Category Archives: places

All Routes Led To Puduraya

Of course this is an exaggeration (not all roads led to Rome, even in its heyday).  But this was the base terminal from which many express buses from all over the country operated.

During the 4 years of my studies at UM (1975-79), I called at this “mother-of-all-bus-terminals” at least 2 dozen times, as I travelled between Kuala Lumpur, and home in Penang.

Back then, it was already a hive of hyper-activity.  The upper floor which housed numerous ticketing booths and eating spots was always swarming with travellers of all shapes, sizes and colours, as well as hordes of bus touts crying aloud the names of almost every major town in Peninsula Malaysia.

The lower floor roared with high decibels of engine noise and fumed with diesel smoke from the arriving and departing buses. 

Those were the days – I have not been back there since 1980.

Of 5 Lamps and 6 Roads

Penang Lang, do you know where this place is ?   The Hokkien folks called it “Gor Phar Teng” – 五葩灯, while I understand the Malay brethren called it Simpang Enam.   The English name was Magazine Circus.

Apparently, there was a roundabout, where the 6 roads , viz., Gladstone Road, Brick Kiln Road, Magazine Road, Dato Keramat Road, Macalister Road and Penang Road converged. Recently, I found an old photo of this roundabout, and I thought I could make out the 5 lamp posts which gave this place its quaint name.  Any disagreement ?

Alas, today Gladstone Road is no more, having been erased from the map in the 1980s to make way for the Komtar Complex.   I did not realize that until today.  Haiz, I have been away for far too long. And those guys there did a lot of things behind my back. LOL.

Of Scholars & Undertakers…

And the Twain did meet … 秀才遇到棺材

Mention the name Carnarvon Street (or ” lam chan na” 烂田仔, in Chinese, meaning “poor quality swampy fields”) and, am sure the old folks of Penang will remember that was the go-to place for Books/Stationery and, Coffins !     The street was lined on both sides with maybe two dozen bookshops and a dozen casket shops.

In my secondary school days, this street was my favorite haunt – of course I went only to see and buy the books and stationery, not those fabulous “longevity lumber” or “big houses” (Chinese euphemism for coffin).    Well, I moved out of Penang in 1984, so no chance to patronize the latter business.

I have not undertaken a trip back to this place ever since moving out to Singapore in 1984.  I think there must have been a lot of changes.  People still die, but am not sure if people still read as much.

When The Studying Got Tough…..

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”  but here when The Studying Got Tough, The Tough Went Dunking …

In the twinkling of an eye, 36 years have flashed by. In this Hydraulics lab of UM, my team partner and I struggled with the construction of a wooden water tank and then the study of the effects of rapid water discharge into the sea. Fortunately for me, I knew how to use a saw, and could distinguish between a hammer and a nail – a constructive testimony to my earlier life as a kampong boy, and a student of the Technical Institute, Penang.

What a nice reprieve from all those differential equations, theorems, laws, … and a cool dip in the afternoons, doing what I love best…no brainer’s job !feeling awesome.

When Photoshops Were All Brick & Mortar

That was way before Adobe became a little bit clever and distorted the picture.

They stood the ravages of time… least these two did.   And they were virus-proof.  

Thanks to Google, I managed to make a screenshot of these two photo studios along Penang Road (Penang). They must have been around for more than 60 years, because I have seen B&W photos of people who are much older than me (from my dad’s albums) that bear the logos (in fact seals) of these two shops. These included wedding photos, 1st month naked baby photos, graduation photos, etc.

My family members and I had quite a number of our photos taken at these shops – I think more from Siow Seong than from Kong Beng. I think many Penang Lang  should have sweet memories of these two shops.

Moon Gate

No, you won’t get to the moon via this gate,  but at least 2,723 feet closer (height of Penang Hill)

For the folks in Penang, this was kind of a challenge — a rite of passage, you might say –for all teens, to climb up to Penang Hill, via this Moon Gate (situated along the road leading to the Botanical Gardens).  The terrain up this path was quite tough.  I did that in late 1972 after the MCE exams, with a group of classmates;  we did the climb in about 2.5 hours, emerging from somewhere behind the police station (if I remember correctly).

The newer jeep road, near the entrance of the Gardens, is a piece of cake by comparison.

One day I must try again, but given my great age (am fast approaching 100 now) , I might NOT make it back to tell the story.  LOLX

Romance On Olden Pond

But boats and fishing are not allowed!

The Guillemard Reservoir in Penang is a simple yet strikingly beautiful structure. Built in 1929, it sits atop a hill at 246 feet above sea-level overlooking the eastern half of Penang  Island and the sea.   Local folks call it “Bak Kia Ti” or “Spectacles Pond”.

Due to a poisoning incident during the Confrontation days (I was told) it has been closed to the public since then, and younger generations probably do not even know of its existence.

In its heyday, this place was a “must-visit-must-take-photo” hotspot for all courting couples.   The unique spectacle-shaped twin pools were an enchanting draw for the romantically intoxicated.  I have seen many photos of relatives and their GF or BF taken at this site.

I hope to make it there some day with my dear wifey and take some wefies.

Hush Hush Aspects Of A Fishy Business

Pasar Bisik – or the  “Whispering Market” where fish is auctioned via close-bids.

We used to live near by the seashore in Bagan Ajam, Butterworth.   Early in the morning,  there would be small crowds gathered around the several fishing boats that the fishermen brought to shore with their hauls. Potential buyers would whisper into the ears of the fishermen and sometimes, the latter’s heads would nod or shake, along with expressions of either grimace or joy.

Hah, what a reminiscent joy of the old days !

These scenes have very largely disappeared; probably, we can still see these on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.    The beach at Bagan Ajam used to be clean – hence its name was Pantai Bersih.  Alas, now it is dirty and all kinds of rag-tag huts and makeshift stalls have sprouted up all over the place.  More like Pantai Kotor !

Love Is Blue

Apparently, the 19th century immigrant-made-good Cheong Fatt Tze knew that too!

He built this mansion in Penang to house his 7 wives. What an awesome testimony to his wealth and love for his women. I first visited it only in 2013, some 29 years after leaving Penang.

The magnificent 38-room, 220-window mansion blends Eastern and Western designs, with louvred windows, art nouveau stained glass and beautiful floor tiles, and is a rare surviving example of the eclectic architectural style preferred by wealthy Straits Chinese of the time. 

The distinctive blue colour of the mansion is the result of mixing lime with natural blue dye made from the Indigo plant. The blue was very popular in the Colonial period and the dye was imported from India to Penang by the British.

The building was rescued from ruin in the 1990s. You can visit it and also stay in the exclusive hotel

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