Air Itam

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Not to be confused with Ayer Hitam, a rest town in Johor, Malaysia.
Not to be confused with Ayer Itam, a rest town in Perak, Malaysia.
Air Itam
亚依淡
Town
Air Itam is located in Peninsular Malaysia
Air Itam
Air Itam
Location in Peninsular Malaysia
Air Itam is located in Malaysia
Air Itam
Air Itam
Location in Malaysia
Coordinates: 5°24′22″N 100°17′47″E / 5.40611°N 100.29639°E / 5.40611; 100.29639
Country Malaysia
State Penang
District North-East Penang Island
Government
 • Member of Parliament (Bukit Bendera) Zairil Khir Johari (DAP)
 • State assemblyman Wong Hon Wai (DAP)
 • Tuan Yang Di-Pertua MPSP Dato' Patahiyah binti Ismail
Time zone Malaysian Standard Time (UTC+8)
 • Summer (DST) Not observed (UTC)
Postal code 11400
A RapidPenang bus passing through Air Itam.
Kek Lok Si Temple complex viewed from Air Itam market
Jade Emperor's Pavilion Main Prayer Hall
The buildings in the foreground form part of Air Itam, as viewed from Penang Hill

Air Itam (Malay for black water) is a town in Penang, Malaysia. The famous Kek Lok Si Temple (極樂寺) and Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) are situated there. A famous Chinese secondary school, named Chung Ling High School, is located in Jalan Air Itam. The State Mosque, or Masjid Negeri, is also located there. Bandar Baru Air Itam is a town near Air Itam. Air Itam is famous for its 'laksa' which is located at the junction of Kek Lok Si Temple. The primary ethnicity of Air Itam is Chinese. Also located along Jalan Padang Tembak here is the Rifle Range Flats, the oldest apartment in Penang.

Geography[edit]

Located in the valley between Bukit Batu Lanchang (Batu Lanchang Hill), Bukit Penara and Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill), this suburb of George Town is connected to the city by two main roads, i.e. Jalan Air Itam and Lorong Batu Lanchang. It is also connected to Paya Terubong and the south of the island via Jalan Paya Terubong. The town covers a broad area that incorporates Farlim, Thean Teik Estate, Rifle Range, Kampung Bahru, Kampung Melayu, Hill Railway Road, Hye Keat Estate, extending as far east as the junction with York Road.[1]

History[edit]

Captain Francis Light had established agriculture on the island which was based on growing pepper. Pepper was first cultivated in Air Itam valley. Today, flowers, fruits and vegetables are still grown on the surrounding hills. Nutmeg is a popular fruit found in this part of Penang Island.

A wealthy monk by the name of Fa Kong, which means "Empty Dharma", had built a zoo here . He was said to be a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. The Penang Zoological Gardens, which was open in the 1920s, houses different kinds of animals and was the earliest zoo in the country. It was closed down in the 1940s due to excessive high maintenance. It was located in a plot of land which today is known as Jalan Zoo (Zoo Road). [2]

On February 3, 1935, a big fire which was due to gust of wind which blew burning incense papers destroyed more than 100 wooden house and attap houses, with only two buildings remained. This incident was known as the Great Air Itam Fire. [3]

Eastern Garden Amusement Park which has a large public swimming pool was established in the 1950s used to be located there. It was forced to closed down when it became unpopular after several incidents of drowning. [4]

Local Attractions[edit]

Landmarks[edit]

Located atop Crane Hill (白鹤山), it is Penang's most well known Buddhist temple, which is also the largest in Southeast Asia. The temple consists of a 7-storey handcrafted "Pagoda of the Ten-Thousand Buddhas" which was completed in 1930 and a 30.2m-high bronze statue of Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) which was completed in 2002. Over 200,000 decorative lights and lanterns would illuminate the entire temple complex during Chinese New Year.

This majestic hill resort which sits 830m above sea level offers a panoramic view of the entire city of George Town. The summit of this hill is accessible by travelling in a funicular train or simply by hiking. At the summit, there is a flower garden, a mini bird park, bungalows and guesthouses.

  • Thnee Kong Thnua (Jade Emperor's Temple)

The temple is located at the end of the Penang Hill Viaduct Trail that leads to the bottom station of the funicular train. The temple sits on Phoenix Mountain (Fuo Shan) that resembles a horse. Four sacred creatures of Taoism green dragon, white tiger, black turtle and red peacock, guard the temple from four different directions. It is believed that by sitting on this high elevation of the hill, it majestically guards different levels of heavens. This temple is also popular especially during the Jade Emperor God's Birthday, on the Ninth Day of Chinese New Year. To honor the birthday of Jade Emperor Yu Huang, the Supreme Ruler of Heaven, offerings are made to him at this temple. The celebration actually starts on the Eve of Jade Emperor Birthday. Crowds throng the Thnee Kong Thua at the foot of Penang Hill next to the Lower Station to pay homage to the deity.

  • Bit Poh Tong (Bat Cave Temple)

This temple is located near Thnee Kong Thnua down at the foot of Penang Hill. Bats are attracted to the old caves near the mills that once supplied flour and bread to the whole town. The Tai Say Yei or Savior of Suffering Deity is being revered greatly here.

Air Itam Dam
  • Air Itam Dam

Opened in 1962, this reservoir is a popular recreational and picnic venue. It is located on gentle hillocks, next to Penang Hill. The dam commands panoramic views of Penang island and George Town. It is accessible via the same hill road that leads to Kek Lok Si Temple.

  • War Memorial

Located right in front of the roundabout between Jalan Air Itam and Jalan Bukit Bendera, before making a turn to Air Itam, Kek Lok Si Temple or Penang Hill, this memorial served to remember the Second World War massacre in which thousands of Chinese were brutally murdered. 700 people were buried under this memorial.

  • Male and Female Rock

On the way to Air Itam town from the Jalan Bukit Bendera roundabout along Jalan Air Itam, two rocks, namely Male Rock and Female Rock is situated along Jalan Batu Jantan and Jalan Batu Perempuan respectively. An old folk tale has it that in the olden days these two rocks once met and mated. These activities carried on until the British landed in Penang. It seemed the male rock was shot and was not able to move back to its original station further inside the road. Being wounded, it now laid on the side of the road never to meet his love again.

  • Cheng Kon Sze

Further up the hill in Bukit Penara is a 130-year-old temple which is a retreat for serious Taoist practitioners called Cheng Kon Sze or Cheng Jee Chan. Also known as Cheng Ji Chan, this temple is literally translated as 1002 steps temple, you can find the famous Thai Siong Lok Kun statue sitting on a tiger greeting you when you arrive. Cheng Kon Sze comprises an entrance archway, three temple halls and an ancestral hall. It is accessible via hiking along the steps which starts from United Hokkien Cemetery along Jalan Paya Terubong or by car using the same hilly road from Kek Lok Si Temple and Air Itam Dam.[5]

  • Mausoleum of Sheikh Omar Bashir

Located in Kampong Melayu Air Itam, there sits the Mausoleum of Sheik Omar Basheer, which is a Moorish-style shrine with a white exterior. Sheik Omar Basheer is a religious teacher at the Acheen Street Mosque. He is a well respected reformist and trusted by the British during the famous Penang riot in 1867. It was said that the head of Malay families were made to swear in front of Sheik Omar Basheer that they do not support the Secret Society of Hai San and Ghee in 1867.

  • Air Itam Wet Market

In this market, one will still see farmers bringing their produces down from the hills. Freshly harvested vegetables and fruits are being stacked on the road side in lorries or motor bikes. Walk up the Paya Terubong bridge and sit down on the stool to enjoy the famous Curry Noodles. Local delicacies such as Koay Teow Th'ng and Bee Tai Bak are sold in the market food court. The famous assam laksa is just in front of the wet market but it starts in the afternoon.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 5°24′22″N 100°17′47″E / 5.40611°N 100.29639°E / 5.40611; 100.29639