Penang Bazaar (GPS: 5.41847, 100.33161) is the centre of bargain stalls in downtown George Town. It is located opposite Mydin store along Penang Road. It was started in 1904-1905 and was built by Ng Boo Bee, the great, grandfather of a friend of mine, Penny Ng. Ng Boo Bee, who came to Malaya as a penniless lad, made his fortune in the tin mines of Taiping. He decided to build the Penang Bazaar as a way to help his fellow Hokkien people, so that they can have a headstart upon arriving in Penang.
Although Penang Bazaar was initially started to help the Hokkien immigrants, eventually he opened it to everybody. At that time, rent was collected on a daily basis, and it was only about 15 or 20 cents a day. According to Penny, although some books mentioned that the Penang Bazaar once housed a theatre, it was never used as one.
View of Penang Bazaar along Penang Road, George Town (6 May 2008)
After Penang Bazaar became successful, it attracted others from opening similar bazaars, including the Piccadilly Bazaar, which was located behind it. Exploring the Penang Bazaar can be compared to entering a mole hole; the shops lead you through narrow passages without a clear view of the entrance or exit. Certainly not a place for the claustrophobic.
During its haydays, Penang Bazaar was an upmarket shopping place. You can buy crystalware there. Even Elizabeth Arden cosmetics were sold there. My friend's mother even bought a kimono at the Penang Bazaar. Tenants at Penang Bazaar who became successful moved on to open their own shops at Campbell Street.
Another view of Penang Bazaar (3 September 2008)
When I was small, I often heard that my mother and my nanny were going shopping at "Juoan Morah". As I think back, I realise now that "Juoan Morah" is actually a corruption of "Jualan Murah", the name locals give to the Penang Bazaar.
Initially, Penang Bazaar was just one storey. 20-30 years after it was built, the upstairs were added. It initially housed a coffee shop. After the Second World War, it became the Broadway Cafe. Then in the 70s-80's, it housed Yuyi Departmental Store, which sold goods from China. Today, the upstairs houses a Chinese Medical Hall.
The Penang Bazaar celebrated its 100th anniversay in 2006, and my wife and I were among the guest invited to the celebrations.
Take the Rapid Penang Bus Nos. 10, 11, 101 and 103 to Jalan Penang. The Penang Bazaar is just a short distance from the bus stop.
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