Gurney Drive

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Gurney Drive
Gurney Drive in Nov 2008

Gurney Drive (Malay: Persiaran Gurney; Chinese: 新关仔角) is a popular seafront promenade in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. The road is also one Penang's most popular tourist destinations, famous for the "hawker food" sold from food stalls formerly located along the seafront, now relocated close by. Previously known as the New Coast Road, it was completed in 1936 along what was then known as the North Beach, and renamed in 1952 after Sir Henry Gurney, British High Commissioner in Malaya (1950–1951), who was assassinated by the guerrillas of the Malayan Communist Party during the Malayan Emergency.[1]

Over the years, the beaches along Gurney Drive have largely been lost to coastal erosion. More recently, a land reclamation project at nearby Tanjung Tokong has reversed the erosion, leading to the accretion of silt and mud off Gurney Drive. Mangrove saplings have sprouted in the mud, which is now frequented by egrets and other birds as well as mudskippers. There have been suggestions that this area, formerly earmarked for reclamation under the (now suspended) Penang Outer Ring Road project, be reclaimed for a recreational park or allowed to be developed into a mangrove forest.[2]

History[edit]

Common redshanks wading in the water off Gurney Drive, Penang.

Gurney Drive sits on a reclaimed land created off Teluk Ayer Rajah, the bay that curves between George Town and Tanjung Tokong. The intention to build a coastal road was already in the plans as early as 1930 after the idea of extending North Beach, as Northam Road (now Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah) was called. The first 510 yards of Gurney Drive was completed in 1934, and at that time, it was simply named "North Beach". This section of Gurney Drive was planted with Casuarina trees in 1962, and is a distinctive section of the promenade. [3]

Gurney Drive was initially named as New Coast Road, then when it was renamed to its current name there was a debate over why the road should be called "drive", as the term meant the road for driving in, especially a private carriageway to the house. The development of national forces in Malaysia and the political revolution during the 1950s manifested itself in a small way, when one Municipal Commissioner suggested in 1956 that Gurney Drive should be named Pantai Merdeka. This matter was taken up in council and it was decided on Aug 21, 1956 that, with effect from Aug 31, 1957, the road would be known as Merdeka Drive and that the circus at the end of Pangkor Road be named Gurney Circus. It was also suggested that a bust or statue of the late Sir Henry was to be constructed. The then Settlement Secretary refused to write to Lady Gurney regarding this and so the Municipal Commissioners wrote direct to Lady Gurney. She took the change very bravely and even offered to help with regard to the statue or bust. There were negotiations with a sculptor in London, David McFall, who agreed to do the job for 500 guineas or $4,500. When the recommendation for the provision of $6,000 for bust came up before the Finance Committee, it was decided not only to defer the provision of a bust but also that the drive should continue be called Gurney Drive. In 1962, a councillor was reportedly suggested that the council should consider renaming Gurney Drive to “Casuarina Drive” and “Casuarina Beach”, since that the double rows of Casuarina trees are planted along the seafront promenade. [4]

Gurney Drive was once a sandy beach where people could collect seashells i.e. siput remis or small mussels which were abundant back then. The sea water was so clean and pollution-free that it became a venue for dragon boat races from the 1960s to 1980s. However, such excitement of these events and the clear water is much lost now. Back then people would swim in the sea and fishermen would return to the beach with their catches, especially for fishes and king crabs along the shore. [5]

Gurney Drive had many prominent pre-war houses, colonial bungalows and the College General Complex, which was once used to train Catholic priests in Thailand, India, China, Japan and Myanmar. These prominent landmarks had now been largely replaced by hotels and modern shopping centres. [6]

Today, Gurney Drive a home to many shopping arcades, hotels and luxury high-end condominiums. Condominiums with the view of the sea can fetch up to the price of more than RM2,000 per sq. ft. [7]

Landmarks[edit]

Affluent beach-side bungalows were located here, many of which are today incorporated into the design of upscale condominiums. At the Pangkor Road end of Gurney Drive was the fabulous mansion of Kapitan China Chung Thye Phin, son of Kapitan China Chung Keng Quee, occupied today by One Persiaran Gurney condominiums.

Gurney Drive has some of the most modern skyscrapers in Penang, it is also where you will find lavish and luxury homes belonging to the wealthy men of the past. One of these is the Loke Mansion. Also at Gurney Drive is the St Joseph's Novitiate, which is a historic building which is part of the St. Joseph's Training College that stood next to the original College General Complex, which is currently occupied as part of the building in Gurney Paragon Mall. [8]

Shopping centres[edit]

Food[edit]

Gurney Drive Hawker Centre, or Pusat Penjaja Anjung Gurney, is one of the largest and most well-known eatery in Penang. It has been relocated a few times, and is presently located at the northern end of Gurney Drive, just before the Gurney roundabout, between Sunrise Tower and Gurney Plaza. The Gurney Drive Hawker Centre has been around since the early 1970s, and is probably the best known place for visitors to Penang to savour the local hawker fare. Over the years, the price at the hawker centre has risen higher than at coffee shops elsewhere in Penang, due to popularity of the hawker centre among out-of-town visitors and general commercialisation. Food sold at the hawker centre include Char Koay Teow, Hokkien Mee, Jiu Hoo Eng Chye (spinach with cuttlefish), Koay Teow Th'ng, Lok Lok, Mee Goreng, Jawa Mee, Mee Rebus, Pasembur, Rojak, Satay, Soya Beancurd (Douhua), and many more. [9]

Gurney drive food court

Condominiums[edit]

  • Gurney Park Condominium
  • Gurney Beach Condominium
  • 1 Persiaran Gurney
  • 8 Gurney
  • 11 Gurney Drive
  • Gurney Paragon
  • Acadia
  • Desa Mas
  • Millennium Towers
  • Silverton
  • The Regency
  • Sunrise Gurney
  • SP Setia Condominium

Hotels[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ "Gurney Drive". 
  4. ^ "Beach along Gurney Drive just a Memory". 
  5. ^ "Beach along Gurney Drive just a Memory". 
  6. ^ "Beach along Gurney Drive just a Memory". 
  7. ^ "Beach along Gurney Drive just a Memory". 
  8. ^ "Gurney Drive". 
  9. ^ "Gurney Drive".