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Little India, Penang – My Vanakkam Experience

Posted by on Apr 21st, 2009
Filed Under: Featured, Penang, Photos

Ever since covering this year’s Thaipusam procession (on the eve) along the grounds in Little India, I knew I had to come back for more. I had passed by this place several times, mostly for other assignments and each time, the temptation to snap a few shots would get the better of me.

My thoughts through the lens

So on last Saturday, I made sure that my mind was purely on Little India and anything else could wait. Covering the notable areas around Lebuh Queen, Lebuh Chulia and Lebuh Pasar (Market Street) that make up Little India in the heart of George Town, I was greeted by the sights, sounds and scents. The sights of the dhoti-wearing men, the saree-clad ladies; the sound of Indian music blaring from the shops selling Bollywood movies and traditional Indian songs from shops and street stalls. Above all, who could disregard the scent of spices and incense wafting through the air in a dizzying concoction?

My heart was led astray.

Here’s my story and the scenes captured. In the meantime, let me savor some of the things I brought home with me this time around. Hmmm, I think my camera smells rather spicy now from the walk around Little India. Well, spice is nice!

Meendum santhipom! Vanakkam!
All photos and texts by Calvin Kwok


Little India, Penang, Mahamariamman temple

The imposing Mahamariamman temple, quite possibly THE icon in Little India. The temple is over a hundred years old with a charm that can only be best experienced first hand.


Little India, Penang, Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha, brother of Lord Muruga, guarding the inner shrine. The Mahamariamman temple is rich in history and definitely rich in colors as well.


Little India, Penang, Brightly-colored sarees

Brightly-colored sarees being lined up high on this saree shop, making them a bold and vivid advertisement to woo potential customers.


Little India, Penang, Indian Uncle

Standing among the sarees in his shop, I asked this ‘uncle’ if I could take a picture of him. He willingly obliged and his straight-as-arrow pose sort of make him appear like one of the mannequins behind him. I smiled.


Little India, Penang, colorful incense sticks

A close-up look: Boxes of colorful incense sticks being lined outside an Indian wholesaler’s shop. Walking around Little India, I was made to feel welcome by the sweet-smelling aroma from the incense sticks that seemed to fill the air every turn I took.


Little India, Penang, brightly-colored prayer garlands

An assortment of brightly-colored prayer garlands can be found at various shops in Little India


Little India, Penang, Butcher

Not for the faint-hearted: I was very drawn to the cube-like shapes of the machine-cut meat. They remind me of the square-shaped melons that they had (or still have?) in Taiwan or China. The blood and contours of the meat add further drama to this scene, in my opinion. The butcher, Encik Tajudden, was very accommodating and allowed me to take several shots of him at work.


Little India, Penang, Street Vendor

A street vendor with his array of goodies; candies, juicy magazines on the latest Bollywood gossips, fruits, ointments and other knick-knacks. I find it amusing that despite the space constraint, these vendors are able to lay out their wares in a very neat and presentable manner


Little India, Penang, Indian Bookstore

One of the Indian bookstores found in China Street with a bright yellow signboard which caught my eyes almost instantly. The hunched figure of an Indian lady add a sense of silence and loneliness, perhaps from waiting for the shop to be opened


Little India, Penang, Flowers Motif

Two men walking along a giant motif on the street.. Street engravings, with embossed motifs of flowers and other similar-inspired designs, are quite a sight in Little India so do take note of them the next time you are there


Little India, Penang, Craftsmen

Master craftsmen at work in a jewellery shop along Market Street. Although very much engaged in their work, they were still very welcoming and obliging with their smiles when I approached them


Little India, Penang, Roti Canai

What is Penang without its food? Freshly-prepared roti canai and murtabak tempting the taste buds of anyone who walks by. Shot from the Sri Ananda Bahwan Restaurant which serves northern and southern Indian cuisine. A must-have quick tuck before heading off home for me

Malaysia Travel Guide Photographer

Born, bred and schooled within the vicinity of George Town; Penang has been my home for over twenty years. As a way of saying ‘Welcome to Penang’, I would like to share scenes of Penang with you from my perspective as a keen amateur photographer. More [+]

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8 Responses »

  1. Another great photo essay Calvin. I love how the colors stand out for some photos, and of course the captions; the story behind each photo definitely draws me closer to them.

    For me, the incense photo is the one that stood out for me, amazing colors, and the elephant adds to the feel of the whole little india article.

    Two thumbs up.

  2. Hi Grace,
    Thank you very much and I’m really glad you enjoyed this photo essay.
    Your words really inspire and encourage me.

  3. Very good photos! Enjoyed all your blogs so far, and be looking forward to your next!! Is it every monday?

    Can you do one on the street food scenes in Penang? I live in UK, and always read and heard about how special it is.

  4. Thanks very much, Jonathan. I try my best to have the photo essays on every week (every Monday or Tuesday if possible).

    I’d love to focus on Penang’s street food one of these days, so keep on coming back to this travel guide for updates! :O)

  5. I like this series alot, even though I don’t think I will fancy a walk in Little India anytime soon. The ‘uncle’ in photo4 looks unreal!

  6. Ha ha..yeah.. :O) The uncle does look unreal at a glance.
    He did not speak much; I guess the mutual respect we had for each other was more than enough at that time.

  7. Hi Calvin, came across your photos while doing some research for work. Your pictures of little india is awesome. I grew up in Penang and can relate to those pictures. The captions that you added are very unique and shows creativity. Well done and keep up the good work!

  8. Hey there Juanita,
    Thanks very much for your kind comments.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures and the write-up.

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