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Beach Street - The Bank street of George Town

Heritage buildings at Beach Street in Penang line both sides of the street.

The RBS Premises at Beach Street, Penang
The RBS Premises at Beach Street, Penang

The street starts from the roundabout near Persiaran King Edward right up to Chulia Street, a stretch of about 2 kilometers. Famously known as the banking district, old and new banks occupying the heritage buildings are well maintained.

The owners of the buildings plan carefully so that the buildings are adapted for modern use, yet still retain their charming old-world facade.

Besides banks, there are also many offices and also shop houses, especially in the art-deco style. Even though some of the buildings are abandoned and run down, they are just waiting to be restored to show their former glory.

A good example is the current Royal Bank of Scotland premises, even though the building was hardly ever in a sad condition. When it was built in 1905, it housed the Netherlands Trading Society. Later it was taken over by ABN-AMRO and recently it changed hands to the Royal Bank of Scotland or now formally known as RBS. 

When the building belonged to ABN-Amro, USM ABN AMRO Art & Culture Centre was also placed there.  One of the artists who had the privilege to do a solo art exhibition there was Shamsul Bahari.

Once RBS took over, the needs of the new RBS branch in Beach Street was fully integrated by a team of interior designers from Interior Services Group Plc, which is based in London. The current new look and restoration project was completed in a record time of only sixteen weeks.

Standard Chartered bank at Beach Street Penang
Standard & Chartered Bank at Beach Street is an imposing heritage building.

One thing that was planned carefully was that interior wiring for lighting, security system and environment control are discretely hidden. The air-conditioning system also use CFC-free coolant to be friendly to the environment.

For this effort, the RSB premises came as a winner in the Specialized Project category at the Malaysia Property Award 2008. This recognition was organized by FIABCI Malaysia.

If we look at this building, we can see it has a prominent feature, which is a tower at one of the roof corners. The pillars are of thick palladian mode with arches. The facade is adorned with friezes, bas relief, plaster stucco and long vertical windows. It is a handsome building, that matches perfectly with its current use.

Now, let us go for a walking tour of Beach Street. Let's start from the end at the roundabout, going towards Chulia Street.

The first thing you would notice is that the buildings are imposing.

Start from the immigration office, followed by the Standard Chartered Bank (with the tiny police station in between).  Between the bank and the next block, you will see some hawkers with drinks and local delicacies. This place is always packed with people.

So, you must try at least a little of the food being offered here. On the other side of the street is Penang State Islamic Religion Department, also another huge building.

Then, you will see HSBC and CIMB banks, also housed in heritage buildings, at the end of the row is India House, another huge art deco building. Look on the other side of the street, you will see the former headquarters of OCBC bank (Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation) with its trademark logo of a Chinese junk. Now, the building is used by a company trading securities. This block is truly nicely restored. Just see the picture below.

nicely restored heritage building at beach street in penang
The nice block next to the former OCBC building at Beach Street.

There is one strange building to be encountered. The width opening is very narrow. I have no clue what it was. It looks like it is no longer in use.

The style is art deco with its trademark flag pole. My guess is, it was used as a place to transmit radio signal, even though the steel door and the steps leading to the folding door look like they belong to a cinema. 

The list goes on and on. I truly had a good time taking the pictures along this street. There is some problem though, during banking hours, the street is congested with traffic. So, probably the best way to go visit is in late afternoon or during the weekends.

As mentioned before, there are shops along this road also. There are Indian shops and Chinese shops with all sorts of wares on offer, the famous Ghee Hiang biscuit outlet and many more. There are also some warehouses owned by old rich families. Just look at board at the entrance of the main door, if you see the long list of companies listed, you know that the building belongs to some rich merchants with every single finger in the pie.

Finally, you will reach the junction where Beach Street meets Chulia Street. Here, you find many other kinds of interesting buildings, including the station of the Fire Department. You are going towards the heritage enclave near the Armenian Street. Chances are, you will be back again to Beach Street very soon.

Either for sightseeing or for your banking needs. I know there will not be enough space on this page to house all the pictures of heritage buildings at Beach Street. So, have a look at this photo page specially made for you for your viewing pleasure.

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Heritage Buildings in George Town Penang

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