Old Penang: Sungai Ara

Old Penang: Sungai Ara

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Blog reader Ah Chuan shares his memories of Sungai Ara.


I am Penang born and I have migrated to another country for over 25 years. I am a technical consultant for a leading Bank.

I can still remember vividly living in Sungai Ara hills with my grandmother in the early sixties and seventies. There were no proper roads leading up the hills except a jungle path with stepping rocks and gravel.

There was no electricity at that time and we used to burn a type of carbide and kerosene lamps for night light.

We got water supply from a water source up in the hill and used bamboo sticks as a pipeline to supply water to the house for cooking and bathing.

The hills were surrounded with rubber trees amidst which my mother worked as a rubber tapper; also there were plenty of fruit trees.

I miss Sungai Ara hills very much and I hope it stays as beautiful forever.

Share with us your memories of old Penang. Just drop a few lines in the comments below.


  1. its so convenient to blame pakatan when BN ruled Penang for decades. sustainable development is the key thats all i can say. like many i have migrated but remain malaysian and come back to penang as often as i can. i grew up in green lane and brought up my kids in sg ara. we still love coming back to sg ara and we especially love the market area. the walks up the hill was quite pleasant but due to the abandoned bungalow projects, the trees and plants are overgrown and it looks a bit unsafe to walk there..

  2. There used to be orange beetles flying into homes in the innercity George Town in the lazy afternoons. Due to the abundance of old trees along some streets like Macalister Road & Kelawai Road, these insects were in abundance. The same for other city species like praying mantis living among us.
    The walking shrimps of Sg Ara mentioned by Steven, I had seen in the jungle streams at Pantai Keracut. Just blinded them with torch light & they were easy catch. Body length could be as big as 5 inch long (excluding claws)! Yes, very delicious when BBQ-ed rare & downed with a bottle of Guinness beer!
    We limited our catch to not more than twenty prawns which were in abundance 25 years ago, but now it is as rare as the nocturnal Tiger spirit of Pantai Keracut.
    Sg Ara & Relau in the 60s & 70s were havens for woodpeckers, owls, herons & king fishers due to the abundance of farms. You will be lucky to see any of them flying today.
    We need to have sustainable development – the type that merge/combine Nature with modern human settlements. Have you heard forest gardens? Not the type you see in ornamental Youth Park. Forest gardens can sustain wildlife & flora in a natural random setting without use of pesticides nor selective planting of non-native plants often seen in commercial landscaping practice.
    In many advance European countries, their town planning incorporate urban greening, rain water harvesting & eco-friendly transportation like bicycles & trams. And they have seen the return of wildlife like wild ducks/geese in urban areas!
    MPPP should go to pristine Belum Rainforest to get a taste of Nature’s wonders to appreciate what we have, the SingLand envies & tried to recreate ‘artificially’ & expensively – the Gardens by the Bay).

  3. When the Sungai Ara River was still pristine, there used to be big shrimps with claws and they would crawl by the riverside. My mom used to catch and cook them. Taste better than lobster due to the freshness. Till one day MPPP came and washed their equipment in the river. That was the end of all the species!

    P.S. Have anyone seen walking shrimps? When will the folks in Penang stand up to protect whatever which is left on this island? No doubt the current government is better than the predecessors, administrating is a different manner as all politicians are alike. It is up to us to put a stop to wanton development. We need sustainability. In California, which was govern by democrats; one could see the difference between LA and SF. There’s a reason why Silicon Valley is in NorthCal and not SoCal. The people must always put pressure on the current government. Development will come to Penang. The issue is whether it’s for the people, or for the ruling elites and currently it’s for the latter.

    P.S.2, I wonder how come there wasn’t any objections to the new u-turn built along our expressway ( in front of the light)? The choke point will definitely bring a multitude of accidents once completed.What is the value of a Penang life?

  4. Ah Chuan, I think I understand your views. But change and development are inevitable, as the population increase and its our nature to improve our lives. But we can try our best to balance and ensure change do not bring bad things in the future. For example, I am sure some people, still yearn for the days when Green Lane was still largely a beautiful orchard. Or the days when KOMTAR never existed.

  5. Sengkeat,

    Thank you for your thoughts and challenges. I believe many of us who have migrated overseas shared the same feelings to return home one day. It is not only a proper planning that is required. What you need is a government that is trustworthy, honest and accountable. A government that is willing to listen and provide an equal and fair opportunity for the people, regardless of race and religion. This is a government that you need to support. I will return home to be with you and cast my vote for a change in a better government. No matter how far or how wide I roam, deep inside me, I am still a Malaysian.

  6. I like what you said, but I assume you are now leaving in a foreign country that have all the nice modern facilities. Would you give all that up and come back to stay in what you wrote? What is needed is a proper planning.

  7. Old Penang soon will be replaced by new concrete Penang if we don’t act in next GE. We should call concrete Penang, condos Penang, shopping mall Penang, istana Penang for orang putih.

    You can see the original / old / green Kampung Buah Pala has been cleared for HIGH END housing projects during unfortunate period of governance by Pakatan.

    Why still chanting for CHANGE when the old and original Penang is the best for us ???


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