I chose the Chowrasta Market in George Town to try out my newfound street photography knowledge after watching a hilarious but incredibly helpful street photography do’s and don’ts video on YouTube.
It was in March last year on a Saturday morning, and the market in Jalan Kuala Kangsar was bustling with traders and people. I was therefore able to get some decent shots. I’m not a professional photographer so do expect some photos to look weird!
I give you five Chowrasta Market highlights:
The shoppers, traders and bits of conversations that you overhear
Like most morning markets on a weekend in Penang, the Chowrasta Market was absolutely busy and filled with people in almost every corner. The traders scramble around to attend to every customer as fast as they can.
The people doing the marketing were mostly housewives and elderly ladies going about their usual Saturday morning routine buying meat and vegetables to cook meals for their families. They are easily identified by their carrying heavy-looking plastic bags or pulling their shopping trolleys behind them.
Once in a while, it’s also possible to catch bits and pieces of the odd conversation or two (usually in the Hokkien dialect) as you walk around the market. Nope, it’s not about the weather, but more like on the current issues that are hot at the moment. Don’t underestimate them at all, but the aunties and uncles do get the latest updates on the country’s affairs and would readily discuss or give their opinions.
The variety of fruits, vegetables and meat sold
You do get to see the usual stalls selling vegetables, fruits, chicken, pork, fish, etc. I used to follow my mom to go marketing but didn’t bother to get to know the names of the vegetables. It was when I had to go on my own or with my father that I learnt how to buy the veggies and how to identify them!
I also find that morning markets are one of the best places for fresh foodstuff at reasonable prices. Healthy food at a bargain!
Chowrasta Market is like a one-stop shopping area
When you are done with the foodstuff section, there are the other stalls selling almost anything you need – clothes, bags, shoes, gadgets, medicine, prayer paraphernalia (lots of it especially in Penang) and more.
Of course I couldn’t help taking pictures of the Frozen-inspired bags. They are definitely still all the rage.
So the next time you find yourself doing last-minute shopping for random items such as handphone covers, dinner dresses or even Christmas presents, check out the nearest market!
Cold drinks and yummy desserts for the sweet tooth
It can get hot and sweaty after exploring the market for more than half an hour, especially when it’s crowded and the weather is warm. That’s when those drinks and dessert stalls make for a welcome sight!
I would also recommend buying traditional desserts and delicacies at the market or hawker stalls. Sometimes, they taste better than those being sold commercially. It’s because they are sold fresh from the oven, and are made based on family recipes which have been handed down through the generations.
Beggars on the street
It is not unusual to come across beggars at a market. The male beggars would be on their own while the women sometimes have their children tag along.
In the hopes of earning more, certain beggars do not sit and wait for donors but instead put on an act or something as a way of giving something back. For example, one beggar sings into a microphone while pulling a music speaker along with him. In a way, he was providing entertainment to potential donors even if it’s just simple karaoke-like music.
Beggars are a heart-wrenching sight, more so when they are merely children. We can give them money, drop a few ringgit into their aluminium tin cans and hope they will get enough at the end of the day to buy food and other daily necessities. But when there have been reports of syndicates using senior citizens and children to beg in the streets, you wonder where your money will go.
Other interesting things in town
So when I was done photographing what I could at the Chowrasta Market, I walked out to the wider streets and looked around for other eye-catching elements.
And lo and behold, I came across this alley / passageway. With the brick wall, wooden ceiling and rusty items lying around, it looked like it has a story to tell.
And also this walkway with a Chinese prayer altar, blue shutters, old-fashioned electric cables and vintage signboard.
It was around 9.30am and people were going about their own business or having breakfast. I decided to take random shots of interesting-looking individuals. Well, you gotta love being out and about just to get a glimpse of the locals. They might not draw attention to themselves but they are ironically quite a fascination!
My tummy was rumbling by then, so it was off to the popular Toh Soon Café nearby for my favourite breakfast: eggs and toast.
You may also read what I had for breakfast at the café and explorations to other places in George Town.