All within walking distance
Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal at Penang Port is sited in an un-enviable locale where the George Town World Heritage enclave is right at its doorstep.
Stepping off their ocean liners moored to its berth, visitors are already smacked in the heart of the enclave; a city that is filled with vibrant recreation and entertainment, F&B outlets and hipster cafes, street food and narrow lanes, museums, the town’s old world charm, its century-old clan jetties and places of worship existing next to each other.
There are plenty of activities for them to occupy the next few hours they have after disembarking their ships. Yet, quite often, visitors on hindsight regret having not checked in at a specific attraction or another which perhaps is just at the other end of the corner of a street, whether by choice or ignorance.
Millions of passengers passed through the gates of Malaysia’s Number 1 cruise terminal each year. And it is the home-port of Star Cruises’ Superstar Libra after a year-long hiatus.
Penang Port Commission chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng is doubly glad that Superstar Libra is back and the home coming augurs well for cruise tourism and it would reinforce Penang Port’s position as the Number 1 cruise hub. He says as Superstar Libra will ply the Krabi-Phuket-Penang route weekly, this would mean visitors from around the region would have to fly into Penang to board the ship.
On top of that, the increase in the arrival of ocean liners as well as cruise passengers would help turn Penang into a well-frequented tourist destination. The advantage of the cruise terminal within the heritage enclave is obvious.
Tan shares the five things a cruise passenger must do and urges them not to leave George Town without taking a stroll in the city’s World Heritage enclave.
5 Must-see places
1. Seeing Fort Cornwallis a stone’s throw away
The fort – built in the late 18th century by the British East India Company – is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. It is well preserved, as it was never engaged in any battle. Cannons point to the sea waiting to fire its first salvo. The fort’s function was more administrative than defensive, and is today a tourist attraction.
Inside, the Kota Dine & Coffee bistro offers local food fine dining style. Keep some tummy space for the best ‘mee sotong’ (squid noodles), coconut shake and other hawker food served outside in a food court.
Leaving this fort and a short stroll along the promenade will bring visitors to admire two colonial buildings – the Town Hall and City Hall – and the Cenotaph for those fallen during World War I.
2. Reaching ‘Harmony Street’ (or Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling)
This is the street of harmony because you can find places of worship of different faiths co-existing harmoniously.
There is the Anglican St George’s Church, the oldest in Southeast Asia, at the junction. As you walk down the road, you will find the Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) Temple, which was built in 1800 and had survived a Japanese bombing during Second World War and fires.
Some 200m down the road from the Chinese temple is the Sri Mahamariamman Temple’s back door across the road. Built in 1833, it is the oldest Hindu temple in Penang.
The golden chariot carrying Lord Muruga will begin its journey here to another Hindu temple at Waterfalls Garden during the annual Hindu festival, Thaipusam,
Walk another hundred metres, you will come to the beautiful 19th century Kapital Keling Mosque built by Indian-Muslim traders. Next to the mosque is a popular Nasi Kandar Beratur restaurant where patrons queue up for Indian Muslim food and dine al fresco at night.
3. The magnificent Khoo Kongsi Clan House and George Town’s world famous wall murals
Just down the road is Cannon Street where visitors will find the elegant heritage complex of the Leong San Tong (Dragon Mountain Hall) clan association – one of the most photographed clan temples in Southeast Asia. The temple has a ‘colonial hybrid’ architecture, with Chinese, Western and Malay influences, beautiful murals of celestial beings and stone carvings.
A short walk down Armenian Street is world famous street wall mural of two children on a bicycle drawn by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. Souvenirs shops and snack kiosks are aplenty.
4. Seeing how locals live at the clan jetties in Weld Quay
They are ‘floating’ villages next to the ferry terminal where Chinese settlers built their homes in the late 19th century. Each jetty is occupied by villagers belonging to the same clan.
The Chew Jetty is interesting to see. Some residents have opened up their homes to offer homestays, sell sourvenirs and local food. There is a stall serving ramen in bowls as huge as washbasin there.
Visitors also get a good view of the ferry terminal, ships and small boats in the sea and mainland Seberang Prai from the jetty.
5. Stopping for the iconic snack, Nasi Lemak, on Beach Street
The Sri Weld food court on Beach Street serves local hawker fare and one of the most famous is the Nasi Lemak – traditionally served wrapped in banana leaf.
The stall is right in the front at the food court. It is hard to miss, especially with a long line of people waiting their turn to buy the snack. Patrons can choose to have anchovies, prawns, fish and squid to go with the fragrant coconut rice. Other local hawker fare like ‘Char Koay Teow” (fried rice noodle), Laksa and Beef Noodle are available in the same food court.
If you find yourself too tired to walk, then hail a trishaw for an hour-long tour or rent a bicycle and cycle taking a slow ride around town.