It was my last day in Georgetown and after breakfast, and a check on the border situations, I headed off to catch the ferry across to Butterworth.
One of my reasons for visiting was to sail across the Malacca Straits, a little like going to Hong King just to ride the Star Ferry.
I wandered past the rail ticket counter – the ferry almost connects you to the Butterworth Rail Terminal on the other side – anticipating a ferry ticket counter or machine. There isn’t one because the ferry crossing is free.
Even though it was already hot, the sun hadn’t yet burned off the sea haze.
One thing I didn’t mention on coronavirus prevention yesterday… I’m finding it really hard to avoid touching my face because I’m constantly having to wipe away sweat.
I swear that all of my pores are in my face and it feels like they’re mostly in my cheekbones. You wouldn’t believe the tissues I’m getting through.
The ferry was far from busy and handwashing signs were everywhere in both the Georgetown and Butterworth Terminals.
The first cross-strait ferry service between Penang Island and the mainland began in 1894. Originally a passenger-only service, the ferries were later refitted to carry vehicle in 1925.
After a coffee in Butterworth, I headed back to the island. (Today was going to be a lazier day than usual). You pay for the return journey, 1.2MYR.
I headed for the Clan Jetties.
Initially, the area where the Clan Jetties now lie was a wood yard littered with planks and firewood.
After the construction of the Quay in 1882, the waterfront was developed with short public landing stages or jetties. Settlements grew on these foundations and they were used for the loading and unloading of goods and for the mooring of sampans.
Gradually, each jetty became identified and dominated by certain clans and over time more huts sprung up.
In the early 20th century, the jetty settlements expanded but, as squatters, residents did not have basic amenities like water and electricity.
It was only after the Penang municipal election in 1957 that the Clan Jetties began to join the modern era; before that they carried their water in kerosene tins from the main road.
Seven different clans still reside at the Clan Jetties: the Lim, Chew, Tan and Yeoh jetties are the oldest and the Koay, Lee and Mixed Surname jetties were built afterward.
Chew Jetty is filled with shops and restaurants for locals and tourists. The others are more residential.
On Chew, I met Siti who was running a clothes shop. Over a cup of coffee, I bought a pair of trousers and we put the world to rights.
She also told me that she is used to seeing more than 5,000 people a day wandering the jetties. Coronavirus has vastly reduced the number of visitors to the area. The Chinese used to make up the largest proportion of tourists but the presence of all nationalities is reduced.
The cruise ships haven’t visited for several weeks and that is likely to continue.
Siti was pragmatic: “It’s necessary but I hope this passes soon”.
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