Penang – The Blue Mansion and more

Sunday 7 June 2015 – George Town, Penang

The Eastern and Orient Hotel, George Town, Penang
The Eastern and Orient Hotel, George Town, Penang

I found the breakfast eggs – they are provided on demand through a servery hatch. Thinking about the next stage of my trip, I asked at a couple of ‘travel agents’ along Lebuh Chulia about getting to AoNang in Krabi on Tuesday. The first only had a bus going Monday and the second could only get me to Hat Yay on the Thai border, for a cost of RM75, saying it would likely cost me as much again to get from there to Krabi (this despite both having signs out indicating daily departures).

So I booked a flight from Penang to Krabi airport for AUD$105. An hour’s flight as opposed to 8-12 hours on cramped mini buses for not a lot more cash seemed a good idea. Whilst at it I booked 5 nights at an AoNang hotel for AUD$23 per night. At least there’s some upside to the off-season.

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I caught the 11am guided tour at the Cheong Tze Fatt Blue Mansion, which is now a very swish function centre and boutique hotel and not otherwise open to the public. Just as our formidable guide Pat was about to get going for the small group of mostly international visitors, a busload of Malay tourists with lots of small children arrived and noisily proceeded to behave appallingly. A small group of older Chinese tourists added to the mayhem.

The formidable Pat, our guide at The Blue Mansion of Cheong Fatt Tze
The formidable Pat, our guide at The Blue Mansion of Cheong Fatt Tze

Pat batted on like a trooper, asking them not to wander off (they were clearly not interested in the tour, or quite possibly did not speak any English), but to no effect. Eventually she got an offsider to take them upstairs in order to get rid of them. It was a good example of needing to manage your visitors no matter how their expectations differ from yours. Their money had been taken…

The formidable Pat, our guide at The Blue Mansion of Cheong Fatt Tze
The formidable Pat, our guide at The Blue Mansion of Cheong Fatt Tze

Pat’s presentation was extensive, even if the tour was limited to the first courtyard/lightwell on both levels. Apparently, this is one of the few, if not only, surviving five courtyard traditional houses outside China, and well worth a visit despite the circus provided by local tourists.

TripAdvisor Review of The Blue Mansion

Next stop was the protestant cemetery which was closed so I only managed a few pics over the wall.

The Penang Museum was even dustier and sadder than I recall; dim & idling attendants who were totally focused on their phones, who one suspects would not have been able to respond sensibly to a question on the collection if asked. Despite this, it is worth a visit for the very good display about all things Penang, from its history, culture, various occupations, food etc. It also has a good collection of historic landscapes, although it’s unclear whether these are original or reproductions. If they are original, they are not in a good state, moldering badly in the tropical humidity. They are poorly lit with unreadable labels.

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The Penang Peranakan Mansion looked impressive from the foyer, but only offered guided tours for pre-booked groups. This put me off paying the RM21 admission – the most expensive yet of any of the museums this week. At all the others, the guides have made all the difference.

Trip Advisor Review of the Penang Peranakan Mansion

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After a quick lunch of noodles at a place around the corner and a rest back at the hotel, I wandered the streets around Lebuh Charles photographing the street food hawkers. Dinner was, perversely, a pizza then back for the now mandatory couple of drinks on the rooftop of Chulia Mansion. The atmosphere was ruined by a Malay family bringing their noisy small children up to the bar, where they proceeded to run riot, despite it being after 10pm. So to bed.

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