A boom for Penang

A tourist guide briefing visitors amid a bridal photo shoot at the Penang Peranakan Mansion in George Town. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

A tourist guide briefing visitors amid a bridal photo shoot at the Penang Peranakan Mansion in George Town. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

WHAT would you do if you come by ship and have only eight to 11 precious hours to spend on Penang island before cruising to the next port?

“You visit the heritage enclave, eat lots of hawker food and drop by the historical areas,” said taxi driver Mohd Noor Salleh.

For RM150, Mohd Noor, 47, said he would take cruise liner passengers on a three-hourwhirlwind trip of the island.

And he had a good oneyesterday, when four ocean liners dropped by Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal on the same day and unloaded 11,856 passengers and crew members.

The ships, Mein Schiff, Aida Bella, Sapphire Princess and Superstar Gemini, disgorged their passengers and crew at 8am, 9am, 3pm and 4pm respectively.

Holding a laminated map of Penang that highlighted the island’s classic attractions like the Kek Lok Si and Reclining Buddha temples, Mohd Noor smilingly asked everyone walking out of the terminal if they wanted a guided tour.

“With the young ones, I might suggest Queensbay Mall. But cruise passengers are normally older. I think young people don’t like spending days at sea so Iseldom find young ones.

“I suggest Queensbay Mall to crew members who are usually young,” said Mohd Noor.

But trishaw riders seemed to be the happier lot.

“Many of them want a quick ride, so we take them for a spin around the Esplanade,” saidtrishaw rider Ahmad Abu, who said he charged between RM25 and RM50 for the ride depending on his passenger’s physique.

Amidst the constant flow of people through the terminalcorridors, a Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) guard said ship crew tended to come back with lots of foodstuff and electronic gadgets while passengers came back with lots of trinkets and souvenirs.

Not wanting to be named, the guard added that passengers would usually take taxis andtrishaws, while the crew members would prefer to walk around.

Last December, three cruise liners brought 9,114 passengers and crew members to Penang.

The flood of visitors had caused traffic snarls in the pier’s vicinity so this time, PPSB was ready.

The port operator sealed off the pier’s Weld Quay entrance and only allowed people to exit or enter from Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah opposite Fort Cornwallis.

“With that, buses and taxis stop waiting at Weld Quay and it eased up traffic a great deal,” said PPSB corporate communications head Joan Tan.

Calling it the busiest day she ever had at the pier thus far, Tan said Swettenham Pier was one of the few cruise terminals in the world built in the heart of a city.

“Most cruise terminals are built in a remote corner of a port. But here, you are walking in George Town the minute you disembark. That’s why we are special,” she smiled.

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