Thursday, April 6, 2023

Penang: Cycling The Streets & Alleys Of George Town 2023

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Penang : Cycling The Streets & Alleys Of George Town 2023
George Town, Penang : Friday, 16th December 2022
Solo cycling recce-adventure at the streets & alleys of George Town, Penang Island:

The Penang State government have made much improvements and beautification of the streets, side lanes & alleys of George Town; this is a cycling stint around the Core & Buffer Zone of the UNESCO Heritage Site of George Town, to explore it's unique streets & alleys. Along the way I saw more than the alleys, but also re-discovered nice temples, pocket parks & cute street art!
(PS: I am putting a photo of a retired blue Penang Ferry lying off the coast of Queensbay; it's unfortunate that these ferries have been laid off due to high maintenance cost. Did they consider the amount of petrol & time saving for people to use the ferry to go north? This could probably outweigh the maintenance cost!)
This blog comes in several sections, click on the respective photos below for the different sections!


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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Perak / Ipoh Cycling Sojourn 2022
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Penang: Cycling The Streets & Alleys Of George Town Pt.1: Gurney to Armenian

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                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Penang : Cycling The Streets & Alleys Of George Town Pt.1: Gurney to Armenian
George Town, Penang : Friday, 16th December 2022
Solo cycling recce-adventure at the streets & alleys of George Town, Penang Island:
Cycling Distance: 12.42 km.                   |                    Level: Easy                         
Time : 12:00 pm to 4:10 pm
Time Taken : 4hrs 10mins. (including many stops for photography, brunch, & rest).
(Click here for the Google Map Cycling Streets & Alleys of George Town Route Link )

This is page 1 of a 2-page blogClick Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to Cyling Penang         |         Go to Other Days   |   Go To Pt. 2 Armenian Street>
                                                                                                                        (coming soon)

Route Recommendations:
1. Traffic Directions!
    Malaysia's traffic is right-hand drive, so drive or cycle on the left. Same thing applies when crossing the road, be careful and take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    This route goes around the the UNESCO Heritage Core & Buffer Zones of George Town. It is a easy flat route within the city, some roads are shaded while others are not, so do cover up or apply sun-block lotion.

3. Places of Interest
    En-route were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time. (Note: click on the GPS coordinates for directional map to the respective places):
   Note-worthy Penang streets & alleys not to be missed:
For the origin of the street names and their names in local Traditional Malay, Hokkien & Traditional Tamil, Click here.

For more of Ernest Zacharevic street art click here.
For more of Julia Volchkova street art click here.
For more Cats street art click here.
For more on the steel-rod sculptures created by the company Sclupture At Work; click here for blog by Time Travel Turtle) & here (by Penang Travel Tips).

4. Food & Drinks
Brunch: Pasembur (Muslim Indian salad dessert) from Kareem Pasembor Rojak (GPS: 5.41875, 100.34294) at Union Street.
Alternative brunch recommendation: Nasi Lemak bungkus from Ali Nasi Lemak Daun Pisang stall located at the Sri Weld Food Court (GPS: 5.41776, 100.34286).
Alternative lunch recommendation: Nasi Kandar from Merlin Nasi Kandar located in Merlin Hotel at Union Street.
5. Weather
    Located near the equator, Malaysia's climate is categorised as equatorial, being hot and humid throughout the year. Malaysia faces two monsoon winds seasons, the Southwest Monsoon from late May to September, and the Northeast Monsoon from October to March. The Northeast Monsoon brings in more rainfall compared to the Southwest Monsoon.
    November is Malaysia's coldest month. Even then, aPenang, mid-afternoon temperatures were 30°C, so do cover up or apply sun-block lotions. Night temperature averaged 25°C. It rained in the late afternoon and evening.
    A useful weather forecast site is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

6. Communicating with Locals
    For the uninitiated cycling in foreign lands can be a daunting experience, especially when one can only speak a smattering of the local language or if there is no common language to speak to each other (like English). Most Malaysians can speak fairly good English; but in the rural areas the locals speak only some rudimentary English, so learning some basic phrases in Bahasa Malaysia will be helpful.
    This could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    And do install memory-resident translation apps into your mobile phone.

7. Staying in Touch
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost or just to share photos and moments. Pre-paid phone sim-cards are easily available from most phone shops in the main towns.

8. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.

It's the first time this Penang Kia is flying back to Penang and riding there since my left knee operation in late August, three months ago. From a month after the operation, I have been slowly getting up onto the pedal. and gradually riding longer and longer distances. And I am glad to say that my knee don't hurt anymore when I walk around.
On that previous trip, just before the operation, I had cycled from the Penang International Airport to Tanjung Tokong via the new Bukit Kukus Elevated Highway. Along the way I avoided busy main roads as much as possible - a route that had me passing odd scenes like the one above, of a family sitting on a Chinese tomb. Goodness! What were they doing there? To find out read that ride blog.
I have heard much about the improvements and beautification of the streets, side lanes & alleys of George Town of the city carried out by the state government; so this time round I will be cycling around the Core & Buffer Zone of the UNESCO Heritage Site of
 George Town, to explore it's unique streets & alleys. Along the way I saw more than the alleys, but also re-discovered nice temples, pocket parks & cute street art!

A day before I had arrived by flight and as usual after landing, I cycled from the airport via the coastal route which will also goes along Penang's East Coast Cycling Lanes and North Coast Cycling Lanes to get to Tanjung Tokong (see A Homecoming Ride blog). But this time round I was in for a nasty surprise, just at The Light Waterfront Development, large orange & white plastic barricades had been put up barring further continued access to the cycling lanes. I couldn't see any alternative & temporary rerouting of the lanes being provided; like those laid out by socially responsible developers at Queensbay, when development was carried out in that locality.
The lanes where still there but just blocked off; so I carried my bike over the barricade and happily cycled on. But just after E-Gate the lanes were totally blocked off! I gave up, but no way was I going to cycle along the very busy Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway with fast speeding vehicles, it's just to risky and dangerous! So I did the next best thing and sheepishly and reluctantly called a e-hailing Grab car to safely continue on my journey to Tanjung Tokong. Hah! I was e-hailing at E-Gate! What a coincidence!
Anyway, today's story was not about my home-coming misadventures, it's more about my wonderful ride streets & alleys of George Town. Do note that George Town is spelt as two words and not as Georgetown.
The route goes around the the UNESCO Heritage Core & Buffer Zones of George Town; trying to view as much of the council's upgraded side-lanes & alley, with some surprise find of pocket parks and nice street art. It is a easy flat route within the city, some roads are shaded while others are not, so do cover up or apply sun-block lotion.
Cycling Distance: 12.42 k   |                          Level: Easy
(Click here for the Google Map Cycling Streets & Alleys of George Town Route Link )

But where should one start to explore? Going around by Goofy (that's my trusty copper-plated Brompton P6R folding bicycle) made it easier than walking. Coming down from Tanjung Tokong, a good place to kick off my street adventure is from the eastern corner of Gurney Drive; here there are colourful sampans (fishing boats) at a spot known as Gurney Drive: Fisherman's Pier.
From here, I headed east, to the eastern-most point of Penang Island, riding along the busy Northam Road (Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah). Fortunately there are cycling paths along the Penang North Coast Lanes to safely ride on! This eastern-most point of the island is a cape and is locally referred to as Tanjung, ie Malay for cape.

Cycling does have it's advantage, it's slower place means finding beautiful "nooks" & "crannies" that one would otherwise miss if driving around - like the above two locations that gives a scenic vista of the Gurney Drive coastline.
The above two scenic vistas are viewed from - Leith Street Ghaut Shorefront (GPS: 5.42312, 100.33776) & Green Hall Shorefront Viewing spot (GPS: 5.42333, 100.34010).
From the Green Hall Viewing spot is the start of the Esplanade Sea Wall Heritage Trail that will lead to the Esplanade.

My next destination, the Esplanade Sea Wall Heritage Trail (GPS: 5.42241, 100.34197). For those staying within the older quarters of George Town, this is a good place to kick-off one's wandering adventure of the streets & alleys of George Town.
This newly opened Esplanade walkway designed so that it's lower promenade gets slightly underwater for people to ‘feel’ the tide during high tide.

Today was a bright sunny day, from here we had a beautiful view of blue skies with rolling clouds over the Kedah Peak (locally called Gunung Jerai) with it's pointed top in the horizon!

Looping back to Jalan Padang Kota Lama, and just past the Penang Town Hall is the nice Fountain Garden Pocket Park,, so named as with it is a century old fountain. This Municipal Fountain was  donated by Koh Seang Tat, a wealthy man whose house is located a short distance from the Town Hall. This was done in 1883 in conjunction with the opening of the Penang Town Hall in 1883. Koh Seang Tat comes from a long line of illustrious individuals. His grandfather was Koh Lay Huan, the Chinese headman and first Kapitan Cina of Penang.

1:00 PM - Light lunch. Swinging by Union Street jogged my memory of good pasembur (otherwise known as Indian rojak) sold by Kareem Pasembor RojakPasembur is a Malaysian salad consisting of cucumber (shredded), potatoes, beancurd, turnip, bean sprouts, prawn fritters, spicy fried crab, fried squid or other seafood and served with a sweet and spicy nut sauceThe term Pasembur is peculiar to northern Peninsular Malaysia. It is especially associated with Penang where Pasembur can be had along Gurney Drive too.
Kareem's is exceptional as they offer a wide range of ingredients that one can choose to personalise one's dish. I found it okay only but lacking in crushed ground-nuts and prefer those in Kuala Lumpur. But no worries, there are other goodie foodie joints nearby; like an alternative brunch recommendation of Nasi Lemak bungkus from Ali Nasi Lemak Daun Pisang stall located at the Sri Weld Food Court (GPS: 5.41776, 100.34286) OR a more full meal of Nasi Kandar from Merlin Nasi Kandar located in Merlin Hotel at Union Street.

Next and parallel to Downing Street (Lebuh Downing), I hit the first of the upgraded lanes. This so named street is the one in Penang, and not the famous Downing Street in London - where the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is. It's sandwich between the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank (HSBC) & the Bank of China and has been nicely paved with concrete pavers. Here the public can sit on concrete pebble-washed benches below shady trees.
This upgrading is sponsored by the Bank of China, a good social exercise carried out by the City Council to involve local businesses.

Antique rickshaws on display at the Baba-Nyonya Mansion.
Weaving through several roads, I rode passed the Baba-Nyonya (Peranakan) Mansion. at Church Street. My Baba-Nyonya roots beckoned me to go in, but I have many more streets to explore and have to give it a miss today.
I missed an alley at the nearby Bishop Street, it's the Bishop Street Alley (GPS: 5.41843, 100.34133), click here for interactive street view.

The Goddess of Mercy Temple Penang (GPS: 5.41847, 100.33875), (also known as Kuan Im Teng) was built in 1728, making it Penang's oldest Taoist temple. The temple is presently dedicated to the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Mercy, Guan Yin. However, the temple had been originally established for the worship of Mazu, a sea deity. Following an influx of ethnic Chinese into George Town after the founding of the settlement in 1786, the temple transitioned into one dedicated to Guan Yin in 1800s; by then, it also began to function as a neutral mediator between the rival Cantonese and Hokkien communities.
This old temple attracts many visitors, some to prayer others as tourist attracted by the temple's architecture and also the colourful giant dragon joss-sticks sold at the adjacent shops. Decades ago, there were shops near the temple making these joss sticks, but sadly they they are not there anymore for people to see how these joss sticks are made. For those interested, there is a cottage-factory making them near the Penang International Airport; click the following coordinates for directions to the joss-stick "factory" - 5.28651, 100.26037.

Next to the temple, at the junction of Stewart Lane & Lorong Muda is this Temple Day-Sculpture, (GPS: 5.41860, 100.3383), it's steel-rod sculpture created by the company Sclupture At Work.

Adjacent to Lorong Muda, a back side-lane has been upgrade with red & gray paver bricks.

An even more interesting lane is the one which starts at the S-bend of Stewart Lane (just next to the Goddess of Mercy Temple). It's a very narrow lane that connects Stewart Lane to Chulia Lane and use to be named Boat Alley. With that name it was in those days recognised as the narrowest street in George Town; unfortunately it has now lost it's name and cannot make that claim anymore.

We exit out onto Chulia Lane; take a peek to the right and will be seen these two old colonial houses on Stewart Lane, in their attractive original state with timber louvered windows. Many of these old colonial houses have been taken over by home-stays and even boutique hotels. Soon, perhaps these two will will be spruced up and turned into a hotel too, losing their old charming identity!

But we won't be heading there; instead we cross over to another side-lane on the opposite side, one that's next to Kafe Chap Chit Keng (and opposite 20 Chulia Lane Cafe), it is nicely finished with terra-cotta stamped concrete.

Alas! Further in, it continues to a back-alley that's not so "attractive"; take a virtual stroll with the above interactive Google Street view to get a feel of this!
Perhaps this untidy back alley will be spruced up too in future. At the end of the back alley, making a right will lead to an open car-park of Love Lane.

But we take a left and loop back to Chulia Lane as we have more to explore at this vicinity.
In the past this street was unique in the sense that it borders Little India and China Town. One section of the street nearer Stewart Lane would have Chinese shops selling Chinese goods & even had a shop where an old lady manually made chee cheong fun (steamed rice rolls). And the centre section near Lorong Pasar would have Indian shops, like grocery shops selling goods imported from India. Then a short section near Chulia Street would have Chinese shops again.
But these days those shops of old are gone, having been replace with newer ones like cafes, and a Thai eatery, etc. Don't get me wrong, the old shops are still physically there, but have been taken over by new owners, spruced up with with newer timber windows and a fresh coat of paint.

We loop back to Lorong Pasar and into Lorong Muda, here it's a mix of Chinese shops and Indian ones; like the above Chinese shop with very red distinct colours .... er.. it's actually a Taoist temple called Xuanyuan Daoshe (玄元道舍) that ascribe to Xuanyuan teaching, Confucian folk religion of China which was founded in TaipeiTaiwan, in 1952.

Right at the far end of the road where it joins with Lorong Pasar is on of the few toddy shops in Penang; this is the Lorong Pasar (Market Lane) Toddy Shop (GPS: 5.41810, 100.33803). Toddy (or colloquially known as tuak) is a Palm wine, known by several local names, is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyradate palms, and coconut palms.
Here too one will find the Wrong Tree Sculpturesteel-rod sculptures. The Wrong Tree Sculpture depicts an Indian climbing up what he thought was a coconut tree, only to discover at the top that he was on a betel-nut tree. The betel-nut tree (pinang tree) is the tree after which Penang Island is named after, and it appears a the centre of the Penang State Flag and Penang State Coat of Arms.
Interestingly, toddy is used to make a Nyonya cake called Huat Kueh. The toddy reacts with the sugar in the rice batter and makes it "huat", i.e. rise - hence the name huat kueh.

Looping back again via the Chulia Lane Alley we connect via the adjacent open car-park into Klang Street. Right at the Klang Street/Stewart Lane junction is this Indian Boat Man Mural by Julia Volchkova in June 2014 (GPS: 5.41934, 100.33732). It's a bit worn down now but still draws the tourists.

Crossing over Stewart Lane we enter Argus Lane Alley via the junction where the Tiger Mural is; this quiet alley brings back fond memories as it was our playground during childhood days. We didn't have computers back then and we played real-life games like tag, Hopscotch, hide-n-seek, kali toey (a game similar to the Philippines game Patintero), etc.
Anyway, games aside, along Argus Lane Alley some murals have been painted onto the walls shared with Hutching School.
Click here for an interactive street view.

The alley exits out to Argus Lane, which is located behind the Church of the Assumption
In 1786, Captain Francis Light landed on Penang Island and named it Prince of Wales Island. He set up the Fort Cornwallis. In conjunction with their landing in Penang which coincides with the feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Mary on 15 August that year, he and his companions built a church and named it Church of the Assumption.
Just where the alley exits, are a row of five old terrace houses with very short gardens in front. These houses have some interesting history. These Eurasians originally living in Ligor (now known as Nakhon Si Thammarat) and Phuket were facing religious persecution. In 1781, they fled to Kuala Kedah, led by Bishop Arnaud-Antoine Garnault of SiamWhen Francis Light got the Sultan of Kedah's approval to open a trading post on Penang, Bishop Garnault sought his help to relocate his Catholic mission there. These houses shown above, are those of the remnants of these Eurasian Catholic community that was established when this church was founded.

Making a left into Love Lane from there Love Lane Hotel (GPS: 5.41967, 100.33721) is a boutique hotel housed in an Anglo-Indian bungalow in George Town, PenangThis two-storey building is believed to have been erected after 1877, according to studies done on a survey map of that period. Located at 23 Love Lane, entry to the compound is through a Chinese gate that is believed to have been built before 1891.
"There is no complete agreement as to how Love Lane got its name. There is a belief that it was named after a British officer named Love, but this has not been verified. Another belief is that it was the site for early 19th century brothels for sailors and soldiers. The adjacent road, Muntri Street, was where the rich Straits Chinese lived, and it is widely believed that these men kept their mistresses along Love Lane."
These days Love Lane houses are slowly being converted to cafes and affordable hotels/hostels; but back then these housed guilds, and artisans shops, including a mahjung tiles maker.

Exiting Love Lane, we cut slightly diagonally across Chulia Street and into another alley, one that is active both during the day and at night. This is narrow lane is called Cheapside Alleyclick here for interactive street view.
"The alley got its name from Cheapside, which is a street within the City of London. But while the contemporary Cheapside in London has been gentrified with restaurants and bistros, the Cheapside of George Town is still a struffy place." By day, hardware stalls line the street; while at night, hawker stalls pedalling Penang's Famous Hawker Food do a thriving business.
Interestingly, this section of Chulia Street is known in local Hokkien as Gû-kan-tàng (牛干冬) as there were cattle pens (kendang) located here decades ago.

At the far end of Cheapside Alley, is another interesting street called Seck Chuan Laneclick here for  interactive street view.
Presently this road is resided mainly by locals with cottage industry such a tailors, and gold-smiths. But slowly some of the houses are being converted into trendy cafes and charming home-stays.

Ahead is Buckingham Road; despite it's grandeur name, it is not named after Buckingham Palace in England BUT after Richard Temple-Grenville, the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, who was the British Colonial Secretary (1867-8). It's a short road but from here one will get a nice, unique view of the Kapitan Keling Mosque (GPS: 5.41659, 100.33738). form the rear gate.
 This mosque was built in the 19th century by Indian Muslim traders and is named after the prominent Indian Muslim leader, Cauder Mohudeen, who was the first Kapitan Kling
 of Penang - Captain of the South Indian “Keling” community. "Keling" is a Malay term for people of South Indian origin, nowadays considered offensive but not so at the time when the mosque was built. In fact the word "Keling" derives from the ancient Indian kingdom of Kalinga, so Keling have prominent roots! The "Kapitan Kling " was a representative of this South Indian community, similar to the "Kapitan Cina" for the Chinese community.

The other thing that this locality is renown for it Nasi Kandar; and next to the Ah Quee Street pocket park is the Kandar Steel Rod Sculpture (GPS: 5.41617, 100.33790).

Further down, at the junction of Ah Quee Street with Soo Hong Lane, is this unique building that stands out because of it's red painted exterior similar to historical red Dutch buildings in Malacca like the Christ ChurchStadthuys, etc. Making one wonder whether it has Dutch roots?

From the red building swinging right and we are into Soo Hong Lane (GPS: 5.41549, 100.33772), reputed to be the narrowest street in George Town.
But the narrowest section of the street only extends for 20 meters of its 100 meters length, i.e. fronting four houses only. This ambiguity opens up a challenge for the title of the narrowest street from Boat Alley, or from a section of Seck Chuan Lane just behind Cheapside, and or even Cek Em Lane!

Anyways at it's junction with Armenian Street, this steel-rod sculpture street art titled "Too Narrow"(GPS: 55.41532, 100.33765), celebrates Soo Hong Lane as the narrowest street of George Town.
Well that's my cycling adventure of these streets for the moment, click here to continue on to the next interesting section.
Oh...... one last thing here ..... further down Armenian Street, I popped over to a street art that should never be missed - the Kids on Bicycle Mural by Ernest Zacharevic (GPS: 5.41459, 100.33828) - there is a long queue there but it's worth the wait to take a memorable photo there (see top-most photo, heh, heh!)

This is page 1 of a 2-page blogClick Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to Cyling Penang         |         Go to Other Days   |   Go To Pt. 2 Armenian Street>
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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Penang / Cycling The Streets & Alleys Of George Town / Pt.1: Gurney to Armenian     |     Go to Pt. 2
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