Upper Penang Road
The New Trendy Heart of the city
Up till the early eighties, the northern
seaward portion of Penang Road was better known to folks as the place to get some of the best bakery in town. The section of the road was home to Cold Storage, a food and pastry store with a distinctive signboard.

The store is no longer around, but its engraved name still remains on the old building, now shabby and discoloured. Today, the rather
dilapidated building, lodged under the shadows of several modern high-rise structures, houses an Indian Muslim hawker has scrawled its front wall in paint with the unlikely name 'Hameed

All around the building, Penang Road looks a stellar leap away from the bakery and sundry environment of decades ago.

The streets are lighted up with flashing hues and revelers swing around in the numerous pubs and nightclubs in the precinct.

How times have changed. Penang Road is fast becoming chic.

This northern portion of the lengthy historic road is now the centre of a trendy precinct dubbed 'Upper Penang Road', comprising upscale restaurants, karaoke joints, bars, discotheques, pubs, and vogue boutique and antique shops.

Hollywood has its Rodeo Drive, Kuala Lumpur its Bintang Walk, and Perth has Northbridge. Penang is now starting to develop an a la mode precinct where locals and outsiders alike can have their entertainment, dining and shopping.

Eric Lim, a director of the relatively new Cititel Hotel here, is a chief mover of the precinct's new image. He is currently chairing the pro-tem committee of the Upper Penang Road Promotional Council, comprising various commercial establishments in the area.

"The idea is not to imitate Bintang Walk or
Rodeo Drive, but to help develop this area within a local context," he says. "People can realise it is pleasant to come here."

The precinct does have its own unique home-grown charm, most notably the historic architecture and streetscape. Most of the establishments are housed in heritage buildings cleverly restored to provide an appealing ambience, without being inimical, for merry-makers.

And then there are the trishaws on the roads, and the teh-tarik and nasi kandar stalls lying just a stone's throw away from sweaty joints selling pina coladas, margaritas and slings. A feeling of the old and the nouveau complementing each other in true Penang fashion.

One can actually take a 'club crawl' along the precinct; walk past major outlets in the area, starting, say, from the newly renovated Mansion, an early 20th century Italian-style building that houses the trendy '32' restaurant. Walk east along Farquhar Street past the historic Eastern & Oriental Hotel, the Garage with its host of antique and boutique outlets, and new entertainment outlets such as the throbbing 'Lush' and 'Club 10' pub and bistro.

Then wind around the corner at the City Bayview Hotel, famous for its high revolving restaurant from whose vantage point one can have a stunning rooftop view of upper George Town. Take a turn towards Penang Road, past the Shamrock Irish Pub, glancing at the loud hues of the Slippery Senoritas and The Bungalow nightclubs. And then along Penang Road proper, the Soho Free House pub almost always has a loyal 'happy hours' crowd and outlets such as the new 'Ouch' has a variety of entertainment for patrons.

German mime artist, Ulrich Gottleib wows patrons at Ouch.

The eastern section of the Upper Penang Road is relatively quiet and enchanting. This is the Leith Street heritage quarter with wine bar, a north Indian restaurant, pub and bistro.

Already, plans are afoot to further beautify the area to heighten its aesthetic appeal and ambience. Walkways, plants, lights have been placed to make the place convenient for pedestrians and alluring to visitors. There is even talk of building a fountain in the area.

But people like Eric are conscious of the need for cultural life in the area. Busking has been considered. "We need to add life to living culture here," he says.

Wesley Chua, managing director of Ouch, located in Cititel, has been coming up with innovative concepts to bring artists such as mimes, dancers and stand-up comedians to the area.

"In London, there are so many of these entertainers on the streets. It will happen here also soon," he says. "The place has changed a lot and that is good. This is the heart of Georgetown and we've got to pump it up to add life to the city."

There is certainly already a great deal of pumping, gyrating and throbbing in the packed outlets of Upper Penang Road. Bintang Walk it may not yet be, but, rapidly becoming fashionable, stylish, and classically Penang, the area is now anything but in cold storage.

Article courtesy of www.tourismpenang.gov.my © All rights reserved