Penang Road, or Jalan Penang in Malay, is the most important thoroughfare in Penang during the British colonial era. It was the first road to be built out of the original town mapped by Francis Light. It runs from Lebuh Farquhar in the north to Jalan Gurdwara to the south, and can be split into four different sections, each with its own characteristics.
Penang Road is still an important shopping street, especially the 3rd section, between Lebuh Chulia and Jalan Burma. Chowrasta Market is a stopover point for tourists interested in the local produce such as preserved nutmeg, lempuk (also called durian koay), and preserved lime. Komtar was a major shopping mall but has pretty much lost its shine.
Penang Road, as seen from the Komtar Pedestrian Bridge (6 May, 2008)
Sections of Penang Road
The northernmost section, now called Upper Penang Road, runs from the junction with Lebuh Farquhar, to the junction with Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. This section is now closed to vehicular traffic. Before that, it was a unique road with traffic running on the right side rather than the usual left. It is hemmed in on one side by The Garage (at time of writing, undergoing renovations) and the City Bayview Hotel. Upper Penang Road is the venue of the monthly Little Penang Street Market and host a number of pubs and restaurants.
The third section of Penang Road runs from the junction of Lebuh Chulia to the junction of Jalan Burma. This is regarded as the most important section in the 1970's, when Penang Road was the main shopping street of the island. In the earlier part of Penang history, in the 19th century, this was a very cosmopolitan section settled by several different communities. Today only the road names survive them, as the character of the street becomes more homogenously Chinese. These roads branching out from Penang Road tells a story of the bygone communities. Kampung Malabar was where the Malabaris of South India settled. Sri Bahari Road was named after the North Indian community, whose temple, the Sri Kunj Bihari, is still standing. Jalan Dato Koyah was also named after a South Indian personality, in this case a Malabari miracle healer named Syed Mustapha Idris @ Dato Koya.
Penang Road, looking towards junctions of Prangin and Burmah Roads (28 January, 2013)
Further down the road was the Chowrasta Market, a venue originally established by the Tamil community. Across the road from Chowrasta Market is the Central Police Headquarters, one of the biggest buildings built by the British administrators, and completed just before the Second World War.
At the junction of Keng Kwee Street are the two famous Teochew Cendol stalls. Wing Look and Loke Thye Kee are two very famous bygone restaurants along this stretch of Penang Road that unfortunately have since closed down.
Restored shophousesnow used as bistros, at Upper Penang Road (5 August, 2012)
The final section of Penang Road runs from the junction of Jalan Burma to Magazine Circus, the junction of Penang Road with Macalister Road, Dato Kramat Road, Magazine Road and Jalan Gurdwara (formerly Brick Kiln Road). A sixth road that leads out of this junction, Gladstone Road, has since been erased by the construction of Komtar, the biggest urban development project in Penang. Across the road from Komtar is Ong Kongsi, an ornate clan temple.
Due to its significance, Penang Road was known by various names among the different communities in George Town. It is also called Titi Papan (Plank Bridge) in Malay, for the section between the junction of Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong with Burmah Road.
In Hokkien, Penang Road was known as Tiau1 Keo3 Thau2, (Head of the Suspension Bridge) at the junction of Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong; Gor33 Pha3 Teng1 (Five Street Lights) for Magazine Circus; Lang3chia3 Teng1pai3 Kuan4 (Trishaw Registration Bureau) for the section in front of Komtar; Ke1ling3na4 Ban3san1 for the section in front of Chowrasta Market; Ku3 Kha3ku1 (Old Jail) for the area opposite Chowrasta Market; and Tiau1 Lang3 Kay1 (Hanging Man Street) around Odeon Cinema.
In Cantonese, Penang Road was known as Tiu Khiu Thau (Head of the Suspension Bridge) at the junction of Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong; Kau Ka Ku (Old Jail), opposite Chowrasta Market; and Tin Yan Kai (Hanging People Street) around Odean Cinema
In Tamil, Penang Road was known as Ealu Muchanti (7-Road Junction) at Magazine Circus; and Rajati Medu (Queen's Arch) at Ocean Cinema. This was also mentioned in the book The Chulia in Penang.1. It refers to the arch erected there by the Kadayanallur community.
Penang Road signboard (24 November 2008)
Old Photos of Penang Road
If you have any old photos of Penang Road that belong to you, send them to me and I will add to this page, along with your copyright note.
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