Kampung Malabar, George Town, Penang

Kampung Malabar, George Town

Kampung Malabar is a narrow two-way street within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located within the city's Chinatown, Kampung Malabar runs straight between Penang Road to the west and Cintra Street to the east.

The area around the street was initially part of a huge Indian enclave of George Town. Malabaris from southern India, in particular, settled along the street in the early 19th. century. Over the next 100 years, Chinese and Japanese traders gradually took over Kampung Malabar, hence becoming part of George Town's Chinatown.

Kampung Malabar sign, George Town, Penang

A bilingual Kampung Malabar sign, featuring its Tamil name.


Kampung Malabar means 'Malabar Village' in Malay. It refers to the first settlers of the area, who were Malabaris from southwestern India. At the time, most Malabaris found employment as construction workers and craftsmen; the Malabaris reputedly built most of the government buildings in Penang.

At the turn of the 20th. century, there was an influx of Japanese traders who set up shops along Kampung Malabar. As a result, the Cantonese called the street Jit Pun Kay, meaning 'Japanese street'.


Kampung Malabar has been in existence since at least the mid-19th. century. Malabaris from Kerala in southwestern India began to settle within the vicinity of the street in the early 19th. century.

At the time, Kampung Malabar was part of a massive Indian enclave of George Town, which stretched as far south as Chowrasta Market. Interestingly, Chulia Street to the north was initially named Malabar Street, due to the influx of Malabaris who were brought in by the British as convict labourers.

Throughout the 19th. century and into the early 20th. century, the Malabaris were often employed as construction workers; they were said to have built many of George Town's colonial government buildings. In addition, the Malabaris found employment as craftsmen who designed the masonry and fine plasterwork inside elite Muslim homes and government buildings.

Towards the end of the 19th. century, Chinese traders, especially the Cantonese, began arriving along Kampung Malabar. The influx of the Cantonese, and later the Japanese, led to a change in the street's characteristics. From an Indian-dominated street, Kampung Malabar gradually became part of George Town's new Chinatown, as Cantonese and Japanese traders set up businesses along the street.

Japanese businesses and brothels were also established along the adjoining Cintra Street. It was alleged that, prior to World War 2, these Japanese-owned shops were used as fronts for espionage activities within British Penang. With the end of the war in 1945, all Japanese presence along Kampung Malabar and Cintra Street were erased.

Spy wrought iron sculpture, Cintra Street, George Town, Penang

Spy Iron Sculpture at the junction between Kampung Malabar and Cintra Street.

Street Art

The 'Spy' wrought iron sculpture was installed at the eastern junction between Kampung Malabar and Cintra Street. It commemorates the area's past as a nest for Japanese spies engaged in covert activities against the British before World War 2.

Its description is as follows :

"In the early 20th. century, the slightly risque reputation of this area was further enhanced by the presence of Japanese camera shops which were suspected of covert spying activities."


From west to east :

  • Ho Ping Cafe
  • Gou Lou Coffee Shop
  • Hon Kei Food Corner

Political Representation

Penang State Government

N.26 Padang Kota State Assemblyman : Chow Kon Yeow (Democratic Action Party)

Malaysian Federal Parliament

P.049 Tanjong Member of Parliament : Ng Wei Aik (Democratic Action Party)


  1. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books.

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