Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rediscovering Penang Part 3: Cheong Fat Tze, Little India & Kopi Peng

As intense as the cerulean sky behind it the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion left such an impression on me from the moment I saw it. It was the house and office of a man pivotal to Penang's position as an Asian trading hub in the turn of the 19th century. Exquisitely restored, Le Maison Bleu was my favourite spot on this trip to Georgetown.

The only way to enter the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion is to take a guided tour. I was captivated by the tour guide from start to finish who not only gave us a colourful (pun not intended) narration of Mr Cheong's life but a wonderful introduction to basic feng shui of a Chinese house. A self-made mogul, Cheong Fatt Tze threw himself into every industry he saw business opportunities in. He had homes and of course business dealings in Indonesia, Singapore, China and Hong Kong, but it was this one outside China that was the most elaborate and luxurious. He consulted feng shui masters in its construction and was inspired by travels abroad. A single window section could have Chinese, Malay, English, Scottish and French elements - merging with each other and creating something beautifully unique.

We regaled the stories of the morning over a Tandoori Garlic Naan set at Kapitan's on Lebuh Chulia. A little on the dry side but it's been ages since I had a good old tandoori, drizzled in dhal and zesty coriander chutney.

We wondered back through Lebuh Cecil where Little India is, gazing fondly at the food which smelt so so good.

And then decided we needed an ice cold Kopi Peng or Malaysian Iced Coffee on Lorong Amoy. Smoky and sweetened with evaporated milk, it's very much like Vietnamese Iced Coffee. 

A Chinese Mansion, Indian food and a Malaysian drink. I like how we meandered through the town and all these cultures swam into each other. Our mixed bag of cultures is ever-evolving. Visiting the Cheong Fatt Tze made me think how many cultural influences have managed to find themselves on our shores, and that  places like that in Malaysia are increasingly rare. It may bear a Chinese name and have been built in Chinese style but the community it involved was far greater. Let's keep our history alive by supporting the preservation of our old buildings and streets.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Lebuh Leith, Pulau Pinang
A guided tour at set times during the day is RM12 per adult

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Restaurant Kapitan
93 Jalan Chulia
10200 Penang

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Baby Sumo said...

I've eaten that tandoori chicken b4. Cheong Fatt Tze is sooo blue. Love the first pic.

Saucy Siciliana said...

Lovely! I'm following you on Twitter, I'm francescaedesia and I'm now following you here!

Sean said...

I guess we'll never know what Cheong Fatt Tze might have thought of the Penang of today. Wonder how many of his descendants still reside on the island though. I suppose there's nobody alive who has personally met the man, since he died nearly a century ago...

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos and good comments.
Keep up the good work.

Hungry Female said...

Yen, they do an afternoon tea at the mansion, I think you'd really enjoy that:)
Francesca, thanks for visiting! I look forward to your Sicilian adventures!
Sean, it would have been great to have gotten inside that man's head eh? I'm sure there are descendants that he didn't even know about, he was quite the, erm, ladies man!

Ben said...

Nice to see the blue mansion of Cheong Fat Tze here :) Unfortunately not able to see inside when I passed by there as I understood they have certain time for guided tour. Did you able to tour the inner side of the mansion? Informative write-up and nice photos ;)

Hungry Female said...

Hi Ben, the guided tour takes you around the house but you're not allowed to take photos inside. I just loved the house in and out though, so it's absolutely worth a visit:)

J2Kfm said...

Great post, appreciate how good everything's preserved in Penang. Melaka comes a distant second, though still commendable.

Can't believe how the other states are still being ignorant; demolishing structures as we go along.