Some years ago we spent a couple of months in Thailand. However, since we had arrived on tourist visas which were only valid for 30 days we needed to leave Thailand on “a visa run” to enable us to get a new visa on return. We decided to go to Penang for a few days as it was convenient to get to and we’d never been to Malaysia.
Penang proved to be a very colourful place especially as we were visiting during the month of the Hungry Ghost festival during which shows and Chinese opera/theatre performances are staged during a whole month. The Chinese believe that the prayers, offerings of food and prayers, shows and operas will appease the spirits who are allowed into our world to roam for a month. Joss papers and fake money are also burned and we saw several such fires burning in the streets.
I particularly wanted to visit the blue Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion which was used in the French film Indochina starring Catherine Deneuve.
The building was constructed according to Feng Shui principles with a chi stone at the centre of the house which possesses a sophisticated system of water pipes which helps keep the house cool. ‘Chien Nien’ (a sort of cut and paste using porcelain fragments) is used throughout the house for decoration since Cheong Fatt Tze had a source of artisans in Penang who brought the craft from their native homes in Fujian and Teochew, China. This style of decoration can also be seen in many of the temples in Bangkok, especially Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).
The room just inside the front entrance. This was–and still is–the reception area for visitors. To impress them, Cheong Fatt Tze had a large multi-paneled screen (centre installed with numerous scenes from Chinese history carved in wood finished with gold leaf. The lower panels are covered with an orange-tinted protective coating to prevent further wear and tear on the screens which visitors used to lean against.
The name of the street where this building is – Leith Street – is still referred to as Lotus Lake. Curiously enough the servants quarters were on the opposite side of the road. They were later used as a wine bar but were now up for sale or rent.
A few more splashes of colour we saw on that trip: