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Rope Walk, George Town, Penang

Rope Walk, George Town

Rope Walk is a narrow one-way street within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site. It stretches from northeast to southwest, between Chulia Street to the north and Prangin Road to the south.

In the 19th. century, rope-making businesses were set up along the street, hence its name. At the time, ropes were widely used by bullock carts and shipping companies.

There used to be a street flea market along Rope Walk, but it has since been moved west to Lorong Kulit off Dato' Keramat Road.

Rope Walk sign, George Town, Penang

A bilingual Rope Walk sign, featuring its Chinese name. Note that the official Malay name for Rope Walk is Jalan Pintal Tali.

Today, the shophouses and more modern buildings along Rope Walk are mostly occupied by hardware businesses, as well as a handful of classy boutique hotels. A number of shophouses along the street have also been acquired by Singaporeans, leading to the street being dubbed Little Singapore.

Etymology

Rope Walk was so named due to the rope-making activities along the street in the 19th. century. At the time, ropes were made of coconut husk fibres that were spun across many girders along the street.

The Hokkiens also called the street Phah Soa Hung, meaning 'rope-weaving alley'.

As 19th. century George Town was also rife with hostilities between Chinese secret societies, Rope Walk was known as Gi Hok Kay in Hokkien and Yi Fuk Kai in Cantonese, both meaning 'the street of Teochew Ghee Hok Secret Society'.

History

Rope Walk, George Town, Penang (2)

Shophouses along Rope Walk, most of which are now occupied by hardware businesses.

Rope-making businesses were set up along Rope Walk in the 19th. century, hence its name. At the time, ropes were in great demand by bullock cart owners and shipyards. Ropes made of coconut husks were spun and woven using the many girders along the street, and were then delivered to the port by handcarts and bullock carts.

Towards the late 19th. century, as rivalries between secret societies intensified, most of these rope-spinners and cart-drivers joined the White Flag (Bendera Putih in Malay) Secret Society. The White Flag, which consisted of Malay, Indian and Javanese members, was based within the Rope Walk Mosque (Masjid Pintal Tali in Malay).

Meng Eng Soo Temple, Rope Walk, George Town, Penang

Meng Eng Soo Temple was formerly the headquarters of the Ghee Hin secret society.

During the Penang Riots in 1867, the White Flag, then led by Tuan Chee, allied itself with Ghee Hin, a Hokkien-dominated secret society which was also headquartered within the Meng Eng Soo Temple at Rope Walk.

However, by 1900, the Muslim congregation at the Rope Walk Mosque were split into two camps. The dissenting camp eventually established the Prangin Road Mosque at the southern junction between Rope Walk and Prangin Road.

For most of the 20th. century, Rope Walk was a working-class neighbourhood. A daily flea market also used to operate along the street; it has since been relocated to Lorong Kulit off Dato' Keramat Road.

Today, most of the businesses along Rope Walk specialise in hardware. The inclusion of Rope Walk as a George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 has also led to increased heritage conservation efforts, while a few shophouses along the street have been refurbished and converted into opulent boutique hotels.

1881 Chong Tian Hotel, Rope Walk, George Town, Penang

Shophouses along Rope Walk have been restored and converted into boutique hotels, such as the 1881 Chong Tian Hotel.

More recently, a row of shophouses near the southern end of Rope Walk has been purchased and spruced up by Singaporeans. Due to the similarities in appearance with the restored shophouses in Singapore, these shophouses gave Rope Walk its new moniker - Little Singapore. A side effect of this has been the skyrocketing rental rates around the area.

Religion

  • Meng Eng Soo Temple
  • Rope Walk Mosque
  • Prangin Road Mosque

Hotels

  • 1881 Chong Tian Hotel
  • Le Dream Boutique Hotel
  • Rope Walk Guesthouse
Rope Style wrought iron sculpture, Rope Walk, George Town, Penang

Rope Style Iron Sculpture, Rope Walk

Street Art

The Rope Style wrought iron sculpture has been placed just north of the junction between Rope Walk and Kimberley Street. A reflection of the street's past, its description is as follows.

Rope Walk was named after the rope making activities on the street.

Food

  • Pak Hock Coffee Shop
  • Leong Kee Dim Sum Restaurant
  • Sri Malaya Restaurant
  • Le Dream Skybar

Political Representation

Penang State Government

Northern stretch between Chulia Street and Campbell Street

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

Southern stretch between Campbell Street and Prangin Road

N.28 Komtar State Assemblyman : Teh Lai Heng (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/rope-walk.htm
  3. http://business.asiaone.com/property/news/singaporeans-invading-penang-pre-war-properties

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