GEORGE TOWN: The sweltering heat did not deter tourists and holidaymakers from flocking to Penang to discover the charms of the island on Christmas Day.
Armed with sunshades and hats, some took trishaws or bicycles, while others strolled along the streets to explore every nook and corner in the heritage enclave.
A trishaw man, known only as Ravi, turned heads while wearing a Santa suit to chauffeur passengers.
His trishaw was decorated with various Christmas ornaments and tinsel that formed an arch over the passenger’s seat.
Drink sellers and souvenir shops at the Khoo Kongsi and Chew Jetty also enjoyed brisk business.
The popular Line Clear Nasi Kandar and the famous cendol in Penang Road saw a long queue of people waiting for their turn to sample the dishes.
Traffic was slow-moving along Weld Quay and Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu heading towards town and around the popular malls.
Chinese tourist Winnie Cheung and her boyfriend Terry Chung, both 25, were here for four days to try the famous street fare and check out heritage gems.
“We just came from Langkawi to discover more of Penang,” she said.
Although George Town was recently listed in The Guardian as one of the hottest tourist destinations in Asia, Penang Hoteliers Association and the Malaysian Budget Hotel Association Penang Chapter chairman Datuk Lim Mee Lee said the occupancy rate was not the highest compared to the same period in the past few years.
“It is considered peak season now, but my members say the occupancy rate is only around 70% except during the weekends.
“We think the images of last month’s floods are still etched on the people’s minds,” he added.
The Nov 4 and 5 floods, said to be the worst in Penang, saw many visitors cancelling their bookings and trips to Penang.
Lim noted that another reason could be the recent bad weather forecast for Dec 21 to 25.