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Thieves Market Georgetown Penang – UNESCO Listed Stolen Goods?

georgetown penang market flea island

This young lady, and her older apprentice, were making a killing at the Georgetown Flea Market.

Georgetown, Penang, is a remarkable Malaysian city with a UNESCO world heritage listed core. Just wandering through Georgetown’s historical colonial-era streets, buildings, and houses, is an outing in itself. Slightly off the well-trodden path of Georgetown’s beautiful city-core, the “Thieves” flea market is one of those Penang institutions that few tourists visit. Cookie-cutter, franchise filled, glitzy new shopping malls are dotted throughout the island of Penang. But, for a truly local experience, wake up early, and head on down to this bustling flea market located at Lorung Kulit. Note, the flea market is notUNESCO listed, but maybe it should be.

“It won’t be much further”. It was my idea to walk to the market. After being on Pulau Penang for a week or so, it was a hot and sweaty Saturday night that finally convinced me to get into the rhythm of island life. We had already been walking for twenty minutes, but it seemed longer. Sunday morning, finally, had started early. It was much cooler at this time of day, there was a fresh ocean breeze. Locals are out and about, they understand the need to get going early, before the heat and humidity destroys you. Georgetown, Penang, is not exactly set up for walking. Sure the architecture is authentic, there are interesting vistas at every turn, but the cracked and undulating sidewalk combined with intense tropical climate,  can turn a “short” walk into the exercise equivalent of a marathon. About 45 minutes, and three litres of water later, we made it to the market. I was now on the hunt for stolen goods, at bargain prices.

The history of Penang’s Georgetown flea market at Lorung Kulit is sordid and shady, with a well-earned reputation for stolen goods.

In reality, the market is a rag-tag collection of antiques (some genuine, some fake), house hold items, fruit, vegetables, clothing, and a large variety of  new, but mostly used, goods. Watches, sunglasses, shoes, coins, jewellery, electronics, records, books, the list is endless. The popular story goes, if your shoes have been stolen, head down to the flea market at Lorung Kulit, you’ll find them there. Non-asian readers should note, due to the custom of leaving your shoes outside your house, shoes do get stolen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an epidemic of shoe thefts, but it does happen. I was told about the lady who spotted her recently stolen red-stilettos, and after some heated words were exchanged, the sheepish merchant handed back the heels to the rightful owner.

Penang markets give you a genuine chance to rub shoulders with the locals.

Penang’s markets are an authentic slice of local life. We walked the isles of the open air market, took photos, and chatted to the regulars. We picked up a few essentials (batteries for my camera), and a few non-essentials, such as an amazing collection of “found” black and white photos, showing the performance of a Penang Rock and Roll band in the 70’s, replete with sequin-outfitted dancing-girls. I also needed a pair of sunglasses, after the unfortunate melting of my previous favourites. Eighties-era, like new, Christian Dior, gold, aviators? Sold! Just flashy enough for this guy. “You look like a movie star”, if only someone would say that to me, I’m tiring of saying it to myself whenever I look in the mirror with my new-found favourite shades. However, a quick scan of the ‘bay showed me that these glasses have recently sold for upwards of 3 and 4 hundred dollars. I paid much, much less. That’s the appeal of a flea market. Looking for the diamond in the rough.  Some may say, the Georgetown flea market has plenty of diamonds, and a whole lot of rough. That’s the appeal!

Heading to the Lorung Kulit market in Georgetown? Get there early.

The tip is, go on Sunday, and get there early. If you’re catching a taxi, every driver in town will know where to take you. “Lorung Kulit! STAT!” Tip: Don’t actually say STAT. Say, please. If you want to walk, just keep in mind that walking in the tropics can really take it out of you. There are regular buses that pass the market, when leaving we jumped on the first bus that passed by, as all buses in Penang seem to lead to the heart of Georgetown. After an eventful morning, a great, and very inexpensive lunch with the market locals, a few fresh juices, and then a bus ride back, we were ready to head indoors by noon. That’s the way to do it in Penang. Beat the heat. Stay out of the sun. One more look in the mirror, and then I’ll have an afternoon nap.


Enjoy the photos!



Lorong Kulit, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Open : Saturday and Sunday, get there early.

Free entry.


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The Thieves Market in Georgetown, Penang. Would you consider visiting?

PS,  For less than ten bucks…you can get a secret weapon that help you take much better travel photos. Take a look, you’ll love it.  I use it myself, and recommend it. Nate.

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17 Responses to Thieves Market Georgetown Penang – UNESCO Listed Stolen Goods?

  1. Ayngelina Feb 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Love the photos, it really gives you a sense of energy of the place.

    • Nate Feb 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      Thanks Ayngelina, photography is a passion of mine, I try to capture the essence of each place I visit (and decide to shoot). Come back an visit yomadic some time, plenty more photos to come!

  2. Tracey - Life Changing Year Feb 3, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    LOVE these photos!! And you are so right about the heat. We’ve been in Penang just over a week and the heat is KILLING us!!!!

  3. Nate Feb 3, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    Thanks Tracey! Watch that heat!

    PS – I checked out your blog, toooo funny, some great stories already, good luck with the rest of your journey. The kids must be loving it!

  4. Andrea Feb 4, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Looks like such an awesome place for people-watching!

  5. Nate Feb 4, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    Hi Andrea! One of my favourite past-times is people watching, and this was one of the best places in Georgetown/Penang to spend a few hours doing just that.

  6. Amberr Meadows Feb 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    What a very cool place to hang out with the locals, soak up culture, and score some good deals!

    • Nate Feb 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

      Yes to all of the above, Amberr! It’s the second time I’ve been to this market, I check it out whenever I’m in Penang.

  7. Tai Feb 9, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    What a great article to describe the activities at LORONG KULIT in Georgetown Penang!
    Those photos also portray the energy at various corners of LORONG KULIT !
    Do come back to Penang more often or visit my humble website to find out more about this PEARL OF THE ORIENT.

    • Nate Feb 9, 2012 at 11:14 am #

      Thanks Tai, and, fear not, I will be back in Penang before too long. This was probably my 5th or 6th visit to Georgetown since my first in the mid 90’s. There is just so much to explore, I need more time!

  8. Meng Yeap Dec 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Well, lok like you did came to Penang. Anyway just lorong Kulit?? I guess you din stay here for a long time,Anyway nice set from Penang.Do go again :)

    • Nate Robert Dec 17, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

      Hi Meng… I have been to Penang three times now (maybe four)…I’ve seen a lot, and have a lot of photos. I hope to get back again in 2013, it’s one of my favourite places anywhere. I could live in Penang!

      • Meng Yeap Dec 18, 2012 at 9:21 am #

        Oh, that is nice, please do come back again,haha. as I am a Penangite I welcome you with warm food,haha….It will be awesomet if you can share your experience with the new people like me in Penang.happy shooting

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