Tadoba Trip: Jungle experience (part 2)

DAY 3: We passed by the beautiful Telia lake on our way to Choti Tara territory but she was not there. It was a lovely morning and we got some new bird sightings.

I saw a magnificent plum headed parakeet, a green bee eater and an evil looking crocodile.

Plum headed parakeet
Green bee eater

I missed the chance to click a lovely frame of a golden backed woodpecker but could capture a yellow crowned one. They too have an amazing camouflage and I could not see it first against the bark of the tree.

I finally managed to get a clear shot of the resplendent jungle fowl as well. It was again in a mad rush but thankfully it stopped just long enough for me to photograph it. And there were quite a few treepies which gave us hope of a Sonam spotting.

Jungle Fowl


Show for the female
Rufus Treepie – always around tigers to clean their teeth

We almost failed to notice the bamboo plant next to which our jeep was parked. It was flowering, which is a once-in-40 years phenomenon, after which it dies. It also gave me time to admire the light and shade play on the leaves.

The captivating bamboo flowers
Isn’t the canopy awesome?


We waited patiently for Sonam to make another appearance but while she disappointed us, we saw an array of animals coming for a drink of water, one after another, despite the lurking threat. It was so much fun watching this free animal show.

Wary male sambar walking towards the water


First arrivals

The sambars were there first to give relief to their parched throats but there were on high alert. Next to come was the majestic white-socked gaur.


The don’t-mess-with-me look

IMG_9928A pair of shy charsingha were next in line. Only a video can show the trepidation with which they approached their drinking site.

A pair of charsingha


Oh for a gulp of water

A pair of barking deer joined them soon after.


Barking deer

A bunch of langurs were also hydrating their bodies and soon, a wild boar joined them.

Thirsty langurs
The boar could not resist taking a roll

Then came the peacock, very nervy and jumpy. Could not drink peacefully at all.


Our majestic national bird

IMG_9883IMG_9875A white eyed buzzard was the last one to come for a drink that evening. The sun was beginning to set and it was time for us to leave.


White eyed buzzard
End of the day

DAY 4: It was our last safari in Tadoba and we wanted a real close encounter with the tiger. Today we visited the buffer zone. All our sightings had been across a waterbody. The first 2 hours were quite unproductive except for learning about the crocodile bark tree.

Crocodile bark tree

There was a watering hole which was been frequented by the Wagdeo, the oldest and biggest tiger in Tadoba and his cubs. We were told that he had a new young romantic interest called Aishwarya who was the sister of his former mate. But there were conflicting reports about whether the cubs were Aishwarya’s or her sister’s.

After spotting nothing for over an hour, we went to explore the right side of the buffer zone, while my brother and his group who were in another gypsy stayed behind. Barely a minute after we left, their wish was fulfilled as Wagdeo along with his cubs and Aishwarya made an appearance at that concrete watering hole. After frolicking for a while, they disappeared as the tourists were making too much noise. Here is what my brother saw. He did add that the experience felt very artificial – almost like a zoo.

Later we got to know that as we were leaving that side of the buffer zone, some drivers tried to call us as the tigers were spotted. Meanwhile, we went exploring on the other side where there was the vast Irai Lake. We found a purple swamp hen, a lesser adjutant stork and some whistling ducks. I also saw a beautiful flower whose name I still do not know.

We saw some fresh pug marks but failed to see any tiger. Just as we thought our luck had run out, we found a jeep full of photographers beckoning us wildly. Across  an expanse of water, was one of Sharmilee’s cubs peacefully dozing in the water. We missed our much desired “close” encounter by a few minutes as the tiger was just in front before she wanted privacy from the photographers. But we could clearly see the cub with our naked eyes.

Our first glimpse
Eyes open
Who disturbs my slumber?
You guys again!

We went inside the forest to try and find Sharmilee and her second cub but could not. The bamboo grove was fabulous though. But when we came out, we found another cub in the water! The mother must have been somewhere close.

Appearance of the second cub

IMG_0082On our way back, the jeep stalled. Thankfully, the driver knew what to do and we came back safely without becoming fodder for the tiger.

Tadoba Trip: Jungle experience (part 1)

“Eki drishshyo dekhi onnyo,  ey je bonnyo ey oronyo” 

(This is a different kind of scenery, this is a wild wild forest) 

DAY 1: Our first safari was in the afternoon of April Fool’s Day. The only thing that made us forget the blazing sun was our excitement of anticipation. I have already written about the general information about visiting this park in Tadoba Trip: A curtain raiser.

The first thing that struck me about the park was how beautiful and green it was. I live in Kenya now and just as my safaris there are never only about lions, I did not come to Tadoba just to see tigers. Of course, I was desperately hoping to see one, for the first time ever, but that did not make me oblivious to the birds and other animals of this place. And the amazing diversity of the flora and habitats in this small area.

Gaur (Indian bison)
Dhole (Indian wild dog)
Lovely snoozing place of the dholes to escape the scorching heat
Open billed stork
Honey buzzard
Chital (Spotted deer)
Sambars taking refuge in Tadoba Lake

We were lucky to see the famous tigress Maya (P2) with her cubs at Pandharpauni within an hour of our first safari. The amazing camouflage provided by the dry long grass has to be seen to be believed. How beautifully the stripes merge with the golden colour of the reeds and grass. Keep looking and you suddenly get to spot this magnificent animal.

The Queen of Tadoba – Maya or T2
See the camouflage I was talking about: Now you see them, now you don’t

She had 3 boys and a little girl who came out to pose for us in the open. But the mother and her sons continued feasting on the sambar they had killed the previous night. Watch the slideshow below. The female cub was so much smaller.

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The little sister
I am a tiger too!
But awww, I am still a kid

Suddenly , we saw a wild boar come to drink water near them and I was sure that he would be killed but thankfully, the tigers were not interested. There were some thirsty birds around too, all flocking around the waterhole.

A herd of chitals (spotted deer) also drank water quite cautiously and went on their way. On our way back, we passed by Lake Tadoba and saw quite a few aquatic birds, langurs and sambars.

We were also lucky to sight a serpent eagle on our way. As the weather was getting cooler, the dholes were coming out of their slumber and becoming active. We also spotted a Rufus Treepie which is known as the tiger’s dentist. Unlike the fearless ones in Ranthambore, they shied away from human contact.

A male sambar was grazing by the roadside. A magpie robin was about to call it a day. We also spotted the very shy barking deer. A pair of golden orioles playing in the bush looked a very pretty sight. The sun was beginning to set and in the dusk light I saw a green pigeon for the first time. I could not make out the colours well but I saw their unique colouring in the morning light the next day. We saw quite a few peafowls scurrying around but they were so frisky that I could just about get a bad shot.

But the day belonged to the magnificent setting sun!

DAY 2: The next day turned out to be a day of of mostly birds and an interesting dhole sighting. But we had to get out when the moon was still in the sky at 4am (because we could only get an entry through Zhari gate which was quite far away) but were rewarded with a mesmerising egg-yolk sunrise.

We saw many rollers as usual and a pond kingfisher patiently waiting for its breakfast and a langur sitting near it. We also spotted a jungle fowl scurrying away to god knows where. While we waited by a watering hole where leopard sighting was “guaranteed”, I had a chance to observe quite a few interesting birds around me. Especially my favourite ones – the gorgeous green pigeons.

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The leopard never came despite an hour-long wait – instead chitals came in great numbers, drank water and left. However, I had a great sighting of a Changeable Hawk Eagle who was probably trying to steal a crow’s eggs/chicks and was challenged bravely the much smaller bird.

The dauntless challenger
Changeable Hawk Eagle


Kingfisher and the green pigeons

I also got some interesting shots of langurs. And a very unique ant nest made up of leaves. Never seen something like this before.

Monkeying around
The beautiful forest


Ant nest – you can see the big red ants all over

IMG_9552In the afternoon our entry was through Mohurli gate, we had a glimpse of one of Sonam’s cubs at Jamunjhora. Later in the afternoon, Sonam and the other 2 cubs had also emerged, we were told by another guest at our lodge.

Sonam’s cub approaching the watering hole


First full view


On our way back, we passed by Tadoba Lake which always is a treat for sore eyes.


Black headed Ibis and little egret

Our driver then dashed towards Pandharpauni again to check on Maya. We didn’t have much of a say though. We had a good sighting the previous day and the waiting place is infested with flies who don’t give you a respite. So remember to carry insect repellants if you want to wait here. We did sight Maya in the long grass and she seemed to be initially interested in a kill but then the sambars got a wind of her presence and scampered away, alerting all and sundry. The chitals followed suit quickly.

On our way back, we saw the ghost tree (that changes colour every season; white in winter, pink in spring and brown in summer) and some more birds. When it is white, its silvery bark glistens in the dark, especially on a moonlit night. We were there in April and a few of them quite ghostly white, although it was beginning to change colour.

Reminded me of Harry Potter’s Whomping Willow


The we saw a pack of dholes on a hunt. They seemed to have some kind of plan as they disappeared up on a hillock after coming close to the group of sambar. We could not wait long as it was getting dark.

I spotted a ruddy mongoose with some kind of berry in its mouth. Also, a Brahminy starling, treepie, peacock and barking deer.

And then we got back to the lodge for the night. The sunset was nothing spectacular like the other day. We saw a peacock engaged in a mating dance but promptly showed us his back as we came closer. In any case, the object of his attention had moved away.



Penang Diary 8: The last leg @Protestant Cemetery

The serene surroundings


I have a strange fascination for the resting places of departed souls. So I knew I had to visit the oldest Christian cemetery on Northam Road  (Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah). However, my travel partner Manju firmly declined to explore with me in the sweltering heat.

Apparently, this place used to be very creepy before restoration work started in 2012 and cleaned it up. It is now listed as a Class 1 Heritage Site and is maintained by the Penang Heritage Trust. It helped that the Protestant Cemetery was just a short walk away from our hotel, which gave me ample time for a quick trip before leaving for the airport.

The frangipani shaded walk from the gate

The entry was through a beautiful walkway under a canopy of perfumed frangipani. It was quite hot and I was the sole person wandering around in this historic graveyard. There was an amazing sense of calm in this solitude. My mind travelled back by hundreds of years, thinking what life was like in this island when it was ruled by the mighty British.

Plot allotment

Quite a few of the tombstones were in good shape and very beautiful. Some of the inscriptions conveyed the fact that some died very young. Under the shade of trees, caressed by the unexpectedly cool breeze, I was quite transported to another world. If I had more time and if there was a bench, I may just have taken an afternoon nap here…

Interesting to see the Indian connections
Notice the word ‘laboured’
What a lovely tombstone!
Another beautifully crafted one

This cemetery was created to serve as the final resting place for the early colonial administrators, European traders, as well as missionaries who arrived after Captain Francis Light established the British colony here. Many of them died young from malaria, indicative of the very harsh conditions faced by the early settlers.

The first recorded burial was of Lt. William Murray of the Bengal Artillery in 1787 but the earliest surviving grave marker is of H.D.D. Cunningham in 1789.  The last burial was of Cornelia Van Someran in 1892 after which, the cemetery was closed, and all subsequent Christian burials were carried out in the newly constructed Western Road Cemetery.

The plaque with a humble epitaph: Notice the bottom left corner

The most famous grave here is that of Captain Francis Light (1794), which surprisingly, is not grand at all. He left behind his Catholic common-law wife, Martina Rozells, and four children. As marrying a Catholic could result in his dismissal from the British East India Company, he could never declare their status officially. Their son, Sir William Light, was the first Surveyor General of South Australia who chose the site for, and designed the layout of its capital, Adelaide.

How green and peaceful this place is

Other graves include:

  • James Richardson Logan (editor of the Penang Gazette)
  • Reverend Hutchings (founder of the Penang Free School)
  • William Petrie (Governor of Prince of Wales Island, 1811-16)
  • Michael Arratoon (an Armenian whose father started Penang’s first stockbroker firm in 1830)
  • Thomas Leonowens (husband of Anna of the movie The King & I fame)
A lot of these tombs are mounted along the boundary walls
Enter a caption
I could not understand the significance of this symbol at all!

The cemetery also contains 12 Chinese graves. These Chinese Christians were refugees fleeing from religious persecution during the  Boxer Rebellion.


Armenians were another influential ethnic group in Penang. They came as traders and were well educated. Armenian brothers, the Sarkies, established the nearby Eastern and Oriental Hotel as well as the world famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Most of Penang’s Armenian society has since emigrated to Singapore and Australia, and they no longer have a big presence on the island. (Source: Malaysian Meanderers)
Another Calcutta-born person
 There is a big open grassy space in front, that (I later learnt) is an area of unmarked graves. Part of the cemetery was heavily bombed by Japan in World War II. Only the middle portion remained unscathed. As the nearby St. George’s Church was also bombed, the cemetery registry went missing.
Restorers then mounted the recovered tablets along the back wall. Unknowingly, I may have trampled over a few unsuspecting sleeping souls.
The area of unmarked graves
WW2 was a pivotal point in the colonial history of SE Asia. When the British returned after years of Japanese occupation, they were not exactly welcomed back by the locals, who had been earlier thoughtlessly deserted in their times of need.
And this is how the process to break free from the shackles of British colonial rule started… which laid the foundation of what we now know as Malaysia.
catholic door
The wall of separation (Pic from the Internet)
There is a wall, with a small doorway, which separates the Protestant cemetery from the Catholic one. I do not recall seeing it. So, even after death, the twain  shall never meet!

With these thoughts, I returned to my hotel to find Manju looking all fresh and ready to leave. I had a quick shower and toured the lovely hotel grounds once again before  leaving for the airport.


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For those interested in viewing more of this cemetery, watch this slideshow.


Penang Diary 7: Street of Harmony (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling) and some more…

In a multi-cultural and multi-faith country like India, it would be so wonderful if we too had such a street of harmony!

Part of what makes Penang unique is its established mixture of cultures and faiths, but if you are only in Georgetown for a short time, how can you experience all of its varied customs and traditions? Conveniently enough, Penang’s 18th-century town planners have already solved the problem, and a short walk along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, otherwise known as the ‘Street of Harmony’, draws together the town’s four main religions and provides a quick, easy tour of its different communities. (source: https://www.travelfish.org/sight_profile/malaysia/peninsular_malaysia/penang/penang/2314)

On our way to the street of harmony, we fist had to first pass by the Church of the Assumption (the biggest here) and naturally, took a peek.It was quite an ordinary looking church – St John’s Church in Calcutta is so much prettier.

Starting point:  Junction of Lebuh Farquar, near St George’s Church

1486695_10151893045031888_137546444_nBuilt in 1816, St George’s Church was the first Anglican church in Southeast Asia. The churchyard now serves as Penang’s most expensive car park.

1469802_10151893045146888_1585594478_nIn the same compound, you will find this Greek temple-style memorial to the founder of Georgetown – Captain Francis Light, under the shade of mahogany trees.

You may want to take a detour down Lebuh Light towards Fort Cornwallis to check out some more colonial buildings and get a sense of British Penang.

On the way

Up ahead north of the church is one of Penang’s oldest surviving buildings – the Kuan Yin Temple, which dates back to 1800. The strong smell of the giant pink smoking joss sticks will guide you towards this temple even before you see it. You will get a real taste of the Chinese quarters of Penang if you take a stroll by the side roads along Lorong Stewart and its narrow streets.

Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) Temple (PC: Perspective of Penang blog)

Just next to the temple is a small Hindu shrine where you may see both Indians and Chinese offering prayers. To the east of this shrine, is Little India, where among the other familiar sights of India, you will also be deafened by the loud Bollywood music blaring from various shops.

Next on the Street of Harmony, is Sri Maha Mariamman Kovil – the oldest Hindu temple in Penang, built in the traditional Dravidian style in 1833.


As you keep walking, you come across the Kapitan Keling Mosque, built by the Tamil Muslim community.  The building is a curious mix of styles, combining colonial architecture with traditional Moorish arches, and its interior features some fantastic stained glass and calligraphy panels.

The Street of Harmony walk ends here technically, but we had four more things on our list which we still had to see.

Stop #1: Han Jiang Ancestral Temple

Han Jiang Ancestral Temple is the only Teochew-style temple in Georgetown. Awarded the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation in 2006, it is run by the Penang Teochew Association. The temple is dedicated to the Taoist God of the North, a Teochew patron deity.

Han Jian Temple

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The inner temple is reached through three doors (a typical Teochew design); the colourful and elaborate Yu Gate on the roof, an archway with a dragon statue, is just one of the many intricate sculptures in the temple.

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Observe how the sculpture using porcelain shards is distinctly different.


Stop #2: Yap Kongsi

Yap Kongsi at 71 Armenian Street, is the clan association of Hokkien Chinese in Penang of the Yap surname. The association building is known as Lum Yeong Tong. It is located next to the Yap Temple. This tiny but beautiful temple is dedicated to the Chinese god of prosperity. It was formerly the base of the Tua Pek Kong secret society run by the Straits Chinese.

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Stop #3: Khoo Kongsi

Khoo Kongsi, the most spectacular assembly hall in Penang, is a testament to the influence the Chinese have had on this island’s culture (Penang is the only Chinese-majority state in Malaysia). And the influence other cultures have had on the Chinese.


Unbelievable grandeur


Among the guardian statues standing sentinel over the entrance to Khoo Kongsi’s incredibly pastiche of Chinese architectural styles and decorative arts is a stone Sikh warrior, a reminder of the time sub-continental soldiers provided the security in this former jewel of the British Empire.    – Lonely Planet


Clan houses or assembly halls are part neighbourhood association centre, part temple, part community foundation, and almost always decorated in coiling dragons, paintings of Immortals, Confucian sages, Taoist demigods and Buddhist scripture, photos of ancestors and inlaid classical Chinese script.  – Lonely Planet

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On the way, we passed by Acheen Street Mosque (Masjid Lebuh Acheh or Masjid Melayu) in the oldest Malay kampung (village) in Georgetown. It stands out becaue of its unusual Egyptian-style minaret as opposed to the local Moorish-style ones. It was built in 1808 by a wealthy Arab trader who came from Acheh and hence the name. The mosque is a crucial structure for Malay and Arab traders in this area.


Stop #4: Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple

A bastion of Taoism in Penang, the Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple was built by Chinese immigrants almost 165 years ago. Dedicated to Tua Pek Kong, the temple was symbolic of the values of the community and rituals conducted were very similar to what was practiced in the Fujian Province where most of them originated from. Interestingly, the temple was also the headquarters of a Chinese secret society that would conduct various rites and ceremonies in front of the deity.

One of the many unique features of the architecture is the roof. This temple is the only one in Malaysia that has a `Kuan Kong’ figurine perched regally on its roof. The deity is synonymous with Chinese secret societies because it represents loyalty.

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By now, we had done quite an exhaustive walking tour and it was time to return to Singapore. I had been wanting to visit Georgetown for quite a while and I was happy that finally, I managed to make it before leaving the island city forever. And it was so worth it. Every moment. Every penny.

There was just one more thing I had on MY list. Manju refused to give me company for this exploration. But I went alone. That will be my last blog entry on Penang.


Penang Diary 6: Cheong Fatt Tze or simply The Blue Mansion

The story of Cheong Fatt Tze is a true life rags-to-riches story. Born into an poor Hakka family in Guangdong, China, he left for Southeast Asia as a penniless teenager. He sailed off to Batavia/Jakarta (capital of the Dutch East Indies) where he started off first as a common labourer and then proceeded to become a shopkeeper.

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His was mentored by his wealthy father-in-law, who taught him the ABCs of business. True to his Hakka traits, he was stubborn, humble and extremely hard working. By the end of the 19th century, he established a vast financial empire throughout SE Asia . He is considered to be the “last Mandarin and the first capitalist of China”. He also served as the Chinese Consul in Penang.

Marriage was also a business contract for him and he married ‘wisely’ the first 6 times, keeping business expansion in mind. However, when he was almost 70, he fell madly in love with a 17-year old and married for love for the first time in his life.

The entrance gate with 3-tiered Chinese tiled roof

We had heard a lot about Blue Mansion and were curious about whether it really was as blue as the pictures we had seen of it. It indeed was and maybe more. But why was it this tacky blue? The “superstitious” reason is that the most commonly available wall colour in those days – white – had an association  with death in Chinese culture. So he had them painted in  a vivid shade of indigo blue, probably because it was reserved for his youngest and most beloved seventh wife, Tan Tay Po.

The right side of the house
The gateman looked straight out of The Karate Kid! He said that he has often been told so.

The original jet-setter (albeit land or sea-hopping) had houses all over SE Asia but Penang became his primary home. In the 1880s, he started to build a traditional-style Chinese courtyard home  on 14 Leith Street.  The new mansion had 38 rooms and 220 timber louver windows, 48 of them in art nouveau stained glass. Inside, luxuriant patterns adorned the cast iron railings, pillars and spiral staircases. 

It was indeed a grand and ornate mansion – a famous edifice built in the traditional Hakka–Teochew style, which it is hard to believe was ever a home to someone. It is rather “an heirloom with rooms” as somebody aptly describes it and one of Penang’s best-known and most-loved attractions.

At the other gable wall, is a similar carving with dragons instead of phoenixes
The long balcony in front – can you spot the rickshaw?
Stained glass windows are very expensive – this house has 48 such panels
European frieze and metal framework in an otherwise traditional Chinese house. Also notice that the beams are painted – they are not wooden!
Chinese influence
The balcony on the second level
European influence


Despite all these modern Western additions, the house strictly adhered to the ancient Feng Shui philosophy of ‘wind and water’.

“Rain falling into the central courtyard would flow into coin-shaped inlets on either side, but only a little water would leave the house; the rest circulated in a system of pipes running beneath the floor. This embodied the Chinese obsession of accumulating wealth, while spending only a small fraction of the income. (Source: https://notesplusultra.com/2015/09/07/cheong-fatt-tzes-blue-mansion/)

Coin-shaped holes (PC: Explore Life Lah blog)

Sadly, Cheong Fatt Tze’s descendants did not inherit his business acumen. To protect the future of his 7th wife and her son, the astute businessman had willed the mansion in such a way that it could only be sold after their son’s death. Thus in 1989, the 100-year-old house was put up for sale but by that time it was badly damaged as it sheltered not only the his descendants but also a number of squatter families.

The new owners had the foresight to rescue both the mansion and the memory of Cheong Fatt Tze. With the help of craftsmen brought in from China’s Fujian province, the house was painstakingly restored to its former glory.

Soon the revived mansion became the setting for movies, starting with the 1993 Oscar-winning French film Indochine – a role which gave the house its popular moniker La Maison Bleu (The Blue Mansion).

While the central portion is open 3 times a day for guided tours, the two wings have been converted into Penang’s first true heritage hotel, with only 18 rooms in total. Like the man who built it, the restoration and reuse of Cheong Fatt Tze’s mansion was ahead of its time. One only has to look upwards, at the soulless monoliths next door, to see the fate that might have befallen this grand old dame in indigo blue. 

(Source: https://notesplusultra.com/2015/09/07/cheong-fatt-tzes-blue-mansion/)


The timber partition
This mosaic art, using shards of coloured porcelain is called jian nian, which originates from the Ming dynasty Wanli period (circa 1600)
6 of the 48 panels
More jian nian (cut & paste) art
The tallest tiffin carrier I have seen in my life
One of the two annexes
How cosy!
The spiral staircase leading upstairs
The house (with the lanterns) across the street also belonged to Mr Cheong, along with many others in the neighbourhood

Cheong Fatt Tze had hoped to house 9 generations of his descendants there. The plot of land was chosen after heavy consultation with the era’s pre-eminent feng shui masters. Artisans were shipped in from Southern China expressly for the project, and building materials were imported from as far away as Scotland.

Towards Cheong Fatt Tze’s later life, No. 14 served as both an office and a home. It acted as the base for his commercial enterprises and housed the Chinese Vice-Consulate – not to mention his favoured 7th wife. Apart from his successful business, he also had 8 wives, concubines, hand-maidens, 8 sons and 6 daughters! 

When Cheong Fatt Tze was 74, he fathered his last son by his 24 year old wife!! The Chinese drink in the red box was attributed to his virility. Hope it had no rhino horns or tiger teeth.

Cheong was nicknamed ‘the Rockefeller of the East’ and when he finally died in 1916, the Dutch and British authorities flew their flags at half mast throughout their Asian colonies.

Penang Diary 5: Penang Peranakan Mansion Museum

This ostentatious, mint green structure is among the most stunning restored residences in George Town. A self-guided tour reveals that every door, wall and archway is carved and often painted in gold leaf; the grand rooms are furnished with majestic wood furniture with intricate mother-of-pearl inlay; there are displays of charming antiques; and bright-coloured paintings and fascinating black and white photos of the family in regal Chinese dress grace the walls. The house belonged to Chung Keng Quee, a 19th-century merchant, secret society leader and community pillar as well as being one of the wealthiest Baba-Nonyas of that era. (Lonely Planet)

The entrance









Chung Keng Kwee Ancestral Temple is a family temple built by Kapitan China Chung Keng Kwee for the worship of his ancestors, adjacent to his house.

Ancestral Temple



The museum is open from Monday to Sunday including Public Holidays from 9:30 am to 5.00 pm. Admission fee: RM 20 (children under 6 free)





Penang Diary 4: More sights and mesmerising street art around Georgetown

The house opposite the famous Blue Mansion which also belonged to the same owner
The famous Cathay Hotel housed in an old whitewashed colonial era Chinese mansion
Famous hawker centre on Leith Street
The very popular trishaw
Creative advertising
Chinese presence


The Benggali Mosque or Masjid Benggali along Leith Street was built in 1958 for the Benggali community that migrated to Penang towards the end of the 19th Century, and formed a settlement here. It is a charming fusion of Muslim and international architectural styles.


Shoe-king Jimmy Choo is from Penang. He spent much of his childhood days in that area comprising Muntri Street, Love Lane, Penang Road and Hutton Lane. This house is said to have been his home but is now bought over by an Australian.

Street art honouring Jimmy Choo
The lovely Tian Hou Gong temple on Muntri Street



Freshly ground spices on sale: whatever you want to cook, he will give you the right proportions



Every place has character
The amazing full-of-character Armenian Street in Georgetown
Colourful menu
Live like a local by renting one of these homes


Street art
This long queue is for, guess what??
Shops on the avant garde Armenian Street
Amazing street art
The queue is for posing with the pictures on the wall
More shops
Even the grills are so artistic

Street Art

In conjuction with Penang’s Georgetown Festival, certain old walls within Penang have gained a new lease of life, thanks to the awesome efforts of Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, Penang Street Art artist, who is leaving his mark with beautiful wall painting of children all across historical Georgetown. The artworks are funny, fascinating, and very much open to everyone’s interpretations.




More pics from the internet.

00 Yellow Kungfu Gymnist Girl Back Bend Street Art Hin Bus Art Depot Penang-119


Between 15-23 November 2014, the first international street art festival – Urban Xchange, featuring artists from New York, Berlin, Copenhagen, Manchester, Melbourne and of course local talents , was held at Penang. A brainchild and collaboration from Hin Bus Depot Art Center and Urban Nation – this project aimed to bring artists together while enabling a cultural, artistic and social exchange throughout the month of November, as well as to show that art is no longer confined within the spaces of art galleries and exhibition halls.
Click on the link to know more about Urban Xchange.
Penang can serve as a model town to many cities to show how heritage can be showcased to promote tourism.


Penang Diary 3: Walking around George Town

After checking into our room, we quickly decided to go out and explore. These are the various sights that greeted us as we walked out of Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel to discover the sights and sounds George Town, the whole day, by foot.

Upper Penang Road, situated at the beginning of Jalan Penang, right in front of the E&O Hotel,  is considered to be the centre of Georgetown’s nightlife. This major party zone is filled with pubs and nightclubs that come alive with neon lights and thumping music at nightime. However, it looked rather lame in the morning. But naturally.


Quirky, cute and cool, Monkey Bar is one of Upper Penang Road’s longest-running nightspots but it was totally dead in the morning.

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If you are from India, you cannot help but notice this institution, where somebody from your family must have attended.


Next stop was Penang Museum which was a storehouse of history.


A bicycle used to peddle goods

We also learnt that 555 State Express replaced Craven A cigarettes (Rokok Chap Kuching).

Shoes of torture
The horror story explained
Cannot help but admire their sense of humour
These tiffin carriers are so quaint. I have one like this but made of stainless steel



Exquisite Nyonya beadwork


Extravagant Nyonya marriage car

As we approached Little India, these familiar sights greeted us.


George Town Dispensary, constructed in 1923, is housed in a landmark three-storey corner building at the junction of Beach Street and China Street.

I would love to buy medicines from here
The Chinese quarters of the town

This excellent-value buffet restaurant is the place to go for a filling meat-free Chinese lunch. Take what you want from the selection of vegetables, curries and beancurds on offer, and you’ll be charged accordingly. I had to take this photo because of the Chinese vegetarian sign.


This banner made us very curious about Armenian Street but that amazing part of Georgetown needs to have a separate blog entry
Surprising how even in Calcutta – the only city in India which has a Chinatown – the dry cleaning business used to be controlled by the Chinese
This was a very funny sight. When the British first built houses in George Town, they built chimneys on it, but realized soon enough that these were the last things one needed here. Please note the minaret of a mosque peeping out from the top corner.

By the time we had our lunch and explored more, it was dark and time for dinner. Penang is the food capital of Asia, and maybe the world. Street food is cheap and mind-blowing. You would be a fool if you did not try the hawker fare and ate in the sanitised environs of your hotel. Manju had already done the reserach and armed with a list, we hit the food spots. Unfortunately, I remember nothing of what we ate and where we went but I can tell you it was the best culinary experience of my life. So many blogs have been written about the food in Penang that it is a waste of time writing about it. Here are the elaborate links of some food bloggers. Born to BunkBibik GourmandHalal Food BlogKen Hunts Food

One historic sites we did not visit was Fort Cornwallis. There is a lot of history but so little to see that we decided to skip that in favour of more visually appealing sites.

Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Set close to the Esplanade and Penang Clocktower, the star-shaped bastion is one of the oldest structures in Penang. Click here for more information.

After heavily indulging ourselves at dinner, we needed to burn the calories. The evenings are also cooler and the walks more enjoyable. The town is also very safe.


Millionaire businessman Cheah Chen Eok started to build a clock tower in 1897 to commemorate the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign but sadly, by the time it was ready in 1903, there was no more need to say Long Live the Queen! Haha.

State Legislative Assembly building
Georgetown; Penang;
The glorious Town Hall in daytime (PC: Pete’s Penang website)

The foundation stone of Dewan Bandaraya or Town Hall was laid in 1879 and the main building completed in 1883. It consisted of an assembly hall, a grand ballroom, and a library. The Penang Library was born here, after the Prince of Wales Library was moved here and renamed. An annex was added in 1890 while the porch and top floor added in 1903. The left wing – when cement plaster was introduced – as added in 1930. Those extensions and renovations together constitute the Town Hall.

For decades, the Penang Town Hall was the watering hole for the local socialites and elites, the venue for theatrical performances. Church services were held here – by Wesley Church in 1891, Bangsawan plays were performed, in 1903, while a group of Filipino musicians played here from 1890 right up to 1954. The Penang Town Hall was even featured in the movie Anna and the King, the courtroom segment of which was filmed here in 1999.

When the local authorities considered demolishing the Penang Town Hall, the National Museum stepped in to save it, gazetting it a historic monument on 29 July 1993.

City Hall (PC:  Food, Booze and Shoes website )

The City Hall was originally built in 1903 as the Municipal Office, to relieve the pressure for office space at the adjacent Penang Town Hall. It was renamed the “City Hall” in 1957, when George Town was declared a city by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It was built in the Edwardian Baroque style, and has been listed as a national monument since 1982.

Penang High Court (please note the word mahkamah which is nothing but mahkuma in Bengali and tinggi in Malay means high)




After a leisurely night stroll, we were done for the day, heads buzzing with history!!

For more detailed information on Penang Heritage Sites click here.