Research things to do in Penang and you’ll inevitably stumble upon the heritage gem that is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, famously dubbed “The Blue Mansion” for its eye-catching indigo-blue facade. Steeped in history and built with extreme attention to the principles of feng shui, it is a sprawling architectural marvel that encompasses 38 rooms, 5 courtyards, and no less than 220 windows, not to mention a stately collection of heirlooms and antiques that decorate the halls and walkways.
Fun fact for movie buffs! The mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asians (2018) was filmed here, in the beautiful courtyard dining room. It was awesome to find out on the last day of our stay (when we did the guided tour) that we’d been having breakfast every morning in the exact spot Rachel Chu did battle with Eleanor Young! The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion has also been featured in the Oscar-winning French film Indochine (1992).
Guided tours operate thrice daily — 11am, 2pm, and 3:30pm — and the mansion is open to the public during these times. The mansion doubles as a heritage hotel, and hotel guests are free to join the tours. Even if you are not staying, we highly recommend popping into the mansion to learn more about the history of this building, its fascinating Peranakan-style architecture, and the cultural value it brings to the UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town in which it sits.
Together with a couple of friends visiting from Australia, we stayed at the mansion for three nights. We really loved it here. While it rained a fair bit, the weather accentuated the hush, peaceful atmosphere of the grounds and courtyards… perhaps because water plays a very important part in contributing to the aura and “chi” of the entire building, as was explained to us.
James and I were lucky when we chose to join the Friday morning guided tour — the owner of the mansion was around that day to personally lead the tour, and it was a pleasure listening to her talk about the restoration efforts with so much passion and insight. She made the tour very engaging, peppering it with funny anecdotes and personal stories. The project of taking over and restoring the mansion into the masterpiece it is today wasn’t without its hiccups, according to her!
All in all, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion proves that it is not just an everyday boutique hotel furnished with pretty relics. It is an unforgettable 19th-century landmark that has survived the test of time and it is certainly well-deserving of its reputation as a heritage gem. I’m sure it will continue to tell its story for many more generations to come!