Thriving side-by-side, the harmonious streets of Penang Island

Tourists fill up a food stall at Chulia Street in George Town, Penang Island.

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 22: Much has been written about the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Penang Island and how Malaysia’s multiracial, multicultural trade and traditions are so well represented in the old but well-kept streets that run through this island city, from its port to the town centre.

Walking along these roads, such as the popular Chulia Street, and other connecting streets, one cannot but feel the vibe of these streets and the dynamism they showcase.

While the island air adds to the charm and the “free” feeling, there is no denying that the variety of popular food served by restaurants from Kuey Teow, Nasi Kandar, Nasi Lemak to Thosai, Roti Chanai, Curry Mee and Chendol and good old Ice Kacang are major attractions. The cosy line-up of shops selling trinklets to second-hand books and even the latest sarees in the bigger stores are plain magnets as well, especially to holiday makers looking for a good buy without having to walk up and down a mega mall.

Yet, another deeper charm of these streets is how people from different races, religion have been trading their wares and thriving over the decades.

Their busy stalls add further colour and substance to a landscape that has juxtaposed mosques, Chinese temples, and Indian temples in a picturesque way – much like a final item in a multicultural show where performers of different art forms come together and take a bow. Except that these streets and their shops are not part of a multicultural show – the people are real, earning and living out their daily lives in a place where obviously only Harmony works.

There are many towns and cities in Malaysia that exude the same charm of people living and working together despite their different beliefs, culture or traditions but here, there is just little more in the air that continues to attract both local and foreign tourists to the island. Certainly a boon for Penang’s tourism industry.

— WE