Sunday, January 07, 2007

Alexandre Hotel, Penang 1932 - Identification requested

Can one of you help identify this place from the very old photo, one in a batch depicting Penang in 1932?

Friend of mine said his uncle came across the photo in one of those email chain letters. He sent it to me for help, but much as I pride myself as a Penangite, I wasn't able to.

The caption of the photo claimed it was the Penang Alexandre Hotel.

I suppose the hotel would be the double-storey building on the left. Could the hills behind it be Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera). I doubt there would be any hotel in the southern end of the island in 1932, so we may rule out Western Hill.

Next to the hotel, further away in the photo, there seems to be a building with a flag post. It looks like a school, administrative building or a police station.

Then the most intriguing feature appears to be the rail tracks. It couldn't have been the Penang tram lines because the photo doesn't show any electrical grid overhead. If those tracks were for a train, which part of Penang Island had a train line? Maybe in 1932, it might have been a tram pulled by horses?

Or have my friend and I been foxed by our presumption this scene was on the island when it could well have been in Province Wellesley (Seberang Perai)?

Can you kind Penangites and former ones please ask your dads, granddads or elderly uncles or neighbours? Thanks.


  1. if you want to know about a train line (railway or tram), the right person to ask is ric francis, an aussie tram expert. he produced a book on 'penang trams, trolleybuses and railiways'. refer this link:

    ric is a nice man. i had met him in person once when he was in penang. i have his email (hope it's still the same as long time i have not contact him).

  2. this place looks like Bayan Lepas la

  3. it does, doesn't it - though I had to ruthlessly rule it out (maybe incorrectly) because I doubt there was a hotel that down south on the Island in 1932.

  4. Hi KT,
    Checked with my elderly uncle. Yes, there definitely was an Alexandre Hotel in Penang before the war, but he can't quite remember where it was located. I'll buy him a nice lunch this weekend, maybe he'll remember more by then.
    Cheers !

  5. thanks kittykat46, you're an ace.

  6. When I saw the picture, I wondered where the place was as well. Such an evocative picture. Anyway, I got the answer from reading a posting on The hotel was located between the Moongate and Botanical Gardens. That explains the familiar looking hills in the background!