Sunday, July 10, 2011

Straits Quay Penang

    Ever since Chinese New Year, the much heralded elegant shopping mall, Straits Quay has been opened for all to see. So far not all of the advertised  outlets have been opened and even a couple have closed already,  Since I live nearby I have had the opportunity to visit , both during the week and on the weekends. I do not understand how this rather expensive establishment can stay afloat.

    The main attractions of the mall are upscale restaurants, catering to the well healed. During my visits on weekday evenings the entire shopping center seems like a ghost town. There seem to be only a couple of restaurants that are doing any business. The very popular Blue Reef restaurant is usually crowded both on weeknights and weekends. Subway appears to do a good business as well as the steamboat restaurant. The two German restaurants are  usually crowded on the weekends and do a brisk business during their happy hours. There are a couple of Irish pubs that started off quite well, but seemed to have died down lately. I have eaten at most of the places here and I must say a few of them are absolutely terrible. There is a very ornate restaurant, which reminds me of a Victorian style funeral home. It has a very expensive menu and I have never seen anyone dining there. Tucked away on the outside, away from the air conditioning is an economy rice eatery, which I am sure is for the staff of the restaurants and stores of the mall. The food here is way cheaper than the other restaurants and the food is quite good.

    If many of the restaurants are devoid of customers, the stores are much worse. The Switch store has a few customers, but they rarely have anything in stock. When walking by the other stores one can only see the bored staff chatting with each other. I wonder how they can manage to stay in business with the imagined exorbitant rent they pay.

    There have been a number of special events at Straits Quay which have drawn very large crowds. The parking lots and parking garage have been filled with cars and the interior and exterior of the mall has been packed with people. One thing that is noticeable is that no one is carrying a shopping bag and the stores and most of the restaurants are empty. I have observed something here that I have never witnessed back home. This observation was quite evident in last nights visit. There are quite a few winding or spiral staircases throughout the mall and last night on every single staircase was a girl, who was a wannabe fashion model, posing for pictures. One would think they were posing for Vogue or Elle or other fashion magazines.  These models were also to be found on both floors of the mall, posing in front of the signs in front of some of the newer themed restaurants.

    I originally thought that the purpose of Straits Quay was to cater to the wealthy foreigners, expats and residents of Penang and  the surrounding area. After many visits there, seeing the expensive yachts moored in marina, dining at some of the restaurants and window shopping at the high end stores, I have found the real purpose of Straits Quay. It is a multi billion dollar photo prop for local aspiring fashion models.

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