EVER since George Town was awarded World Heritage Site status, I believe there has been a marked surge in tourist arrivals not only from other states but also from Japan, South Korea, China and the Middle East.
This has benefitted Penang as a whole and the traders and hoteliers in particular. The tourists tend to stay around the heritage zone in George Town and Batu Ferringhi.
I normally go to Batu Ferringhi once in a while for an overnight stay during the weekend.
I wish to comment on the petty traders who set up their stalls along the north sidewalk of the main road, also known as Batu Ferringhi Walk, which runs for about 2km from Rasa Sayang Resort Penang to Hard Rock Hotel Penang at the other end.
They are selling everything from clothing, handbags, pirated DVDs to souvenirs. The whole setup has remained practically unchanged for many years as far as I can remember. They are being set up in a haphazard manner with no control by the authorities. The stalls are all shabby and are an eyesore.
I wish to highlight the situation in the area. The north sidewalk on average is about 7ft wide. If the traders display their goods on both sides of the pavement taking up about 2ft each, this leaves 3ft left for pedestrians to walk by. If some shoppers are browsing through the goods on both sides, there is practically little room for them to walk through. The whole stretch is crowded and stuffy especially during weekends.
These are actually the better stretches of the sidewalk. There are traders who do not conform to the norm and display their wares on the whole sidewalk. There are also those who place their goods across the sidewalk. So if you walk along this part of the walkway, you are forced to walk down to the road, pass the stalls and walk up the sidewalk again!
Just imagine how dangerous it is to be walking among the motorcyclists and cars along this busy road? How on earth can they be allowed to trade in this way for years without any action from the authorities?
Another matter that boggles the mind is that half the stalls are ‘owned’ and managed by foreigners. I am not too sure about their nationality, but they could either be Nepalese, Bangladeshi or Indonesians judging from their looks and accent. I hope someone can tell me whether the stalls require licences or trading permits from the authorities. If so, how did they manage to get their licences?
On the south sidewalk, there is practically no walkway at all! This side has various restaurants mainly serving Middle Eastern fares; mini markets, budget hotels, reflexology centres and other small shops.
Any sidewalk will normally be taken up by traders displaying their wares or motorcycles or other objects blocking the way. If you would like to shop on this side, you will practically need to brave the traffic by walking on the road among the motor vehicles! I just wonder how such state of affairs can be allowed to prevail for so many years.
This is a disgrace to the state and reflects badly on the authorities.
How much progress an area can achieve will depend on how well the main trunk road is maintained. This area is truly the ‘rice bowl’ of the state. We have many 5-star hotels along this stretch of road but we also have a ‘1-star’ road that is upkept by the authorities. What a mismatch!
My suggestions to the authorities are simple, cheap and easy to implement.
1. Upgrade the pavements on the north side to at least 8ft wide.
2. Earmark at least 4ft-wide for pedestrians with specific colour tiles and out of bounds by the petty traders.
3. Build proper, nicer looking and permanent stalls of 4ft wide to be rented out.
4. Build pavements of at least 5ft-wide on the south side.
Lastly, my purpose to highlight the matter is not to blame anyone but to hope for some simple upgrading works by the authorities.
Yeoh Yeow Cheang
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