Pulau Jerejak’s hidden heritage featured on History Channel


Few people realise that Pulau Jerejak has a hidden heritage so haunting that it was once featured in the History Channel.

Most of the migrants arriving in Penang from China and India and other Asian nations – the ancestors of many Penangites – had to spend a stint in quarantine in Pulau Jerejak. That alone should strike a chord among Penangites today.

But there is a darker past only experienced first-hand by the island’s ostracised inhabitants of years gone by. The Alcatraz of Malaysia once housed leprosy and tuberculosis patients isolated from the rest of society as well as suspected drug traffickers, other criminals, and political dissidents, many of them detained without a fair trial.

Tormented souls, treated outcasts, many forgotten – forcibly and cruelly separated from loved ones and the rest of society. It was a place where hopes and dreams were shatttered, where no one could see the tears of its inhabitants nor hear their cries of anguish over their rejection.

Reminders of this painful past can be found in the remnants of eerie jail cells and dormitories in the jungle, in the many desolate tombstones with barely readable inscriptions scattered around the island, in the ruins of places of worship where residents beseeched the Almighty, searching desperately for solace.

A memorial to a couple of Russian soldiers killed during the sinking of their ship at the Penang harbour by a German cruiser in 1914 lies on the eastern side of the island. One theory is that local fisherfolk found their bodies drifting in the waters near Pulau Jerejak and buried them on the island.

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Against this backdrop, is it any wonder that the now-shuttered Tropical Island Resort never returned a profit?

The panoramic views amidst the lush jungle-clad hills may make it a compelling place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life – but the tranquility is deceptive. Beneath the surface, the disturbing memories of the island’s tortured past hardly make the place the most idyllic setting to live in.

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  1. Popular herbal drinks shop closes after a chequered 64-year history

    Small scale family businesses with ‘history’ & social connectedness are most often left to die-off. With no one to assist in their continuity, these ‘invaluable assets’ of George Town are left to extinct at the last breathe. If only there is an organisation with marketing + business acumen & financial resources to guide / assist such small family businesses, we may have preserved quite a number of such intrinsic old trades of Penang, which still breathe some souls of the old world charm.

    Shong Hor Hin Medicated Tea Stall by the roadside – you can’t buy this tea in any supermarket, sundry shop or Lazada mail order. Neither can you drink by the roadside in Cintra Street no more.

    • Closure because next of kin unwilling to carry on the heritage trade? Or they see no future as youngsters prefer more hip Cosmo-coffee?

    • Roadside food or drinks peddlers are unfortunately a dying trade. Why? Simply because nobody wants to be knocked down by on the rise reckless vehicles bullying those customers by the narrow lanes of Pulo Pinang! Narrow lanes are for pedestrians and non-motorised cyclists so should ban big vehicles eg 4WD!!!!

    • Honestly ask yourself how many millennial smartphone generation youngsters can relate to those old trades? Just check with your children or grandchildren during your reunion dinner tonight.

      • Why not learn from that clever CEO of Teochew Chendol, a roadside Lebuh Keng Kwee family beverage business turns successful national franchiser. Go to All Seasons to see young men & women running his franchised Chendol business.
        All the self-defeating claims of younger generations shunning street food business is out of touch with reality.
        Go to Public Bank (Farlim) at night & you can see fashionable food trucks run by younger generation of entrepreneurs…

      • another traffic dedak. anil you can see majority wants wider and better roads. food truck is their cari makan. if stuck in traffic their income drop and public like dedak here depends on foof truck to carry on in your blog. if late will be like bruce fist of fury. why no comment to support green carts like push carts or tricycles instead we have dedak supporting trucks and vans for food.

      • No emotional ties to these old trade once they could live in virtual world with their smartphones.

  2. Some rare & interesting places on earth require to be preserved as these rightly serve some intangible + tangible purposes of value for us & the future generations.
    One example is Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, US. It was a horrific bloody killing field full of American history, remnants of war & even relics of human casualties. The place was preserved & not turned into another concrete commercial development which the US citizens & tourists are glad for the thoughtful conservation decision & foresight.
    Now, Gettysburg has a museum, a beautiful green & tranquil ex-battlefield, battlefield tours & events designed for visitors from all over the world. They also have wandering spirits of the Union & Confederate soldiers to spook the adventurous.
    The Gettysburg Foundation didn’t exorcised (or chase away) the ghosts of the battlefield but left the souls of the dead as they were (in peace) & these are now intrinsic of this historical place.
    This is another piece of human caring endeavour for local history, without which we will lose everything of the past that serves a higher purpose – to educate, to remind & to help us on the course of humanity & future endeavours.
    Not everything has to be in the talk of money (which has no history or humanity values) to decide our future path.
    Remember you have a living soul, so do places like Pulau Jerejak.

    Visit the soul of Gettysburg: http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org

  3. State election for Sabah in April according to The Star’s breaking news today. Miss vs Salleh in tussle for CM post?

    • Why The Star never condemn such early state election when it opposed to the earlier suggestion for early Penang state election?

    • Interestingly the current MARA corruption saga is set for battle between camp Annuar Musa and camp Sabri Ismail, to consolidate their power as Umno deputy president. TOM’s thumbdrive could possibly bring down Annuar Musa?

  4. Why keep the island for the dead spirits when it can be developed for use by the living people? Get the Taoist priest to conduct ceremony to lead the restless souls to the other world where the should belong.

    • What do you mean by “developed” – is pouring concrete and tar on the island and constructing homes for the wealthy?

      • Less wealthy folks can be driven to pursue for more money earnings as we are living in capitalistic commercialised society now???

      • Haunting places need to be cleansed so that the wandering souls can have peaceful realms, some believe to let them rise with angels to heaven, or some call rebirth with better karma.

      • The right ritual is needed, involving all faiths in order to cleanse the island to ensure future prosperity, and to soothe the nerves of future human inhabitants.

  5. This Pulau Jerejak is one of the most haunted places in Penang as creepy as that Relau gothic bungalow with a swimming pool (next to Taman Awam Metropolitan Relau). Just ask any seasoned angler who has gone fishing at that island & I am sure you will get a bookful of stories!
    Disembodied voices, chatters, shrieks of Cik Cantik, touchings & shadows lurk after dark among the rocks & trees & run down buildings, some swallowed by the unforgiving jungle.
    Just count the many trees & you may get close to the numbers of entities which call this island their homes. And some people/gurus came here with malevolent spirits, captured in exorcism or rejected as family Saka, & buried these entities deep in the sea or dark forest or nailed them to trees (be careful not to pull out any nail lodged into the tree trunks!). This island could be as paranormal as haunted Pulau Ubin of Singapore.
    The best is to leave this island as it is since it has a bad vibe of painful history.


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