Traditional One-Stop Convenience Outlets
Before the introduction of 24 hour convenience stores like Seven Eleven and their equivalents all over George Town and still going strong are these "Traditional One Stop Convenient Outlets" at strategic locations that sells almost everything from newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, panadol (aspirin), mosquito coils, book wrapping paper, sweets, bread, drinks, etc.
All of them are run by ethnic Indians and apparently they have their own distributors and just in time suppliers to keep cost down.
Very often, you will motorists and cars who are regular customers stopping on the road especially in the late evenings to do their "quick shopping".
Former Cathedral of the Assumption
I have jut found out that the firtst Church of the Assumption was situated in Church Street, not far away from the current site in Farquhar Street. It was indeed first built right after the founding of the settlement of Penang by Light. It was a wooden church, built in 1786, but, like I have said elsewhere, things in the tropics are difficult to preserve. So a bigger church was built with bricks (at the current site), and plastered over (like many old buildings here. Built in the French Notre-Dame style, (I distincttively remembered a plaque inside the church stated that) it was made a cathedral in 1850 until the late Pope John Paul II acceded to the request of the diocese to elevate my parish to cathedral status (Holy Spirit Cathedral) and committed this church as one of the common churches according to common law.
It is indeed true that the Church of the Assumption was made the cathedral church of the suffragan See of Penang in 1955 (when the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese was also established). FYI, the Archdiocese of Melaka-Singapore subsisted until in the 1970s when Rome re-established the ancient Diocese of Melaka (dissolved after the defeat of the Portugese by the Dutch I suppose, which is another story, and now suffragan to the KL Archdiocese) and Singapore became an Apostolic Administration directly governed by Rome/Vatican, it seems. (Singapore is now a Metropolitan Archdiocese in her own right).
The Church of the Assumption has some sort of semi-abstract stained glass windows behind the main altar and a bronze free standing sculpture depicting the baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist inside. The archway to the confessionaries reads something like "Come and be forgiven, Go and sin no more"
The church now forms part of a single City Parish with four churches (Assumption-in Farqugar Street, Our Lady of Sorrows-in Macalister Road near KOMTAR tower, St John Britto-in farther away Sungai Pinang Road and St Francis Xavier-in nearby end of Penang Road).
George Town - Penang Road
Penang Road or Jalan Penang used to the be main shopping street of George Town. During the 60's when there was even a trolley bus on Penang Road to this free tax island, shoppers from mainland Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia will flock to Penang Road.
But the free tax status was revoked and shopping at Penang Road faded.
Today, there is still the Chowrasta Market at the middle of Penang Road opposite the Police Station where you can buy Penang local products as well the daily groceries from the wet market.
At one of Penang Road is Komtar and the other end is Upper Penang Road Pedestrian Street.
At the busy intersection with Burmah Road is an elaborate pedestrian roundabout bridge. Use it for your own safety while crossing the road.
Along Penang Road, you will find the famous laksa and cendul and ice kacang stalls.
Walking along Penang Road is a must if you want to be truly have visited Penang. At least drive through it in your hired taxi or bus tour.
Georgetown for a short respite
Georgetown, as well as Malaysia in general, is an incredible mix of Asian peoples and cultures. A Hindu temple may be located next to a Chinese temple with a mosque across the street. Walking through the streets I am brought back to the India through the smells alone . . . the good ones. Sandalwood, incense, and curry perfumes the streets. Hindi music, Chinese TV soap operas, and the call to prayer rise up over the din of traffic. We first visited the waterfront and Fort Cornwallis. Captain Francis Light from Britain set up a colony here first building a wooden palisade and then in 1810 a brick and mortar fort. The British wanted a free trade port in which to take control of the South East Asian markets away from the Dutch established port of Melaka. Only the outer walls remain and are quite unimpressive. A moat greatly added to the fortitude of Cornwallis but was filled in 1920 due to a lethal malaria outbreak the very same year. There are some displays (made considerably more interesting solely being in the AC) about the history and archeological findings of the fort as well as a family history of Francis and his son William Light who was the founder of Adelaide, Australia (Good on ya mate!). The oldest relic of the fort is the beautiful Seri Rambai cannon. It was constructed and presented by the Dutch in 1603 to the Sultan of Johor and over the years found its way into the hands of pirates before the British liberated it in the 19th century.
A kongsi is a Chinese clan house and Khoo is the family’s surname. Essentially, it is a block of houses surrounding a temple, a meeting square, and a Chinese opera house. The Khoo family fled from the Qing Dynasty in Eastern China and their wooden sailing ships landed in Georgetown with permission from the British to set up their Kongsi. The night the magnificent temple was finally completed, New Year’s Eve 1901, the roof caught fire and burned down. The temple museum said that the fire was taken as a sign of the God’s displeasure or jealousy of such opulence so the temple was more modestly rebuilt. My guess is they didn’t have enough dough to replace the original. However, it is a beautiful structure with colorful stone carvings, multicolored tiles, and frescos adorning the walls and hanging lamps suspended from an intricately design gold ceiling. The temple is a place of worshiping and venerating the Khoo ancestors and a school for bringing up the little Khoo in the traditions and histories of their forefathers. Walking through the complex felt like being in a Kung Fu flick and I expected any moment to see Bruce Lee flying through the air with razor cuts on his bare chest.
We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. We ordered two vegetable dishes and rice and ended up getting shredded meat in one and pork in the other. I guess the Chinese consider meat a vegetable. I wonder if the shredded meat was dog. Although, G’town is ridiculously hot, I felt it held a lot of interest for a short visit. I especially liked how Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, as well as other Asian and Western peoples live so peacefully here going about their own lives in the traditions of their own people yet still tolerant of other people and cultures different from their own. The fact that my father was here on R & R during his 1967 Vietnam tour of duty was also intriguing to me. I wondered if he had visited any of these places as I had just seen. The answer came the next day in an email with several attached photos. One was with a snake around his neck and in the other he is standing in front of the old Seri Rambai cannon in Fort Cornwallis. More shocking than my dad putting a snake around his neck is his uncanny resemblance to me.