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Penang Road


Penang Road, because of its name, implies how important it is to the locals and visitors alike. It was the main road where almost everything started when Penang was being built as a town.

Upper Penang road
Upper Penang Road near Hotel Malaysia and Segara Ninda heritage hotel.

I took a few trips along the road recently, just to go down the memory lane, because this was where my mother used to bring us for shopping every time the school session was starting. Why? Penang Road and its many branches were well known for its shops which sold cheap and good stuff. In fact, it still is.

People flock here to get the best bargain, especially in dried food stuff, clothing, shoes, luggage and even jewelry. People also come here to eat! Rows and rows of shop houses, small lean-to stalls, restaurants, food stalls and roadside peddlers fight for your attention.

The oldest wet market in Penang is here, a nice heritage Malay house is here too. Segara Ninda, a small heritage hotel which is located at the Upper Penang road stands proud to welcome you. Several modern hotels stand next to older charming ones, the main police HQ of Penang, and the site of the first police hut in the middle of the town square used to serve. Here at the junction of Leith Street, Chulia Street and Penang Road, you will find five commemorative plagues with description of what the place used to be. It is a morbid fact that here, criminals used to be hanged in public. Nearby, a barnyard stood to house the bulls and cows meant for the market. And, the old tram track used to run here as well.

Line clear nasi kandar
Famous Line Clear Nasi Kandar only occupies a little space in an alley.

It was amazing to see the big granite blocks which marked the foundation of the old police station. Now, the place is marked with several flag poles. It is quite a shame because a lot of people seemed to miss these significant relics of the past. They simply walk or drive past.

Nasi kandar? Where else can you get it more famous than the 24-hour joint "Line Clear Nasi Kandar"?

Nasi Kandar is the trademark food of Penang people. We eat it at any time of the day. Succulent meat and fish in aromatic curry, served with steamed rice. It is much more finger licking good than KFC. I also remember that a trip to the area is not complete without buying a snack of roasted horse chestnuts. Mmm, the smell is so so good, the same cart is still there beside the Chowrasta Market! Besides, when you are thirsty, there is the special sherbet made with syrup, coconut juice and some herbs to cool you down. And the pasembur, the rojak buah, the laksa and the chendol! All delicacies that made Penang such a food heaven. Need I say more?

One of the streets that run from Penang Road includes Leith Street, which has the famous Heritage Hotel Cheong Fatt Sze mansion. Chulia Street also comes from Penang Road, together with Campbell Street, Chowrasta Street and Kimberley Street. Please do not confuse Penang Road with Penang Street. Penang Street is another place altogether.

Bazaar in Penang
The entrance to Jual Murah, Penang style bazaar.

Campbell Street is worth visiting at least once. If you want clothing at wholesale price, there are so many shops here. Let me tell you a secret. Walk into Campbell Street from Penang Road, take the first alley you meet on your right side. You will enter "Jual Murah" area. It is a bazaar-like market place. Tourists seldom come in here because the path looks so small, hardly two feet across! What treasure you would find here, including food stalls that sell Mee Goreng Mamak and Laksa, with Cucur Udang and spicy peanut sauce. Do not let the gloomy area deter you from entering. People are friendly, just go and enjoy yourselves to absorb the sight and sound and smell of "Jual Murah".

Literally, "Jual Murah" means cheap sale.

Have some of the local food, the taste is unique. A must try.

This is also where the locals come to get things for weddings, for pilgrimage to Mecca or to buy fabric for sewing school uniforms. There are shops that sell flowers, accessories for sewing, religious books, scarves, hats. Hmm, interesting, huh?

Once you come out from "Jual Murah" area back to Campbell Street, do not miss the chance to try the biryani at  Hameediyah Restaurant, which serves a fantastic version of this  rich dish. My mouth is watering already! Walk further and you will find the old Campbell Street market place. If you come in the morning, you can see the locals shop for their fresh provisions here. Before the old market, on the right side also is the Kuala Kangsar Street which will lead you to the back of Chowrasta market. In the morning, here too, there are hawkers selling all sorts of stuff. In order to experience the hustle and bustle of the morning atmosphere, be sure to come before 9 a.m.

chowrasta market penang
Chowrasta Market at Penang Road.

Chow Rasta market is a famous place to get fruit pickles. Especially products of nutmegs. Wholesalers of these pickles make sure you get bargain price every time. You may also sample the pickles here. Just ask, and you shall receive. The front of the markets have small shops that sell preserved food, fruits and sundries. At the back of the market is the wet area, where fresh fish and meat are sold. You can also find old-style spice sellers who use manual grinding stone to mill the spices. It is a dying practice, so you must go and see it before they disappear forever.

It is always enjoyable to walk the streets in Penang. Penang road is one of those which is always bustling with activities. Even if you go there many times, you will always see different things.

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