Story of the Street
Transfer Road or Jalan Transfer is one of the major roads in George Town. It was named as “Transfer Road” in order to commemorate the transfer of Straits Settlements from the Government of British India to the administration of the Colonial Office in London in 1867. Tek-sūn-chhù-piⁿ-ke (德顺厝边街), which means street by Tek Soon’s house is the Hokkien name for the street. It was the area of early urban Jawi Peranakan communities. Jawi Peranakan is a community that combined ancestry of Indian Muslim man and Malay female.
During the early 19th century, the urban development of George Town was happening at the border of Prangin River and Transfer Road Ditch (today’s Transfer Road). There was a canal linked Transfer Road to the Prangin River. It was called Titi Papan (Plank bridge, after the bridge over the Prangin Ditch), which allowed boats to come up to the area.
In the 1950s and 60s, Transfer Road was one the places offering accommodations to visitors to Penang. For instance, the hotels include Embassy Hotel and Hong Aun Hotel. Transfer Road is again a choice location for small to moderate size accommodations as there are a number of hotels opening along the road in these few years.
Embassy Hotel Building
The Embassy Hotel & Restaurant was first built in 1957. Then, a coffee shop occupied the ground floor for several years. It was changed to HP Hotel for a few years when a new owner takes over. After that, the building housed an automobile showroom and followed by a Korean Home furniture shop. In the recent years, the building was refurbished and return to an identical name with its origins, Le Embassy Hotel. The hotel now features a design concept that introduces a nostalgic throwback – a classic good old yesteryear with a sense of sophistication, quirkiness and upper class.
Hong Aun Hotel Building
Hong Aun Hotel Building is an Early Modern Style building. It was designed to look like one building with a mixture of commercial and residential unit. Hence, it is a typical Straits shophouse. There’s accommodation on the upper level with an open ground-floor public eating space.
Penang Police Headquarters
The Penang Police Headquarters was build with an Art Deco Style before the World War II. This style of building has more fashionable architectural details affected by the western business building type, especially the facade. During the war, it has suffered from some serious damage but was subsequently repaired. On a side note, the Police Headquarters occupies an entire city block surrounded by Penang Road, Dickens Street, Transfer Road and Phee Choon Road.
Dewan United Muslim Association (UMA)
The building of the United Muslim Association (UMA) is the oldest association’s building at Transfer Road. The community of the Kadayanallur Tamil Muslim formed the UMA in 1929. In other words, UMA is a Muslim association in Penang. Its office is at Dewan UMA and was a centre for community service and martial arts classes.
Dato Koyah Shrine
Dato Koyah Shrine is also known as Makam Dato Koyah or Keramat Dato Koyah. It is a shrine to a Muslim saint, Syed Mustapha Idris or more commonly known as Dato Koyah. From the Malabar coast in southern India, Dato Koyah came to Penang to become a laborer to earn a livelihood in Penang. He was respected as a spiritual leader and teacher by the Malayalee and Tamil Muslim community. Although he has some misunderstandings with the British authorities at that time, eventually, he won their respect. Hence, when he passed away, his followers erected Keramat Dato Koyah at the exact spot where he used to live. The authorities honoured him by naming that street after his name.
Cheah Tek Soon’s Five-Storey-Mansion (abandoned)
This mansion was built in the late 19th century with an eclectic mix of styles. It has various names such as Goh Chan Lau, The Chinese Residency, The Raffles-by-the-Sea, and the former Shih Chung Branch School Building. The mansion is located along Northam Road while Transfer Road is at its side. Hence, Transfer Road is also known as Tek Soon Chu Phi Kay, which means side road to Tek Soon’s house.
Wisma MCA is the office of the Malaysian Chinese Association in Penang. It is located next to Dewan UMA.
Where to Stay
Le Embassy Hotel
Le Embassy Hotel is housed in the building at the corner of Transfer Road . It is a luxury hotel that combines nostalgic and classic scenes in the early 20’s with a sense of sophistication and modern design concept. Le Embassy Hotel offers 33 rooms with 3 distinctive designed room categories, which are Attache, Counselor, and Ambassador Room. Besides, Escobar Signature that tucked inside the hotel is an all-day dining restaurant bar. It features a mix of local and international cuisines.
Tido Penang Hostel
Tido Penang Hostel is a budget hostel that caters to a niche youth market and also budget travelers. It is located at the junction of Argyll Road and Transfer Road. It offers Dormitories with 8 beds to a room, and Double Rooms. There are mixed dormitories and female-only dormitories which hold up a total of 72 beds.
Hotel Regal Malaysia
Hotel Regal Malaysia is a 6-storey building at Transfer Road, near the junction of Northam Road. They offer 4 room categories, which are Standard, Superior Single, Superior Double, and Deluxe.
What to Do
Batek-Lah Collection has been managed by Lim Trading since 2012. It emphasizes 100% handmade genuine batik with its own manufacturing and production line in Penang. They offer both hand-drawn and block-printed designs that are made into a variety of men’s and women’s fashions as well as souvenirs.
What to Eat
Transfer Road Roti Canai is one of the famous spots for Roti Canai in Penang. It is located in front of the Dato Koyah Shrine. The business is so good that people have to queue up for at least half an hour. It is very crowded every morning from 7.00am to 11.00am.
Restoran Nasi Padang Minang is always crowded with customers especially during lunch hours. Nasi Padang is a cooking style that came from Minangkabau (Western Sumatra), Indonesia. Chilies, lemongrass and turmeric are the main ingredients for Nasi Padang. Restoran Nasi Padang Minang is a stall operating in Kedai Kopi International Hotel. They serve excellent and vast varieties of dishes. If you are going to eat there, do not forget to get the deep fried mackerel stuffed with sambal.
Moody Cow Cafe
If you are looking for cakes at Transfer Road, you’ve got to go to Moody Cow Cafe. They serve one of the best cakes in Penang, particularly their specialty cheesecakes. Each slice of the cake is so dense that it is enough to feed around 3-4 people. Make sure to try their Drunken Madness (rum and raisin), Cempedak King (cempedak), etc.
Wanton Mee in Tai Wah Coffee House is one of the oldest Wanton Mee established in Penang. Though this coffee house is located at Argyll Road, it is near to the junction towards Transfer Road. It has been operating for more than four decades and serves one of the best Wanton Mee in Penang.
Ismalia Bakery is the first ever Roti Penggali bakery. Maliia Bakery takes over the business until today. Roti Penggali means bread shareholders in Tamil. But, many people mispronounced the word “penggali” and then it evolved into “benggali” over the years. Maliia Bakery is one of the biggest bakeries in Penang that makes Benggali bread.
Penang Zhu Char – See Kong Ooi Restaurant (西公园饭店）(permanently closed)
See Kong Ooi Restaurant serves Hokkien and Hainanese dishes. Unfortunately, this iconic 84-year-old has closed down due to the pandemic-ridden economy in May 2020.