I don't know if its the powerful aroma of dried herbs or the dusky interior, but I rarely step inside a Chinese medicine shop in Penang. However, when we passed this cluttered medicine shop in Phuket Town, I felt intrigued to walk in.
Known as Guan Choon Tong, the 80-year old Chinese herbal medicine shop doesn't look as if it has changed since the day it opened. And knowing that expiration dates do not exist in Chinese medicine, I'm sure some of the herbs may be that old.
Locals crowd this famous shop to fill their prescriptions, including Thai Muslims (this would not be a common scene in Penang). Proving that not all traditional trades have to give way to modern enterprises.
“Do you speak any Chinese?” I asked the fourth generation Hokkien owner. The gentle sinseh (physician) shook his head and explained he only spoke Thai and a little English.
“Do you read Chinese then?” I asked again thinking it was a legitimate question since the hundred drawers behind him were labeled in Chinese characters. The owner shook his head once more, “My late-father could read Chinese, but not me.” As he spoke, he opened and reached into drawers down at his feet and above his head, forming a concoction of dried herbs in his hand. He placed each type on an antique scale on the counter, adjusting his glasses to read the measurement. Stuffing the herbs in a plastic bag, he handed the medicine to one of his eager customers, who smiled with a hope her ailment would soon be healed.
We stepped to the side of the line and waved goodbye to the sinseh. Continuing down the street, we were amazed that the five-foot-walkway was open. In Penang, we are forced out onto the busy street because motorbikes, fences, or concrete walls obstruct any remnant of these pedestrian safe sidewalks. For the first time, we actually 'strolled' from shophouse to shophouse, enjoying the shady walkway and spotting more familiar objects that we see everyday in Penang.
Just like George Town - Beautiful tiles gracing the shophouse facade
We found Penang in Phuket. What about you, is there any "Penang" where you are? Maybe a restaurant?