The Blue Mansion and Other Assorted Mishaps

The morning dawns foggy and warm, but its still a relief to get some fresh air out on the balcony.  Airconditioning just annoys me after not long because I have to work in it all day.  I crave fresh air.  From the balcony you can get quite a good view.  The ocean, which seems to blend seamlessly with the sky, little fishing boats dotting the shoreline and the ruins of buildings from a past era, silently rotting away.

Ghosts of eras past
Ghosts of eras past

Breakfast is an international buffet at Sarkies Restaurant and there’s all sorts on offer – waffles, eggs all styles, breads, cereals, fruit, noodles, dim sum, greasy bacon, sausages and hash browns – even quiche and german sausage.  And of course, pastries.  Plus fresh juices – which you can design for yourself, or which they will concoct for you.  It’s not hard to eat your fill in a very, very short time.

It’s time to explore Georgetown. Get out amongst it and soak up the flavour.

More or less around the corner from the hotel is the Cheong Fatt tze Mansion.  Cheong Fatt Tze, who was quite the land-hopping jetsetter for his time, maintained mansions in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, besides the one in Penang.  Although each reflected his high station in life in, it appears that this one was his favorite.  The Blue Mansion was certainly the most elaborate.

The Blue Mansion
The Blue Mansion

The Mansion’s construction began before the end of the 19th Century, and it was said that he had hoped to house nine generations of his descendants there.  Artisans were shipped in from Southern China for the project and building materials were imported from as far away as Scotland.  Unfortunately you need to take guided tours through the mansion and they are scheduled at 11.00, 1.30 and 3.00 – which it is nowhere near.  But from our view behind the gates it certainly looks as though it would have been worth it. Around the corner in Penang Road we manage to locate the free cat bus stand.  There’s no timetable or way of knowing how frequently they run.  So after about fifteen minutes we decide to brave the heat and walk for a bit.  The streets are quietly bustling with cars, trishaws, motorbikes, sellers and buyers and a host of homeless dogs.

The cooler way to get around, literally...
The cooler way to get around, literally…

At Campbell Street we turn left.  This street began life as a red light district, and then one of the most important shopping areas for local Penangites.  Now most of the shops have been taken over by retailers.  A little way down is Love Lane.  Whilst there’s some conjecture over how its name was arrived at – perhaps after a British officer named Love, the site for brothers frequented by sailors and soldiers or after the self-flagellation procession staged by Shiite muslims in the early 19th century, it certainly is a lovely little street to stroll down.

The entrance to Campbell Street from Penang Road
The entrance to Campbell Street from Penang Road

Coming across Chulia Street, I hope to find a local jewellery store called Laconic.  Laconic make contemporary pieces, many studded with Swarovski crystals and I was taken with some of the pieces I saw when reading about Laconic.  A piece from here would make a perfect reminder of my time in Penang.  But I can’t find it anywhere.

It’s really quite humid today and I can feel rivers of sweat trickling down my front and back.  Looking at Mum, I can see she’s struggling, so its probably time to find some airconditioning.  No problems, I read about a cool little café that should be right around here.  Ah, yep there it is – CLOSED!

I decide to give up plans to explore the rest of Georgetown today – Khoo Khongsi, the Weld Jetty, the Esplanade, the Pinang Peranakan Mansion.  It’s disappointing, but nothing is going to plan today so I should quite while I’m ahead.  Perhaps another chance will present itself.

It’s probably best to heard to Gurney Drive, and go shopping at Gurney Plaza, a nice big airconditioned mall.  Laconic is supposed to have another store here but its not listed on the store directory board.  Almost ready to give up on finding this jeweler, we stop in at Dome for lunch (only because we can’t find sandwiches anywhere else), and thank goodness because they have wifi and I’m able to track down Laconic’s store details.   Refreshed, its up to the 5th floor for one last look and there it is.  The shop is fairly dark, which makes it a little difficult to see the pieces in their full glory.  I see several pieces that are awesome, but there’s one in particular that catches my eye.

My new piece
My new piece

For some reason when I looked at it, it reminded me of some kind of art work featuring Peranakan flowers, so that was the piece that will be coming home with me.  There are a lot of pendants to choose from (as well as rings, bracelets and earrings), and then selections of chains for you to purchase separately, perfectly customising your piece.

Back at the hotel, its dinner time.  At Sarkies.  The Sarkies Brothers were a group of brothers of Armenian hnicity, best known for founding a chain of luxury hotels throughout southeast Asia (think Raffles).  Born in Persia the brothers were Martin, Tigran, Aviet and Arshak Sarkies.  Tonight the Sarkies are hosting a Wine and Dine Buffet. About $60 for a medley of gourmet delights and free flow of wine and beer, the Sarkies put on a generous spread.  The stand out of the night would have to be the Penang Char Kway Teow – the best I’ve ever tasted – the noodles just like silk.  And of course the miniature sized cakes – such a shame I couldn’t find room for the chocolate pudding!  I think I don’t want to see any food for a while now – well at least until tomorrow morning!

Sarkies Delights
Sarkies Delights

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