Trip to Chowrasta Market, Penang (A Complete Guide)

Posted by shloke 17 September 2012
I LOVE street photography! It captures seemingly insignificant moments in time and makes them last forever. The street, the smell and the peeps - full of surprises, photographical or otherwise! It never ceases to amuse me. Just be BRAVE, TALK to people, and be COMFORTABLE in the fact that no matter what kind of a camera you bought, you are a photographer. hehe...I sound like a pro photog :)

On Day 2 of my Penang trip, I walked all the way to Chowrasta Market (Malay: Pasar Chowrasta, in Urdu, Chowrasta means "four cross roads"). The market, it is bordered by Penang Road, Chowrasta Road, Kuala Kangsar Road and Tamil Street (Malay: Lebuh Tamil).

It was an unusually quiet morning in Georgetown, Penang. I guess hours of drizzle, it dampens everyone's spirit. Definitely not a good day for street photography - dark and cloudy sky. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing the one and only Chowrasta Market in Penang Island - the much talked about wet market with over 122 years of history.

Let's take a few minutes to look at the history of Chowrasta Market. Studying the events of the past give us an understanding of how the market has changed over time. So here are some historical facts to know:

  1. The area around Chowrasta Market has been a settlement for Tamils from Kadayanallur in southern India (in present-day Tamil Nadu), since the mid 19th century. In fact, the entire stretch of George Town from Market Street through Chulia Street ending at present-day Penang Road and Transfer Road was an expansive Indian settlement that dwindled in size over time, to only Little India as well as various other pockets in the city.
  2. In the 1870s and particularly 1880s, a massive influx of Chinese immigrants replaced the Indians in places such as Campbell Street, Kimberley Street and Cintra Street. Even the originally Indian Chulia Street saw a makeover as many Cantonese and Hakka moved in.
  3. For that reason, it was known as "Kelinga Ban San" in Hokkien, meaning "South Indian Market." To this day, there are still shops along Lebuh Tamil that are run by the Tamil community of Chowrasta Market. 
  4. The first permanent market building was erected by the Commissioners of the Municipality of George Town - precursor of the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang, MPPP - in the year 1890, at the cost of $16,471. The structure, which is single storey tall, remained unchanged until 1960.
  5. In 1961, the old market was demolished to make way for the new structure, built at a cost of $1,310,000, and is still standing to this day. When it was completed, it was one of the first buildings in Penang to be fitted with escalators, which brings wide-eyed users straight to the wet market level. There were also four service lifts. Both of these have since been dismantled.
  6. The market will be given a multi-million ringgit facelift under the watchful eyes of award-winning architect Laurence Loh who famously restored both Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and the Khoo Kongsi that was gazetted a World Heritage Site in 2008.
NOTE: Facts and numbers are obtained from Penang Travel Tips and The Malaysian Insider.

I've spent almost two hours exploring every nook and cranny of Chowrasta Market. I was expecting a HUGE... market spanning over five football fields. But, I was wrong....Chowrasta Market, is pretty small compared to Selayang Wholesale Market (Malay: Pasar Borong Selayang) and Bazaar Baru Chow Kit (English: Chow Kit New Bazaar) in Kuala Lumpur.  

The one thing that stands out above the rest is the availability of pork - PLENTY OF THEM! Pork, pork here, pork, pork there, everywhere! Delicious and mouth watering char siew (English: pork barbecued meat) and siew yoke (English: crispy roast pork). Indeed the pork display is a sight to behold. You won't see that in Kuala Lumpur. Other than that, there are the usual hawker stalls with tropical fruits, meat and veggies. 

So, in a nutshell, street photography can be a challenge, depending on how you want to tackle the peeps on the streets. I have to say, most Penangites are camera shy.  I need to talk to them to earn their trust before taking their pictures. I am a chatty person by nature. The technique works like a charm almost every time :)

That's all peeps. I'll let the pictures do the talking. Click 'LIKE' if you enjoyed reading this article and find it useful. SHARING is CARING.


Title: Hanging roast chicken
About: This is pretty interesting. I stumbled upon some hot roasted chicken in front of a meat shop in Chowrasta Market. Did you notice the old lady behind? Well, she was buying Char Siew aka Chinese barbecued meat.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/60 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/4.8
FOCAL LENGTH: 48mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Chop, Chop Chop
About: Another meat shop with three butchers working nonstop. All I can hear was "CHOP! CHOP! CHOP!". These men are true professionals :)

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/15 s
ISO: 640
F-STOP: f/4.5
FOCAL LENGTH: 35mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: More pork chops
About: It's not easy pointing a camera at strangers. These workers were busy chopping. I do not want to interfere with their routines. Also, they were countless of people walking up and down with piles of meat. You just gotta find your little place and freeze that precious moment.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/15 s
ISO: 640
F-STOP: f/3.8
FOCAL LENGTH: 21mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Yau ja gwai 油条 anyone? (English: Chinese oil/bread stick)
About: I found at least two stalls selling ja gwai in Chowrasta Market. These Chinese crullers are super easy to make. Just dip the strips into the boiling hot oil and deep-fry till it is golden brown. DELICIOUS!
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 280
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 50mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: More ja gwai, please...
About: A lady hawker frying ja gwai in a giant skillet filled with hot oil.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 32mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Cut me open (1)
About: A precise incision is cut in the belly of the fish and the egg sack is removed whole.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 360
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 28mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200



Title: Cut me open (2)
About: A butcher pulling out the precious egg sacs. It's a delicate operation :)
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 360
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 105mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Cut me open (3)
About: Look at the weighing scale!  Not one, but six HUGE egg sacs!
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 320
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 30mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: A few BAD apples
About: I remember this shot vividly. WHY? The hawker was staring at me with his vicious look. He was kinda angry. I guess he was pissed big time when I photographed some of his rotten fruits.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 180
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 42mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Kedai Buku Lama (English: Secondhand Bookshops)
About: The bookstores upstairs are all piled high with books and magazines. You can find almost any type of book here.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 140
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 25mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Stuff it in
About: One of my favorite shots.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 125
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 70mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: The foreign helper
About: A Bangladeshi butcher in one of the pork shops. Malaysia heavily relies on foreign workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar in sectors like construction, plantation and services. Economic migrants as cheap labor.
VIEW HI-RES

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/20 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/4.5
FOCAL LENGTH: 40mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: The man and the boos
About: The lady boss was busy with her accounts.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/30 s
ISO: 400
F-STOP: f/3.8
FOCAL LENGTH: 22mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200


Title: Making a living
About: A hawker selling freshly caught seafood.

Photo Technical Details:
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/125 s
ISO: 320
F-STOP: f/5.6
FOCAL LENGTH: 24mm
CAMERA: Nikon D3200

NOTE: Last updated Sept 17th, 2012 (12:51 p.m.)

Chowrasta Market  - Getting There, Directions:

Chowrasta Market is located 1 km away from Lebuh Chulia (English: Chulia Street aka backpacker street) and within walking distance to Penang Georgetown World Heritage Site (UNESCO).

Google Maps:


View Larger Map

Chowrasta Market - Things to See and Do:

  1. Eat: char siew (English: pork barbecued meat), siew yoke (English: crispy roast pork), bean paste biscuits, preserved nutmeg, Tau Sar Piah (English: Mung bean pastry), and dried fruits.
  2. Visit old secondhand bookshop
  3. Check out the pork shops
  4. Explore the wet market

Address of Chowrasta Market:
Jalan chowrasta, 10000 Penang, Malaysia

Chowrasta Market - YouTube video (courtesy of Khusbud Digital Video):



Chowrasta Market - Read More and Useful Links:

  1. Chowrasta Market by Penang-Traveltips (Comprehensive Guide)
  2. Bazaar Chowrasta by Malaysiasite (Website Review)
  3. Chowrasta Market and Conservation by Malaysian Insider (News Report)

1 Responses to Trip to Chowrasta Market, Penang (A Complete Guide)

  1. You've captured some great candid portraits here. Street photography is my favourite genre of travel photography.

     
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shloke
Traveling & photography are the most rewarding & enriching experiences in my life. Photography is all about discovery, enjoying myself, having adventure, learning people & nature. The greatest experience for me is the connection I felt with NATURE. If you haven’t seen Malaysia, you haven’t seen the world! My photography works are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.
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