25 Jul Penang’s Chinatown
George Town, Penang is a vibrant city with many faces and cultures. A part of the city’s renowned Heritage Zone houses the Chinatown area, a hodgepodge of Penang-style clash of cultures with east-meets-southeast sensibilities within the area’s architectural designs.
The heart of Penang’s Chinatown emerged on China Street, an area originally designated for Chinese migrants and workers back in the day. Today, the Chinatown area has expanded to the extent that it encompasses various streets within George Town itself, such as King Street, Stewart Street, Muntri Street, and even all the way up to Campbell Street near Komtar! Penang’s Chinatown borders the Little India enclave on Pitt Street (a.k.a. Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling), in an almost literal description of cultural borders.
Various shop houses, clan houses, restaurants and temples are strewn along the Penang ‘s Chinatown streets, offering a wide variety of Chinese goods, cuisine and religious trinkets. Locals and tourists alike can sometimes be seen snacking on the famous Penang tau sa piah (flaky mung beans biscuits) and bakkwa (dried sweet/salty meat) in Chinese pastry shops and bakkwa stalls, or just relaxing within a traditional Chinese tea house. Notable places of interest are the Kong Hock Keong temple, an entrance to the Khoo Kongsi clanhouse, and the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion (a.k.a. The Blue Mansion). Throughout the year, festive Chinese celebrations such as the Lunar/Chinese New Year, as well as temple events, take place throughout the streets of Penang’s Chinatown.
One of more notable traits of Penang’s Chinatown is that the area is one of the few Chinatowns in the world to be located within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the other two being Malacca’s Chinatown and the Luang Prabang Chinatown in Laos. The area radiates with the pride and heritage of its people and history, for all to see and experience, should they choose to walk these streets.