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.

Exploring Penang’s Inner City – Day 1

We usually loaf around shopping complexes most of the times that Wuan is in Penang. This time around we wanted to do something different. Wuan had always wanted to explore the island’s inner city and that was what we decided we would do. Having being born and bred in Penang, I am embarrassed to say that I have never explored those little nooks and crannies of this old city that has made Penang so famous the world over.

After searching online for a suitable accommodation from where we could conveniently traipse from, we settled on the City Bayview Hotel. We booked the Superior Room for two nights as that was the only room type available. For RM138 nett per night with two buffet breakfasts thrown in, we thought it was a bargain.

City Bayview Hotel Penang's keycards

Day 1 – 1118 hrs, Monday, June 21
When we checked-in, we asked for higher floors. We were pleasantly surprised that the hotel upgraded us to a Grand Deluxe Room at no extra charge. The room was more spacious and it overlooked the E & O Hotel and the North Channel. We could see ships sailing by and little sampans bobbing in the sea. The haze was not as bad over here as compared to Bayan Baru.

Day 1 – 1232 hrs, Monday, June 21
We invited Mr. Tan, my neighbour, to join us for lunch as he was around the vicinity. We had buffet lunch at the hotel’s coffee house called the Kopi Tiam. After eating to our hearts’ content, we lingered a while in the coffee house to let our food settle properly.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Day 1 – 1425 hrs, Monday, June 21
Wuan and I set off to discover the treasures Penang has to offer. Our first stop was the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Leith Street which was just across the road from the hotel. Entry to the mansion was RM10 per person inclusive of a bookmark and a guided tour which is conducted daily at 11am and 3pm. The doorman charged us for one person only as I was unable to follow the guided tour.

Wuan participated in tour which lasted approximately one hour. While she was inside, I whiled my time away appreciating the unique designs of the exterior. After what seemed like a long time, Wuan finally appeared from the tour full of stories of this famous blue mansion, which is one of the few surviving mansions painted in this unique indigo blue colour. Wuan loves anything antique and if she could she would have spent the entire day there appreciating the intricate workmanship of the decors and structure.

Day 1 – 1639 hrs, Monday, June 21
Just a hop away from the mansion on the same road is the Benggali Mosque with its rather unusual minaret. Tall vertical windows adorned each level of the minaret’s three levels. We stopped at a coffee shop nearby to get a bottle of mineral water as the weather was hot and humid. One can walk around the inner city without carrying snacks and water as it is available at most coffee shops, mini markets and little grocery stalls by the roadside dotted all over the place.

Hainanese Temple Penang

Day 1 – 1648 hrs, Monday, June 21
We took a leisurely stroll down Muntri Street. Our first stop was the Hainanese Temple. The exterior walls of the temple were adorned with relief sculptures of Chinese mythology and legends. These sculptures looked almost alive if not for its lack of colours.

Day 1 – 1659 hrs, Monday, June 21
The Penang Ta Kam Hong is the Goldsmiths’ Guild. The exterior is unpretentious and lacks the intricate designs like the other old Chinese buildings that we visited earlier. Wuan took a shot of the arch and we continued our way down the street.

St. Xavier's Institution Penang

Day 1 – 1702 hrs, Monday, June 21
Muntri Street is one road I know well. As one of the Traffic Wardens during school days, I used to hold up the lollipop, a red stop sign, to control the flow of traffic and allow fellow students to exit from the school’s back gate in their bicycles and motorcycles. As we passed the back gate the memories of those days came rushing back.

Day 1 – 1708 hrs, Monday, June 21
We turned into Love Lane and then out to Farquhar Street. This side of the road that we were on is lined by the St. Xavier’s Institution (SXI), Church of the Assumption, Penang State Museum and St. George’s Church.

Church of the Assumption Penang

Day 1 – 1712 hrs, Monday, June 21
I have studied in the SXI for two years from 1982 to 1983 but have never once gone to the Church of the Assumption. The doors into the Church were closed. Wuan went to the bulletin board to check for the time for Mass for Tuesday but there were none for that day. The way down to the museum was a harrowing experience. The pavements were not wheelchair friendly as there were no ramps. We traversed on the road gingerly with the traffic speeding by. The museum was closed for the day.

St. George's Church Penang

Day 1 – 1717 hrs, Monday, June 21
The St. George’s Church is the oldest Anglican church in Penang. It was built in 1818. The columns of the portico made it look like a Grecian temple. As it was getting late, we took a few shots of this distinctive structure and made our way to the next destination.

Walkway outside Penang State Museum

Day 1 – 1721 hrs, Monday, June 21
The return journey was even more nerve-racking. The traffic was especially heavy as people just got off work and were rushing home. We hoped that none would crash into us.

Carpenters' Guild Penang, Loo Pun Hong

Day 1 – 1731 hrs, Monday, June 21
Next on our itinerary was the Carpenters’ Guild which is the oldest Carpenters’ Guild in Malaysia. It is called the Loo Pun Hong in Chinese. The compound looked scruffy and we could have easily missed it if we were not looking for it. The walls were moldy and the paint was peeling off.

Buah kedondong juice and wantan noodles

Day 1 – 1747 hrs, Monday, June 21
As we were feeling hungry after all the strolling, we went looking for food at Chulia Street. Actually, Wuan was more famished than I because she had been pushing me all over the place since we left the hotel. We settled for wantan noodles and ambula (buah kedondong) juice at the corner of Chulia Street and Carnavon Street. I do not know if we were hungry or the food really tasted good.

Day 1 – 1801 hrs, Monday, June 21
Having filled ourselves with fuel for the evening, we explored the place a little and found a water dispensing machine to replenish our empty bottle. 20sen per litre is so much cheaper than the RM2.50 we paid for one 1.5 litre bottle earlier.

St. Xavier's Institution

Day 1 – 1816 hrs, Monday, June 21
We cut through Love Lane and then to Farquhar Street again to go back to the hotel. As we passed SXI, I could not resist going in to relive the days we had assembly at the front of the school singing the national, state and school anthems while the flag was being raised. The school looked almost the same as it was when I left it in 1983. As we loitered around the corridors, I could almost hear the din of students chatting away even though it was dead silent.

Day 1 – 1841 hrs, Monday, June 21
After having exhausted the camera batteries, we went back to the hotel. The heat coupled with the distance we covered drained us of every ounce of energy. Whilst the batteries were recharging, we promptly fell asleep in the comfort of the inviting mattress and coolness of the air-conditioning.

Shop selling oxtail soup at Upper Penang Road

Day 1 – 2215 hrs, Monday, June 21
We awoke feeling hungry. I remembered a place I have had some nice food before at Penang Road. We reached there only to find the place deserted. Feeling really hungry, we ordered a roti canai and teh halia at a nearby store but the food was below expectation. On our way there, we had passed by a row of stalls which were crowded with diners and we thought the food must be good. We picked the first stall we reached and quickly ordered a bowl of sup ekor (oxtail soup) which also did not go down well. Feeling a little disappointed, we headed back to the hotel to call it a night.