Twilight Time for a Once-Vital Village Industry

loading Dhoby Ghaut is where Penang's last traditional Indian laundry service operators are located.

Surrounded by a quaint mix of 1980s terrace rows, mint bungalows and semi-detached houses, the unassuming Dhoby Ghaut village can be found at the confluence of Waterfall River and Air Itam River. The village, also known as “Vannan Thora Tedal”, was home to over a hundred traditional Indian laundry service operators in its heyday.

Today, only seven are left.

“Dhoby Ghaut” is derived from the Hindi words “dhobi”, which means washerman, and “ghaut”, which refers to a wide set of steps descending into a river. Historically, dhobis would spend hours scrubbing stubborn stains off clothes along the river with the sun beating down on them.


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