November 13, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – A strange quiet pervaded the streets in Penang during the Deepavali holiday.
But a check on the markets and hawker joints that tourists are unaware of, there were traffic jams and desperate waits for empty tables at coffeeshops yesterday.
A heartwarming balik kampung atmosphere filled the air as Penangites working out-of-state used the Deepavali break to return home, leaving well-trodden tourist attractions in Penang alone.
The homecoming mood for the long weekend also registered with state tourism and creative economy committee chairman Wong Hon Wai, who said reports from local hotels showed encouraging domestic tourism occupancy rates.
“Many people, especially locals, have taken this opportunity to spend time with their families and booked hotel stays until Tuesday (tomorrow).
“They are locals living out-of-town who take this time to return Penang,” he said yesterday.
A check around George Town and Seberang Jaya yesterday morning showed that while tourist haunts were not jam-packed, areas patronised by locals, such as Chai Leng Park and Bukit Mertajam’s old market on the mainland, were packed.
Equally jammed up on the island were hawker centres in Batu Lanchang, Jelutong, Island Glades, Pulau Tikus market and various other local hangouts that most tourists are not aware of.
It was only later in the day, after visitors woke up from the previous night’s revelry, that the usual haunts, including Armenian Street in the heart of George Town’s heritage enclave, filled up again.
Technician Robert Lam, 35, from Pahang, was here with his family.
“Penang has been our family’s favourite destination for many years,” he said, adding that they planned on an eating spree of hawker food, from char kuey teow to cendol and nasi kandar.
Lam said they had taken a flight from Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
A check by The Star found that popular locations such as Penang Road and the Esplanade were abuzz with crowds, while places like Batu Feringghi were packed with visitors taking pictures with their relatives and friends.
The long weekend was attributed to Deepavali yesterday, while schools will only resume on Wednesday.
On the mainland, decades-old Penang Bird Park was a hive of activity.
Chandru Raman, 51, was spotted with his five-year-old son, Hetvick Nair, there yesterday.
He said this year’s Deepavali was more of a family reunion because his mother had passed away early this year, so it was inappropriate to have a full-blown celebration.
“We did not invite anyone to our house; my wife cooked a simple meal, and I brought my son out for a while,” he said.
R. Ilangkumaran, 23, from Ipoh, took an express bus to Butterworth with friends K. Kishalini, 21, and K. Kishen, 22.
He said Penang Bird Park was a must-go for them, and they later planned on getting asam laksa in Ayer Itam before returning to Ipoh today.
Kedahan Shahrul Faridzuan Osman, 29, said the long weekend was the perfect opportunity for him and his family to spend quality time together.
“My car workshop is closed until Tuesday, so I have time to treat my family to something memorable,” said the mechanic.
Penang Bird Park director Dr Gino Ooi said it welcomed a good number of visitors yesterday.
The park showcases about 250 bird species and other animals.