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Love Lane, George Town, Penang (3)

Love Lane, George Town

Love Lane, within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a narrow lane that runs from north to south, linking Farquhar Street and Chulia Street. Today, the rustic shophouses along Love Lane have been converted into budget hostels, trendy cafes and bars.

Love Lane sign, George Town, Penang

This bilingual Love Lane sign, with the lane's Chinese name, was placed onto a wall.

It is unknown how exactly Love Lane got its name. Several theories abound, ranging from a British officer who was supposedly named Love to the Shi'ite Muslim practice of self-flagellation. What was known was that, true to its name, the lane was once teeming with brothels, while some Peranakan and Chinese businessmen also kept their mistresses here.

Etymology

To this day, it is not clear how the lane came to be known as Love Lane. Three differing theories abound.

  1. Shi'ite Indian Muslims who came to George Town in the early 19th. century would stage a self-flagellation procession during the annual Muharram festival, in which devotees would torture themselves using swords, skewers, coals and even by swinging from tenterhooks. With each step, the devotees would shout "Hassan ! Hussain !" in honour of the sons of Ali, Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law. The procession would grow to its largest size upon reaching Chulia Street, before proceeding through Love Lane towards the northern beaches. Onlookers were awed by these acts of devotion that the lane was named Love Lane due to the devotees' love of Ali's family.
  2. A British officer, supposedly named Love, was said to have been once posted in George Town.
  3. Some say that the lane was where European sailors and soldiers hooked up with local ladies among the bamboo groves. Brothels were then established along Love Lane. Later, as the Chinese and the Peranakans moved in, some businessmen kept their mistresses along the lane.

The Chinese also had different names for Love Lane. Initially, the lane was known as Serani Hang in Penang Hokkien, meaning Eurasian Lane, as there was a high concentration of Eurasians along the lane.

Later, the Hokkiens also called the lane Ai1 Ceng3 Hang33, meaning Love Lane.

History

Love Lane, George Town, Penang (2)

Love Lane, George Town

As early as 1803, Love Lane had already appeared on a map of George Town. At the time, Catholic Eurasians fleeing persecution across the region had followed Captain Francis Light to George Town and populated the lane. They also built the Church of the Assumption immediately east of the junction between Love Lane and Farquhar Street in 1857.

Love Lane, George Town, Penang (4)

Love Lane as seen from the junction with Chulia Street

If the theories are proven correct, it would mean that from the beginning, Love Lane has witnessed a sense of vibrant multiculturalism. Shi'ite Indian Muslims would annually stage the self-flagellation procession through the lane, while European sailors and soldiers would also meet up with Chinese ladies along Love Lane.

What is generally known was that, in the late 19th. century, the rich Peranakan and Chinese businessmen also began moving into the lane and the adjoining Muntri Street. Some of these businessmen kept their mistresses along the lane, which was also notorious for its numerous brothels.

Today, however, Love Lane maintains a trendier, if not hippier, image. Most pre-war shophouses along both sides of Love Lane have been refurbished and used as budget hostels, cafes and bars. A few shops that cater for tourists have also been set up here.

Carpenters' Guild (Loo Pun Hong), Love Lane, George Town, Penang

The Chinese Carpenters' Guild, also known as Loo Pun Hong.

Notable Landmarks

From north to south :

Love Lane, George Town, Penang (5)

Refurbished shophouses at Love Lane have been turned into budget hostels and guesthouses.

Hotels

Similar to the adjoining Chulia Street, Love Lane is home to several budget hostels.

From north to south :

  • You Le Yuan
  • Old Penang Guesthouse
  • Red Inn Heritage Guesthouse
  • Reggae Penang Hostel
  • 23 Love Lane
  • The 80's Guesthouse
  • Wan Hai Hotel
  • Love Lane Inn

Street Art

Budget Hotel iron sculpture, Love Lane, George Town, Penang

Budget Hotel Iron Sculpture, Love Lane

There are a couple of wrought iron sculptures along Love Lane.

  • Budget hotels sculpture
    • Description : At the turn of the last century, many shophouses were turned into cheap hotels, making this internationally known tourist strip very popular with backpackers.
  • Cheating husband sculputre
    Cheating Husband iron sculpture, Love Lane, George Town, Penang

    Cheating Husband Iron Sculpture, Love Lane

    • Description : The local Chinese say the rich men who lived on Muntri Street kept their mistresses here, hence the name 'Ai Cheng Hang' or Love Lane.

Food

There are also a number of trendy and hippy cafes and bars along Love Lane. Among them are :

  • Micke's Place
  • Wheeler's Coffee

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)

References

  1. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Books.
  2. http://www.penang-traveltips.com/love-lane.htm

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