FEW spots on Penang island will give you that, “I have arrived” feeling like Karpal Singh Drive.
In one go, visitors behold Penang Bridge to the right, the yellow gantry cranes of North Butterworth Container Terminal on the left, Bukit To’kun in the horizon, giving them what is becoming the definitive panoramic scenery of Penang.
“This is now the latest hotspot for all tourists, ” said e-scooter ride operator Ali Ahmad.
Four years ago, Ali said he started a rollerblade rental service on the seaside promenade of the road in front of Automall.
“On weekends, we could get our rollerblades rented out almost 1,000 times those days, ” he reminisced.
But after a few short months, Penang Island City Council (MBPP) showed up because rollerblading by the roadside is a public hazard.
“The officers were considerate. They know we are an attraction but they want us to be properly regulated. We had discussions and were eventually given licences with regulations to follow, ” he said.
Rollerblading and skateboarding are not allowed on Karpal Singh Drive, and Ali and his friends now rent out electric kick scooters, e-scooters and electric amusement cars for kids at a stretch near Fishermen’s Wharf Food Corner.
Cycling is allowed, but before speed demons get tempted to burn rubber on the promenade, note the stout twin speed bumps laid across the path every 50m; it is impossible to cycle faster than 20km/h there without damaging your bike.
While cyclists may only ride at a sedate speed, joggers have it a lot better and scores of them pound the pavement with their heels every evening.
Anglers also like to wet their lines in the sea here, but angler J.Y. Shen said he fishes off Karpal Singh Drive for fun only and will release any fish he catches.
“Once, I landed a fairly big catfish and decided to bag it.
“Even when I was frying the fish, I could smell something like petrol coming off it. I guess it should be no surprise that the sea here is polluted, ” he said.
When it comes to food, Karpal Singh Drive is chock full of fast food restaurants, fine dining outlets and chic cafes.
Businessman Chew Kok Wang was spotted renting a bicycle at the LinkBike station with his fiancée.
“This is my first time renting a bike. We came here to eat and since the evening is so pleasant, we decided to rent the bikes and have a ride here, ” he said.
What people may not realise is that the Karpal Singh Drive promenade is on the eastern side of Penang island and by about 5pm, the sun begins setting on the other side of the island.
This allows the promenade to cool down quickly with the sea breeze and encouraging folk to sit down on the parapet and enjoy the view.
Mike Geh, a long-time resident there, said 10 years ago when he first moved in, Karpal Singh Drive was a quiet place.
“I used to enjoy cycling alone up and down the promenade and in just a few months many more people started coming here.
“Illegal hawker stalls started popping up too, but I must say Penang Island City Council was really efficient.
“They stopped the illegal hawkers from taking over the place, ” he said.
Geh’s only complaint about the area is the absence of a stall selling fresh fish at the fishermen’s wharf.
“I thought I could enjoy buying freshly caught fish when I first moved in because the wharf is walking distance from my house. But the fishermen there don’t sell their catches at the wharf, ” he said.
Geh is patiently waiting for the development of the 40ha Jelutong landfill, which is at the southern end of Karpal Singh Drive. Plans are afoot to turn the landfill into ‘an eco and futuristic town’.
“That may make property value in Karpal Singh Drive climb even more, ” he said.