It is said that the entire architectural legacy of Penang is vividly displayed in the distinctive colors of the Cheong Fatt Tze – Blue Mansion. Nothing could be closer to the truth as I personally discovered during my recent visit to Penang where I had the privilege to spend a few nights in the grand antique ‘Old Kitchen’ of this spectacular UNESCO world heritage site. Considered to be one of the ten best mansions in the world, locating it was quite easy on Leith street in Georgetown, mainly because of the prominent indigo blue coating.
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History Behind the Enchanting Cheong Fatt Tze – Blue Mansion
A product of master craftsmanship and painstaking detail confirming to the best principles of Feng Shui, the Blue Mansion was erected in the late 19th century as an inspiration of the legendary Chinese merchant, Cheong Fatt Tze. The elaborate building housed 5 courtyards, 38 rooms, 7 staircases and served as his residence for his eight wives, six sons and his business outlet as well. The blue was chosen because indigo was a highly prized dye and highly favoured by many communities, thus elevating the stature of the mansion.
Through sheer hard work and perseverance, Cheong Fatt Tze, from working as a cow herd, soon expanded his business to such an extent that he was dubbed the ‘Rockefeller of the East’ and ultimately made the Consul for China in Penang in 1890.After the death of Cheong Fatt Tze in 1916, his family did not have the acumen to maintain his business and the mansion went into disarray.
To prevent the mansion from decay and possible demolition, a local group of individuals purchased the building from the descendants of Cheong Fatt Tze in 1989. The mansion was once again carefully restored to its original grandeur, an effort which won them the “Most excellent heritage conservation award” from UNESCO in 2000. Thanks to this status, people have now become more aware of the early rulers of Penang, who have made the island what it is today.
My Experience of Staying inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site
When I first visited the Crazy House in Dalat, which also couples up as a boutique hotel, I wondered how people living inside a “tourist attraction” would feel. I didn’t have to ponder upon that for long, I got my answer – It feels fabulous. The rooms and adjoining areas are exclusively for in-house guests even though “tourists” are allowed to come for pictures and tours, during pre-defined hours, after paying an entry fee. Going beyond those “do not enter” signs without hesitation, is quite a treat. You will feel like royalty – exactly what the aim behind living in a mansion should be!
As soon as I walked into my room, I was stunned. Intricate detailing, spacious bedroom, jacuzzi in washroom, charming rustic decor – everything was just perfect. I felt like a queen right away. Watch this video as I step into my royal room.
Video of my Room at The Blue Mansion
Complimentary breakfast is served at the wonderfully decorated Courtyard and the menu has options like Roasted duck, English breakfast and even the local delicacies.
A sprawling, hard to find, swimming pool with authentic decor lies in the backyard. Just ask the receptionist and you will be directed to it. Definitely worth a visit as a guest of the mansion.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion Daily Tours
If you want to take a peek inside the lives of Chinese royalty and understand the history of the mansion first hand, without actually living in it, though that’s the best way to experience it, then the other option is to hop on one of the daily guided tours of the mansion. What’s more, you even get to take those gorgeous pictures with indigo hues. I would say it is totally worth it. The guides are knowledgeable, funny and interesting.
In fact in all honesty, I never had so much fun on a guided history tour (I am not a history buff) but this one was hosted by one of the owner’s Loh-Lim Lin Lee and she was simply amazing. She does two tours every Friday and I felt extremely lucky to be apart in one of her tours. The way she explained the history of the mansion intrigued everyone and made them want to know more. She engaged with the audience and was genuinely interested in what others had to say. 10 on 10 experience with Mrs. Loh.
Tour Info –
Timing – Daily at 1100, 1400 and 1530 hrs.
Duration – 45 Mins
Entrance fee – RM 17 (Adults)/ RM 8.5 (Child), Complimentary for In-House Guests
Instagram Worthy Photo Opportunities at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze – Blue Mansion is the number one Instagram worthy spot in Penang, after the popular street art of Georgetown. So much so, that even during my photoshoot around Georgetown, I included Blue Mansion as part of it because ‘not’ having professional photos clicked in this exquisite palace is simple a crime! Click here to see all pictures of my photoshoot.
Those indigo walls, red lamps, flowing water streams, natural lighting, antiques, rustic decor, staircases all add to its charm and make it such an incredible photo spot. If you happen to be in Penang, I would highly recommend living in the Blue Mansion or at least taking the tour to enjoy this fantastic UNESCO world heritage site in all its grandeur.
Booking and Info –
Disclaimer – We were guests of Cheong Fatt Tze – Blue mansion however, no amount of royal treatment will bias my opinion. The mansion was simply fantastic and Lonely planet agrees with me.