Stumbling Around Penang

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January 21st 2019
Published: January 21st 2019
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My intention on this steamy Sunday was to go to the Penang Street Market. I’d been to it once before, about five years ago; it was small but interesting. However, before I had walked even a block I stumbled across another street market.

The city of George Town has established car-free zones in George Town’s World Heritage Core, and every Sunday from 7 am to 1 pm, cars are banned from over 2 kilometers of city streets. People set up booths in the streets selling crafts, food, drinks, and the local animal shelter had dogs available for adoption.

I watched the street magician for a while, drank something blue that the young lady who sold it to me called “ocean” and gazed longingly at the puppies. I watched a masseuse giving knife massages, which were exactly what it sounded like – going over someone’s back with the edge of a blade. Knife massage, or daoliao, is a Chinese form of massage where you are pummeled with dulled meat cleavers. It’s still popular in Taiwan, but it is not common in other places. One woman even had her dog massaged this way. The dog looked pretty calm, especially considering that someone was hitting him with very large cleavers. I then walked up the coast to Penang Street to find the street market. Except it wasn’t there.

I checked street signs, I checked my map, I checked the map on my ever-so-smart phone, but the market had vanished. However, I stumbled across the first new car showroom ever built in Penang.

The Wearnes Brothers opened this salesroom in 1926. They started with Oldsmobiles, and went on to become the sole agent for Ford Motors in the Straits Settlement. They soon added Morris and some other brands. In 1937, they started an airline with a de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft which they named Governor Raffles. They initiated air service between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Their airline didn’t last long however, and ended with the Japanese occupation of Singapore and Malaya in WWII.

The signs indicated that the garage had been turned into a nightclub, though from all indications it looked like a defunct nightclub. Of course, all nightclubs look pretty abandoned in the morning light.

I head over to some of the other car-free zones to look at the street art. By this time I’m getting pretty hungry, so when I see a sign for the Penang Science Café I have to stop. Besides, it was air-conditioned, and by this time my eyelids are sweating it’s so hot.

The offerings at the café were minimal, but they did have cold drinks and pastries. However, this was like walking into geek heaven – I have never seen so much cool stuff in my life.

There were on-going experiments in hydroponics, and a flight simulator – which I crashed. Twice. There were stations where you could learn how to code, or practice your coding, and for the more advanced, there was an opportunity to code your own video game. And virtual reality stations! And a 3-D printer!

There were a couple of groups of kids huddled over computer screens working together. Keep in mind, this was on a Sunday, I was the only adult in the room, and these teenagers were so interested in their project I don’t think they even realized I was there.

In the back there was a storage area that looked like it contained bits and pieces to build your own robot. A little further back there were woodworking tools and agriculture experiments. At this point I wanted to be a Malaysian teenager and come here to play. I may not have accomplished what I set out to do, but what I stumbled across was significantly better.

Possibly Useful Information:

The Penang Science Cluster and Café: 37 China Street Ghaut, Georgetown, Penang. Hours are from 9 am to 6 pm daily, and admission is free.

Car-free zone: The pedestrianized part of George Town includes the stretch of Beach Street from the junction with Union Street to the intersection with China Street/China Street Ghaut. Also included in the vehicle-free zone is a stretch of Bishop Street and Church Street until the intersection with Penang Street, and the whole of Church Street Ghaut.

Wearnes Brother Garage site: The corner of Lebuah Farquhar and Jalan Penang is where the garage turned nightclub is located. This area, particularly along this pedestrian stretch of Jalan Penang is home to many bars and small restaurants.

Additional photos below
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22nd January 2019

I was thinking about you today.
Good to see you traveling again. I like the idea of a car free zone. They should try that in Hanoi and a few other Asian cities.... ha ha.
22nd January 2019

Interesting idea with the Science Café
Sounds like a really amazing place!
22nd January 2019

Science Cafe
It was so very, very cool. The battery on my camera died while I was in there or I would have posted more pictures. The intention behind opening it was to get kids engaged in science, and I think this was a much more interesting way of doing so rather than sitting in a classroom.

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