Living Above the Sea: The Clan Jetties of Georgetown

I look down through the cracks on the rotten planks of wood and see the murky green water below. Most people would seek high ground when considering a suitable place to build their homes, but not the clans who have settled along Georgetown’s waterfront.

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The Weld Quay Clan Jetties have been in existence for over 100 years, and are home to small communities who built their homes on stilts above the water. The people who settled the jetties were Chinese migrants who came to the bustling port city of Georgetown, Penang seeking better opportunities.

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Entire families moved out here and the various clans grouped together according to their province of origin, leading to the creation of several jetties along the water’s edge.

Today there are six jetties; the five main clans being Lim, Chew, Tan, Lee and Yeoh, while the remaining jetty, Chap Seh Keo, is home to a mixture of families who do not share the same name.

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What surprised me most about my visit to the jetties was that life goes on very much the same way it would on dry land. People ride their bicycles and even motorbikes down the planks of wood which act as roads and sidewalks.

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Dogs nap in the shade and come to play when they see a friendly foreigner come their way, old men sit on their porches and watch the day go by without a care in the world, and a curious kitten balances itself on a wooden post not too far from the water’s edge.

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These aren’t just homes. This is a thriving community with temples, restaurants, and stores, offering everything you might need on a daily basis. Many of the homes have also upgraded their amenities over time, and you can even see satellite dishes mounted on top of the metal sheet roofs.

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There isn’t one particular attraction to visit at the jetties, but if you want to wander around a unique community and see how life goes on above the sea, then this is the perfect place to do so.

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And lastly here is a little video tour of our afternoon exploring the Weld Quay Clan Jetties, and of course I found cute puppies and kittens:

 

For more info on travel in the country, you can check out my 1-month Malaysia travel itinerary.

Have you ever visited a community that lives above the sea?

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16 Comments

  1. says: Zhu

    Your pictures are amazing! Takes me back there 🙂 I have been to Georgetown and I didn’t know that background story.

    1. says: Audrey

      Thanks Zhu! I almost missed out on this place – it’s not listed in many guidebooks, but it’s so worth exploring!

  2. says: Vanessa

    What a cool place! That’s so interesting that they just created their own land and live normally on those planks. It looks like a pretty intimate community… did they seem to mind you guys wandering around? Or were they pretty welcome to tourists? Thanks for sharing the video! 😀

    1. says: Audrey

      They didn’t really seem to mind tourists, but then again, there weren’t that many of us around. We just tried to be discreet and not get in anyone’s way with our filming. 🙂

  3. says: Karyn Jane

    Hi Audrey, I’m newish to your blog and love it.

    Have you been to Panyee Village in Phang Nga, Thailand? It looks very similar. It’s built around a tiny island, so small in fact that basically the mosque and the cemetery are built on the land but everything else is built on stilts over the water. Most of the people living there fish for a living or take tourists on tours of the nearby caves. It’s fascinating to see the way the people live.

    1. says: Audrey

      Hi Karyn, happy to hear you’re enjoying the blog. 🙂 I actually haven’t been to the Panyee Village but it sounds like the kind of place I’d enjoy visiting. If I ever swing through Phang Nga I’ll make time for that.

  4. says: SP

    If you wish to know more about the history about this place, you may log on to http://www.mychewjetty.com

    The uniqueness of this place is still preserved- everyone is still Chew. Most of us are related no matter far or closed knit. Lots of people thought the residents are fishermen but they are not. Most of them used to be transporter on the sea.

    It’s our great pleasure to be born and grown up here. The living experience here totally different. We used to swim in the sea, slept at the five foot way, squatted and ate rojak from the local petty traders, … Can you imagine Hokkien Mee is delivered to your door step?

    Welcome to Jetties!

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