Museum Escapades: The Blue Mansion a.k.a. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Museum Escapades

Back in the years of being a colony, businessmen around the area flocked to Southeast Asia, especially around the Dutch and British strongholds in present-day Sumatra, Java, and Malaysia. One of the most celebrated Mandarins of China and one of the pioneer capitalists in the East, Cheong Fatt Tze’s story carries on with the mansion he has left behind in Penang.

The entrance to the mansion.

The entrance to the mansion.

The greeting lobby.

The greeting lobby.

Born a Hakka in Taipu County, China, Cheong Fatt Tze came to Southeast Asia at the age of 16, first working and learning the ropes of business in Jakarta (then known as Batavia, Dutch East Indies) before gaining the trust of the colonialists and setting up business in Penang. The Blue Mansion was constructed as evidence to show that Cheong was not a fly-by-night merchant, but a serious businessman.

While much of the mansion was constructed with western influences, Cheong stood close to his Chinese roots, with the house built on a manmade slope and according to general fengshui practices. As explained by our lively guide, Pat, the general layout of the house was centered on harmony and wealth, to keep the family as peaceful and harmonious as possible.

Our lively and wonderful guide, Pat. Regaling us with the history of Cheong Fatt Tze.

Our lively and wonderful guide, Pat. Educating us on the history of Cheong Fatt Tze.

View from the second level balcony.

View from the second level balcony.

The beginnings of one of China's finest Mandarins

The beginnings of one of China’s finest Mandarins

Stories on the restoration.

Stories on the restoration.

Mdm Tan, Cheong's 7th Wife and the one he fell in love with.

Mdm Tan, Cheong’s 7th Wife and the one he fell in love with.

The second level of the mansion focussed more on the restoration of the Mansion, together with Cheong’s achievements and personal life. It was also the entrance to the Chinese Fine Dining establishment which opened within the Mansion itself.

When the last living descendant (who lived in this mansion) of Cheong Fatt Tze died in 1989, the mansion was in disrepair. Soon purchased by a group of Chinese businessmen, they found out about its historical value and got the place restored for tourists. Historically, many of Cheong’s descendants have not been mentioned, as many of Cheong’s sons sold his assets and businesses so that they did not have to work.

The Blue Mansion in that same shade of blue it was.

The Blue Mansion in that same shade of blue it was.

Now restored to its glory, it was a filming location of French film “IndoChine” (among others), and is now a guest house, with daily tours, and a holder of the Most Excellent Project, UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards in 2000. To find out more about the Blue Mansion, click here.

P/S – If you would like to follow our posts on our Penang trip, just search for the tag “penang adventure 2014”.

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Signal Boost: How Was Your Day?

Signal Boost

If some of you may recall, I did an analysis / review of How Was Your Day?, a comic anthology released during Comic Art Festival, Kuala Lumpur (CAFKL) here. It was so popular that it actually sold out on the first day of CAFKL itself.

Pic courtesy of Max Loh.

Pic courtesy of Max Loh.

Now I’m incredibly excited to let everyone here know that there has been a second print run and you will be able to get How Was Your Day? in Books Actually, retailing at SGD24.

So yes, if you like comics and would like to see more regional work or comics close to our hearts, head down to Books Actually and give them your support. Find out more about How Was Your Day? here.

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Decode: Adventure: Penang – Food Part 1

Decode Adventure

“When you go to Penang, you have to eat.”
“Don’t diet when you’re in Penang, diet when you’re not.”

When someone announces that s/he is going to Penang, those two lines seem to pop up like no one’s business; And with good reason. Since we arrived in Penang, the common question during meal times or before we headed out for the day was…

“Where do you what to go and eat later?”

And thus, the food trail around Penang began…

(Note: For this post, I will be focussing on the food we were eating, instead of the places we went to and the food they served there. Also, it’s a long list, so this is just Part 1 of the eating adventure!)

Mee Goreng (Indian Style)

First proper meal of the trip!

First proper meal of the trip!

The first meal we ate upon arriving at Penang was Indian Style Mee Goreng along Lorong Bangkok. As we sat at a corner of the eating house, we tucked into a good serving of fried, succulent noodles, soft, scrambled eggs, crunchy beansprouts, and incredibly generous bites of roasted squid. Bursting with flavour and texture, it was a great first meal to start the trip.

And an apt way to end the trip.

And an apt way to end the trip.

With Indian Style Mee Goreng starting the trip, it’s almost apt that it was our last meal before the Tiger and I flew back to Singapore. This time, it was along Gurney Drive, and an old favourite of the Tiger and his family. Like the place in Lorong Bangkok, this meal was full of flavour and different textures. Unlike the place in Lorong Bangkok, however, this place has something the Tiger calls the “Pillow” – cruller-like flour strips double fried such that the outer coating is crispy and the insides are chewy, even after getting doused in the delicious gravy.

Loh Bak

DAY TWO BREAKFAST!!!

DAY TWO BREAKFAST!!!

For those who have no idea what Loh Bak is, it’s something similar to our Ngor Hiang (five spice), but instead of minced meat and chestnut, it’s just a row of meat wrapped in beancurd skin and deep fried. Accompanied with prawn cakes, fried yam, dried tofu, and many other things to your choosing, each dish came with a sweet sauce and chilli for dipping.

We had this for breakfast twice at Kafe Kheng Pin, which was down the road from our hotel, Cititel. What I liked about this was how light it actually turned out to be, despite the entire thing being deep fried. The fried yam was my favourite – especially tasty and nutty, without the heaviness of the grease.

Char Kway Teow (Penang Style)

A food trail in Penang will never be complete without Penang-style Char Kway Teow, which we enjoyed just outside Gurney Plaza. Much lighter than the Char Kway Teow we’re used to, this version packs more savour than sweetness, with fresher ingredients. As much as I like this version though, I still prefer our fatter kway teow noodles. Haha.

(Note: I have no idea how I had no picture of this awesome dish.)

Penang Laksa

While the Tiger and his mom ate their fill.

While the Tiger and his mom ate their fill.

Like Char Kway Teow, another must-eat for most visitors of Penang is the Penang Laksa as well. While I’m not a big fan of Laksa, the Tiger went to have some around Air Itam, near Penang Hill. This version contains assam instead of coconut milk and chilli, and has a more sour flavour instead. According to the Tiger, the sourness, despite its strength in his bowl of laksa, left a good amount of depth in the flavour, though it may come off a little too strong for people who are not used to it. Regardless, still something tasty for the foodies.

And that will be Part 1 done for you! Stay tuned for more Penang food adventures when we come back for Part 2 =).

P/S – If you would like to follow our Penang posts, just search for the tag “penang adventure 2014”.

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Next-in-Reading #23: Falling for Lionheart

Next in Reading
Title:
Falling for Lionheart
Author: Ilias Kyriazis
Year: 2010
Publisher:
IDW Publishing

“Leo. / Angela. / I’m very glad we’ll be working together.”

Part of a banding group of superheroes, Leo “Lionheart” Heartfield continues to pursue Angela, the lady of the group who always seemed to be in need of a good time in bed. While he sighs at the superficial whims of the rest of his group in resignation, he meets Cassandra, an independent artist who sparks something that seemed to have died of within him – his passion.

Character(s)

Leo “Lionheart” Heartfield, the Reluctant Hero

Leo probably represents the vast majority of fame-seekers – people who dream big and dream about living big, leaving legacies, or living the celebrity life. As one who is already “living the dream”, he realizes that the grass is only greener on the other side of the bridge because it was full of manure. The constant sex and superficiality he has to deal with only brings out the true side of him – his integrity and devotion to Angela.

Cassandra, who Won the Heart of a Lion

If Leo was looking for the door to a passion he could pursue with integrity, Cassandra was probably his key. The personification of the alternative, she presents herself to be everyone Leo wants but does not have – true passion, independence, confidence, and a creative integrity which is appreciated by the people around her. Like Leo, she is true to her feelings, but has more room to exercise it without judgment.

Theme(s)

Integrity…

Integrity – both personal and creative – is a big theme through the story. Leo draws to express himself, but feels that his personal integrity is being questioned when the people around him diss this “hobby” of his, saying that it’s something unbecoming or laughable done by a superhero. Ironically, it’s probably the only aspect about him that rings true. While Cassandra is true to herself and her work, he can only be true to his work because it will not judge him back.

Cassandra takes personal integrity rather seriously as well, breaking off their relationship even before it starts because of Leo keeping his true identity a secret. With Leo struggling to keep his personal integrity, he finally finds it in Cassandra, despite finally getting the girl he wanted in the first place.

Style & Structure

Unlike many graphic novels, where entire stories are told in one distinct or similar style, Falling for Lionheart is told with two rather different styles – depicting the point of view from the narrator, and the point of view of Leo. As meta as it seems, this style provides a more personal feel to the story, enhancing Leo’s sincerity and integrity to his work and who he truly is.

Falling for Lionheart is created by Ilias Kyriazis and published by IDW Publishing. To find out more about the book, click here.

In the meantime…

Stay tuned for next week, where I reread an old classic from my primary school days. I’ll see you then!

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Museum Escapades: Khoo Kongsi

Museum Escapades

Located at a corner along Cannon Street, you may end up missing the Khoo Kongsi as you walk along the road. If you have done so, you would have probably missed out on an opportunity to appreciate this clan’s history and the beautiful architecture found beyond its inconspicuous gates.

The sign at the main entrance.

The sign at the main entrance.

The majestic-looking main hall.

The majestic-looking main hall.

Passing through the Chinese-style entrance gate, you will walk past what used to be a row of community houses where entire families lived and communicated with each other, before reaching the ticketing area and gift shop. It’s RM10 to enter for adults and RM1 for kids. After getting presented with your entrance sticker and a free Khoo Kongsi postcard, you’re ready to go.

Upon entrance, the first thing you would notice would be the main ancestral temple, where the main museum and ancestral hall was. Sitting majestically, behind an empty but wide courtyard, the main was surrounded by the old living quarters, and two other Chinese-style buildings – one of which was a performance stage, and the other, another ancestral hall.

The entrance to the inner museum

The entrance to the inner museum

Khoo Kongsi at night!

Khoo Kongsi at night!

The building of the main hall and the compound

The building of the main hall and the compound

The main museum is located on the lower floors of the main ancestral hall, with exhibits and pictures on the history of the Khoo clan, their family tree, and their journey to Southeast Asia. It also provided a brief history of how life was during the early settlements, and the relationships between families in the clan.

One panel which did set me off was the panel featuring Khoo Teck Puat, known for being the man behind Goodwood Park Hotel, and whose family started the Khoo Teck Puat hospital. To paraphrase the Tiger, the familial lines between Penang and Singapore because it’s pretty much from one island to another.

Regardless, my exclamation of “Khoo Teck Puat?!” was one of the highlights of our visit there.

KHOO TECK PUAT?!

KHOO TECK PUAT?!

The upper hall was mainly their ancestral hall, with memorial tablets stacked up behind glass panels. However, what was exceptionally beautiful about the place was the many intricate carvings of Chinese mythology and folklore – mythical dragons, powerful tigers, majestic fish, playful fairies, and wise immortals. Despite their slightly faded appearance, the carvings enhanced the outer aura of the main hall itself.

Patterns of the Phoenix

Patterns of the Phoenix

Carved tiger and its cub

Carved tiger and its cub

A dragon as majestic as its building

A dragon as majestic as its building

All in all, it was a different kind of museum for me – one which focussed and honoured the contributions of a single Chinese clan, which turned into a tourist spot for many people in Penang. While the exhibits in the main museum were simple, they told a story that was personal, and these are the stories which will carry on with the generations.

This is a place I would recommend going. To find out more about the Khoo Kongsi, click here.

P/S – If you would like to follow our posts on the Penang trip, just search for the tag “penang adventure 2014″.

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Signal Boost: Liquid City Volume 3 Launch – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Signal Boost

If you’ve been to the Kinokuniya Main Store launch of Liquid City Volume 3 in Singapore, you might have caught a glimpse of how much talent we have in Southeast Asia. And if you feel like you have not gotten enough comic and artistic action, here’s another opportunity to appreciate the art put together by our Southeast Asian artists.

Event: Liquid City Volume 3 Launch, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 23rd August 2014 (Saturday)
Time: 1:30PM
Venue: Kinokuniya, KLCC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Come on down and meet some of the contributing artists, including Lefty, Reimena Yee, Stephani Soejono, and Max Loh. And perhaps you will get a new perspective on the art and creations done by our own Southeast Asian creators.

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Decode: Adventure: Penang – Art

Decode Adventure

Since Penang’s Georgetown was given its UNESCO World Heritage Site title, people have been flocking to the island for various reasons. For the Tiger and myself, we were looking forward to two main attractions – Street Art and Steel Rods.

Scattered through the Core and Buffer Zones of Georgetown, the Tiger and I took a walk during our 2nd and 3rd days there to check out these works – and how many we can manage to find.

Kids on a Swing @ Step By Step Lane

Kids on a Swing @ Step By Step Lane

Most of the artworks we managed to find centered Armenian Street and Chulia Street, where most of the action (Food, Cafes, Art, People) seems to be happening. I would say it was not a coincidence that the Georgetown Festival Office was located around that area as well.

Despite their beauty, the Tiger and I did feel quite sad that some of the murals had faded or had to be knocked out of the walls due to age or city pollution. Regardless, some of these pieces are definitely worth the trek.

The murals were done by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, who also has an art book on the various murals on sale in the many gift shops around the Core Zone. Some of the other murals were done for the 101 Lost Kittens Project, and most of their murals are located around Armenian Street.

"Boy on a Bike" @ Ah Quee Street

“Boy on a Bike” @ Ah Quee Street

"The Real Bruce Lee will Never Do This"

“The Real Bruce Lee will Never Do This”

"Reaching Up" @ Cannon Street

“Reaching Up” @ Cannon Street

"Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat"

“Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat”

"Skippy, the Giant Cat"

“Skippy, the Giant Cat”

"I Can Help Catch Rats"

“I Can Help Catch Rats”

In memory of "Broken Heart" @ Love Lane. The original was removed.

In memory of “Broken Heart” @ Love Lane. The original was removed.

And the famous "Little Children on a Bicycle" @ Armenian Street

And the famous “Little Children on a Bicycle” @ Armenian Street

Apart from the murals, Georgetown is also known for these many steel rod sculptures, set and put up by Sculpture at Work. These sculptures tell the everyday stories and historical tales of the different areas of Penang, featuring art by Baba Chuah, Lefty, Reggie Lee, and Tang Mun Kian.

"Jimmy Choo" @ Leith Street, by Baba Chuah

“Jimmy Choo” @ Leith Street, by Baba Chuah

"Kandar" @ Ah Quee Street, by Tang Mun Kian

“Kandar” @ Ah Quee Street, by Tang Mun Kian

"Property" @ Victoria Street, by Lefty

“Property” @ Victoria Street, by Lefty

"Ting Ting Thong" @ Seck Chuan Lane, by Baba Chuah

“Ting Ting Thong” @ Seck Chuan Lane, by Baba Chuah

"Cheating Husband" @ Love Lane, by Tang Mun Kian

“Cheating Husband” @ Love Lane, by Tang Mun Kian

"One Leg Kicks All" @ Muntri Street, by Tang Mun Kian

“One Leg Kicks All” @ Muntri Street, by Tang Mun Kian

"Cannon Hole" @ Cannon Street, by Tang Mun Kian

“Cannon Hole” @ Cannon Street, by Tang Mun Kian

"Procession" @ Armenian Street, by Tang Mun Kian

“Procession” @ Armenian Street, by Tang Mun Kian

"Budget Hotels" @ Chulia Street, by Reggie Lee

“Budget Hotels” @ Chulia Street, by Reggie Lee

The Tiger ordering "Tok Tok Mee" @ China Street, by Tang Mun Kian

The Tiger ordering “Tok Tok Mee” @ China Street, by Tang Mun Kian

"Bullock Cart Wheel" @ Pitt Street, by Reggie Lee

“Bullock Cart Wheel” @ Pitt Street, by Reggie Lee

"Street Fighters" @ Church Street, by Reggie Lee

“Street Fighters” @ Church Street, by Reggie Lee

The sculptures outnumbered the murals, so we only managed to get a few here and there. (I was looking for the spy / espionage sculpture but it was too far out from where we were L.) Nonetheless, each sculpture brought a sliver of history and memory back to the street corners and turns around the Core and Buffer Area.

However, given the structure of the roads in Georgetown, do be careful when you are trying to take photographs of these sculptures. Oncoming traffic will be an issue at certain times of the day.

And that’s all I have for you with regards to Penang Art! From what we saw, the scene is definitely growing and it seems that there is a good amount of support for the local artists, so do watch out for future developments in Georgetown and the Georgetown Festival. To find out more about the festival, click here. It runs until 31 August 2014.

P/S – If you would like to follow through with our Penang trip, just search for the tag “penang adventure 2014″.

Yes, poor dear. LOL.

Yes, poor dear. LOL.

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