Friday, August 13, 2010

Magazine Road

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Magazine Road or Jalan Magazine(頭條路) - named after the government gunpowder depot formerly there. Magazine is a English term for an item or place within which ammunition(gunpowder and artillery) is stored. It is taken from the Arabic word "makahazin" meaning "warehouse". The weapons themselves are kept in a separate armory(The term may also apply to an area within a building, used for the storage of weapons)for safety and improved security. But it is now difficult to locate the place where magazine depot was once located. The depot is reported by some to be at the site of Gama, which was once a empty field in the late 60s.

The Chinese called it thau-tiau-lor or Ek-tiau-lor(頭條路,1st Road), thau-tiau-lor is more commonly used. This is the first road of 7 parallel roads after the Prangin Canal. At one end is the T junction with Jalan CY Choy, connected by Anson bridge to Beach Street, Ghat Prangin Road, and Prangin Road. At the other end is Goh-Chan-Teng or Magazine Circus, which was formerly a six-roads junction, namely Penang Road, Macalister Road, Dato Kramat Road, Gurdwara Road (formerly Brick Kiln Road),Magazine Road and Gladstone Road. The Malay called it "Simpang Enam", which literally means 6 roads junctions. The Chinese also called it la- chhe-lor(六叉路), "la" is six, "chhe" is crossing, "lor" is road. Now the junction is reduced to five, Gladstone Road had made way for the Komtar development. Magazine Circus had also disappeared.

The Chinese also called Magazine Circus, Go-pha-teng(五葩燈)or go-kha-teng, which literally means 5 arms gaslamps, locatged at the Magazine Circus. It also called it Chhèng-ioh-keng(銃藥間), "cheng" means gun, "i-oh" means powdery substance, "keng" means an enclosed room in the building; chheng-ioh-keng means Gunpowder store or armory. I suspected the gunpowder depot was located at the place where Magazine Circus stood. This was the area where there was convict prisoners and warden presence, and their daily food were met by the Indian Muslim food sellers, which resulted in the origination of Penang famous Nasi Kandar. Magazine depot - convict prisoners - Nasi Kandar; an early food history for Nasi Kandar....

(Nasi Kandar is a popular northern Malaysian dish, which originates from Penang. It is a meal of steamed rice which can be plain or mildly flavored, and served with a variety of curries and side dishes. The rice for a nasi kandar dish is often placed in a wooden container about three feet high, giving it a distinctive aroma. The mobile Muslim Indian( or Mamak) curry rice sellers or hawkers in early Penang days, would kandar [balance] a pole on the shoulder with two huge containers of rice meals. Thus the rice of Muslim Indian is now called Nasi Kandar(rice of balancing). today the dish has become a Malaysian food for all races, food of racial balance and unity. But sadly some current political events had spoiled the delicious food history)

Magazine Road had been in my memory since childhood days, this is the road where the yellow bus(owned by the late Loh Boon Siew) need to pass, and proceed their journey to Jelutong, Glugor. Every weekend our family took the bus from Prangin Road bus station, or McNair Street bus stop in front of the corner coffee shop, to grandmother's house in Bukit Glugor, near Kampong Buah Pala/Kampong Kastam. The Tan Tong Tong singing man was staying at the shop near to the T junction closed to Anson Bridge. From the bus sometime you can see the thin dark skinned singing man playing with his musical instrument. This is the place where during the Chinese lunar calendar 9th month, the "Tow Boe Keong Kew Ong tai tay" temple(槟城头条路斗母宫九皇大帝)or Nine Emperors temple, will be busy with celebration, the vegetarian food stalls will be along the road. This is also the place where many students buying their school uniform, but not me. We were too poor to buy new school uniform during our school days. Our school uniform will added patches each year, until it cannot be used.

I still remember the large red lantern or "teng" maker Mr Lee Ah Hock, the owner of Tua Keat Seng, at 42, Magazine Road. I have talk with the old man personally, and understand the dilemma he faced. He was forced to move out from the area due to development, a interplay of development and heritage again played the force. The last time I visited the shop, he has moved, some old working materials and tengs still remain in the old shop, his workshop. Tan tong tong musical man was staying a few shops away in another row near the bridge, but there is no one to continue his trade. Will Mr Lee Ah Hock's trade continue or lost in time when he retired.....

This is the entrance of the amusement park and the cinema, the sin-man-hui-kong-si(春满园公市). The goh-chan-teng food court(五盏灯小饭中心) just located at the entrance near Magazine Circus, directly opposite Cafe Craven. It was also the road where few of my classmates stayed. This is also the place where the traditional teng produced there. It is also closed to Great World Park(大世界),Shaw Brothers' cinema, one of the busiest amusement park in the city. All these land marks had disappeared for Komtar project during the 80s,sin-man-hui-kong-si(春满园公市)was gone recently... .

The sia-buai bansang(杜尾万山)or Prangin wholesale market was near the street, connected by the Maxwell Road(the road which had been shortened due to Komtar development). Sia-buai was also demolished recently for development.

There were many Chinese association in the street(永定同乡会,惠安会馆,刘氏公会,六桂堂(方,汪,翁,龚,江及洪六姓氏组织),杜尾万山公会,司机公会等华人组织). Hui Aun Kong Hooi(惠安会馆) was established in 1914. Hui Aun is ancestral land for Hockkien from Fujian Province, China. There were many Hui Aun people staying within the area, mainly working class community, mainly construction workers, mechanic,and trishawman. The most outstanding is the Hui Aun female construction workers, who had contribute much to the development of early Penang. One of the famous Hui Aun is the late Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew. He started as mechanic and later become a rich man known as " Honda" King. It was reported that he worked as mechanic at a workshop in Rope Walk.

This is the place full of cultural activities, political activities, commercial activities...and even the underground activities of the gangland. It was the hub of typical Penang heritage, especially of working class people. The street should have retained for future generation. At least the lantern man will be able to continue making "teng"(The big lantern that hang at the door front or temple) there.

Talking about recent development of Magazine Road, tears will drop for heritage lovers and city folks. This is the No 1 Road....thau-tiau-lor or Magazine Road. But the fate of the street is not No. 1......

Magazine Road Heritage Row, Penang

Recently we see some rainbow in Magazine Road, a row of heritage houses were restored.

The Magazine Road Heritage Row is a row of ten residential townhouses along Magazine Road.They are often the homes of the merchants and traders whose business take place along the Prangin Canal and the Sia Boey market. The frequent fires sweeping the area necessitated the rebuilding in bricks.The Magazine Road Heritage Row was restored by the family of Datuk Seri Stephen Yeap (who also did the Pinang Peranakan Mansion) at a cost of RM1.8 million, engaging heritage architect Laurence Loh for the job.(Timothy Tye, 2010).

Food at Magazine Road

1. Magazine Road Teochew Porridge
What is the best way to fill up your stomach? Seating? Standing? No, both are WRONG! The best way should be squatting! Please visit to see how the early Penang working class people take their food. This is a living heritage, try it before it is too late...

2. Magazine Road Hokkien Mee
Address: Magazine Road
(infront of the Traders Hotel)
Open: 4pm-12midnight
Closed: Wednesdays,Saturdays,Sundays

3. Hoe Hock Tien Tang Yen
Address: Jln Magazine
(opposite Traders Hotel), before De Shang Lounge KTV Nite
Open: 6pm-11pm.
Close: Wednesdays and Sundays.

Related articles

1. 頭條路古蹟建築物修復落成.丹絨之役林吉祥督軍處冠英歡欣重臨41號,
2. 頭條路甜湯圓(2009),杜忠全,
3. 头条路斗母宫的宫史,
4. 过港仔的蒙尘岁月(2008),
5. Magazine Road Teochew Porridge @ Penang,
6.Demolition of shophouses along Magazine Road,
7. Magazine Road Heritage Row, Penang,
8. The Last Lantern Maker,
9. 老檳城‧老生活:碩果僅存的大吉祥,


  1. Hi! Many thanks for your detail write up!

    after listening to this song,

    was actually looking around more information on magazine road etc in penang and came across your blog.

    (ya, was wondering if you heard of this song before; its my friend's band in the video)


  2. appreciate you posts - many memories brought back