RESONATING with an old world charm, the Chowrasta Market in Penang Road is as close as it gets to a well-stocked bazaar boasting prices that even the locals find “cheap.”
This popular 61-year-old market in the heart of George Town is a treasure trove for shoppers from near and far.
From shoe shops to preserved fruit stalls, second-hand book stalls to garment shops, we may find almost every knick-knack imaginable.
Here, bargaining is allowed, even encouraged!
Ariffin Ismail, a hotel housekeeping staff member from Genting Highlands, was spotted at one of the preserved fruit stalls with a long shopping list.
“It costs only RM6 per kg here compared to RM20 per kg in Genting.
“Every month when I return home to Penang, my colleagues would ask me to buy a substantial amount of preserved fruits for them,” said the 30-year-old.
He ended up leaving the stall with two bags of preserved nutmeg, papayas, mangoes and buah salak weighing at least 18kg!
Third-generation shopkeeper Ong Ai Ling, 41, said her grandfather started the business about 40 years ago.
When questioned about her shop’s name Eng Huat, she said it meant “easy growth” in Hokkien.
“Apart from preserved fruits, we also sell other local products including tau sar pneah (bean paste biscuits), tom yam paste, satay fish and belacan (shrimp paste).
“The best times of the year for business are during the school breaks and public holidays.
“Many outstation visitors often buy in bulk as souvenirs for their friends and relatives when they return home,” she added.
And tucked away in the corner on the market complex’s first floor is a cluster of second-hand bookstores, frequented by avid readers.
Unique in character, these quaint stores boast racks and racks of books from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.
Selling anything from trashy romance books and backdated copies of Readers Digest to school textbooks and popular non-fiction, these small and often cramped shops are popular.
One may also find obscure titles at low (well, relatively low) prices that a child’s allowance can afford.
A bookstore owner, Gulam Mohamed Mohd Haniffa, 51, said most of his books were bought from the bigger shops.
“I also visit homes on my motorcycle to buy unwanted books ,” he said, adding that his customers came from as far as Britain and Germany.
Gulam, whose hobby is reading, said the most saleable books are literature and school reference books.
Just like in modern bookstores, one can find popular novels here by Jeffrey Archer, Sydney Sheldon, Anne Rice, Judith McNaught, David Eddings and Stephen King.
Swedish tourist Anders Ljungqvist, 52, said he was staying at an inn in Cintra Street and was told by a local of this bookstore colony.
“It is great to find the books here costing practically a fraction compared to the prices in Sweden,” said the retired crane operator.
On the same floor, there is a barber’s shop. Its owner David Guna, 46, said he has been in business for nearly 10 years.
“Some customers only cut their hair once every three months while there are those who have their hair cut every three weeks,” he said, adding that he had learnt the trade from a hairdressing school in Singapore.
Most of the shops in the market complex are open from 11am to 7pm daily.