Burmah Road (Malay: Jalan Burma, Traditional Chinese: 車水路, Simplified Chinese: 车水路, Pinyin: Chēshuǐ Lù, Penang Hokkien: Chia3 Chooi1 Lor33 ), is one of the major roads in George Town, Penang. This long road begins at the junction with Penang Road, and runs in a northwesterly direction out of town, ending at the junction with Gottlieb Road, Bagan Jermal Road and Mount Erskine Road. The traffic dispersal system of George Town requires that Burmah Road has two sets of traffic flow: from Penang Road to the Pangkor Road junction, it flows east to west; from Gottlieb Road to Pangkor Road junction, it flows in the opposite direction.
Burmah Road was named after the Burmese settlement that existed in Pulau Tikus district, of which stands the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple as the lasting reminder of their presence. That, and the existence of other Burmese-inspired road names in the vicinity, including Salween Road, Moulmein Close, Rangoon Road, Mandalay Road and Irrawaddi Road, to name some.
Among the locals, Burmah Road was called Jalan Kreta Ayer in Malay, or Chia3 Chooi1 Lor33 in Penang Hokkien. Both means the same thing - "Water Cart Road". The name refers to an essential earlier-century activity that may appear totally alien to a 21st century piped-water world. Before piped water became an expected part of life, fresh water had to be carried - on ox-carts, and often, on shoulders - from waterfalls and springs, to awaiting buyers in town. Burmah Road was the route taken by these water bearers, and that route became known by that essential task. Is this aspect, it is similar to Kreta Ayer Road in Singapore. In Singapore, there is also a small road called Burmah Road.
Like many of the major roads in Penang, Burmah Road began as a rural road. Although it is today urban and gentrified from end to end, in the beginning Burmah Road was a country road that led through various ethnic villages in its progress towards the hills. For over half a century of its initial existence, Burmah Road passed through a rural landscape with kampung houses on both sides, and an open sky above. The tall roadside trees that provide shade along much of Burmah Road today were not planted until the third quarter of the 19th century. Their addition to the street not only provides shade, they transform it into a verdant urban street.
Burmah Road should be spelled with a "h"; it's one of the quarky idiosyncracies accompanying British transliteration of foreign names before there was any form of standardisation. The city end of Burmah Road begin at a point where, up till the turn of the 20th century, there was a plank bridge across the Prangin Canal. The canal is still around, albeit buried under the ground, emerging only at Sia Boey. It used to continue all the way to Transfer Road, where it connects to another ditch that leads out into North Beach, where Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah is located today, effectively creating an island out of George Town. The plank bridge is remembered in the name of Masjid Titi Papan located in the vicinity. Loke Thye Kee Restaurant,
once a forlorn structure, but since restored, still stands at the junction of Burmah Road and Penang Road.
As we go down Burmah Road, we pass sights in rapid succession. The Kuan Yin See, one of the biggest temples associated with the Nine Emperor Gods Festival is on a busy section of Burmah Road. At the junction of Anson Road, we find Penang Plaza, one of the earliest shopping malls in Penang, with Wesley Methodist Church across the road. Farther down the road, two more churches appear, the Adventist Church and Gospel Hall.
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