Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Carnarvon Street- 沓田仔街(2)

Carnarvon Street or Lebuh Carnarvon(沓田仔街), which is located between Chulia Street(牛干冬、大门楼、吉宁街) and Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong(林萃龙路/港仔墘). The part of Chulia Street is called toa-mui-lau(大门楼/大門樓) by Chinese. The street is one of the early street created outside the Francis Light Grid in 1860s. The street can be divided into 3 parts based on the Chinese names. The 3 parts are:-

1. North of Campbell St
大門樓橫街(toa-mui-lau-huai-ke),which literally means Chulia St(大門樓) cross street. It is also called be-chai-ke(賣菜街) because of the street are packed with vegetable sellers in the morning.

This is the part of the street between Chulia Street and Campbell Street(新街), mainly retailers and restaurants. The street is lined with vegetables hawkers and sundry good hawkers in the morning. In the old days, the morning market is busy, but today the place has lost its prime. There were fewer stalls and less shoppers in the area, and also gradually moved out. Some of the shops are on the wakaf land owned by Masjid Kapitan Kling(especially around Campbell Street junction), were renovated and took back by the trustee . This place is waiting for its sunset day, the living heritage of old Penang will soon be lost......

The early church of First Assembly of God was here at 8C, Carnarvon Street.

The popular dim sum restaurant, Yik Woh Restaurant @6 & 8, Carnarvon St, and Kedai Makanan Teik Seng(Teik Seng Restaurant) are located here. Both are popular restaurant, especially for those who value old Penang taste.

2. Between Campbell St and Acheen St
番仔塚 hoan-a-thiong, which literally mean Malay cemetery

The icon of the place is Campbell Street Market, and row of shops which have been renovated recently and some shops have moved out. The other building is Central Police Station.

Campbell Street Market is one of the two community wet markets in inner George Town, the other is Chowrasta Market. It is said to have been built on the site of an old Malay cemetery, and was known as "Hutan Mayat". The cemetery is located at the edge of the parcel of land which was provided to the Indian Muslim community for the construction of the Kapitan Keling Mosque in 1800. Originally, the land of the mosque was much bigger. However, it was progressively bought back by the Municipal Council to built the Campbell Street Market and Central Police station(include prison), the compound of the mosque today is much smaller than the original land.

The Campbell Street Market was originally known as the Carnavon Street Market, as it is at the cross road of Campbell Street and Carnarvon Street. The Municipal government erected a market building along with the police station, which still occupies the lot behind the market. The Campbell Street Market was built in the Victorian style around 1900, and cost $21,000. This market building is probably the oldest in George Town. The front facade faces the junction of Lebuh Carnavon, Lebuh Campbell and Lebuh Buckingham. There is an arch window at the pediment.

3. South of Acheen St)

沓塍仔 lam-chhan-a,which means swamp field
姓張公司街 sεⁿ-tiơⁿ-kong-si-ke,which literally means Teoh clanhouse or kongsi street.
十間厝 tsap-keng-chhu,which literally means 10 houses.
四角井 si-kak-chε, which literally means square well

This part of Carnarvon Street from Persara Claimant junction, where Central Police station or Carnarvon St police station is located. Immediately after Campbell Street wet market. The old prison was no more there, as it has been demolished. Opposite the polices station are row of shop houses, immediately after the Kampong Kolam curve, which are retailers selling soya sauce and pickles, and other sundry food shops. From the police station after a small alley, there is another row of shops, where the gold merchant and formerly famous Dr Gan was there, after that it is Li Teik Siah Building.

Opposite the Li Teik Siah is a old hotel(formerly Ban-kok hotel), which has re-constructed, and follow by row of shops until Carnarvon Lane junction. Teoh Polyclinic and another clinic, and end with the red house at the corner of Prangin Lane.

There after Carnarvon Lane/Kimberley Street, was once the concentration of coffin shops and book shops. But the once busy part of the street has now slowing down, also waiting for its days......

The street is famous for coffin makers, and is called coffin street by old Penang people. Coffin shops have been at the street since a long time, the famous old coffin shop was Hock Lian Seng(福聯成). Next door to Hock Lian Seng coffin shop was Joss paper shop Hooh Seng(next to Nanyang book shop). The coffin shops are moving out despite some shops are still remained. Shop which make paper effigies for use as offering to the departed is another specialty of the street - the paper effigies are duplicates of all pleasures of the material world, which can be reproduced in paper and burnt as gifts for the hereafter. One of the old shop " Lau Kim Ho"(next to Hock Lian Seng) has closed, and some have moved to other places.

This is also the book street, where book shops like Asia Bookshop@ 206 & 208, Carnarvon Street, Nanyang Bookshop(南洋书局)@ 200,202,& 204 are for English schools. There were other book shops are for Chinese schools e.g. Children World Sdn Bhd @179B, Carnarvon St(兒童世界有限公司).The book shops are facing stiff competition from the big chain book retailers like Popular, Borders,MPH etc, which are located at shopping complex with better shopping environment. The bookshops are either closing or moving out, as it no longer attracted students to the place whenever school reopen. Some of them like South East Asia Book Company @ 207, Carnarvon St only deal with stationary.

The old Penang normally called this street coffin street, and not book street, may be because book or "shu(書)" in Mandarin means losing, which is bad omen. In Hokkien, the pronunciation is easier for coffin street(kua-cha-ke, 棺材街) than book shop street(chek-tian-ke,書店街), so coffin street prevail. So they called it coffin street....

The only business that still attract crowds to the street are the food stalls/coffee shops. Some retailers are however still there.

(i) Seng Thor Coffee Shop(成都茶室)at the junction of Kimberley Street and Carnarvon Stree is famous for its Lor-Mee(滷麵, Starchy noodle), and its Lor-egg (卤蛋)is the best;Oh-chian(fried oyster).
(ii)The famous duck meat Koay Teow Th'ng formerly at Carnarvon Street has shifted to 113, Malay Street.
(iii) Ah Hor Char Koay Teow or Tiger Char Koay Teow(老虎炒粿条), Kedai Kopi Ping Hooi Coffee Shop(槟园咖啡店). The Lor Bak stall has been there since 60s.

Kwongzhao Biscuit shop(广州饼家) which located at 158, Carnarvon Street in Penang.

Li Teik Siah Building

Li Teik Seah Building @120,Carnarvon Street, near to the Sin Tho coffee shop,beside the biscuit shop. It is just after the junction between Kimberley Street, Carnarvon Lane and Carnarvon Street. It is a beautiful double storey bungalow. The building was originally the home of wealthy 19th century pepper trader Khoo Tiang Poh, alias Khoo Poh. Khoo Tiang Poh is a prominent member of the Khoo Kongsi and with his fellow clansman Khoo Thean Teik, were the forces behind the Khian Teik secret society. The term "secret society" is given by the British to describe the activities of the local groups which appear to be clandestine.

The Khian Teik secret society is closely allied to the Red Flag society, a Muslim group of Malays and Achenese. One of its leaders is Syed Mohamed Alatas. The alliance was further strengthen when Khoo Tiang Poh gave his daughter in marriage to Syed Mohamed Alatas's son, Syed Sheikh Alatas, as the latter's second wife.

The friction between the Red Flag / Khian Teik alliance and the White Flag / Ghee Hin alliance eventually erupted into street fighting in 1867. The troubles were now known as the Penang Riots. Khoo Tiang Poh and Khoo Thean Teik were both found guilty of instigating the riots. However, Khoo Poh escaped deportation when the British discovered that he was holding documents as a naturalized British subject. He only died in 1892.

The house became Li Teik Seah, a youth club, in 1921. The building was also used for Li Teik Branch School. The school building is still there, now occupied by Li Teik Siah and Li Teik Old Boys Association. The upper floor, used to be classrooms is now in dilapidated condition.
(source: Asia Explorer)

The row of coffin & book shops

She-teoh-kongsi or Teoh/Zhang clanhouse(槟城张氏清河堂/姓張公司)@260B, Carnarvon St,found by Cheong Fatt Tze in 1895, where one of the off road of Carnarvon Street is named after him( Jalan Cheong Fatt Tze(張弼士路) which was formerly at the current location of KOMTAR, the Hong Kong Street was renamed after him).

Soo Beng Dispensary

Soo Beng Dispensary(思明藥房), found by Dr Lim Chwee Leong, who is the father of former Penang Chief Minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu. The office is now occupied by Tun Dr Lim's brother. Soo Beng Dispensary is a heritage building at the junction of Lebuh Carnavon and Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong. It was built in the Art Deco style of the 1920's and finished in Shanghai plaster. The dispensary belonged to Dr Lim Chwee Leong (1891-1957), a famous medical practitioner and pediatrician, and one of the earliest Chinese who study Western medicine.

Dr Lim Chwee Leong

Dr Lim Chwee Leong was a brilliant student who studied medicine at the King Edward VII College in 1909. He was a top student and was awarded the Lim Boon Keng Medal when he graduated in 1913. For a short period of time, he worked as Assistant Surgeon for the Government District Hospital before starting up his own practice in 1914. The dispensary he opened was named after Soo Beng, his native village in Fujian province in southern China.

In addition to being a medical practitioner, Dr Lim Chwee Leong was active in pushing forward the education of his fellowmen. He was the President of the Hu Yew Seah (1915-18), the Straits Chinese British Association (1939) and the Chinese Recreation Club. He was also made a trustee of the Penang Chinese Town Hall shortly before his death in 1957. Among his sons are Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, former chief minister of Penang, Lim Chong Soo, a pharmacist, Lim Chong Beng, an accountant, and Lim Chong Keat, an architect.

The corner shop at the Prangin Lane is the house of late Lee Yi, a popular Chinese song singer,who passed away during accident while crossing the road in Cheras, KL. It used to be spare part shop, now a food outlet. Before the Su Beng Dispensary, there is a row of shops after Prangin Lane, it is the place selling Chinese praying materials

The corner shop just opposite Su Beng Dispensary is one of the early fruit stall and porcelain shop(瓷器行) with the name "陶昇棧".

The first MBS/ACS Penang

Methodist Boys' School, Penang, known as the Anglo-Chinese School, Penang (ACSP) at its inception, had a humble beginning at a little shop house in Carnavon Street. Rev. B. H. Balderstone opened the school doors on May 28, 1891. On the first day of school, only one student came. When Rev Pykett came to take over the school in 1892, the school already had 173 pupils and was housed in three shophouses in Carnavon St. But we did not know the location of the school now.

Culturally, Carnarvon Street is the pioneer for the Chingay, and Hungry Ghost Festival street celebration. You can see the man practicing the giant flag balancing at the evening prior to Chingay procession . The Hungry Ghost Festival was held at the back of Asia Book Shop, where the stock of raw solid wood for coffin was stored(owned by Hock Lian Seng). There is a big compound or coffin yard , was used for the stage of Teochew opera show during the festival.

Carnarvon Street is also politically active, during the colonial days or after the independence. Socialist Front was active and Dr Lim Chong Eu was at Carnarvon Street with strong support base. One of the famous personality was Boh- Miah- Shee, father of ex state assemblyman Mr Lim Boo Chang, who was a former worker from one of the coffin shop.

But I do not know where is the tsap-keng-chhu(十間厝)or 10 houses? or the location of si-kak-chε(四角井)or square well.......

The Yik Woh Restaurant(益和茶樓)@ 6 & 8, Carnarvon Street, Penang

This is an old Cantonese dim-sum restaurant, which is a living heritage by itself. Parking however can be difficult as it is located right in front of the morning market. It is a few houses away from the busy Chulia Street. The restaurant reported to have some specialty dim-sum which were no more offer anymore by other dim-sum restaurants.

These specialty dim sums are getting rarer nowadays, with many outlets preferring more commercial and basic ingredients, instead of those that need extra long preparation and effort. The dim-sum is different from the Ipoh dim sum, it still remain the style of old pioneer Cantonese, without any much polish or commercialize due to passing of time.

Aik Hoe Restaurant
No.6 & 8 Lebuh Carnavon
10100 Penang
Tel no : 016 472 0971
Business Hours : 5am - 2pm
Closed on Monday

(extract fromSin Chew Daily)

Related articles:
1.喬治市遺事:時代變遷讀書風氣低落‧沓田仔街書香漸淡,星洲日報/大北馬,2009.03.15(The article is in Chinese)


  1. 哎!现在的时世,包括我在内讲到书局。。第一时间就想到



  2. 肉眼捲和燒雞捲是益和茶樓的招牌點心, 试一试.

  3. 亚洲书局和南洋书局是以前念书时常去买画笔毛笔等的书店。还有另外一间叫远东的文具书店也在那里,不过好久没去那里了,不知还在吗。

  4. The following is extract from 島城書香的回憶片段



    I still have fond memory of book shop at Carnarvon Street. When I am small, parent has no money to buy books for us, the bookshops are like our library, I always go the the bookshops after school, try to read all the books I wished. It has enriched my life, and start to cultivate my habit of reading in my childhood days.

    I still have fond memory of the bookshop, especially the Chinese bookshop, they are friendly and never chase us away......