Two very different old houses in Penang really highlight the cultural and historic differences that have been poured into the mixing pot that is Penang.
We went from one to the other, and the differences couldn’t have been starker.
One British colonial pomp and one way over the top Chinese heritage.
They’re both pretty amazing bits of architecture, and it’s great to see they’re still with us after all these years, although both have had to go through major restoration.
It’s heartening that people have the commitment and passion to drive these big projects.
First up, Suffolk House, a great Georgian hulk about 5 or 6 kilometers from the center of town.
We caught the bus from the Komtar shopping nightmare out to the location, nice and easy to find if you have a friendly bus driver like we had, just catch the bus to Air Itam and get off at the boys high school, it’s right behind the school.
It’s a restrained, classy and well renovated historic site, with a restaurant on site that looks good for weddings or some kind of corporate gig, we didn’t eat there so can’t comment, but it looks a bit, well, stuffy, probably nice, but couldn’t say.
The building on the other hand is quite beautiful, clearly it’s had many years and many buckets of money spent on it.
First settled in the 1790’s by the founder of Penang, Captain Francis Light, the original house was knocked down and rebuilt as you see it today by a William Phillips, one of the early Governors
The house was the scene of many important social and official events, including the 1818 stay of Stamford Raffles when the idea of founding Singapore was first discussed.
It’s pretty easy to wander around and imagine life in the colonial 1800’s.
“I say old fruit, Gin and tonics on the verandah, wot ho!”
The second house is the exact opposite of Suffolk House, firstly it’s located in the old historic town center and secondly it’s Chinese in heritage.
A classic case of ying and yang.
The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a stately old joint built at the end of the 19th century by one of the local Peranakan personalities.
The Peranakans are also responsible for of some of the best local food delicacies like Assam laksa and Otak-Otak, both tasty street food staples these days.
And, like their food, their homes are full of color and punch.
Where Suffolk House was clean open lines and restrained class, the Pinang Peranakan Mansion is all over the place.
Loud color’s, mish-mashed styles, imported antiques and everything with a design on it.
And with over 1000 pieces of antiques and collectables to pour over, there’s plenty to grab your attention
There’s nothing subtle going on in this house.
With so much happening you’d think it was a design disaster, but it all comes together in a weird sort of way.
So both places are worth going out of your way if you find yourself in Penang, they offer a little glimpse into the way the rich and powerful lived in the past, both different, but both impressive in their own way.