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Monday, May 12, 2008

Francis Light's footsteps: Penang's colonial legacy






PENANG HERITAGE TRAIL: PART I

Walking the Penang Heritage Trail is something that I've always wanted to do. So when the opportunity came knocking on my door, how could I not be thrilled? :D

Actually, we (the committee members of the Bureau of Programme for June's week-long MAB architecture event) were on a task to George Town in order to observe and identify the cultural sites along this historic trail. For the uninitiated, we're currently planning for an activity that will involve these places during that week.

Anyway, here's a brief history of this tropical island:

The Malaysian island-state of Penang, as with Singapore, was founded by a British colonial official of the British East India Company which was instrumental in assisting the British Empire in establishing profitable trades and securing vast territories in the far-flung regions of the Orient. Originally a part of the Malay Sultanate of Kedah, the island was given to the powerful British trading company by the Sultan of Kedah in exchange for military protection from the invading Siamese and Burmese armies.




Instead of Sir Stamford Raffles who founded Singapore 3 decades later, it was Captain Francis Light who founded Penang on August 11th, 1786 and gave the island its 1st taste of international exposure. The nascent settlement was renamed Prince of Wales Island by him in honour of the heir to the British throne.


Beach Street, an old street lined up with banks of old-world colonial architecture

Thanks to its prominent location on the entrance to the Strait of Malacca, the then Prince of Wales Island thrived as a free port (a status that has ceased to exist in 1969) and guarded fervently on the lucrative trade route between India and China. Captain Light's son, Colonel William Light, was born in the same year in Kuala Kedah (a sleepy fishing port in the adjacent state of Kedah) and later went on to found the cosmopolitan city of Adelaide, Australia.


Fort Cornwallis, a star-shaped fort occupying the north-eastern coast of Penang, was built by Captain Light after he acquired the island from the Sultan of Kedah

Cute ponies grazing outside the fort walls

Penang (both the island and Province Wellesley on the Malay Peninsula), Malacca, Labuan, Dinding (now known as Manjung), and Singapore would later come under the collective administration as a British crown colony known as the Straits Settlements. Since then, Penang's population boomed.

Even up to this day, the traces of the former British masters could be seen everywhere in Penang's prosperous state capital, George Town. There's a sizeable English-speaking population and a relatively high number of expatriates and foreign tourists in Penang as compared to other states in the country.


Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, erected by a local Chinese millionaire beside the British fort to commemorate Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee in 1897

One of the most notable colonial legacies in George Town is the street names of this city. Unlike most other cities in Malaysia, George Town has retained most of its colonial street names, albeit now officially known in their Malay translations. Fine examples like Buckingham Street (Lebuh Buckingham), Gurney Drive (Persiaran Gurney), King Edward Place (Pesara King Edward), Victoria Green Road (Jalan Padang Victoria), and Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld). Things are pretty much the same in Singapore, sans the Malay translations. Interesting huh?

Before I board a ferry to Butterworth on Saturday afternoon, I took a quick stroll along Weld Quay and snapped these photographs depicting the rich colonial flavours of George Town, Penang. Enjoy 'em! ;)


Church Street Pier, established in 1897

Tanjong City Marina, a redevelopment project of the Church Street Pier



to be continued...

31 comments:

Yinsi Yat said...

Very nice taken photos. Next time I curi from here liao!!! hahahaha

rainbow angeles said...

francis light chup!!

Jemima said...

Penang, here I come! ;)

day-dreamer said...

I still prefer Penang's food over its heritage. Hahaha.

rainbow angeles said...

*nostalgic*

i grew up with those places around me :)

L B said...

I am not much of a culturalist, so I'll hang out with day-dreamer looking for the Longkang Laksa..

Doreen said...

Wow, nice pics! If you didn't stated Penang I would have thought you took the photo somewhere in Europe. Hehehe Only been to Penang once when I was 12 years old. Hope to go back there again soon.

Zhu said...

Wow, it does look very British/ European!

I could have thought it was on the shore of the Atlantic!

kyh said...

Yinsi Yat: 5 chups!

Oi! Those are copyrighted materials! :P

rainbow angeles: 3 chups!

I thought you're from Seberang Perai? No?

Jemima: 1 chup!

*waits for Jemima at the airport* ;)

day-dreamer: Penang's a food haven! Even I find their vegetarian dishes more diverse than I have back home.

L B: Haha! But you gotta bear with me for the upcoming entries on Penang. More history and photos of these cultural sites! Yes, I'm an architecture freak!

Doreen: It does look like somewhere in Europe, or to be precise, London!

Hope to see you here one day! ;)

Zhu: Yes, it does! :D

mistipurple said...

very cheem.
*eats popcorn by the roadside*
oh, emily says thanks!

kyh said...

Okie, I'll make it a bit shallow for you. :P

claudie said...

Whay a nice trip again! Thanks for sharing! I could think we are in Europe watching the monuments! They even look nicer than in Europe.

Andie Summerkiss said...

I have been to Penang lots and lots and lots of times. Never noticed all these before!

Tell us more!

kyh said...

claudie: Ah... Do you seriously think that these are better than those in France? Hey, France and Europe as a whole has got a lot more to offer! Think of those exquisite châteaux and cultural monuments! *winks*

Andie Summerkiss: Did you come to Penang for the beaches or shopping trips only? Otherwise, it's so incomprehensible to me that a tourist like you didn't pay a visit to those supposedly famous sites in Penang! o.O

Greg from Make Money Online said...

Fort Cornwallis has always been one of my favorites.

kyh said...

Oh great! ;)

C K said...

I have always thought Penang as a food paradise. As a result, we spent lots of time eating during the only time we've been there than to walk around the historic district.

Thanks for the heads up! Will take note of these heritage buildings the next time we drop by.

kyh said...

Penang has got the best street food and heritage buildings in Malaysia. It's no wonder that people come here for these!

Leonard said...

Oh gosh, i never knew Penang is so beautiful with all these impressive buildings.

Gotta visit it one of these days..

eastcoastlife said...

Wah! The buildings are so beautiful! I didn't see these buildings when I was in Penang. I went there 4 times. I think I was more engrossed in the food and shopping. hahaha... *blush*

I'm going again! This is so helpful.
*take notes*

kyh said...

Leonard: Hehe... Go book your air tickets now! :P

eastcoastlife: Seems like everyone pays more attention to Penang's food than to its heritage. Haha!

Oh, do visit this lovely island one more time! ;)

giddy tigress said...

Once again, I am in awe over your photos. I will surely look at these landmarks in a different way after this.

kyh said...

Thank you! Penang is really an architectural gem itself! :D

GMG said...

Hi Kyh! Great post with lovely pictures; furthermore, quite instructive! Never been to Penang (except for a resto with the same name in SoHo, NYC... :-))
Thanks for your comment on Blogtrotter, which has now landed in the imperial town of Marrakesh, the Red City!
Hope you enjoy and have a great weekend!

kyh said...

Maybe you should drop by this lovely island one day huh? ;)

5xmom.com said...

You didn't go search for Francis Light's grave? I did that before, it is hidden. Got some very nice photos but millions of mosquitoes even in hot afternoon.

kyh said...

Nope, we didn't go as far as the Christian cemetery there. Maybe on my next trip? Haha...

Yikes... Mozzies! I hate 'em!

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