George Town’s Old World charm minus the ‘Penang lang’

Armenian Street by night - Photograph: tunglang

tunglang sent in the following description of a nocturnal stroll around the George Town heritage core zone.

Last Saturday night, I went for a walk in the heritage zone of George Town.

The place looked more ghostly: few local residents who actually lived and grew up there were around. Except for lively Little India, the rest of the people in the city were snoozing in an area that resembled a zombie zone under lockdown.

High class thematic restaurants and cafes have replaced the usual street hawkers, kopitiams, papa-mama sundry shops and old trade houses.

No more chatter among Cantonese folk on the five-foot ways; no more Rediffusion drama stories; no more innocent children running around or cycling or playing ah-chi-lote; no more hawkers delivering night meals on Bengali bicycles; no more Tan Tong Tong walking and singing his Hokkien ballads advertising his fortune-telling skills on the streets; no more Chinese medicine men displaying their acrobatic skills and martial arts at street corners. Not even the ting-ting of the ubiquitous Roti Man on his tricycle.

The Penang Peranakan Mansion gave me goosebumps before I could even reach the iron grilles of its main gate.

As I took two photos (my camera battery was running low) of a cat enjoying its Lebuh Armenian night stroll on the cemented but slippery pedestrian walkway of quietness minus any cat-hunting dog lurking around, I feared what this fat feline was wishing next for George Town, where the old world charm seems to be waiting to be decimated by a mere tweak of town legislation.

Standing on the ‘go-kaki’ of 120 across the narrow & winding Armenian Street, ‘Dr San Yat-sen’ gave me a frown of black and white melancholy.

Today, the ‘heritage’ of George Town seems different: more plastic and unauthentic in its dearth of Penang lang (people) spirit, essence and lifestyles.

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OM Saigal

Yes, life has changed, however we still feel like cycling in old Penang when less traffic. When committees are not sincere, we may lose our Lorong Seratus Tahun
heritage and Farquhar Street history………..

gk ong

“street hawkers, kopitiams, papa-mama sundry shops and old trade houses” are disappearing as most of could not be passed on to the next generation who find the trade not sustainable financially.

Yesterday 6pm NTV7 documentary on the heritage sundry shop (Tatt Meng at Ayer Itam) and an old chinese medicine shop in Penang that had to close shop on 1 April as the owners could not afford additional annual auditing fees of RM10K and complexity of classifying chinese medicine/herbs in malay for GST respectively.

This is happening everywhere, not just a localised issue in Penang.


These syocphants are spurning lies and deception. Why did the CAT have to personally go to his shop. He is 68 years old due to retire with no one to hand. He (allegedly) lied to get some publicity and some free tickets. Did you ask him how much is his turnover. His turnover is not even more than 1k per day which in that case he need not have to register for GST. Enough of lies by CAT and their sycophants. The mamak stall in Jelutong, Kimberley Street Koay Chiap hawker, Perak Road economic rice all registered and collect GST… Read more »


Go complain to NTV7 if you are unhappy with the program.


The street in the pic not showing a few shipboard there being bought over by foreign expatriates who advocate heritage matter. The couple also own heritage property in Langkawi. Does Straits Collection ring the bell ? They also own some heritage units at Stewart Lane.
it will be a treat to readers of Anil is able to have an exclusive interview with this Caucasian covering topics like gentrification? Tunglang can be the official photographer for this exclusive event.
How about that?


Bangkok’s Old World Charm “preserved” well :

But some say Penang street is a living museum itself so need to create a memorabilia museum ? What say you Mr. Anil ?


Cheers Kopi-O kau kau, Anil. I love what you sincerely expressed (without distortions), which can cause unrest in the shallow minds of the greed-induced Cosmo-cemented souls-but-no-more-souls. At least the Baba-Nyonya couple posterised in front of Penang Peranakan Mansion have souls, to speak. Overt gentrification ala SingLand (in haste & recklessness) not only rob us of our unique living multi-cultural heritage, but it eventually bastardises it en masse in the name of commercialized preservation of heritage assets bought (at dizzy prices), swapped or mixed like fusion food experiment according to the wild fancies of aristocracies & profiteering opportunists. Imagine Baba Nyonya… Read more »


Interesting to see cars lining up on the roadside of Armenian Street at night as depicted in the picture. Is this not betraying the spirit (not the wandering one) of old world charm?


WHY gentrification not a issue taken up NGOs or Parti Socialist Malaysia ? Someone pls enlighten me?

gk ong

Better to retain the current serenity of Armenian Strret at night, rather than making it ‘happening’ with the presence of GROs?


No street food at Armenian Street surroundings so no sight of the souls tham chiak kui Penanglang ! Penang is losing out to neighbours Siam & SingkaPoh in terms of latest world street food ranking : No food no soul even the soul of Sun Yat Sen floats to Mcalister Road at night for steer food Char Hor Fun ? btw, LGE do take note Penang Street Food not in the rankings. Need to engage food enthusiasts to promote the food to eg New Yorkers ? Note squeekyclean SingkaPoh probably has “stolen” Penang secret recipes (just go to Sentosa… Read more »

gk ong

AKF Seetoh of Makan Sutra fame has helped to promote Singapore hawker food via celebrity foodies like Anthony Bourdain. Passengers on transit at Changi airport can sample good and wide range of hawker food at the food court in the airport itself.

Meanwhile Tourism Malaysia tend to promote only halal malay food (satay, nasi lemak and rendang) in its brochures.

Foreign tourists can sample good replicated Malaysian food in Singapore eg Sentosa’s Malaysia Street operate by Genting group next to Universal Studio theme park.


Anil if you do not know most skill Penang Chefs have migrated to Singapore where the money is much better. Having said that your readers should try New Lane where hawker foods abound.


In Bangkok you have one of the biggest or biggest pasar malam in Asia.


Yang can tour guide tunglang and anil to Bangkok Chatuchak weekend market or Srinakarin Old train market to enjoy vintage stuff there, and may be come back with fresh ideas to revive Armenian street at night?

Anil may confirm if every Saturday evening there is street art festival at Armenian street thru Yap Long so vicinity?

Also 3 wheel Lee goreng at the Armenian Pitt at junction also not bad, some say even better than Bangkok Lane. Tunglang go check out.


Penang Ori-maestro Mee Goreng ranking: Bangkok Lane Mamak Mee Goring still #1 – great thick kacang gravy & generosity of liao Mamak Mee Goreng at Esplanade (beside Fort Cornwallis) #2 – great heavenly Sotong with fiery cilli Gurney Drive MPPP Food Court Mamak Mee Goreng (previously from Jalan Edgecumbe) #3 – great goreng of the mee that tastes like slippery señorita bathed in red gravy Armenian / Pitt Street junction Mee Goreng – so so & a bit sweety (sorry, no ranking). Penang Mee Goreng has to be from Penang’s pure-blood Mamak’s to be heavenly & shiok to makan-makan. Don’t… Read more »


Beach Street food court (weld) mee Mamak with sotong won Penang competition held at Times Square not long ago. Go check it out.


The writer should enjoy watching Ben Stiller’s Night At Museum, and can inspire him to be Penang Museum activist. Just hope that he or she not too passionate that at night Penang associated past items relics come to life in imagination otherwise got to get The Seekers or Ghost Adventurers to prove the paranormal existence in the mind?


If you are too scary of ghosts at night, you may not reach the end of your walk in Armenian Street! Pulo Pinang George Town is full of history, some bloodshed & of course the Japanese executions of Penangites. If you think of exploring the authentic old world charm, it is better to just enjoy the ambience than to think of ghost at every dark corner. Try walking Church Street with skittish expectation at night & you may bump into the Hai San & Ghee Hin gangsters replaying their finale clash of ‘yee hei’. Any old world charm worth exploring… Read more »


Go become member of Penang Heritage organisation at Church Street. They can compile your Penang supernatural heritage takes for publication. Your book may rival The Star WongCW’s book to be the reference for all in vintage Penang.


Paranormal Penang can be fresh and interesting topics for Penang Tourism. Tunglang can seize the moment to become a public promoter for vintage supernatural adventure.
Can start with walking night tour in heritage Penang with interested folks paying up the tokens to cover necessary expenses.
1st tour can include Anil, Calvin, Yang, Don,Soon, Ong etc regulars to kick start the program .
Think big without execution the ideas just syiok sendiri only. So work it out.


hamster, I love paranormal. Just watched Hindi Movie while drinking Kopi-O kau kau: Haunted – 3D It’s about going back 80 years to the past to save a lady & changed her destiny after hearing her nighty ghost cries. The setting is very old world colonial vintage. The saviour eventually fell in love with her. Better than “Ghost” starring Patrick Swayze. Some aspect of ghost behavior & manifestations (similar to ours) you can learn about in this movie. Like 3am is their time. So far, tis my best Hindi ghost movie Enjoy: The past can be beautiful, if you connect… Read more »


Unesco certified ancient Towns in China a so called communist country have been sustained by commercialization e.g. entrance tickets and shops selling souvenirs. Vintage trade being turned instituting souvenirs while classic tunes join hip-hop modern music live up the night atmosphere.

Activists like anil and liutenant t can help by learning from those townships to revive old charms the creative ways by executing the actions of writings in blog fail to materialise.

All the best.


In the 70s and 80s of course there were locals plying their trades there. We have to acknowledge many of such activities cannot be sustained over generations as the younger offsprings born in internet era can never relive those past memories. Only rich people with sentimental hearts can sustain past lifestyles by preventing migration of inner city dwellers to apartment living thru cheaper rentals, patronizing the vintage trades like buying their collectibles e.g. Tin kosong, continuing subsidized older folks with good coupons so that they can still enjoy kopi-o at 50 sen But then why we depend on rich people… Read more »


I think (new) developments are something of a global phenomenon not confining here only. Considering the fast worldwide population growth and “assets inflation” (created by too much money-printings by the trillions?) worlldwide, life tends to change inevitably follow by and hence all sorts of development.
Must we then find another world of our own because when we can’t catch up with the pace ?

Boo Soon Yew

Dear tunglang.. fair comment on a seemingly ghost town in the heart of Georgetown within especially the Heritage area at night.. But have you also took a ride past Chulia St, which I must say is a very “happening” place.. not teeming with high class cafes or clubs that young yuppies are accustomed to.. But a street teeming with mini cafes, roadside hawkers, stalls all selling something to the myriads of tourists/foreigners staying at the many budget hotels within the vicinity. These are the same tourists plus those that can afford to stay in better hotels further away who flock… Read more »

Sia Boey Hokkien Mee

Same ghostly places in Carnarvon Street, Malay Street and Sia Boey vicinity contrasting with nearby 1st Avenue. High rentals the cause of the exodus of Penangites compounded further by CAT’s kosmo crazy development. Is UNESCO heritage status the proper accolade for a night ghost town?
Pls read UNESCO heritage chapters before lynching the writer.
Note: doing it the Singapore way has its detrimentals which do more damage than preserve and conserve the authentic fitting for a UNESCO heritage status.


Soon Yew
Got to mention Kimberley St after 6pm. Many of my Taiwanese friends flick there after good exposure thru programs like iwalker and supertaste. Both programs shown on Astro although 4 months late after in Taiwan on taiwan t.v..
Intestine soup there a good tonic not to be missed. Go check out.

gk ong

tunglang has the expertise and knowledge to organise night heritage walk cum street food supper for tourists. He will find fulfillment by telling his Penang Sia Boey old tales to keep the heritage alive while making some pocket money along the way via service charge.

Anil can proovide a platform to promote the event.

Tan Tong Tong

Chulia Street doesn’t speak for all streets of heritage George Town, BSY.
Be more adventurous to walk the less well known jalan jalan to discover any authentic Penang left.
You may see more cat icons than real Penang Lang!


Boo Soon Yew, may I assume you have lived in authentic innercity George Town before? Those who have had experienced the affordable living (cheap+good) & unique multi-cultural lifestyles will understand the difference from the now. It depends on how one perceived the change – for good or for worse. No one in their right mind would expect time to stand still, neither past lifestyle waxed into museum showcases or lockdown in “birdcage museums”, nor heritage George Town a thematic walk-about park like plastic commercialized Disneyland. George Town heritage zone is NO living museum in every sense if one can shamelessly… Read more »