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Little India in Penang

Little India in George Town, Penang will bring you the atmosphere you will feel and see when you visit the country itself. Bright colors, strong smells, loud music, nothing is subtle here. They are all vibrant and alive.

Welcome banner at Little India
A welcome banner at Little India.

The place basically is a squarish area enclosed by four streets: Queen Street, Market Street, China Street and also King Street. Do come over after 10 a.m. and the place will wake up slowly with people buying groceries, spices and fresh mutton, people having breakfast by the road side, reading newspapers bought from the ottu kedai.

Ottu kedai is a hole in the wall shop selling anything from newspaper, drinks, cigarette and other little necessities.

The best samosa in town
A vendor selling the best samosa in town.

They were traditionally run by thrifty businessmen who saved money in order to retire in style back home in India. Now that the fourth and fifth generations were born in Penang, they no longer feel the need to go home to retire but instead stay here in Penang.

In between, you will see shops selling traditional costumes, precious gold and costume jewelry which use semi-precious gems. These semi-precious gems do not only serve as decoration but are supposed to have healing properties as well.

There are also music video stores with the latest Bollywood movies and songs. Fresh flowers too, pretty garlands ready as offerings to the Gods at the Arulmigu Mahamariamman Temple at Queen Street or smaller altars in private homes or at the corner of the shop.

As you pass by, the smells of the incense, fresh food being cooked and raw spices mingle together to give you a unique aroma that is not available anywhere else. Here is one of the best places to get Indian delicacies at very reasonable prices. For example, a piece of fat samosa, fresh from the wok and fat with spicy meaty filling would only set you back for a mere RM1.00. (USD0.25). A bowl of bubur kacang (green beans sweet soup in coconut milk) costs only RM1.20 (USD0.30).

A shop selling trinkets for women.

Do you want fresh coconut juice? Do you want to buy a pair of saree for your daughter's wedding? Or, you want to window shop for gold jewelery at bargain price? Little India is the place to be. You would go crazy with all the goods being displayed for sale.

Most likely you will encounter a flock of pigeons flying around or cooing at a certain corner waiting to be fed. These birds add character to the whole area. They fly in alarm when cars pass by and settle back on the tarmac once the danger is over.

If you ask me, most merchandise are influenced by southern Indian wares. They are the descendants of people from Malabar who came as construction laborers. It is said, teh tarik, the ubiquitous breakfast drink in Malaysia, was invented by the people from Malabar.

A pair of men standing guard outside a jewelry store.

The streets are also synonymous with money lenders and foreign currency money changers. Chettiars are money lenders and it is an old profession associated with the Indian people. The five footway also used to have fortune tellers offering their services. At Queen Street, two of the old crafts -- Chinese Calligraphy wood carving and songkok making are still being made. Songkok is a headgear worn by the Muslim men, made of cotton or velvet.

I love walking around Little India. It is fun and full of colors. The beat of loud music from the boom-box time your steps. If you get hungry or thirsty, there is no short supply of delicious food and drinks to satisfy you. This place always have that special atmosphere that makes film makers and photographers get special materials for their documentaries or subjects.

A TV cameraman filming the street scene.

So a visit to this area must not be missed, if you ever set foot in George Town but since you are reading this, check out the photos of Little India here. See you around!

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More photos of Little India

Little India in Penang is very colourfull I had many more photos to show you but couldn't place them here. So check them out...

More photos of Little India

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