Tuesday, August 24, 2010

pearl of the orient p3

Since we didn't manage to catch the World Cup finals, we had a really good sleep. The hotel's power shower and sturdy beds, not to mention a long day out, helped!

While some of the gang decided to chill out in the room, the rest of us went to explore the famous Le Maison Bleue. Striking in indigo blue, the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion is a testament to the wealth of its owner, who established his reputation all over the world through sheer hard work and perseverance.

This is another fine example of how influences from various culture come together to create a masterpiece of sorts. While the floorplan is essentially Chinese, the overall effect is electic and typical of 19th Century Straits Settlement architecture. Gothic louvered windows, Chiense cut-&-paste porcelain work, Stoke-on-Tent floor tiles, Scottish cast iron works and Art Nouveau stained glass are among the features to be found in this inspired work of art.*

To us, however, the highlight of the tour was not the fusion of architecture, but more so the tour guide whom we suspect is a former history teacher. Walking with an air of authority, she made sure we paid attention to her stories of how feng shui elements were incorporated into the house, ensuring continuous flow of wealth for Cheong Fatt Tze and his household.

Though she encouraged participation from her visitors, she was quick to reprimand an eager young lad who wanted to show that he knew what certain numbers meant to the Chinese. Needless to say, not many dared to raise a question after that.

As for me, I was only more curious to explore the exterior of the house since we were forbidden to take photographs of the inner courts. I got myself stained as a result - now I'm wondering what cheap paint did they use?! Certainly this is not befitting their status as winner of "Most Excellent Project" UNESCO Heritage Conservation Award 2000!

Lunch with the rest of the gang was at Hot Wok, also another recommended restaurant. I'm beginning to feel more touristy than ever, having tasted all these foods for the first time in my life!

Joining us for the scrumptious lunch was Michelle whom we have not met since graduation! At first we thought we had overestimated our ability to eat, but the walks help built an appetite for the Nyonya food. Go visit for a rather authentic feel of a traditional home with many antiques within its nooks and crannies.

Since it has been pretty hot & humid, the next item on the itinerary sounded like what we needed - Penang Hill. We took the 4WD up as the funicular trains were not in service anymore :/

I'm not really been a fan of heights, but there's just something about being up there looking down and enjoying the cool air away from the city. Even though we didn't attempt to hike up, we were pleasantly delighted to find a lovely garden after a short stroll at David Brown's Restaurant, whose concept is similar to The Smokehouse in Cameron.

Beautiful weather, so everyone who came opted to sit outside in the tents. We saw lots of Middle Eastern families who seemed to be enjoying the outdoors too. There were so many non-tropical flowers around that I went trigger-happy, leaving the rest to indulge in good ol' English scones served with butter, strawberry jam and fresh cream.

Alas, but all good things have to come to an end. Just as we were finishing up the bread pudding and Alaska bomb, we had to force ourselves off the seats so that we could get downhill to catch our flight. Too little time to indulge in Colonial hospitality.

As if our dessert was not enough, we stopped by a famous porridge place just before the airport for a serving of Teochew congee so that we wouldn't starve on the plane! Plus a plate of salted chicken for good measure.

No one can accuse of Sook Ping of being a bad host-cum-tour guide, having stuffed us silly with all sorts of delicious Penang food and bringing us around to see the other aspects of the island. She can be contacted for personalised tours ;)

* excerpt from brochure


Yap! It's 3088.. said...

The head level of the over-sized door lock you showed in one of the pictures, strikes a chord with the communists' way of ruling with fear. They constantly reminded civilians of how small they were in the society with oversized doors, head level door locks and high ceilings.

§nóflèk said...

interesting point of history there. hmm i saw gigantic doors and doorknobs all over italy too - would they be for the same reason or just because europeans are big(ger) size??