The Blue Mansion, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
The one place everybody told us we had to visit whilst in Penang was the Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze's mansion) in Georgetown. Although I'd heard of it and seen photos on other blogs etc. I knew nothing about it prior to our visit but being told it was an absolute must do it went right to the top of our agenda.
Being pretty central and that fantastic blue colour it's very easy to find on Leith Street or Lebuh Leith. This was a street name that amused us now we live in Edinburgh, although it was actually named after George Leith the Lieutenant Governor of Penang from 1800 to 1803 and has nothing to do with Leith, Edinburgh. The mansion is only open at certain times in the day and can only be accessed by guided tour so make sure you check the timings before heading off or have an alternate plan to fill time if you do need to wait (there isn't a lot of shelter from the sun in the immediate vicinity). When we visited the tours were timed at 11am, 2pm and 3.30pm with gates opening fifteen minutes beforehand for ticket purchases.
Once we had our tickets, and just prior to our tour beginning, we were able to enter the grounds and see a little more of the exterior of this beautiful building. The mansion was built in the 1880's having been commissioned by Cheong Fatt Tze, a very successful merchant trader. It is one of only two buildings of its size outside of China. To give you an idea of just how impressive it is it has thirty-eight rooms, five courtyards, seven staircases and two hundred and twenty windows! The design blends Eastern and Western features with materials of the highest quality being brought to Penang from all over the world in order to build the mansion including cast iron works from Glasgow. Perhaps also not surprising is that it is a perfect example of feng shui both in its location and the design within. The stunning blue colour of the building, perhaps the most striking initial feature of the mansion, is the result of mixing lime with natural blue dye made from the indigo plant.
Cheong Fatt Tze himself left China as a penniless teenager eventually establishing a vast financial empire across much of east Asia and becoming known as the 'Rockefeller of the East'. He chose Penang to build his most elaborate house, the Blue Mansion and this was where he raised and schooled his sons. At the mansion's height it housed his business enterprises, his favoured wife, business meetings were held and guests entertained. After his death in 1916 the mansion gradually fell into disrepair and it was only in the 1990s, after the death of his last son, that a group of conservationists were able to buy the building and begin the task of bringing the mansion back to its former glory.
The mansion is now a boutique hotel and also welcomes visitors, like us, on its tours. We didn't stay here, I'm sure it would be lovely, but as well as it being a little out of our price range it was actually fully booked when we were in Penang. This also meant that there were parts of the mansion we couldn't see but I certainly don't think we missed out because of that. There is a restaurant too within the mansion, we didn't dine there but has anyone done so, what is it like?
Our tour was excellent and our guide informative and enthralling, he was clearly very passionate about the mansion. He was only to happy to field questions from both adults and children in our tour group, including one child whose burning question was, 'what's the wifi password?' to which he calmly replied was only for hotel guests so he couldn't tell him. 😅 Towards the end of our tour we went into a room housing some more details about the painstaking restoration processes involved, information about TV and film productions made there and some clothing etc. belonging to members of Cheong Fatt Tze's family amongst other things.
|Mini museum room in the mansion|
This was definitely one of the highlights of our visit to Georgetown and just as everyone told me beforehand that we had to go I would say the same to anyone reading this who may be considering a visit. Not only is it beautiful visually it also gives a fascinating insight into one aspect of Penang's history and whether you are keen to learn about the man behind it or just want to admire the beauty of the building this mansion has something for you. In fact I can't imagine going to Georgetown and not visiting it!