Day two started with a hearty and yummy breakfast at the Sarkies restaurant in the hotel. Once done, we started to plan the day. Since most of the attractions didn’t open till around 10ish, we went back to the room before heading out to the Blue Mansion. This was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and the books said it opened at 9 am. We reached there around 9:30, but found it closed. The guard explained that they only opened for the tours and the first one of the day was scheduled at 11 am which meant the mansion opened at 10:45 for tickets. We were disappointed but walked back to the hotel to get the car and get on with our day’s agenda, planning to come back here. Later in the day, I read up more about the Blue Mansion and found that it was actually a boutique hotel and that only guests had the run to the place. Others could only enter at the designated tour times of 11 am, 2 pm and 3:30 pm. The tour takes 45 minutes to complete and I read that photography was prohibited. After reading this, we ultimately decided to skip this.
Our next stop was the Street Art at Armenian Street. Penang is famous for its street art which the city commissioned Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic to paint in and around Armenian Street in Georgetown. We saw around 4-5 of these, though I suspect some are not really painted by him. I think some have been painted by random people while some outside shops may have been commissioned by the shop owners to get into the action. Some of the famous ones had queues waiting to take photos with even around 10 am, so I think it will get a lot crowded as the day goes by. We also saw some iron structures across Georgetown which were commissioned by the Georgetown Tourism Board and are a fun and pictorial way to learn about the city’s history. While we were there, we saw only some, though I heard there are 52 of these across the city. Some are super cute and photoworthy! All hotels will have maps to show you where the Street Art is available and there are some tours also which take you around as I saw some tour groups when we were there.
After the street art, we decided to go next to the Penang 3D Trick Art Museum at Lebuh Penang. This was a short 3 minute drive from Armenian Street, but we spent more than 15 minutes trying to find parking space. The streets of Georgetown do not have much space for parking and everywhere we went, we found no space. We finally found space at the Union Street Carpark and paid around RM 4 for a couple of hours. We paid RM 25 for adults and RM 15 for the children as ticket prices at the 3D Trick Art Museum. This was the only place which offered the children’s rate for BB & GG even though we told them they were 12 years old.
The Museum features two dimensional exhibits with themes of ‘All about Penang Life’ and ‘Modern Classic’ as well as art exhibits with three-dimensional sculptures. There are around 30 odd artworks of optical illusion paintings and sculptures. Every artwork has a sticker on the floor to stand to capture the best shot. The staff is young and super friendly and always offer to help you take good pictures with both your camera as well as their own which they try to sell to you at the end. If you refuse, they leave it with a smile, so I liked that. I dislike pushy sales staff! At the end they also have a small souvenir shop with some tee shirts and other typical touristy things for sale. We enjoyed the place a lot, taking loads of pictures. I am guessing some of the pictures are fairly new as they didn’t seem to be the same as what you can see in blogs. It was interesting and my favourite was the room where when two people stand you have one towering over the other! We spent around an hour there before moving on to our next destination which was a short 5 minute walk away.
The Penang Peranakan Mansion was our last stop that morning. We reached there around 11:30ish and paid RM 20 per person. Children below six get in free. They also offer tours if you have five people or more and since we were five of us plus another lady waiting, we got the standard tour which took one hour and then we were free to wander around and take photographs. The ticket price includes the Straits Chinese Jewelry Museum which is located behind the mansion and is in the same compound.
The Peranakans, also known as Babas (men) and Nyonyas (women), are unique to Southeast Asia and are descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled down in what was called the Straits Settlements (Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia, especially Penang and Malacca) between the 15th and 17th centuries. They married local Malay women and their culture and lifestyle is a mixture of Chinese and Malay customs and habits. While Peranakan mostly means the mixture of Chinese and Malay, you also have smaller Pernanakan communities like the Indian Peranakan called Chitty, the Arab Pernakan called Jawi and Eurasian Peranakan called Kristang. The community is very fascinating and material for a separate blog post.
The Penang Peranakan Mansion, is a typical home of a rich Baba of a century ago, recreated to offer a glimpse of their opulent lifestyle and of their many customs and traditions. There are over 1,000 pieces of antiques and collectibles of the era on display in a heritage mansion of eclectic design and architecture. Built at the end of the 19th century by one of local history’s famous personalities, the ‘Hai Kee Chan’ or Sea Remembrance Store had once served as the residence and office of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee. Though not a Baba himself, his Chinese courtyard house was much like a typical large Baba home of eclectic style, incorporating Chinese carved-wood panels and English floor tiles and Scottish ironworks. Kapitan Cina or Chung Keng Kwee was the richest man in Penang at that time, a merchant who arrived from China and who wed a local woman, thus starting his Peranakan dynasty. The house has been lovingly restored and the guides there are quite passionate about the history of the house.
The Straits Chinese Jewelry Museum is a part of the Peranakan Mansion and there are real exquisite pieces on display which marry Chinese, Malay and Indo-European form, design and motif. The pieces do not belong to the Chung family, but also contain pieces contributed by the various Penang Peranakan families. Pieces displayed include stunning headdresses, earrings, bangles and cuffs and the other ornaments used by a Nyonya woman made out of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, pearls, jade and other precious and semi-precious stones. We also saw beautiful beadwork which is a Peranakan specialty, especially made in the form of shoes and bags. The exhibits will gladden any woman’s heart. I took photos here also though the mirrors at the back of each exhibit plus the glare from the spotlights made photo taking a tad difficult. I did hear photography was not encouraged in this part of the mansion, but neither our guide nor the guards at the jewelry museum forbade us from taking photos.
By the time we finished the Peranakan Mansion, we were famished and so we headed to the Woodlands again for our meal. The hotel was less than five minutes from the mansion and so after a scrumptious meal, we returned back to the hotel for some rest before we went to Batu Ferringhi in the afternoon.