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 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.