Friday, January 23, 2009

January 22, 2009 - Penang, Malaysia

You never know what you might find down an alley in Georgetown. Off of Armenian Street, we stumbled across this old kongsi, or clan house. The kongsi functions both as a meeting hall and a temple for the Chinese who emigrated to Penang. There are kongsi all over Penang, in various states of repair. We were welcomed into this one by a man with a big smile and very little English who was thrilled to show us around his clan house, which was founded in 1820.

Dragons guarding the entrance to Cheah Kongsi

The early immigrants from China to Malaysia were primarily male. They intermarried with Malay women, forming a new group of people known as the Peranakans, which means 'half-caste' in Malay. The Peranakans retained the religions of their fathers and the customs of their mothers. Theirs is a very colorful culture. Peranakan food is a wonderful blend of Malay and Chinese cooking styles and ingredients.

Tiffin carriers at the Peranakan Mansion

Just south of the marina are a series of houses perched over the sea on stilts. These are known locally as the Clan Jetties, as each is named after the clan. This traditional Chinese waterfront settlement is still home to fishermen, but times are changing. Strolling the jetties just before sundown we crossed paths with a few young professionals returning home in time for dinner with their families.

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