As borders remain closed, Malaysians play tourist in Penang's George Town

Local residents taking in the sights of George Town on rented bicycles.
Local residents taking in the sights of George Town on rented bicycles.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - At a time when borders are closed and interstate travel is restricted, kindergarten teacher Ain Khalid and colleagues find that now is the perfect time to explore the heritage enclave in their own backyard of George Town, Penang.

Playing tourist at Armenian Street, Ain and her friends spent Tuesday (March 30) sightseeing and window shopping in places that used to be chock-a-block with out-of-state tourists.

"It's a fresh experience for us. We've been to the heritage enclave many times, but the pace is slower and the mood more peaceful now.

"All of us live in Bayan Lepas and Sungai Ara, so we are not that far from town, but we usually do not visit these touristy areas.

"This is because the walkways are usually packed and we would have to queue under the hot sun to wait our turn to take photos.

"Now that the streets are quieter, we don't need to queue up to take photos with murals.

"There is ample time for all of us, " she said.

Ain said although they enjoyed the perks of a quiet street, they miss the times when people busked by the roadside and crowds gathered to watch street performances.

"We do hope to see the street get lively once again, " she added.

In another group, Raihanah Roslee, 21, and her friends, who came on a visit from the mainland, said they too enjoyed the slow atmosphere of Armenian Street.

"This is our first time here. We are from different states - Pahang, Terengganu and Negri Sembilan.

"Before this, we saw places on social media, but have never visited as they were too crowded for us.

"Now that we are here, it is much quieter than we expected, and the mood is less lively.

"If things get better in future, we hope to come back and experience a livelier mood, " she said.

At a nearby clothing store, owner Ailee Lim, 54, lamented that while more locals are out and about on weekends, small traders are not getting any benefit.

"Business is still as bad. Most people who come are sightseeing and window shopping. They will not buy souvenirs, " she said.