GEORGE TOWN: If you are still on your Chinese New Year break and have nothing urgent on your to-do list, going on a short holiday, such as to Penang, might be an idea.
The roads in Penang are surprisingly quiet for the holiday season, and this is the observation of the traffic police, the Penang Bridge operator and locals.
Instead of a surge of tourists flooding Penang for the holidays, Penangites have found themselves enjoying quieter roads, much like how Kuala Lumpur tends to be during major festive holidays.
John Choo, 29, who cringed at the thought of driving out of his home in Bayan Lepas during public holidays, was pleasantly surprised by the easy traffic.
“My girlfriend wanted to visit the old town. I was hesitant but obliged.
“I expected to be stuck in traffic or at least find it difficult to get parking, but it was easy.
“Some associations held open houses, so there were some roads closed, but that was no hindrance at all.
“It was actually nice to enjoy the festive atmosphere without the traffic.
“Maybe since everyone has been frequenting Penang since the ease of the pandemic, now people have gone somewhere else for their holidays,” he said.
The marketing director of a resort in Batu Ferringhi said in past years, occupancy during Chinese New Year was always 100%, but this time around it was 80%.
“Even some long-time foreign guests who used to come stay with us during Chinese New Year decided not to come this year.
“It’s not that business is bad, but we are not packed either. In a way, it is more enjoyable for our guests too,” he said.
According to a PLUS spokesman, while exact figures are not available during the holiday season, traffic across Penang Bridge was noticeably lighter on Monday compared to the eve and first day of Chinese New Year.
“There is much lighter traffic now even on the roads heading towards and from the island.
“We only see traffic from Permatang Pauh to Seberang Prai and back.
“The rest of the roads here are quieter, but we do expect them to pick up towards the later part of the day.
“People will probably start coming out in the evening and at night,” the spokesperson said.
State Traffic and Public Order Department chief Supt Zafri Zolkapli said the traffic was lighter than usual during a festive long weekend.
“It is true that the traffic is under control. We do expect there to be more traffic later in the day, especially in the late evening.
“We expect more traffic tomorrow,” he said.
Despite the quieter roads, business is booming for the oldest nasi kandar restaurant in the country, on Campbell Street.
Hameediyah Restaurant director Muhammad Riyaaz Syed Ibrahim said that for three days, patrons were lining up outside.
Hotplate rice seller Warren Tan also said sales at his outlet in a popular shopping complex on Gurney Drive were up by about 400%.
“Our team agreed to work on the first day of Chinese New Year.
“Maybe our business is so much better because other outlets are closed. And yes, I also noticed that our streets are quieter.
“Maybe Penang is becoming like Kuala Lumpur.
“People from elsewhere work here, and during a festive season like Chinese New Year, they balik kampung elsewhere.
“So our streets become quieter,” Tan observed.