New Delhi, India
October 19, 2002
From the Yap Kongsi, we went further into Chinatown- a vast spread of neat houses (many of them `shop houses’, where the owners live above their shops), with red paper lanterns and tiny red altars, in front of each house. Also a part of Chinatown was a very smelly, 200-year old fish market, and what must rank as one of Penang’s greatest attractions, the stunning clanhouse of Khoo Kongsi.
Beyond Khoo Kongsi, we went past the gaudily-painted, plaster-idol decorated façade of the Sri MariammanHindu temple and then stopped over to walk down to the jetty. The fishermen’s houses are wooden and extend over the sea, standing atop stilts- each with the customary red altar in front. We made our way on a wooden-plank paved `street’ down to the end of the pier, from where one can look across the sea to Butterworth, and further away, Langkawi. On our way back from the jetty we stopped at the red-roofed, very ornate Temple to the Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin. This deity’s very popular, and the temple was full of people kneeling before the idol, waving joss-sticks and praying. Huge red incense burners smouldered in the front courtyard, and the entire temple was filled with clouds of smoke. The Temple to Kwan Yin (who is believed to bestow everything from prosperity to good health and offspring) is Penang’s oldest temple- it dates back to 1800.
From the temple of Kwan Yin, we made our way into the heart of Georgetown, beyond Chinatown and on to Fort Cornwallis, largely built by Francis Light and named after the Governor-General of India (talk of sucking up to the boss?!). The fort was a disappointment- nearly all of it is gone- all that’s left is a few outlying walls and a large expanse of grass. They’ve tried whitewashing walls and plastering whatever’s falling apart, so it doesn’t look even vaguely historic.
Also part of the trishaw ride around town was a visit to the delightful Penang Museum- a very interesting collection of artefacts and the very `Indian’ Benggali Masjid.
On the whole, time well spent- and a great way of seeing Penang- especially Chinatown!
From journal The Chinese side of Penang