MENTION Penang and images that spring to mind are swaying palms, beautiful beaches, the landmark bridge, ferries, culinary delights and the 65-storey Komtar Tower, of course.
Conquering George Town's skyline at a height of 232m, Komtar was the tallest, most majestic skyscraper in the region at the time.
And once upon a time, it was also the premier shopping destination with anchor tenants Super Komtar and Yaohan -- now defunct.
Ask the older Penangites and they will tell you how happening it used to be -- shops, eateries, buses and taxis to get you anywhere -- you name it, Komtar has it.
But the mall area, a four-storey podium at the base of the building, is starkly different from how it used to be.
Apart from the anchor tenant, the Pacific Hypermarket and Departmental store, the place is pretty much lifeless.
Many shops are closed and rubbish is littered in every nook and cranny. It is also dark.
There is a disused escalator, which serves as yet another rubbish dump, next to the old Yaohan.
It is nothing short of creepy.
Those who have parked at the multi-storey car park should be prepared to get lost -- not in looking for the parked vehicle, but in getting back to the car park.
There are absolutely no signs indicating the exit to the car park in the mall area.
The only "Keluar" sign leads you to an emergency staircase stinking of urine and cigarette smoke.
Many who are not unfamiliar with Komtar (this writer included) have gotten lost in the mall.
Imagine this: You exit the car park to go to the state government and municipal council offices in the building.
You look around. There is nobody in sight. You could ask the departmental store workers, but half of them are foreign and do not understand what you are talking about.
So you wander about the mall area, which, once you leave the brightly-lit Pacific behind, is really a dark and creepy place.
You run into another person, but he turns out to be just another lost soul selling stolen watches and mobile phones.
"I give you good price, don't worry!" he says as you back away.
Nevertheless, it is a good workout. This writer had a good 20-minute walk, ending up outside Komtar facing Gama, awaking some angry beggars who were in deep slumber.
Now, is this good for the tourist?
One need only look up "Komtar" in the international travel review site TripAdvisor to see many people sharing similar or worse experiences.
A tourist from Brisbane, Australia, who visited Komtar less than three weeks ago, said: "The place should be gutted, and rebuilt. The corridors are so dark and narrow with suspicious-looking characters loitering around.
"We did not feel safe and could not wait to get out of the place."
This is not the only bad comment. Nor is it the worst.
The relevant authorities should deploy its officers to take a walk around Komtar -- in groups of one. Perhaps it is only in the dark that they will finally see the light.