Seven ways to revitalise Seberang Perai


A lot of attention has been given to Penang Island, but how do we revitalise Seberang Perai in a way that would be more authentic to local cultures and would promote a sustainable domestic economy?

Sunset at Bukit Mertajam - Photograph: Haha Lee
Sunset at Bukit Mertajam – Photograph: Haha Lee

1) Carry over Penang’s niche in heritage awareness over to the mainland – minus the property speculation and gentrification. Recognise and promote awareness of the cultural heritage and political and economic history of Seberang Perai ever since it began opening up during the early 19th century.

The fishing villages along the northern coast line, the Little India in Butterworth old town centre, the thriving commercial centre along Raja Uda (where the Khian Guan Biscuit factory is one of the oldest in the region), the Mak Mandin Industrial Estate (one of the oldest in the country and where famous brands such as Lingam chilly sauce, Hacks sweets, Van Houten’s chocolates and cocoa powder had their base) and Bukit Mertajam.

Discover the history behind the smaller towns like Nibong Tebal, Kepala Batas and Permatang Pauh. Put up memorial plaques at the sites where people were executed during World War Two (e.g. in Butterworth town off Jalan Bagan Luar Road and near the ferry terminal) and at places where old settlements were established.

2) Promote and protect the local food-based sectors: rice farming, coastline fisheries. At one time, Seberang Perai was also known for its sugar cane and coconut plantations.

3) Promote the local cuisine as well and spruce up the area: the sea food restaurants of Bukit Tambun, the mee udang of Sungai Dua, popular street food along Jalan Raja Uda.

4) And let’s not forget that the ancient kingdom of Bujang Valley, which dates back from the first century AD, extended well into Seberang Perai, perhaps reaching up to Bukit Mertajam. This was one of the oldest kingdoms in the region and archaeologicial work on it has been ongoing for years.

In fact, if you visit St Anne’s Church today, you can see the Cherok Tekun relic – a large rock with an inscription in ancient Sanskrit (Pali), to which hardly anyone pays much attention, much less understands the history behind it.

A community without an understanding of its history is a community that will lack pride of place and understanding of where it is coming from. Establish a Seberang Perai museum and photo gallery that reflects the cultural diversity and heritage on the mainland and promotes awareness of local history.

5) Spruce up the coastline, which offers magnificent vistas of Penang Island, especially by night. At present the sea is too polluted for swimming – but worryingly, that hasn’t stopped children from swimming and toddlers from wading along the north Butterworth coastline in the evenings. Organise the restaurants and stalls along the coastline which at present are built haphazardly and probably without local council approval or licensing.

6) Create awareness of the major religious sites and places of pilgrimage e.g. the magnificent Sheikh Abdullah Fahim blue mosque in Bertam Perdana (along with a 100-acre Vision Park), the old St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam (1846) which draws tens of thousands of people every year, the pre-war wooden church in Butterworth, the Sree Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Temple (founded 1853) off Jalan Bagan Luar, the respendent Butterworth Nine Emperor Gods (Tow Boo Kong) Temple along Jalan Raja Uda.

7) Build a cross-channel rail link, extend the old tram system to the mainland, promote cycling and other forms of sustainable transport.

Have I missed out anything?

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27 Jan 2014 4.10pm

A good advice indeed!

21 Nov 2013 11.25am

Sunny, No developement mana boleh cari makan. Yes we need development but then I also feel like going back to my kampong style house in Balik Pulau but the young certainly would not want to go back. They want it fast and furious…

don anamalai
don anamalai
22 Nov 2013 10.25am
Reply to  Yang

‘Enjoy first, worry later’ and ‘Style mesti ada’ lifestyle is common nowadays.
It can be sustained while the credit line is still available.
Fast & Furious generation are brought up on good life with good pocket money from parents that defines their affordability.

If you cut down 2 cups of Starbucks consumptions a month, you will save RM30/month.
Imagine how much the savings will be in 30 year’s time?
Surely you can sip kopi kau-kau without having to kau-peh-kau-boh for the rest of your retirement days, while enjoyng the amazing sunset of Seberang Prai in your retirement home.

20 Nov 2013 3.17pm

Sorry guys, I believe the majority of the population still prioritize development. Sure we want to have it all, but such is life. Big screen TVs, more cars, luxury condo, imported products ……. yes we want it. Bring me back to kampung lifestyle and I will vote you out of office.

20 Nov 2013 12.40pm

did not think Seberang Prai had much to offer till I read this – shows that its heritage is under threat of obscurity if nothing is done soon. Just hope people in charge think like you and prioritise the heritage preservation over economic gains. Often its a thin line to cross as when you think of attracting visitors than you start planning for hotels, shopping complexes, transportation…etc…

swee huat
swee huat
20 Nov 2013 12.23pm

Singapore plans waterfront city, sets land for 500k homes under Draft Master Plan 2013.
Penang can certainly benchmark?–sets-land-for-500k-homes-under-draft-master-plan-2013-031624237.html

Sasha Pranth
20 Nov 2013 11.56am

Revitalise only means three things to politicians – development, development, development. So they jump headlong into a sea of contracts to tear down forests, build shopping malls, luxury housing, hotels… the works. Maintain a park? They will laugh you out the door. Build a museum…. you must be kidding! Look at Penang? A beautiful island that looks like a rubbish dump now. Crazy traffic… bald hills… dangerous seas that people cannot swim in because of money-making jet skis and the like. Why make Seberang Perai another congested, ugly place like Penang? But… the politicians will argue, we can make money,… Read more »

20 Nov 2013 9.40am

Revatalize the bus terminal (Pak Lah once call it ‘Penang Sentral’) at the ferry terminal at Seberang Prai?
Wait very long already!

simon says
simon says
20 Nov 2013 7.09am

Hi Anil
Revitalization is happening at Komtar whereby locals (or specific target market like rich foreigners & locals) can dine at floor 59 & 60 open air !
Not sure if tunglang can agree with the term revitalise.
May be you need to add sustainanably revitalise seberang prai 🙂

there is exhibition cum public feedback session on Bukit Bendera plan (revitalization?) at 3rd floor Komtar concourse now. May be someone can fill up the forms with feedbacks in blog ?

Awang Selamat Ori
Awang Selamat Ori
19 Nov 2013 5.48pm

Revitalize, surely! Just like Gelakan in 2008! Reinvent! Mesti teruklah under Lim Guan Eng! He will give the Prai folks 45 towers of SOHO, after all Butterworth is bigger than Penang, nearer to Perak, Kedah and Perlis and Thai borders. LOL! This guy difficult la, Anil. While it will be nice if things can be done to really revitalize the place without those big plans from LGE’s developers friends. The thing is he is so developer friendly and he seems to be scared of the developers, and he could not care less about those Ah Pek Ah Peks that supported… Read more »

19 Nov 2013 2.21pm

Live in BM. Construction on every available plot of land!
Sungai Rambai,Taman Bukit, Kota permai, Alma, Berapit,…………….. hardly any greenery left.
Would really appreciate it if you guys would confine your “revitalisation” to the Island.

Gerakan K
Gerakan K
19 Nov 2013 1.34pm

Be careful with your wording. “Revitalise” = speedy condo and shopping malls development (according to some people) !!!

swee huat
swee huat
20 Nov 2013 11.42am
Reply to  Gerakan K

Gerakan K or Gerakan Y,

Could you please elaborate on the Gerakan’s “8-point chasm” theory between Malay and Chinese thinking on major issues pertaining to government, religion and education?