‘Penang, what are you doing?’


A couple from Germany, regular visitors to Penang, won’t be coming back again after seeing the northern coast of the island turning into a concrete jungle.

This letter is from today’s Sun:

I guess we won’t be happy until we’ve completely “paved paradise”. Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, as Joni Mitchell would sing.

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Somehow I don’t see many moving to pangkor or langkawi. Face the fact, its all about making a living. And either through tourism or others, the environment always come last.


If Penang is not interested in developing its tourism industry, or in no way need to depend on the industry to generate local employment and play an important role in generating state revenue, then all means, disregard the German or any foreign tourists statement, erect more concrete in the island and call yourself ” fully developed state” and feel proud about it. I am perfectly fine with that.


If the German couple does not like Penang, they can still go to Sungai Petani, Alor Star, Arau or Kangar where they can get old-time charms. But please come and spend money to benefit the locals!


You should read the German tourists’ minds a little better. How can one entice them to come here when there is no desires in them for things unnatural or plastic in once tropical haven Penang.
Have you met a German before? They are typically fastidious and near perfectionist. See their work culture and their BMW brand, and you will get what I mean…


if any of your children work at german firms eg Bosch at Bayan Lepas FTZ, you will understand the mindsets of the Germans


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) currently list 32 properties in Germany on its World Heritage List. These are properties that the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. There are however around a million historic monuments, buildings and city centres in Germany, and many of these have not been protected.
These 2 Germans know what they are talking about. It is not a matter of foreign talking down to us anymore than an urgent global conservation effort for humanity’s cultural preservation for now and future generations.
Read here:


The Pearl of Orient is beginning to lose its charm and shine for foreign tourists after out of control concrete jungle was erected on its limited land over the years, it is slowly squeezing the life out its tourism industry if proactive measure is not in placed. That will be a sad day not just for German coupe but for all forward looking Penangites alike.


Penang does not only offer old heritage buildings and undeveloped jungles as tourist attractions. Yes, perhaps the German couple should spend a few days in neighbouring Kedah if they want more natural floral than what Penang may offer.


yes, i live in Penang 4 days a week but on weekend i stay at my “resort home” at the foot of Gunung Jerai near Gurun Kedah. My groceries (bring back to Penang) are from local folks (fruits, jagung etc) and at markets in Sungai Petani,
People fail to realize that many Penangites who love nature (not concrete jungle & shopping malls) retreat to Kedah. I don’t care if I’m labelled as “hulu” Orang Kampung but the fact is my health has improved significantly for past 3 years !!!!!


Yes, lifestyle on the mainland feels different, lives different and enjoys the best of Malaysian nature can offer. I used to go offroading in Sedim and Mahang and Sungei Rui. These are totally different worlds from the commecialized, plastics of urban culture, concrete and noise. Once on the way to Mahang, I met an Indian guy in his 20’s managing a kedai runcit by the roadside of an old trunk road. He told me he was happy to leave the rat race for a quiet work life in rural Kedah. And he’s in his early youth. I was truly jealous.… Read more »

Hijau Kuning

If you come cruising to Alor Star, you can check out this local ori-maestro (plenty of liao at a price ~70% cheaper than Penang) :
阿旺金饭 Nasi Lemak Ong

After that, let me know how it fares against Penang’s highly “rated” Kayu Nasi Kandar in terms of price, quality & service, ok?


No yet eat, already salivating! Where is my “Good Morning” mini China towel? Alamak, my mouse and keyboard kena saliva!
What am I doing?


Christina & Gerd may want to visit Sarawak, or Trengganu (Pulau Redang) & Kelantan instead. Penang is not the same…


Also some genuine (i don’t say all here) homestay programmes in rural malaysia where friendly hosts (not some typical $ minded urban dwellers) show the eco tourist the natural charms of tropical Msia.

For Penang, northern coast has too often being over-rated (i seldom go there since early 90s though i still live in Penang) because the developers/hotel tourism want to maintain the myth for commercialism. If Christina & Gerd change their mind, they still can try out Balik Pulau BUT i just hope “Barang Naik” stop creating sensational nuisances for the peaceful, simple & multi-racial Balik Pulau folks !


Hypocrites. All these tourists come from prosperous concrete jungles and demand the rest to remain backward. Every pea brain knows the cost of economic progress to the environment so lets spare the lecture.

How many critics here stay in high rise condos with broadband internet?

Anthony Louis

Sunny Ooi, Can you please show or indicate somewhere in Germany that is a concrete jungle please?I live in a very pleasant part of Germany that is prosperous as most of the country and you should see the amount of care taken for the enviroment here by the people and the governing bodies. Can you please, please tone down your lecture. Terima kasih


I have been to Germany and surfice to say I did not see any wildlife during the few days there.


I think we need to balance development and preservation of the past.

If the Germans had been all for preservation, they would not have fought two world wars and destroyed much of their own heritage.

Anthony Louis

I agree with your first point but you had to spoil it all with the WW stories. The generation that made those decisions have but all gone. We the current people of the Federal Republik have been against going to Any War. Didn`t your gov say yes to Iraq and Afgan wars while we oppossed? What about the Heritage of those people? Ashes and Dust now.

Anthony Louis

Sunny, If you really went to look for wildlife you could could have contacted any forestry dept or dept of nature .They would have been very happy to show the wild side of Germany. To Cont.. after a week at Taman Negara ,I did not see any wildlife other than birds. Does that mean there is no wildlife in Pahang? Take note of the critique and get on . Check out the no of world heritage sites in Germany and the no of eco tourism parks and trails.We are after all a developed country and the biggest European economy. there… Read more »


Mike travels to the city of Erfurt in Germany to learn about urban wildlife. Professor Norbert Muller tells him why rapid urbanisation means me must work harder to understand how we can allow species to thrive in our concrete environments – after all, the biodiversity we see in cities is possibly the only biodiversity many people will come into contact with on a regular basis. See: Wildlife in the urban jungle Germany Well, I went deep into the Kelantan rainforest and at 3,000 ft above sea level, saw only huge tiger foot prints but that doesn’t mean there’s no tiger… Read more »


Why go kelantan for tigers?
You should lobby for tiger park in penang.
With tigers howling at nite and some tiger poo smell surely those German flers will find ‘nature’ in Penang!!


We don’t need no tigers in Penang. That is historical extinction. We now have CAT to paw the likes of Gherkin!

BTW, if you still like to ‘see’ tiger, go and camp @ Pantai Keracut. If you are the psychic strong one, you may have a brush with one.

NexGen PG

Well said, Sunny!


being green is considered backward for you? can i say this is … typical …


Nope, being green is not backward, green is now the ” in thing” this days as the human race try to save whatever they have left today. Most foreign tourist (esp the west) travel to the countries that can provide ” what they’re missing ” back home…most times. But a concrete jungle is not “backward ” either. Penang ppl have to decide “what kind of CITY they want” The important thing is what the Penang ppl want, not what the tourist want. But of course, if tourism is a SOURCE of INCOME, than by all means cater to the tourists’… Read more »

Penang Voter

If the Germans don’t like it, that is just too bad. The west always want us to stay in trees and being fed peanuts. Typical western culture and mind set.

Penang is undergoing massive rehabilitation and development for the future and to stop all that for tourists, we must be either sick or nyanuk.


Yes. Such tourists are cheapskate flers hoping to get bargain in Penang.


Unfortunately we have the usual fingerpointing. Penang has one of the most sophisticated town planning system and laws. We have a highly educated and well informed community in the north coast of the island. The recent case of Tanjong Bunga Residents Association taking the case of the discrepancy in the Structure Plan to court is an example of how the powers of the government are used to favour big developers. We must continue to pressure the government to be more transparent and let people know what is happening and have a say in how their neighbourhood and environment are going… Read more »


18 years of ‘me$$’ created by boy scout now have to be shouldered by present gomen ? Fair or not the Divine can judge. Present gomen still have to work under constraints to untangle the “me$$” to benefit the people.
So Gerak K should know more reasons where the vote & rally cry of the masses (not me$$) would still go to ? Clearly for the competent, accountable and transparent administrators !


YAB Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, can you please shift your office to BAGAN (Butterworth) ? Bagan has been supporting DAP for many elections and suffered much from BN for being an Opposition constituency. Just look at the town-planning, how ugly and backward. When will the ‘haunted’ government buildings along Bagan Luar Road be demolished and new developments started? When will Butterworth get its Garden Town status with Beach Front Esplanade? Why is mainland Penang turned into a backyard ? Sentral Penang – do we have to wait for BN to build it? Please shed some positive news on these… Read more »


The island will get to keep its charm when the Islanders themselves no longer want to live on the island.

This Island has just this much land.


An island with only rich and super rich fellas is not charming lah!
I have yet to meet one rich, charming lady or potential rich god mother at the bank or share market counter!


I hope someone please shows and gets Lim Guan Eng to read this article. Maybe it will prick his conscience and get him to start rethinking his BN-clone approach of “infrastructure-led” ideas about development in Penang. Not that I am holding my breath! After all, despite all his big talk, LGE and his administration have only demonstrated a total lack of creativity in their developmental outlook for Penang. If anything, they have only followed the BN’s perverse example of destroying our green hillslopes. And soon, LGE and his band of brain-dead merry men are going to destroy Penang’s urban landscape… Read more »


Kg Buah Pala is a classic example of totally unnecessary “development” – replacing something organic, unique and alive with some shiny cellophane wrapped synthetic high-rise project benefits only a few already-rich towkays and their stooges in BN. One day we will only have plastic flowers to smell – no thanks to the blind greed of the capitalist elite!


Already the invasion of gaudy lifeless plastics is in progress, especially in food, glorious food. But somehow digesting such artificialities are AOK for some who don’t mind forking out humongous amount just for the egoistic gaya or pretension of living in ultra modernization to go hand in hand with gizmo and techno replacing centuries old cultural icons and practical practices of basic, sensible living. Such purple toxic pollution will one day rear its ugly head with irreversible consequences for our mind, body and spirit. Perhaps we still have many ApaNama doctors around to give precision diagnostics without knowing the name… Read more »


Joni sang it. Vanessa Carton also sang it (with Counting Crows).
But The world seems “No Care” for Environment.

& Penang Die-Hard People still think Penang now is still Mutiara ?
They ought to realise that the Gems have been “eloping” inside the $uitcases of some irresponsible people who raided the island even Francis Light could not have imagined !!!!

What to do now ? we should stop carry our pride & ego and get the brains working to get things running in favour of the island !

Gerakan K

Er, the title should change to:

LGE and Co., what are you all doing ???


You cannot please all even no matter how good one is. Just like someone who will always praise an UMNO/Gerakan government that is corrupt and incompetent.


What LGE is doing he doing good. As for Gerakan & KTK they are now in turmoil with an impending EGM to oust KTK. The last time it was Dr. Teng. Gerakan K will go into oblivion soon.

Andrew I

Haha. It’s about time. If Gerakan members want to stand the slightest chance of gaining some electoral recognition, they’d have to throw out that old pair of jeans.


Do you all know how many Penangites are delusional and they TRULY believe that Penang is the best place in Malaysia to live in? They revel in the fact that some weed smoking writer recommended Penang as one of the world’s 10 top islands to visit before you die.

Some even say that Penang is so full or Heritage whilst Melaka is fake. These people are dreaming. Wait till they see how Melaka is like today.

Until we come to face reality about how Penang has ALREADY lost its charm, it will be getting worse.

Gerakan K

I will call this as “Addicted to LGE perception” syndrome.

It is all about perception that Penang really running well under LGE. But ask any foreign people/tourists, they will say otherwise.

Penang has gone backward since GE-12


Yeah, the usual LGE thumping when something goes wrong. Dont forget that Koh Tsu Khoon was in government when the hillside projects were approved. Why dont you talk about the positive things that LGE did? The revenue that he brought in – Penang was in the red when Tsu Khoon was CM for doggone years compared to LGE’s 3 years+. As far as I am concern, Penang still has its charm although I dont like the awful pace of developement. Who can stop that? It is inevitable when land is scarce and people are multiplying.

Andrew I

Gherkin is promising zero development if his kin are back at top.


Gerakan K, you said it, foreign people-tourist said otherwise…what did they say ? They said, concrete jungle…protect nature…monkeys, birds, trees, save the environment….etc. Nothing about it going backwards… Yes, tourist get away from the city, to relax and to breathe fresh air, enjoy sights… Clearly, Penang has to decide how to balance- nature and development, however don’t look to Malacca for any IDEAS. Malacca has become a concrete jungle and it feels claustrophobic if you drive along Mahkota Parade. Me thinks, Malacca is catering to the shopping tourist….loooking for cheap and good food and barang-barang saja. Penang pulak attracting nature… Read more »

Andrew I

Not part of his job criteria.

Foreigner in Penang

Hi SpeakUp, While I completely disagree with your comment on Melaka (if every city based themselves on Melaka’s city planning, I would be first in line for the next rocket to the moon), I’m happy someone finally pointed out how pointless that Yahoo Top 10 Islands list was. Penang may deserve to be on the Top 10 Islands to see before you die, but the way Penangites reacted was comical (even Himanshu from The Sun wrote as if Penang won an Academy Award or something). Yahoo, MSN, and similar internet sites print Top Travel lists faster than the US Treasury… Read more »


Hello, SpeakUp.
Wait till they see how Melaka is like today.
Don’t speak too soon.
See your Melaka here: Malacca river bank collapses

Christine Yong

This feedback is helpful! Penangites, Malaysians do not see and feel what foreigners or visitors see. It is worth taking note of the situation and state government buck up if the situation is true and real!! We trust the statement government is interested and take such FEEBACKS SERIOUSLY!


The tourist feedbacks were there to see, hear and read in the Star during the time of Madam Kee in the 90’s. Then came the repeal of the Rent Control that changed the landscape of authentic heritage and its unique social fabric and lifestyles in inner city George Town.
The mass exodus along with the many old traditional trades you can’t see elsewhere made GT almost a ghost town at night.
It has been more than a decade and the ‘erosion’ is still there to see.


Inner Penang now still a ghost town while outer Penang (north coastal area) not ??????
Will July 7 2011 heritage day the ghost town comes alive with tam chiak kui savouring street food ??????
North coastal areas folks paid a handsome price for big hill clear-out even the monkeys there are running away taking refuge at botanic gardens ???????


On July 7 2012 (next year) Heritage Day, will the ghost town come alive with howling ghosts and lamenting spirits of Gerakan past?

I will be the first official George Town Ghost Hunter in town. Any volunteer to join me? Free makan-makan in Macalister Road, you don’t want ah! Ex-Seekers are welcomed!

Enjoy The Gerakan Ghosts Buster/Sifu:

Peace-loving Volunteer

remnants of Gerakan with its dying past ties with Gerak Khas unit do regularly spoil the thrills of peaceful volunteers. Be vigilant?


Anil, the same goes for our heritage whether it is nature, hawker food, festivals, heritage architecture or old trade or old crafts business in inner city George Town. Some people want the new in everything not caring for their existing heritage which carries with it assets of immeasurable value. Assets that foreign tourists can see, feel, touch, appreciate and store in their memories until the next summer holiday. Otherwise, why travel thousands of miles just to be here? The recent lost treasure is Penang Hill Railway Coaches and antiquated machineries. I am sure the same German tourists would have had… Read more »


First you have to ask yourself if that German couple is willing to pay top dollars for Penang to remain in its old charm?

These tourists want things cheap, and never contribute to local economy. That’s why back-packers comein without spending money.


Take a slow walk in Little India, Love Lane, Chulia Street, Pitt Street, Canon Square, Penang Road and other less crowded lanes in inner city George Town to get first hand picture of foreign tourists.
These backpackers do spend money here otherwise where do they stay, eat and refresh? Just ask the Mamak restaurants whether they got any business from the backpackers.

FYI, beers business in inner city GT is good business from Ang Moh tourists. Every evening is almost Oktoberfest.

tusk sdn bhd

fragile earth now specifically fragile northern coast of penang…..where’s the fields of gold ? they are deposited at developers bank accounts ????


In 1965 @ Gurney Drive, standing in 1 foot of sea water, I could see my 2 small feet.
In 1969 @ Muka Head, standing in 2 feet of sea water, I could see my 2 thin feet plus a few star fish.
In 1987 @ Pantai Keracut, standing in 3 feet of sea water, I could see my 2 big feet and an enticing mermaid holding onto my sexy legs.
Alas, now, I could not even see my hand under 6 inch of sea water in Penang, much less that enticing mermaid!
(Emigrated to Montego Bay?)

ex gurney fan

in 1973 when i was at gurney drive beach i could enjoy slight waves washing up the shore while i was collecting “siput” n building sand castle with casuarina trees waving with the cool breeze. Thirsty, just walk up to the road side for sugar cane (tricycle). Hungry, can wallop the salivating roadside pasembur !

in 2003 (30 years later) i saw many mansions (some fronting excellent kopi tiam with excellent food) started to give way to condos in the name of development. The water was (is) n the beach became muddy. The “siput” have long gone ….(migrated ?)


There are still some siput behind Paramount Hotel beach (off Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah near to Citibank). It is still a tranquil place to sooth one’s soul. You can meditate with slow rocking fishermen’s boats on lazy waves in front of your sea view.
These siputs could be direct generations from those of Gurney Drive!
I used to midnight fishing for ‘Kaoy Kau’ in the 70’s at this once hot spot.


For those of you, esp. baby boomers like me, who used to go sun bathing, show-off somersault diving, swimming or watching featherless beach strolling birds on the beaches of Tanjung Bungah and Batu Feringghi in the 70’s and 80’s, here’s the music to bring back sun, sea, sand and swaying coconut trees memories:
Montego Bay- Bobby Bloom- 1970

NB: if you still have the colorful Bunga Raya Hawaiian beach trousers, wear it to enjoy the music in tropicana fantasy of 70’s & 80’s Pulo Panang.