The Clan Jetties
Penang's fascinating stilted villages
What we say:
Beginning in the 1880s, immigrants arrived in Georgetown from China to work as coolies and ship hands in the port at Pengkalan Weld. Originally built over tidal mud flats as moors for boats, a series of jetties became associated with immigrant clans.
Because they could not afford housing on the land, members of these clans built clusters of stilted homes around the jetties. Known as the clan jetties, these continue to exist today as villages occupied by descendents of the first immigrants.
At the southern end of Pengkalan Weld, opposite the junction with Gat Lebuh Melayu, is the Yeoh Jetty. Heading north from there, you'll find jetties belonging to the Mixed, Lee, Tan and Chew clans. While the Lee jetty was built in the 1960s around wider boardwalks than its predecessors, the Chew jetty dates all the way to the 1880s and is perhaps the best -- though also most touristy -- example of the clan jetties.
Its main thoroughfare has a fair amount of stalls peddling tourist tat, but the side passages of the Chew jetty offer the chance to get a sense for life as it has existed for decades in these unusual neighbourhoods. Ancient looking bicycles, rows of potted plants, family ancestor shrines and fishermen offloading their catch are some of the photogenic sights you'll encounter. Keep in mind that the jetties are living communities; make sure to get permission before you push a Nikon in the face of villagers.
To reach the jetties, it's necessary to cross the not-so-attractive Pengkalan Weld road, which serves as the city's ferry and port terminal. Beyond the rundown warehouses and motorcycle repair shops, you will find the jetties. Chew jetty is the furthest north, across from a Shell petrol station, and the others are well worth a wander as well.
More detailsWeld Quay, Georgetown
Last updated: 18th April, 2013
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