Timothy Tye
Padang Kota Lama

Padang Kota Lama (23 April 2007)

Padang Kota Lama (GPS: 5.42072, 100.34221), or simply called The Padang, is the parade ground and playing field created by the British colonials in the civic district of George Town. It is bordered by Fort Cornwallis on one side, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, Jalan Padang Kota Lama and Light Street.

The name "The Esplanade" is usually used collectively to denote the whole area that includes Padang Kota Lama and Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, although historically The Esplanade refers only to Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, between the bend in the road (called Fort Point) and where the road ends, near the Cenotaph.

Padang Kota Lama on a clear dayPadang Kota Lama on a clear day (1 May, 2015)

Padang Kota Lama is located in one of the oldest section of George Town and was among the earliest part of town to be cleared. When Francis Light landed at the cape in 1786, he found that this part of the island was uninhabited (there were small Malay and Acehnese riverine settlements along Sungai Pinang) and densely forested. The land was flat but overgrown with hardwood trees such as the Penaga Laut (ironwood). The northern shore was sandy while the eastern shore was covered with mangrove swamp. Light was said to have blasted silver coins into the forest to induce the workers to clear the land. These coins would have landed in the area where Padang Kota Lama is located today.

Padang Kota Lama on a clear dayPadang Kota Lama on a clear day (1 May, 2015)

Padang Kota Lama on a clear dayPadang Kota Lama on a clear day (1 May, 2015)

There were several structures on Padang Kota Lama that has since been destroyed or dismantled. The clubhouse buildings, the Penang Sports Club (Cricket Section) and the Penang Recreation Club were located on the Padang - an arrangement that is similar to what we can see in Singapore's Padang today. Also located on Padang Kota Lama is the Vermont Memorial, a cost iron pavilion for the public, as well as the Municipal Band Stand, a pavilion for public entertainment and ceremonies. Most of these were destroyed during the Second World War and never rebuilt.

Padang Kota Lama on a clear dayTrellis at Padang Kota Lama (1 May, 2015)

Padang Kota Lama undergoing returfing (30 November 2008)

Fort Cornwallis was built in 1786 as a simple fort of nibong palms. It was rebuilt in bricks in 1793, and again in 1810. What we see of it dates from the 1810 renovation, with little change thereafter. On the south side of Padang Kota Lama is Light Street, the oldest street of George Town, and built to be a stately thoroughfare for the new British settlement. Across from it was the Police Courts, now the State Assembly Building (Dewan Undangan Negeri), dating from the early 19th century. On the western side of Padang Kota Lama is Town Hall and City Hall, built in 1880 and 1900 respectively. On the seaward side of Padang Kota Lama is a coastal road called The Explanade, which dates to the late 19th century (before that, it was just sandy shore). The Esplanade is now part of Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah. On a protrusion opposite Jalan Padang Kota Lama is the Cenotaph, dating to after the Second World War.

Although the British is no more the administrators in Penang, their legacy lives on in the sights all around Padang Kota Lama.

Historic trees and the City Hall from Padang Kota Lama (23 April, 2007)

Getting there

Take Rapid Penang Free Shuttle Bus to Light Street, getting down at Station No. 4 (Imigresen), No. 5 (Bank Negara), No. 17 (Dewan Sri Pinang) or No. 18 (fort Cornwallis). Padang Kota Lama is just across from Light Street.

Padang Kota Lama is on the map of Light Street

Nearby Sights

  1. Speakers' Square
    Site where free speech (with limitations) is allowed.

  2. Fort Cornwallis
    Old fort built by the British.

  3. State Assembly Building
    Formerly a police building, today houses the state legislature.

  4. Foo Tye Sin Mansion
    Mansion of 19th century tycoon, today a bank building.

  5. Chinese Chamber of Commerce
    Heritage building at the junction of Penang and Light Streets.

  6. House of Yeap Chor Ee
    Shophouse owned by wealthy early 20th century local.
  7. Town Hall
    Civic building facing Padang Kota Lama.

  8. City Hall
    Civic building facing Padang Kota Lama.

  9. Cenotaph
    Memorial for those who perished in the First World War.

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