The heart of the city

MALAYS refer to George Town as Tanjong (cape). This is how the parliamentary constituency obtained its name.

The city is famous for its glorious food, shopping opportunities and a happening nightlife.

Almost all the major roads in the three state constituencies — Padang Kota, Pengkalan Kota and Komtar (formerly Kampong Kolam) have interesting histories and tales.

Some parts of George Town became “deserted” after the Rent Control Act 1966 was repealed in 1996 and en-forced in 2002.

Many pre-war buildings in the heart of George Town were abandoned or left vacant as many business operators could not afford to pay the increased rentals.

Some buildings were also rented out for swiftlet farming.

Trader Seeni Mohamed Kamaruddin, 60, said he was lucky to witness the heyday of the bustling George Town when he first started off as a helper at a textile shop in Queen Street in 1968.

That was before the free port status was revoked.

“Business was really great and we always had a field day. Hordes of people from the mainland would come and buy all sorts of daily necessities.

“I get excited when politicians talk about restoring the island’s free port status. I hope it will become a reality.

“It will be of great help as business is slow at the moment,” said Seeni Mohamed, who now operates a costume jewellery shop in Penang Street.

Housewife Y.C. Ho, 56, remembers the days when she used to hop from one cinema to another as Cathay, Odeon, Dalit, New Majestic and Wembley were located close to one another.

“We would go from one cinema to another within a day during festive seasons. Now, one cinema has at least six screens. There was no such luxury then.

“Still, George Town was such a happening place then,” she said.

Locals claimed more tourists began visiting George Town after the city was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco on July 7, 2008.

Investors too began turning pre-war houses and heritage buildings into lavish cafes, boutique hotels and shops.

Many feel the Pakatan Rakyat state government was reaping the fruits of the previous government’s hardwork in getting the heritage listing.

Still, kudos to the present administration for instilling vibrancy into the city with eye-catching slice-of-life murals, steel rod caricatures and cycling activities.

Besides the enjoyable cycling experience, Penangites also get to take part in the weekly Penang Car-Free Day.

There was also emphasis on cleanliness through the Cleaner, Greener Penang campaign.

The living heritage, unique architecture, historical sites, Little India, clan jetties and places of worship along the street of harmony in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling are crowd pullers, especially during public holidays.

Many people can be seen posing for photographs in front of the murals created by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic.

New hotels coming up include Rice Miller Hotel & Residences and IGB Corporation Berhad’s St Giles.

There was more good news as the proposed Komtar Phase Five project in Penang would take off by June.

The project has five major elements — restoration and expansion of Sia Boey (Prangin Market), creation of urban spaces, a heritage celebration square and an iconic George Town heritage centre, reinstatement and adaptive reuse of old shophouses and restoration of the Prangin Canal.

The influx of tourists have contributed to traffic congestions in the inner city especially during public holidays and festive periods.

Technician Sandy Chew, 28, said the life style of those staying in the Chew Jetty was no longer peaceful due to the sudden surge in tourists visiting the place.

“I am really happy when George Town was listed as a heritage site.

“It injects life into our tourism industry as many of the residents here have benefited by doing small-time business like selling souvenirs and snacks.

“Some of them have even introduced homestay programme.

“But our peaceful atmosphere has been shattered by tourists who create a din early in the morning.

“Sometimes, local tourists park haphazardly in front of our neighbourhood. Our daily routine is disrupted almost all the time,” she said.

Chew hoped that a multi-storey carpark would be built there although land was scarce in the area.

“We also want a proper sewerage system. The residents wish to live in a hygienic environment,” she said.

Char kuey teow seller Lim Tong Lean, 38, who operates at the Cecil Street market, said he was glad that the market had been upgraded, among others with better toilet facilities.

However, he said there was still room for improvement, especially with regards to ventilation.

“The hawker fare here has managed to attract foreign tourists too. But the poor ventilation has caused customers to be drenched in sweat,” he said.

Lim hoped the Penang Municipal Council would look into the matter.

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Politics , tanjung , constituency watch , heritage


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