The clan jetties of Penang

Penang is a colourful mix of Indian, Malay and Chinese culture. At one time you could feel like you’re in India (a very clean version of it) and then if you walk two streets down you’ll feel like you’re in an old kind of Southern China (again, a very clean version of it). It’s quite amazing!

I visited a particularly curious Chinese area, which were the Chinese clan jetties.
chinese clan jetties penang

They were built at the end of the 19th century by Chinese traders who came to Penang and needed a place to stay. They settled on those jetties as a temporary solution back then. Each clan had its own jetty and is still living there today.

Only people with the last name Lim would be living on the Lim jetty, for example.

chinese clan jetties penang

The jetties have been threatened to be demolished several times over the last decades. However they are now part of the Unesco World Heritage site that is Georgetown and are staying for the foreseeable future.
chinese clan jetties penang

It’s kind of an odd place. There are about 20 or so houses built along each of the six jetties. The houses are built on stilts in the water. There are shops, temples and I even saw a guesthouse. That could be an interesting experience to stay there.

chinese clan jetties penang chinese clan jetties penang

I tried to peek into some of the houses and the insides reminded me more of a boat than of a real house.

chinese clan jetties penang

It’s surreal to think that this is a thriving community on the water. But the locals don’t seem to mind. They pray at the temples, ride their motorbikes up and down the wooden planks (even though some are starting to rot and to come off!), they have pets, pot plants… Sure, why not?

chinese clan jetties penang chinese clan jetties penang

And I heard that apparently they don’t have to pay certain types of taxes because they don’t live on the land!


chinese clan jetties penang

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