Historical Road Names

georgetown beach street
The road runs parallel to the seafront hence called Beach Street officially.  The Chinese in the early years had sectionalized the street into several sections, naming each section based on the activity carried out in that particular section of the street: generally the banking and international trading houses take to the North while wholesales and local trading take to the South.
acheen street
"Acheen (Aceh)" is a port in North Sumatera.  The Chinese stonemasons dominated this street; hence they called this street: Stone Mason Street
cintra street
"Cintra" is a port in Portugal.  The Japanese geisha houses dominated the street in the 19th century; hence the Chinese named it "Japan Street"
georgetown muntri street
"Muntri" may have been named after the Mentri of Larut.  Lam Wah Ee Hospital here offered free medication in traditional Chinese medicine since 1883.  It became very popular among the public. As a result the street became known as Lam Wah Ee Hospital Street.
George Town, the capital of Penang State, has evolved over two centuries. Since the founding of Penang island in 1786 by the British colonial empire, old buildings had been replaced and new ones added.

The whole George Town Heritage Enclave, comprising the Core Zone and the Buffer Zone with an area of about 260 hectares, actually sat on an island.  The filling up of the seaway that separated the Enclave and the main island has structurally changed the Enclave - no more sitting on an island.  

Although there is no sight of such island today, one can still trace the existance of the island by referring to the official road names and those preferred by the locals.  Such indicative road names include:
  • Sungai Ujong Road (a tributory of the inlet along Dr Lim Chwee Leong Road / Prangin Road Ghaut)
  • 吊桥头 [means a jetty for loading and unloading of cargo in Chinese characters] a site located near the intersection of Burma Road / Penang Road / Dr Lim Chwee Leong Road.
  • Bridge Street, now known as C.Y. Choy Road: there was a bridge spanning the inlet and used as a cross-over from Beach Street to Bridge Road.
  • Transfer Road - along the whole stretch of this road was a sea path that separated George Town Heritage Enclave from the main island. At the other end of the road is the Straits of Malacca.

To know more about the history of Penang under the hot sun, literally, one can just walk around the Heritage Enclave and on the look out for the blue colour signboards that display the historical names.

Interestingly the Chinese some time do not use the official version of the road names.  They preferred to use their own calling: naming certain road or a section of a road by events that occurred then or by activities that dominated the vicinity or by what scene that prevailed at that particular time.  The unofficial road names used by the Chinese, in fact, tell more story about the past then the official name.

Here are some of the historical names that reflect the past:

Cannon Street 大铳巷: The naming of the street was linked to the 1867 Penang Riots, which lasted for 10 days (from 3rd to 14th August).  To pacify the Riots the colonial government fired cannons into the square where the Kien Teik society members were taking refuge.  About Cannon Street 大铳巷的由来  

Burma Road 车水路:Burma (now known as Myanmar) was a British colony and so was Penang.  That relationship made it possible for the British administration to name the longest road in Penang after Burma - the Burma Road.  They also named a number of other roads by referring to the towns and rivers in Burma such as Irrawaddy Road, Rangoon Road, Moulmein Road, Mandalay Road etc. 

The Chinese call it "carts carrying water" road, referring to the carting of water from the Botanic Garden reservoir to George Town.

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