Thursday, March 11, 2010

Penang Parade Ground

There are two places in Penang, where it was initially used as parade ground for the military. The early one was the Esplanade field or Padang Esplanade at Fort Cornwallis, and the Polo Ground or Padang Polo. These parade ground are history of Penang, it has value for tourism, the fields has the potential to turn into tourist attractions, from the parade of uniform man in the field.

1. Padang Esplanade, Fort Cornwalli

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Fort Cornwalli
Being the biggest and the most intact fort in Malaysia, the Fort Cornwallis is considered as an important monument and landmark in the historical development of Malaysia, particularly the island of Penang. Fort Cornwallis is situated at the spot where Captain Francis Light was supposed to have landed in 1786. Originally a wooden structure, the fort was rebuilt between 1808 and 1810 with convict labour. It was named after Charles Marquis Cornwallis, a distinguished Governor General of India, and designed as a defense against the French, Kedah, and pirates (at this time Anglo-French rivalry was at a peak).

Even though the fort was originally built for the Royal artillery troops and the military, its function historically was more administrative rather than defense. In its entire history, the fort had never been engaged in any battle.


Where fun and memories are

ASK any old timer about his nostalgic memory of Penang's Esplanade (also known as Padang Kota Lama) and his answer could be anything from the many relaxing strolls he had taken at the popular waterfront promenade, watching children run wild at the Esplanade field, attending political rallies, reading, snoozing, chatting and even romancing under the stars! The promenade, situated along Light Street to the west of the Fort Cornwallis, stretches from Penang Municipal Council-built hawker's food complex at one end to the clock tower at Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakhbah. A visitor will be able to see the vast field in the centre, which is currently undergoing upgrading works, shady trees and the cool sea breeze beating against one's face in the back ground. There is also a cenotaph in honour of soldiers who died during World War I, a basketball court, skating ring and the Millennium Plaza beside the seafront promenade. The RM500,000 plaza bears marks of vandalism with the panelling on one side of the 1.2m-high sundial cone dislodged and exposing the cement underneath. Some copper plaques inscribed with a brief story and pictures of historical buildings were stolen last year. At the fringe of the field are the colonial-era structures of City Hall and Town Hall and the hawker's complexes. The Medan Renong hawker's complex was built to accommodate the 40-odd traders who previously operated along the Esplanade. The promenade has been an ideal open-air venue for community events and political campaigns since the early days. Security assistant Md Iqbal Mydin, 57, recalled that the annual Pesta Pulau Pinang which was held at the Esplanade grounds about 30 years ago. “It used to be a carnival-like atmosphere and when you have the City Hall and Town Hall buildings in the background with the sea , it was one of the most memorable events ,'' he said. Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association vice-president K. Koris remembers listening to the country's former prime ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak, former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, former Singapore president Devan Nair delivering their political speeches at the field some 30 years ago. Koris also said visitors should be more civic-minded about keeping the place clean. In the early days, the Esplanade was used as a ground for firing practice by sepoy regiments and later with the arrival of the British in numbers, the field was used for sports such as football, cricket and lawn bowling. A Filipino band, known as the Manila Band, also used to perform here, serenading people who were at the Esplanade for a stroll. Today, the Esplanade is the venue for walks, sports, concerts, assemblies, New Year and Chap Goh Meh celebrations,, as well as parades such as chingay and vintage cars. Until last year, the most looked forward event at the Esplanade was the Chap Goh Meh celebrations when orange-throwing competitions were held. The event saw young maidens throwing oranges to young lads waiting on their sampans to catch the oranges. Dondang sayang shows are also held at the Esplanade during Chap Goh Meh with singers coming from as far as Singapore. Standing proudly beside the Esplanade field is the City Hall and Town Hall buildings. The City Hall, which was opened in 1903, with its British Palladian architecture featuring magnificent Corinthian columns and huge windows, was once the seat of the local government. The City Hall was restored at a cost of RM4.5mil and works were completed in August last year. The two-storey building is currently used by the Penang Municipal Council to house the Licensing and Urban Services Departments while the other departments, once sited in this building, have since been moved to Komtar. Next door to the City Hall is the stately Town Hall, supposedly the oldest council building built in 1879. Records show that Governor Sir Archibald Edward Harbord Anson laid the foundation for the building of the Town Hall on January 1, 1879 and a year later, Governor Sir Federick Weld opened the building. The Victorian neo-classical building was originally used by elite Europeans as a social meeting place, thus earning the building the name “The European Club''. The building was used as the state library from 1880 to 1886 and was leased to Kolej Damansara Utama from 1991 to 1998. In 1999, the building was used for the shooting of the movie Anna and The King.

2. Padang Polo

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Polo Ground or Padang Polo is a field in front of Seri Mutiara, the Penang governor's mansion. It is bordered by Jalan Residensi, Jalan Utama and Jalan Sepoy Lines. The field was created around the fourth quarter of the 19th century, about the same time as the Residency (now Seri Mutiara). It is also directly opposite the Penang General Hospital.

The Polo Ground was originally the new Parade Ground after the British administrators moved the military barracks from Fort Cornwallis to where Jalan Sepoy Lines is located today. The name sepoy refers to the Indian soldiers who were employed by the British. Among the sepoy brought over to Penang was a troop enlisted by Captain Speedy, who also planted the Baobab Tree at the junction of Residency Road and Macalister Road. The Penang Gaol (Penjara Pulau Pinang) as well as Barrack Road are "remnants" of the military presence in that area.

The name Polo Ground hails back to colonial days, when the field was used for games of polo on horseback. Part of the reason is its proximity to the Penang Turf Club, where there are stables for the horses. Even today, horses are often being walking along the streets. On occasion, there are still games of polo being played there.

More often than not,Polo Ground is used for other recreational activities, the most popular is football. On some days, particularly on weekends, you can see model plane enthusiasts at the field flying their model aircrafts and helicopters.


The Polo Ground was once the lover's favorite place at night; the rows of cars that parked at the Sepoy lines Road, it become the new love lane of Penang. But the activities has now stopped.

Tourist attraction for the Parade Ground

To make this heritage parade ground into tourist attraction, a new tourist products; two suggestions:

1. The Esplanade ground should be used as the matching ground for the British soldiers from the Fort Cornwallis, matching from the fort to the field, wearing the uniform of the navy from East India Company era, Capt Francis Light's time. It may re-act on the time of founding of Penang, where the flag(use Penang state flag instead of union flag) of Penang is raised by the parade troop. the parade not only can be done at the field, it can also be done by matching around the fort, or at The Esplanade. This will definitely add attraction to the Esplanade and the Fort Cornwallis. A military band will add color to the parade. Police cadet, army cadet, boy scout, and other uniform units from various schools can be make use for the parade, and count as part if their school activities on alternative days. But make sure that the school boys are of adult height.

2. The Polo Ground should be for the parade of guards from the Governor Residency to the field. The uniform can be the current Malay military uniform or uniform used at Capt Speedy's time. It may also alternate with uniform of various time in history. Parade on horse can also be done here. The daily changing of guards is also an attraction like Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur. It will make the place look like Buckingham Palace of Penang.

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