in our list was the E & O Hotel. We have heard so much about its glittering list of guests. We wanted to soak in the ambience of a long gone era when the hotel was an obligatory stop for those travelling to the Far East. The seafront was a beautiful sight. I told Wuan it has been a long long while since I have sat by the seaside listening to the waves crashing against the rocks and feeling the salty winds brushing against my cheeks.

Day 2 – 1529 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
After coming out of the hotel, we felt hungry again. We had skipped lunch because I overslept after breakfast. We made our way down Light Street, passing the SXI field and Convent Light Street. One of our itineraries was the City Hall and Fort Cornwallis. Seeing the City Hall bounded in scaffolding we skipped it and went looking for food in Little India.

King Street Penang

Day 2 – 1531 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We wandered into King Street looking for kopitiams that served char koay teow or some other Penang hawker food. Unfortunately, most of them closed for business after lunch hours. A row of old Chinese-style buildings that stretched across almost for one block caught our attention. We stopped to take a closer look. It consisted of a temple and some association or clan buildings.

Banana leaf rice in Penang

Day 2 – 1603 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
By now, our tummies were rumbling in protest. I thought some of the coffee shops in the banking district of Beach Street could still be opened and directed Wuan in that direction. However, as we were making our way there, right before us at Penang Street was an Indian restaurant that was still teeming with diners. That was a sight for sore eyes indeed. We both ordered two vegetarian banana leaf rice sets. At RM3 per head for all you can eat, it was a real bargain. We also bought some murukus and other sweet delicacies for snacking later.

Ghee Hiang at Beach Street Penang

Day 2 – 1643 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We went to Beach Street after our late lunch anyway. Wuan wanted to buy biscuits to take back to Kuala Lumpur for her friends, neighbours and colleagues. Ghee Hiang is one of the popular biscuits shops for tourists to Penang. Among the biscuits Wuan bought were the pong peah (biscuit with white sugar filling), heoh peah (biscuit with brown sugar filling) and tau sa peah (biscuit with green bean filling), all which were freshly baked in the shop itself.

Shop in Little India Penang

Day 2 – 1659 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Little India is an enclave of Indian traders selling everything from spices to textile. The sights, smell and colours were fascinating. There were stalls by the road selling teh tarik, an assortment of murukus and vadais. There were shops selling colourful costume jewelleries, dazzling sarees and praying paraphernalias.

Nagore Durgha Sheriff Shrine Penang

Day 2 – 1719 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
On the corner of Chulia Street and King Street junction, stood a quaint little shrine. The Nagore Durgha Sheriff Shrine’s design had a distinct mix of Hindu and Muslims elements. The two domes on the roof were surrounded by four minarets that looked like pagodas. A songkok maker, a jeweller and a grocery store operated from the side of the shrine. Seeing that there was still light for us to walk around for a while more, we explored the further ends of the inner city. The Lim Clan Temple was opposite the mosque. However it was locked.

Day 2 – 1737 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Wuan wanted to go to the Khoo Kongsi. She had read and heard a lot about it and wanted to see for herself the splendour of the temple. We got lost somewhere between Armenian Street and Beach Street and took about ten minutes to get our bearings right again. That was when we came across the Cheah Kongsi’s entrance. The building was under renovation. Wuan went in alone as I did not want to get my wheelchair caught in the debris of restoration works.

Day 2 – 1746 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We could see a minaret that towered over the houses further up the road. It was the Acheen Street Mosque. The minaret was unique in the sense that it gradually tapered off at the top and its pinnacle did not house a huge dome like most of the mosques we had seen.

Day 2 – 1749 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We knew that the Khoo Kongsi was near but we could not find it. We thought we were lost again when we chanced upon the entrance. The caretaker told us that it was closed and asked us to return the next morning. It is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Wuan was determined to see the sights inside and we began planning our schedule for the next day.

Kapitan Keling Mosque Penang

Day 2 – 1751 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, formerly Pitt Street, is a hodgepodge of Chinese and Hindu temples, mosque and church, all within walking distance with one another on the same street. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is most prominent with its lofty minaret that was visible from several blocks away. Further down the street was the Yeap Kongsi in Cannon Street with its intricately sculptured pillars.

Paved road at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling

Day 2 – 1759 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We did not go down the road to go see the temples as the road was paved with uneven blocks. Wuan had a difficult time pushing my wheelchair and it was a very uncomfortable ride for me. I question the wisdom in paving the road in such a way that it not only severely hinders wheelchair movement but motorcycles and other bigger vehicles as well. Getting very annoyed with the bumpiness, we turned into Buckingham Street which was the road beside the mosque for a smoother journey back to the hotel.

Day 2 – 1825 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
Finally we got back to the hotel. It had been a really long day for us. Wuan must be a few hundred times more exhausted than me for pushing me around all day long. I think I have never travelled the distance we travelled today ever. If left alone, I do not think I would have covered half the distance.

Day 2 – 2101 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
We did not feel like eating yet after the banana leaf rice but it was getting late. After getting into our wanderlust attire, we hit the road again to see the night sights of Penang Road again. Leith Street was lined with strings of lighted coloured bulbs, giving it a carnival-like atmosphere.

Penang Road at night

Day 2 – 1924 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
The entire stretch of Penang Road as far as our eyes could see was also lined with colourful lighted bulbs shaped in various motifs like fruits, stars, butterflies and flowers. It was as if Christmas had arrived early. The roadside stalls were filled with night owls looking for supper or having a pint of cool beer by the several pubs that were opened for the evening crowds. Satisfied that we had seen enough, we returned to the hotel.

View of Penang from Revolving Restaurant

Day 2 – 2212 hrs, Tuesday, June 22
On the uppermost floor of the City Bayview Hotel sits the Revolving Restaurant. It is only opened for dinner buffet. The sight from there was spectacular. We could see the harbour, the rooftops of the inner city and Komtar, the tallest building in Penang as the restaurant slowly rotated. We went to bed early that night, happy that we had covered most of the sights we had set out to see in the first place.