Pulau Tikus is a wealthy suburb of George Town, famous for its handsome bungalows, Buddhist temples, Catholic churches and some of the best Penang food tucked inside Chinese shophouses. Some of the foreign consulates in George Town have been opened here.
Pulau Tikus was established as an Eurasian settlement in the early 19th. century. It was named after its namesake, a tiny rock off Tanjung Bungah. Buddhists and Catholics also settled here, setting up Burmese and Thai temples as well as Catholic churches. Many of the roads here were named after places in Burma due to the strong Burmese influence. Meanwhile, the affluent Ayer Rajah neighbourhood to the south was once owned by the prominent Brown and Scott families.
Today's Pulau Tikus still retains many colonial bungalows, interspersed with upmarket condominiums. Located just south of Gurney Drive, it has been a strategic location for both residential and retail developments. The main thoroughfare in Pulau Tikus is Burmah Road, and the intersection of Burmah Road and Cantonment Road forms the heart of Pulau Tikus.
Pulau Tikus ('Rat Island' in Malay) is a tiny rock 2km off Tanjung Bungah. Formerly known as Pulo Kechil ('Small Island' in Malay), it was then named Pulau Tikus because when the Eurasians arrived at the rock in 1810, the tide was low and the sand dunes gave the appearance of running rats. The Eurasians then explored Penang Island until they found a suitable area to start their settlement. This area has been named Pulau Tikus ever since.
The Eurasians, an ethnic group of mixed Portuguese and Asian parentage had been facing prosecution in Siam (now Thailand) under King Phraya Taksin, who ordered the massacre of Christians in Siam. After the 1810 Phya Tak massacre in Phuket, the Thai Eurasians, led by Father John Baptist Pasqual, fled to Penang Island via Kuala Kedah.
Having arrived on Penang Island in 1810, the Eurasians formed Kampung Serani ('Eurasian Village' in Malay) within Pulau Tikus. They founded the Church of Immaculate Conception, which became the focal point of their settlement. To this day, the church, along with other Catholic sites in Pulau Tikus, embodies the Catholic presence in this suburb.
The Eurasians were soon followed by Burmese and Thai arrivals. The Burmese, in particular, had established Kampung Ava within Pulau Tikus in the early 19th. century and constructed the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple in 1803. The Burmese had their presence felt in the area, with many roads in Pulau Tikus named after places in Burma, such as Burmah Road and Moulmein Road. Meanwhile, the Thais built another two temples in Pulau Tikus, the Wat Chaiyamangkalaram and the Wat Buppharam.
To the south, the Ayer Rajah neighbourhood started off as the Ayer Rajah Estate. Ayer Rajah was named after Ayer Rajah Bay between the George Town city centre and Tanjung Tokong. Initially owned by James Scott, a business partner of David Brown, the estate was subsequently owned by both Scott and Brown families through intermarriage. To run the estate, Indian workers were brought in. As a result, the southwestern part of Pulau Tikus contains Hindu temples, which become the focal point of Thaipusam celebrations every year.
The expansion of George Town eventually swallowed up the villages and estates of Pulau Tikus by the early 20th. century. Urbanisation has further transformed the landscape of Pulau Tikus, with upscale condominiums dotting the suburb. Two shopping complexes were completed by the 1990s, the Axis Complex and the Midlands One-Stop. Both are now mere shadows of their upmarket beginnings. Nevertheless, its proximity to Gurney Drive has drawn more upmarket developments to the suburb.
The Colonial Penang Museum is the newest attraction in the suburb of Pulau Tikus. Opened in 2015, its antique furnitures and trinkets, as well as its architecture, brings tourists back to the glorious, opulent days of the Peranakans. Most of the exhibits were made in Europe, a reflection of the wealthy, Western-oriented lifestyle of the Peranakans whose loyalty to the British Crown was stronger than their Chinese roots. The museum opens daily between 0930 and 1830 hours. The ticket price for an individual adult (in Malaysian Ringgit) is RM30 (RM20 for Malaysians), while each child is charged RM15 (RM12 for Malaysians).
The original Eurasian settlers had also formed the Penang Eurasian Association at Eurasian Close off Kelawai Road. The association holds periodic events to showcase Eurasian culture and cuisine.
Lately, Pulau Tikus has been decorated with street art as well. The first one features the Kung-fu Grandmaster, Ip Man, who trained the legendary martial arts actor, Bruce Lee. The mural was painted at the side of an ordinary-looking house that actually functions as a branch of the famous international kung-fu school of Wing Chun.
Since 2016, bus stops in Pulau Tikus were also painted with comic illustrations about the various ethnicities in Pulau Tikus, such as Eurasians, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Thais and Burmese.
The Thai Eurasian refugees led by Father John Baptist Pasqual founded the Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1811 after arriving from Siam. The original church was replaced in 1835 with a stronger brick structure. Again, it was rebuilt in 1899 after the collapse of a ceiling. The church you see today was also renovated in the 1970s. More details regarding the church's history can be found in the small museum inside the church, where exhibits and costumes from the past are still kept.
Within the church grounds stand the St. Chastan Monument, which commemorates Father Jasques Hororé Chastan, one of the only two parish priests in Malaysia to be canonised a saint. He had taught at the College General in Penang between 1828 and 1830, and subsequently served as the parish priest of the Church of the Immaculate Conception until 1833. As he was able to preach in Chinese fluently, he managed to convert numerous Chinese into Catholic Christians. Later on, he went to Qing China and the Korean Empire, where he was executed by Korean authorities for preaching a 'perverse religion'. In 1984, Father Jasques Hororé Chastan was canonised by Pope John Paul II.
The first Buddhist temple in Pulau Tikus was built by the Burmese in 1803. Initially named the Nandy Molah Burmese Temple, the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple remains as the only Burmese temple on Penang Island. The stupa was first consecrated in 1805, enshrined within an outer stupa built in 1838. Aside from multiple statues of the Buddha, some of which are made of different styles inherent in countries other than Burma (now Myanmar), the Buddha's disciples and mythical beings were added later into the temple. The latest addition to the temple is the Golden Pagoda Bell Tower, which was opened in 2011.
The Thais constructed two more Buddhist temples in Pulau Tikus. The more famous Wat Chaiyamangkalaram is the biggest Thai Buddhist temple on Penang Island and contains a 33-metre reclining Buddha statue called Phra Buddhachaiya Mongkol. It was made in 1958 in conjunction with the 2,500th anniversary of the birth of Gautama Buddha at a cost of M$100,000 (Malayan and British Borneo dollar). The statue actually serves as a columbarium housing niches for the cremated. The land on which the temple stands was also granted by Britain's Queen Victoria in 1845 to foster trading ties between the United Kingdom and Siam. Other than Buddhist celebrations, the temple and its small Thai community have been involved in Thai festivities on Penang Island such as Loy Krathong and Songkran.
The second Thai temple in Pulau Tikus is Wat Buppharam, which was established in 1942 by Phothan Srikheaw, its first abbot. Its entrance arch is considered one of the grandest of all Buddhist temples on Penang Island. Amongst local Penangites, this temple is also called the Temple of the Lifting Buddha. It is believed that if a devotee manages to lift a century-old Buddha statue while focusing on his/her wish, that particular wish is likely to be attainable. To confirm the prediction, the devotee needs to lift the statue again. If he/she fails to lift it the second time, the wish is considered fulfillable. Like Wat Chaiyamangkalaram, Wat Buppharam is also at its busiest during Loy Krathong.
To the southwest near the Penang Botanical Gardens, there are two Hindu temples that are the focal points for Hindu celebrations such as Thaipusam. The Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple and the Sri Meenakshi Sundraeswar Temple, located just opposite each other at Jalan Kebun Bunga, were founded by two different Indian communities. The Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple was established by the Chettiar community, while the Sri Meenakshi Sundraeswar Temple serves the Ayira Vaisyar from Tamil Nadu.
*All prices are quoted in Malaysian Ringgit (RM).
Pulau Tikus is never short of Penang street food. Indeed, some of the best Penang food can be found within the hawker centres and coffee shops of Pulau Tikus.
Local Penangites may have differing opinions on where to find the best Penang Hokkien mee. Perhaps the most recommended place for Penang Hokkien mee is Swee Kong Coffee Shop. However, it closes at 1000 hours, so it is advisable to arrive early as the queue would quickly grow, making it difficult to find a seat. Other recommended places to try Hokkien mee are Bee Hooi Coffee Shop, Seng Lee Cafe and 77 Food Yard Restaurant.
Swee Kong Cafe also serves among the best wan tan mee on Penang Island. 77 Food Yard Restaurant is yet another place to try wan tan mee. It is also recommended to arrive early at the 77 Food Yard Restaurant.
The Pulau Tikus market, which opens every morning, offers various Penang street dishes and delicacies. Among these are the colourful Nyonya kuih (Peranakan dessert snacks), ban chang kuih ('pancake' in the Penang Hokkien dialect) and lok lok (a type of steamboat where skewered food is firstly dipped into boiling soup and then the provided condiments). In addition, there is a hawker centre that operates within the same market in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, among the more recommended places to find Penang char kuey teow are Sin Wah Coffee Shop and Bee Hooi Coffee Shop.
For Muslims, the fried noodles (mee goreng in Malay) within Seng Lee Cafe at the intersection between Burmah Road and Bangkok Lane comes highly recommended. Seng Lee Cafe opens between 0800 and 1830 hours, and is closed on Mondays.
Other hawker centres, coffee shops and restaurants in Pulau Tikus are as follows.
- Jin Hoe Cafe
- New Cathay Coffee Shop
- Kedai Makanan Loong Heng (only serves Beijing roasted duck and chhicken rice)
- Guan Hiang Coffee Shop
- Hup Guan Coffee Shop
- Hup Kee Coffee Shop
- Kong Bee Lee Coffee Shop
- Sin Hup Aun Cafe
- Kristal Coffee Shop (only serves roasted duck rice)
- Hai Beng Coffee Shop
- Poly Coffee Garden
- Chang Yen Vegetarian Food
- Restoran Mohd Raffe
- Aroi Thai Restaurant
- Wang Thai Restaurant
- Sushi Kappo Miyasaka
These are among the hotels located within Pulau Tikus.
- Georgetown City Hotel
- Apple 1 Hotel Gurney
- Palanquinn Heritage Suites
In addition, hotels at Gurney Drive are also within the proximity of Pulau Tikus suburb.
There are two shopping malls within Pulau Tikus, but both have mostly lost their appeal.
The Axis Complex was constructed in the late 1980s and its initial anchor tenant was the Dutch supermarket chain, Tops. It now serves as a Bandar Baru supermarket.
Midlands One Stop, opened in the 1990s, had also seen better days as a high-end shopping mall. It never recovered from the 1997 Asian financial crisis that led to its initial anchor tenant, Looking Good Departmental Store to pull out. Today, it is mostly deserted, save for a few shops selling cheap items and the occasional book fair by Popular Book Co.
Two famous girls' schools are located within Pulau Tikus.
As with the suburb of Pulau Tikus, Convent Pulau Tikus was established by the Catholic missionaries of the Church of Immaculate Conception, particularly by nuns in the early 20th. century. Today, this missionary school is part of the Malaysian federal government's public school system.
Penang Chinese Girls' High School, more commonly known as Ping Hua in Mandarin, is the biggest Chinese school on Penang Island and considered an elite Chinese school. It was established by four prominent Penang Hokkien Chinese in 1920 and was initially named the Fukien Girls' School, as it was built for the Hokkien community. At first, the school was situated within what is now the Penang Sun Yat-sen Centre at Macalister Road. It relocated to Gottlieb Road, Pulau Tikus in 1956 and has been producing academically brilliant students highly sought after locally and abroad.
Other than that, St. Xavier's Institution, one of the oldest Catholic schools in Southeast Asia, has been operating one of its two primary schools in Pulau Tikus.
The first international school on Penang Island, St. Christopher's Primary International School, has been established at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman since 1964.
There is also a Japanese language institution in Pulau Tikus, south of the Penang Chinese Girls' High School. The Penang Japanese Language Society offers Japanese language classes and the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Tests).
As a well-known private hospital, the Penang Adventist Hospital receives most of the medical tourists in Malaysia; 92% of its medical tourists are Indonesians. It has been providing among the more affordable professional healthcare for both local Penangites and medical tourists. The hospital was founded by Dr. Earl Gardner in 1924 and as a missionary clinic, it initially provided free treatment for the needy. Today, this non-profit hospital is still managed by the Seventh Day Adventist Church and remains the only Malaysian hospital to be listed in the World Health Organisation's International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services.
A bakery inside the hospital also produces some of the healthiest breads on Penang Island.
Three nations - Indonesia, Thailand and China - have set up their consulates within the suburb of Pulau Tikus.
Republic of Indonesia
Burmah Road (west of the Penang Adventist Hospital)
Telephone : +60-4 227 4686; 226 7412
Fax: +60-4 227 5887
Kingdom of Thailand
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
Telephone : +60-4 226 8029; 226 9484; 228 6784
Fax: +60-4 226 3121; 226-2533
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
People's Republic of China
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
(As of February 2016, there is little information about the newly-established consulate.)
Getting to Pulau Tikus
Due to its proximity between the George Town city centre, Gurney Drive, and the beach belt of Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi, the suburb of Pulau Tikus is relatively well connected by Rapid Penang buses.
From the George Town city centre, Rapid Penang buses 10, 101, 102, 103 and 304 will take you to Pulau Tikus, with route 103 specifically serving commuters in Pulau Tikus.
Meanwhile, passengers from the south, particularly Bayan Baru, Universiti Sains Malaysia, and the southern suburbs of Gelugor and Green Lane can also reach Pulau Tikus using Rapid Penang buses 102 and 304. Those from the Penang International Airport and the Sungai Nibong express bus terminal can take bus 102, whereas those from Queensbay Mall will have to use bus 304.
The Hop-On Hop-Off open air double decker buses are also available for tourists seeking to go to the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple and the Wat Chaiyamangkalaram.
10 : Weld Quay - KOMTAR - Western Road, Pulau Tikus - Gottlieb Road, Pulau Tikus - Bagan Jermal Road, Pulau Tikus - Gurney roundabout - Bagan Jermal Road, Pulau Tikus - Gottlieb Road, Pulau Tikus - Penang Botanic Gardens
102 : Penang International Airport - Bayan Baru - Sungai Nibong express bus terminal - Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Batu Uban - Gelugor - Green Lane - KOMTAR - Kelawai Road, Pulau Tikus - Tanjung Tokong Road - Tanjung Bungah Road - Batu Ferringhi - Teluk Bahang
104 : Jalan Lembah Permai, Tanjung Bungah - Lintang Lembah Permai 1, Tanjung Bungah - Lorong Lembah Permai 3, Tanjung Bungah - Jalan Azyze, Tanjung Bungah - Jalan Loh Poh Heng, Tanjung Bungah - Jalan Sungai Kelian, Tanjung Bungah - Tanjung Bungah Road - Jalan Gajah, Tanjung Tokong - Evergreen Road, Tanjung Tokong - Fettes Park, Tanjung Tokong - Mount Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong - Pepper Estate, Tanjung Tokong - Mount Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong - Burmah Road, Pulau Tikus - Midlands Park, Pulau Tikus - Pangkor Road - Kelawei Road, Pulau Tikus
304 : Sunshine Square, Bayan Baru - Queensbay Mall - Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Sungai Dua entrance - Gelugor - Green Lane - Penang General Hospital - KOMTAR - Bagan Jermal Road, Pulau Tikus - Gurney Plaza
Free Pulau Tikus Loop : Gurney Plaza (Kelawai Road entrance) - Tanjung Tokong Road - Fettes Park, Tanjung Tokong - Mount Erskine Road, Tanjung Tokong - Burmah Road, Pulau Tikus - Pangkor Road - Kelawai Road, Pulau Tikus - Gurney Paragon (Kelawai Road entrance)
Penang State Government
N.25 Pulau Tikus State Assemblyman : Yap Soo Huey (Democratic Action Party)
Malaysian Federal Parliament
P.048 Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament : Zairil Khir Johari (Democratic Action Party)