Monday, August 8, 2011

Straits Quay Marina Mall - A Mid-Autumn Festival

Location: Tanjung Tokong, Penang isle, Malaysia

There may be more than a month before Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) comes knocking on our door, but somehow the festive mood is warming up earlier than recent years. Stalls are set, decos are set, and everyone is looking at mooncakes everywhere.

A lantern above and a hut below promotes the harmony of the Malaysian races.

So how is the celebration getting a hang in Penang isle? I get to visit Straits Quay recently, and although the place is quite Western in style in the Pearl of Orient (that's the name of Penang for you ignorant lot...), decorations are on the way for visitors to get a feel of the festive season.

A giant Chinese lantern was hung in the lobby, greeting incomers with a radiant yellow. Since the Hari Raya festival will be upon us sooner than the Mid-Autumn festival, a traditional Malay hut was raised in the middle of lobby as well. With a Chinese lantern above and a Malay hut below, the place is truly ready for the festive season.

Another view of the synergy from the opposite balcony.

The Chinese lantern's design is quite unique, I have never seen something like this before.

The Chinese lantern is quite unique in my opinion. Of course, I played with lanterns with cartoons as design, so these are definitely more traditional in design than those from my childhood memory. Still, it does invoke memorable moments of me celebrating the Mooncake Festival with my family. I guess I had not had such memorable moments with my family for a long while. Maybe I should get back more often to celebrate such moments with them.

The Straits

There is a reason why this spot is named as Straits Quay. Penang isle was first famous for being an important harbor in the Malacca Straits, the one most important route to the East for the Europeans. Now imagine medieval seafarers still sailing their ships in various designs along the straits and needed to anchor off the shore to stock up on their supply. Straits Quay is the spot in the Malacca Straits for these seafarers from an imagined romantic period to rest in their journey, hence the romantic name.

The view overlooking the straits may not be a beautiful one, but it does a lot in calming my inner turmoil.

I have never visited Straits Quay at night, so I am not sure if the lighthouse is really working, but I could picture it rotating its strong beam across the straits to warn sailors the dangers of shore in the dark waters. Of course, it was not only a quay for a romantic imagination. The quay also provides a spot for vessels which bring visitors across the water from E&O Hotel, making the imagined a reality.

Under the sunny afternoon, the avenue along the seaside is deserted. If the sky is less sunny with more than a breeze, standing here will offer a cooling sensation.

It is actually quite usual to see ships of various designs docked in the quay, waiting patiently for their masters to board and sail forth seeking new adventures.

A lighthouse overlooking the quay reminds me of medieval seafarers looking for its beaming light for solace amidst a raging sea.

Not sure what kind of seafaring vessel this is, but its sleek design and reflective hull piqued my interest. 

It is not unusual to see vessels parked in the quay, floating on the turquoise water.

Sitting on the first floor of the mall, right above the lobby in the center court, will offer a vista of the infinities of the straits.

The Marina

Marina Mall is actually quite deserted even if most of the lots are almost filled with shops. Most of the businesses there are not exactly one which you will see off a usual mall, like that in Queensbay Mall; even boutiques are a rarity here (actually I only saw 1, and not one which you will simply wander in). Then again, a walk through the mall does wonder in calming a raging mind from turmoils and pressures of work.

Greenery is quite common around Marina Mall; well kept gardens added a lush green to the basic white of the building.

The mall uses white as its base color. White may be a simple and common color to be used on a building, but for Marina Mall, any view from the exterior invoke a calming sensation. For most, the dream of a little white cottage beside the sea (海边的小白屋) is a romantic one, and the mall definitely works as an enlarged version of the dream. Walking along the wide avenues surrounding the mall amidst such pristine color would be quite romantic; it is no wonder that couples loved to walk around Marina Mall in pairs, taking pictures for lovely memories. For me, Marina Mall is a parallel to a romantic house off the shores of a Mediterranean sea, with breeze greeting me through the windows every morning.

Wide avenues surrounds Marina Mall. Take a stroll through these paved walkways and relax  yourself in a pristine environment.

I guess there is another logic behind employing white for the exterior walls. White is a color which reflects light, and for a seaside harbor, nothing is more suitable than a color which reflects and amplifies light so that it can be easily seen from a distance offshore. Of course, a building dressed in white is too boring; the designers of Marina Mall understands this well, and patches of gardens added green scenes around the white mall.

A sip of a cool beverage may be a favorite pastime in the Western, but under the hot Malaysian sun, it is just a little too ridiculous...

In Straits Quay, there is never a moment without fun and activities. A flea market is currently running its course in the mall, so do pay a visit to see if you get anything you always wanted.

The architecture of Marina Mall resembles that of E&O Hotel. That is understandable, with E&O Hotel being the owner of the mall; there are even ferry services for customers of the hotel to get to Marina Mall from the hotel over the sea. The building's columns resembles architectures from the colonial period, and even shop signs reminded me of that romantic English era when sipping tea amidst white washed buildings and a green field is a norm.
Unlike most malls, sections of the mall are connected through paved, open air walkways, not enclosed air conditioned areas.

A rich amber is cast from the overhanging bulbs of lights, giving a rich orange cast over all.

Even the shops have pitched in to make Marina Mall a beauty. Here is the plot outside of Delicious Cafe, where its table and benches are matches the environment perfectly.

Another shot of Delicious Cafe, with a bar-like setting for table.

With Charlie Brown Cafe as its latest addition, Marina Mall attracted more visitors. This stretch of wall outside of the cafe is definitely a photo spot for many visitors attempting to get a shot together with the famous characters from their childhood.

Although I am writing this article based on my experience in the days leading to Mid-Autumn Festival, this is definitely a spot I recommend to take a stroll to relax and sooth a raging mind. I may not be able to meet my dream of travelling to the Mediterranean, staying in a little white cottage off the Mediterranean shores and watching the turquoise sea play with the sunlight, but I guess Straits Quay does take me closer to my dream. Definitely a must visit spot for travelers who appreciate colonial architectures cast in a modern light.

Environment:         Seaside vista, colonial architecture
Suitable for:           Romantic stroll for couples, relaxing outing for families

Getting there:        For those who are coming from Georgetown, you will want to keep to the right once you went past the traffic light near Gurney Plaza. Going along the road, road signs will not be helpful, so just proceed until you see a traffic light with multiple lanes (more than 2 lanes at least), with Island Plaza to your right. At the traffic light, turn right and proceed all the way past the rows of houses until you come across the mall.

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More info:            Straits Quay Official Website

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