Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Explanade(旧关仔角)

The Penang Explanade

The Explanade(Penang), the stretch of road along the north sea front of Penang island; where Capt Francis Light landed at Fort Cornwallis.

The Chinese called The Explanade as "Kuan Nga Kak(关仔角)",literally means Check Point Corneror government corner. " Kuan(关)" in Chinese mean the check point, the place must be the check point for either custom/tax for the sea traders. But later it was called " Ku Kuan Nga Kak(旧关仔角)" it is literally means old checkpoint corner or old government corner or old Explanade. This is to distinguish the original Explanade from Gurney Drive(Persiaran Gurney),which was called "Xin Kuan Nga Kak(新关仔角)", which literally means the new check point/government corner or new Explanade; even though there was no government building in Gurney Drive. Gurney Drive was named after Sir Henry Gurney, High Commissioner of the Federation of Malaya (1950-1951) assassinated during the Malayan Emergency. The Explanade is also called Phak Kew Por, which literally means ball playing field,which was referring to Padang Kota Lama or Explanade field or simply Padang, which was used for cricket playing by the colonist. But this name has not been used by the new generations, it is still called "Ku Kuan Nga Kak(旧关仔角)".

The Explanade recently become news in the local newspaper. Firstly it will be the venue of Speakers' Corner and Democracy Square proposed by the state government; secondly it was the wrong road sign set up for the name of Explanade by MPPP.

Explanade has been the location for events and festivals for early Penang. It was the popular sea front area for local population, until Gurney Drive come to the picture. I still remember until early seventies, Gurney Drive still a quite place with stretch of trees along the road, we still can go there for fishing. There was not much activities there. The Explanade was the hub of activities.

But it changed after the early eighties to nineties, when factories mushroomed in Bayan Lepas, and population began to move to the area. After the abolish of the Rent Control Act, George Town become quite at night, and Explanade, without modern entertainment activities like Gurney Drive. fail to attract the city folk and become more quite......with the old population remained in George Town passed away, Explanade have been slowly been forgotten....despite the old city hall is still standing elegantly in front of the Explanade field(Padang Kota Lama), and Fort Cornwallis where Capt Francis Light first landed is within walking distance.

MPPP did not see the potential of tourism for Explanade, it was in neglected state; except for occasional events taking place there. Explanade can be better, a beautiful historical heritage site for the tourism, the pride of Penang history. Together with Light Street, it can be a package for the tourist looking for history of Penang. Did MPPP failed to make Explanade the pride of Penang, the old Penang? it is obvious especially their headquarter is located in the place.

Gurney Drive has taken away the prime of Explanade, which become quite seafront even at night; it only become active when there is events or festivals held over there. Otherwise it is only the place for tourists....

Recently, Queensbay Mall come into the picture as competitor for sea front lover. You can see the Pulau Jerejak and Penang Bridge from the sea shore; better view than the Explanade. Gurney Drive still the prime area for the Penang people for shopping, food and night.

But please don't built any building that does not match the heritage environment , like Dewan Sri Pulau Pinang....this is a heritage site of founding of Penang. We need professional of Heritage Management to run the Explanade.

When is the last time you go to Explanade?.... Explanade reserve better respect....

What is Explanade?

According to wikipedia, "An esplanade is a long, open, level area, usually next to a river or large body of water, where people may walk. This allows people to promenade along the sea front, usually for recreational purposes, whatever the state of the tide, without having to walk on the beach". Esplanades became popular in Victorian times when it was fashionable to visit seaside resorts.

The original meaning of esplanade was a large, open, level area outside fortress or city walls to provide clear fields of fire for the fortress against incoming infantry or artillery. Esplanade and promenade are sometimes used interchangeably, but that is a mistake. A promenade can be anywhere, and it is exclusively for walking, while an esplanade is for walking but also can include large boulevards or avenues with cars. A Promenade, often abbreviated to '(The) Prom', was an area where people - couples and families especially - would go to walk for a while in order to 'be seen' and be considered part of 'society'.

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Penang Explanade

But generally there are 3 definition for Explanade:
(i) Narrow Definition , the name of the road called Explanade Road
(ii) Broad Definition, the name of an area called The Explanade
(ii) Dictionary Definition, as per the meaning of the word

(i)Narrow definition: Jalan Explanade

The road sign of Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah was wrongly named as The Explanade by MPPP in 2009. The Explanade is a broader area than a single road. Historically, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah was named in 1973, when the new road between Dewan Sri Pinang and the Food Court was built. The new road was connected to the old road from food court to Clock Tower, it was renamed Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, after the former Governor of Penang on 25-6-1973.

Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah can actually divided into 3 parts:

(i) From Dewan Sri Pinang to Jalan Kota Lama, with the bend at the food court. A new road constructed when Dewan Sri Pinang was built in 1973. It is west of the Duke street.

(ii) From Jalan Kota Lama(near City Hall/Cenotaph) T junction to the bend at Penang Yatch Club/Fort Cornwallis bend, an old coastal road facing the sea front. This is the actual Explanade, as it is facing the sea. It is west of the fort point.

(ii) From Penang Yatch Club/Fort Cornwallis bend to the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, the road is historically called Fort Road. It is an old road, and south of the fort point.Fort Rd was the eastern section of the road leading from the tip of the cape, Fort Point, to the Jubilee Clock Tower roundabout

The road is not Explanade Road as proved by the traffic map of 1947. However it is part of the broader definition of "The Explanade" area. The Explanade refer to the broader area, yet Explanade Road is narrow definition of only a road, which included in the broad definition of The Explanade. MPPP may be right to put English as The Esplanade, as the road is within The Explanade area, but it is not with the old English of "Explanade Road", which was another road. Then where is Explanade Road?

Where is Explanade Road?

The actual Explanade Road is Jalan Kota Lama, from Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah to Light Street. It is the place where City Hall and Town Hall are located, and beside the Padang(Padang Kota Lama).

(ii)Broader definition: "The Explanade"

The name "The Esplanade" is usually used collectively to denote the whole area that includes Padang Kota Lama, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, City Hall, Fort Cornwallis, Clock Tower, Dewan Sri Pinang. The rectangular area bordered by the sea front , Light street,and Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah. Within the rectangle block are two smaller roads:

(i)Lebuh Duke(Duke Street),where it is located between the Dewan Sri Pinang and the rear portion of City Hall and Town Hall, the road start from Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, but has no end(not connected to Light Street). The street is name after Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who visited and stayed here in 1869.

(ii)Jalan Padang Kota Lama,where the City Hall and Town Hall are located.It is connected between Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah and Light Street. The road lead directly to the Explanade(the coastal road facing the sea front). The Chinese called it "chau-por-hai-ki-lor" (草埔海墘路), which literally means Grass field shore front road where it is beside the criket field( called Padang, Padang Kota Lama or Explanade padang by the locals). This is the actual Explanade Road.

The broader definition may not be legally defined by any local law or officially named. It may be the collective name given by the old Penang people for identification of the area. The name given by the people.

(iii) Dictionary definition

"An esplanade is a long, open, level area, usually next to a river or large body of water, where people may walk. This allows people to promenade along the sea front, usually for recreational purposes, whatever the state of the tide, without having to walk on the beach". Original meaning it must be outside a fort or city wall. The area outside a fort and next to the sea, is the old road from Jalan Kota Lama(near City Hall/Cenotaph) T junction to the bend at Penang Yatch Club/Fort Cornwallis bend, an old coastal road facing the sea front. This is the actual Explanade, as it is facing the sea.

King Edward Place is not The Explanade

The Explanade is not at King Edward Place. This is the short road between the Clock Tower to Swetterham Pier, Penang Port Commission complex. It continued with Weld Quay along the coastal road. But now some map indicated it is the extension of Weld Quay to the clock tower?.....King Edward Place is the road where the pier of Port Swettenham(Swettenham Pier)and the office of the Penang Port Commission(PPC)are located. The warehouses there date to the early 20th century while the office buildings and arcade were built after the World War 2, after the earlier government buildings were destroyed in the war.

King Edward Place was named after King Edward VII of United Kingdom (and the British Dominions and Emperor of India), who reigned from 22 January 1901 until his death on 6 May 1910. King Edward Place was created at the early 20th century following the land reclamation that took place between 1880 and 1904 - before that, there was a government jetty at the end of Light Street. The old Resident Councillor's Office and Penang Secretariat was a U-shaped building facing King Edward Place, with wings along Beach St and Weld Quay and backing onto Downing St, until it was destroyed by Allied bombing during the World War 2. The only remaining wing of the building is now occupied by Penang Religious Affairs Department on Beach St.

Even though The Explanade is called (Old) government corner(旧关仔角) by Chinese,which indicated that the government buildings were nearby. It cannot be at King Edward Place, as the road is not fronting the sea, which is the criteria for an explanade; secondly it was a reclaimed land only after 1904. Prior to that , there was practically no land but sea.

The place cannot be The Explanade......

Fort Cornwallis(康华利堡), Penang

Fort Cornwallis is an old star-shaped fort located on the northeastern coast of Penang, Malaysia. It is named after the late 18th century Governor-General of Bengal, India, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis. Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia.

Captain Sir Francis Light took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 and built the original fort with a nibong (Malay: palm trunk) stockade with no permanent structures, covering an area of 417.6 square feet (38.80 m2).

In 1804, Indian convict labour rebuilt the fort with bricks and stones during Colonel R.T. Farquhar’s term as Governor of Penang. Fort Cornwallis was later completed in 1810 during Norman Macalister’s term as Governor of Penang at the cost of $80,000. The fort was intended as a defense against the pirates , Kedah, and the French because of the Napoleonic Wars. A moat 9 meters wide by 2 meters deep once surrounded the fort but it was filled in in the 1920s due to a malaria outbreak in the area.

The Chapel at Fort Cornwallis was built in 1799 on the southwest bastion. It is the earliest roofed structure surviving in Penang from the colonial era. The first recorded marriage here took place that same year when John Timmers married Martina Rozells, the widow of Francis Light.

Even though the fort was originally built for the Royal artillery troops and the military, its function, historically, was more administrative than defensive. For example, the judge of the Supreme Court of Penang, Sir Edmond Stanley, was first housed at Fort Cornwallis when the court opened on 31 May, 1808.

In its entire history, the fort had never engaged in any battle. Apart from being used for the British Royal artillery troops, the fort was once occupied by the Sikh Police of the Straits Settlements during the 1920s.

Old cannons decorate the fort. The largest cannon, known as Seri Rambai Cannon, was cast in 1603, and was a gift from the Dutch to the Sultan of Johore in 1606. In 1613, the Portuguese took possession of Seri Rambai. The cannon was taken to Java, where it stayed until 1795, when it was given to Acheh and brought to Kuala Selangor. The British seized the cannon and placed in in the fort in 1871.

The fort was gazetted on Sept 8, 1977, under the Antiquities Act 168/ 1976, as an Ancient Monument and Historic site. Today, it has become one of Penang's prime tourist attractions.

Esplanade and City Hall

Built in 1903 in an impressive Neo-classical style, the Old City Hall building portrays a fine example of admirable British colonial architecture still in existence in Georgetown, Penang. The design of the City Hall building bears a resemblance to the nearby Town Hall, which features the balcony as a main element overlooking the Esplanade. The building has been listed as a national monument since 1982 under the Antiquities Act 1976.

The majestic City Hall is the jewel in the Municipal Council’s crown. The Council Chamber, where the 24 Municipal Councillors regularly convene, is located on the ground floor. The small monument you see on the Esplanade is the Cenotaph, a memorial to victims of World War 1.

Open hours:
8.00am – 4.15pm (Monday – Friday)
8.00am – 12.45pm (Saturday)

Address: Jalan Padang Kota Lama, 10200 Penang, Malaysia.

Padang Kota Lama/Padang Explanade/Padang

Padang Kota Lama, or simply called The Padang, is the parade ground and playing field created by the British colonials in the civic district of George Town. It is bordered by Fort Cornwallis on one side, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, Jalan Padang Kota Lama and Light Street. The name "The Esplanade" is usually used collectively to denote the whole area that includes Padang Kota Lama and Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, although historically The Esplanade refers only to Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, between the bend in the road (called Fort Point) and where the road ends, near Cenotaph.

Padang Kota Lama is located in one of the oldest section of George Town and was among the earliest part of town to be cleared. When Francis Light landed at the cape in 1786, he found that this part of the island was uninhabited (there were small Malay and Acehnese riverine settlements along Sungai Pinang) and densely forested. The land was flat but overgrown with hardwood trees such as the Penaga Laut (ironwood). The northern shore was sandy while the eastern shore was covered with mangrove swamp. Light was said to have blasted silver coins into the forest to induce the workers to clear the land. These coins would have landed in the area where Padang Kota Lama is located today.

There were several structures on Padang Kota Lama that has since been destroyed or dismantled. The clubhouse buildings, the Penang Sports Club (Cricket Section) and the Penang Recreation Club were located on the Padang - an arrangement that is similar to what we can see in Singapore's Padang today. Also located on Padang Kota Lama is the Vermont Memorial, a cost iron pavilion for the public, as well as the Municipal Band Stand, a pavilion for public entertainment and ceremonies. Most of these were destroyed during the Second World War and never rebuilt.

Fort Cornwallis was built in 1786 as a simple fort of nibong palms. It was rebuilt in bricks in 1793, and again in 1810. What we see of it dates from the 1810 renovation, with little change thereafter. On the south side of Padang Kota Lama is Light Street, the oldest street of George Town, and built to be a stately thoroughfare for the new British settlement. Across from it was the Police Courts, now the State Assembly Building (Dewan Undangan Negeri), dating from the early 19th century. On the western side of Padang Kota Lama is Town Hall and City Hall, built in 1880 and 1900 respectively. On the seaward side of Padang Kota Lama is a coastal road called The Explanade, which dates to the late 19th century (before that, it was just sandy shore). The Esplanade is now part of Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah. On a protrusion opposite Jalan Padang Kota Lama is the Cenotaph, dating to after the Second World War.

Although the British is no more the administrators in Penang, their legacy lives on in the sights all around Padang Kota Lama.

(source: Extract from

So just a small mistake; but thankful for the Penanglang who highlight the mistake, otherwise the younger generation will be misled.

Ku Kuan nga kak, Penang-lang ai hor hor cheow kor(Penang people, let us take proper care of our heritage,The Explanade)

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