Pinang Peranakan Mansion

While not busy with Ken’s family or trying out new restaurants, we are actually doing some sightseeing around town. Georgetown has plenty of dilapidated yet charming British colonial architecture and some beautifully restored mansions which beckon to be explored.

A recent visit to the late nineteenth century Pinang Peranakan Mansion introduced us to the architectural style of the affluent Straits Chinese (also called Baba-Nyonya or Peranakan). I immediately fell in love with the two-story home, especially the open central courtyard filled with colorful tropical flowers. The entire mansion boasts carved, Chinese-style wood paneling, English floor tiles, and Scottish ironworks. But it isn’t just the East meets West architecture that distinguishes this mansion.

The game room, music room, and the study, all filled with objects recalling another age, look as though their occupants have just left. The frilly beds appear to have just been made for the day. The dining room is fully set for dinner. The mansion feels alive.

Original furniture, like the over-sized marble day beds inlaid with mother-of-pearl as well as the large portraits of the Chung Keng Kwee family staring down from their heavy frames, tell a story of wealth and power. Elaborate wall hangings, gilded wood screens, and an extensive collection of antique glassware and porcelain remind us of the period’s opulent lifestyle. This mansion and its contents tell a story. It’s the perfect architectural manifestation of Penang’s unique history.

Our Travel Tip:

Although many guide books heavily promote the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, which also functions as a high-end hotel, we prefer the Pinang Peranakan Mansion. Visitors to the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion have to take a one-hour tour to see the building and no photography is allowed. At the Peranakan Mansion, however, visitors can do a self-guided tour, take as much time as they want, AND can photograph anywhere and anything they want.

Also, don’t miss the associated Chung Keng Kwee ancestral temple next to the mansion. It even comes with its own, small bat colony.

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