Monday, May 9, 2011

Picture Blog #20 : Clan Jetties - Century-Old Waterfront Living

Clan Jetties - Unique settlements created by Chinese immigrants
from common origins.

I island-hopped last week.

It was a short trip from the Singapore island (710km2) in the South to the Penang island, Malaysia (293km2) in the North. My flight took just about an hour. However, it would have taken me 8-10 hours by car or 12 hours in a coach. I am talking about a 700km island hopping here.

Map of Singapore and Malaysia

Penang Island is Pulau Pinang in Malay. Literally translated, it means the 'Isle of the Betel Nut' in Malay. It is also known as the 'Pearl of The Orient'. In 1786, Captain Francis Light founded the British colony of Penang and in 1832, Penang formed part of the Straits Settlement with Malacca and Singapore.

George Town is the captial town of Penang. Named after King George III, the town is a modern city which can zip you back in time with its well-preserved past. In 2008, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Part of the popular local TV serial, The Little Nonya (小娘惹), was filmed there. I can totally understand why.

You can find out more about Penang from the official Penang Tourism website. In this picture blog, I will just bring you right into the Clan Jetties. These jetties, located along the Weld Quay (see map), are traditional Chinese fishing settlements since the 19th century. More than a hundred years later, let's see how this unique waterfront communities juxtaposed with the 21st century modern age.

The pictures will tell you the rest.

The Clan Jetties are located along the waterfront of
George Town. Each
of these jetties are named after the
respective last names of the clans.

Modern buildings of George Town form
a contrast with the jetties.

Each jetty is accessible from the main road
Weld Quay marked by a signpost . [Pic]

The Chew Jetty is the largest. Others are: Koay, Lee, Lim,
Peng Aun, Tan, Yeoh and Mixed Clans Jetties.

The families at the Chew Jetty are descendants
Xin Lin She village of the
Fujian Province. 

The residents at the Mixed Surname Jetty are
from various other origins. Due to their relatively
smaller numbers, their predecessors came together
and lived on this jetty. 

Wooden houses are built on both sides
of the jetty and bicycles and motorcycles
are parked right outside the house.

Apparently, the early dwellers chose to settle in homes
above water to avoid paying property tax imposed
by the colonial government in the
early 20th century.

A typical house on the jetty. [Pic]

The walkway of Clan Jetties are made from wooden
planks over water.

Some of the walkways can be
rather narrow.

Some houses have their own fenced compound. [Pic]

Modern sanitation is generally lacking and
fire hazard is a real thread.

A house cat behind a wooden fence. [Pic]

Fishing is the main source of livelihood. However, some
houses are used for commercial purposes such as
hair salon, sundry and homestay.

A fishing boat docked by the jetty. [Pic]

A wooden jetty extended out to the Penang Channel.  [Pic]

Temples are central to the lives of the
residents. Seen here is a temple at
the Tan Jetty.

During low tides, fishing boats would
just be stranded on silt seabed.

A simple sign seen at the Clan Jetties, reminding visitors
of the recognition given by the UNESCO. 

How many more times can these wooden planks
be replaced before the jetties give way
to urban renewal?

A resident giving his house a fresh coat of paint.
How many more good years can he expect
at the Clan Jetties?  

The Clan Jetties are constantly being threatened by city
modernization. Lots of support would be needed
to keep them for the next generation. 

Will there be much left in the years to come?
Something for everyone to think about. 

See it for yourself, before it fades
into the background.

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." ~ Leslie Poles Hartley~


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