When I told friends I was going to Penang, I was immediately recommended to try to stay at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion by my friend behind http://mylifeinsin.blogspot.sg/2013/01/penang-cheong-fatt-tze-mansion-gorgeous.html. Sadly it was fully booked (and a little out of my planned price range but when I read her post I was determined to try to stay there!)
Cheong Fatt Tze was one of the last Chinese Mandarins. He came from a family of school teachers and farmers from Gunagdong province and after a well thought out first marriage and a lot of hard work, became one of the most influential people in not only Penang, but South East Asia.
After leaving home at the age of 16 to seek his fame and fortune he ended up doing such menial jobs as working as a water carrier in the Dutch East Indies before he married into a good family and had the benefit of an ambitious and wealthy father in law to act as his “banker”. Working side by side with the Dutch government, he quickly made vast amounts of money, and realising that if he could work alongside the Dutch successfully he could most likely do the same amongst the British he set out for Penang.
When the time came to look for a site to build his new home in 1880, he happened across the swampland on the now “Leith lane” and spotting a Lotus flower growing, decided to buy the land to build his home. It was not until 8 years later in 1888 (If you haven’t noticed the Chinese “lucky” symbols such as the number 8 and lotus flowers then it should be getting clearer by now…)
The mansion itself is built around the principals of Feng Shui, with beautiful courtyards allowing the air to circulate, fountains and many other “Feng Shui-isms” that I would not wish to try to explain for fear of getting it wrong, needless to say it is all very interesting and a beautiful mansion) He left in his will a proviso that his family house could not be sold until his favourite wife (whom he married when she was 16 and he was over the age of 80…) and his son with her had passed away which meant that the mansion was left in a state of disrepair for much of the last century, inspite of the fact that Japanese bombers during the 2nd world war thought it was a temple and left it mostly unscathed.
It was only restored to its former glory after being purchased by a group of Malay business men in 1989 eventually being featured in the Oscar inning film with Catherine Deneuve, “Indochine” in 1993. You can book a tour (they have 3 daily at around 12 Ringitt) of the mansion, or book one of their 16 themed bedrooms for the full experience. No trip to Penang would be complete without a trip to the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, It is truly amazing!