PENANG: INSIDER’S GUIDE
HOTELIER, COLLECTOR AND ENTREPRENEUR
REST: The top hotel in George Town on TripAdvisor is the 18-suite Seven Terraces (Stewart Lane) and I’m claiming bragging rights. It’s an indulgent development restoration I saved from the brink of development. Now it houses my life’s collection of Peranakan (Straits Chinese) porcelain and furniture across the public areas and guestrooms of this row of 19th-century terraces; seventerraces.com.
DINE: Penang is synonymous with street food. Where to start? Of the kopitiams (local coffee shops), my two favourites are Kheng Pin Cafe (80 Penang Road; breakfast and lunch) and Joo Hooi (475 Penang Road; 11.30am to late afternoon). The must-haves at the former are the lobak (pork rolls) and prawn fritters, char koay teow (fried flat rice noodles) and poached chicken rice. At Joo Hooi, do not be put off by the queue at the chendol stall outside, which serves pandanus noodles in coconut milk and palm sugar. Just take a seat in the coffee shop and order for a premium of 30c. For a walk into the past, go to Sin Kheang Aun Restaurant (2 Chulia Lane), a family-run Hainan institution since 1943. Just ask for “what Chris Ong orders”; visitpenang.gov.my.
ADVICE: Pick up a printed guide of my dining suggestions at Mews Cafe (77 Muntri Street); muntrimews.com.
ART: Don’t leave Penang without doing at least part of the street art trail. Start early morning or early evening to avoid the heat; tourismpenang.net.my.
ARCHITECTURE: The range of styles is best appreciated on foot, such as Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, known as the Blue Mansion (Leith Street); the Khoo Kongsi Clanhouse (Cannon Square), used for movie locations; and the Peranakan Mansion Museum (Church Street). My favourite is the row of regional Guangdong associations, guilds and temples in King Street (between Church and China Streets); cheongfatttzemansion.com; khookongsi.com.my; pinangperanakanmansion.com.my.
RETAIL: Go to Sam’s Batik House and don’t be put off by the clutter. There are two Sam’s Batik House shops along the same row (Penang Road), run by brothers; samsbatikhouse.com.
Chris Ong has had a lifelong passion for antiques and the restoration of heritage buildings. After a career as an investment banker in Sydney, he decamped to Galle Fort in Sri Lanka to open the award-winning Galle Fort Hotel. He has returned to his birth city of Penang, where he has completed five projects in historic George Town, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. His latest hotel is the 16-suite Muntri Grove; muntrigrove.com.
Insiders editor: Graham Erbacher Graham.Erbacher@news.com.au