Thanks to a recent long weekend, my latest dose of wanderlust took me across the waters to Penang, Malaysia. Declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 along with Melacca, the city boasts a wonderful mix of colonial, Malay, Chinese, and Indian architecture. So much so that walking down one street, I felt as if I was in central London, only to turn a corner and find myself caught up in the bright colours and sounds of Tamil culture. Southeast Asian shop-houses stood next to Hindu and Buddhist temples, mosques, and churches. Streets with names like Lebuh Armenian, and Lebuh China merely reinforced the whole multi-cultural aspect of the place.
Of all this, what most intrigued me were the clan jetties along Pengkalan Weld — a form of community villages consisting of houses built on stilts over the water. When they were first established in the mid-19th century, apparently everybody who lived on the same jetty had the same surname because they all came from the same fishing village in China. It was intriguing to see these stilt houses seamlessly integrated with the mainland through well-lit streets; where you remember that you are standing on stilts only when you care to glance at the gaps between the houses and notice the water below. And while some these jetties are well-lit and tourist-oriented, with light features, and the occasional resident setting up shop in their front yard selling water, drinks, and other items to passers-by, some still have a truly residential character to them (so much so that I felt that I was intruding, walking through someone’s backyard). For me personally, the jetties were a wonderful example of living heritage without being yet another ‘artefact’ that was being preserved merely for the sake of history.
So, without further ado, here are some photographs of the jetties. Enjoy!