Yasuyo And Su Ling’s Heritage Adventure [PW2]

December 28, 2010 at 10:00 am

Yasuyo and I have no actual plans to take a walk along one of Penang’s famed heritage trails today. We had actually decided to spend some time at Little India, which is also in the heritage area of inner city Georgetown, but we did not plan to do a walkabout.

We are on the CAT (Georgetown city’s free shuttle from KOMTAR to the jetty) passing the Cititel hotel on the way to KOMTAR when I suddenly ask Yasuyo if she’d like to visit the tailor to get a custom-made blouse.

Restored Penang Heritage Building

“Yes!” says Yasuyo, so we hop off the bus, one stop later and make our way back to Cititel, cross Penang Road and go into Muntri Street, where the tailor operates out of an old heritage building.

It is not a posh establishment; if anything, it is rather humble, with stacks of material and samples almost everywhere. Indeed, it is more of a work space where Ms. Kee designs, cuts and sews together pieces of cloth to put beautiful well-fitting clothes on her clients and smiles their faces.

Yasuyo chooses a blue lace, and after Ms. Kee suggests the design to suit the material and Yasuyo’s frame, Yasuyo has her measurements taken. We will come back in two weeks to collect Yasuyo’s new blouse.

That done, we walk out into the sunshine and across the narrow street to visit a beautifully restored temple honouring the Goddess Ma Chor, the Patron Deity of Seafarers. Its stately grey marble facade has many beautiful stone carvings of Chinese myths and legends. Yasuyo and I walk inside to pay our respects to the Goddess and other deities in the temple.

Penang Heritage Building

Coming out of the temple, Yasuyo and I head down Muntri Street towards Little India, our original destination. This is one of the many heritage trails in Penang. Well, actually, you could just wander along the heritage area as you please, and it would be your own special heritage trail and you would see different sights in each area.

As for Yasuyo and me, we pass many buildings which are boarded up and locked. The wooden panels on some windows are broken; tiles are cracked from years of use and then disuse. Once beautiful wooden doors look dull and paint peel from the ornate carvings on the buildings’ façade. One even has a tree sapling growing out of it. They look sad and lonely.

Then we see some workmen mixing sand and cement – they are repairing and restoring some buildings whose new owners have new plans in store for them. Due to their historical importance, there are many guidelines for restoring these buildings, which are then reopened as restaurants, offices and bed-and-breakfasts, which are, I’m happy to say, very popular with some tourists especially backpackers.

Gold Smith in Little India

Yasuyo and I stop at a cosy-looking F&B outlet and wandered inside to have a look. The wooden beams on the ceiling supporting the upper floor are coloured with age, but otherwise still going strong more than a century after being constructed. The interior is long with the bar and drinks counter on one side and as many as six or seven tables on the other.

We walk right to the back and into the adjoining premises, a sort of museum with old magazines and reading material. At the back courtyard, something catches our eye – it looks like a well, or two wells, rather. We are perplexed and a kind lady tells us they were used to roast coffee beans!

Outside, Yasuyo looks as if she is fascinated by a sign that reads “Kim Guan Coffee Powder” but maybe it is the architecture of the buildings that have her attention – the no-frills 20th-century metal and glass windows on the upper storey look rather incongruous with the pretty, detailed carvings on the wooden doors and windows on the ground floor. Soon we see some beautiful, original heritage windows and we stop for Yasuyo to take a picture.

We now reach what is popularly known in the tourism circle as the Street of Harmony. It is actually Jalan Kapitan Keling, but is so dubbed the Street of Harmony as there are four places of worship of different religions all within 500 metres of each other.

Saint George Church is at one end of the street and it is undergoing restoration work. Next up is the temple of the Goddess of Mercy, whose humble-looking temple is actually home to one of the most revered deities in Penang. Across the road is the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, the oldest Indian temple in Penang. Finally we have the Masjid Kapitan Keling, or the Kapitan Keling Mosque, which had undergone extensive restoration work a few years back.

We are now at Little India and we visit a grocery store, where Yasuyo buys a packet of papadams for her children to try. She must fry the little pieces of slightly salty chips made of flour and spices to get them all crispy like potato chips. We then walk into a clothing store where Yasuyo admires a piece of beautiful 4-metre woven sari material and she thinks about making it into a dress for herself and for Yuri, her 10-year old daughter.

It is lunchtime, and we are very hungry, but we have one more stop before we go for beef soup noodles, and that is the muruku and snack stalls. The man at the stall is very kind and offered Yasuyo samples of muruku and nuts to try before she buys some. Yasuyo finds almost everything extremely tasty and we leave with four packets of different muruku, two packets of tapioca chips and some nuts. We also buy samosas and onion bajis (round fried snacks made of onion and dhall beans) at the stall right next to the muruku stall.

Beef soup noodles, here we come!
For those wondering which shop Su Ling went to, find out here.

Two weeks later, we collect Yasuyo’s blouse from the tailor. It is a perfect fit, and she looks great in it!

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One Response

  1. Steve says:

    Penang has so much to offer and a walk through the streets of Georgetown is most definitely on the Penang Bucket List.

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