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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 2 in Penang on 7 Nov 2010 (Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion)

If there is one thing I am willing to take a bet on, it would be that your stay at Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion (CFSM), otherwise known as the Blue Mansion in Penang, would be one that stands out from the rest of your other hotel stays.

In case you can't make out the words on the picture below, essentially it states that there are daily tours of CFSM at 2 timings (11pm and 1.30pm) which cost RM12/pax (the tours are free for hotel guests) where one is not allowed to take photos, and that there is the choice of having a homestay at CFSM (it is not mentioned but you might want to note that the rate for the rooms is either RM350 or 450 depending on the room). There is also a disclaimer at the bottom which one might want to take note of.

Well as I had said in my earlier post, we hadn't planned on staying in CFSM at all. However, my CEB who has since heartily regretted his decision, agreed to us spending a night here without even looking at the 1 of the 16 rooms in CFSM which was still unoccupied. I didn't have any violent objections to his decision (Save that it would have been nice if he had asked me b4 agreeing) because I was rather intrigued by the rich heritiage of CFSM.

Once one steps through the front doors in the above picture, to the right is this spacious dining area which upon closer inspection, is really quite meant for display. The intricate inlay of silver leaves in the woodwork makes one feel quite intimidated at the thought of sullying such beauty with one's posterior and belongings. Note the beautiful glass-stained windows and the fengshui-inspired openings above the windows which are shaped like ancient taels (money).

And to the front, or rather about 5 metres to the front past a round table and the holding area is this screen door with yet another beautiful expensive-looking furniture piece. According to the tour guide (we went on a guided tour), if one was a mere acquaintance or business partner, one would not be allowed past the screen door which opens to the courtyard and the rooms.

Finally to the left is yet another area which looks like the reception area for guests to register but really isn't. The reception area is through the door on the right of the picture

And looks like this - this is where the hotel's only computer (and meant for staff) and a rack meant for one to hang up one's ancient looking room key is. There is also a router meant to give wireless access to the mansion but be warned that the wireless signal in the room is v v weak.

So, the room. The only room available was the Chang Yu room. The first thing that caught my eye were the mosquito nets - when I jokingly mentioned that these probably were dusty from lack of use, the hotel staff was silent. In the night, I found out why and thanked heaven that I had a huge can of mosquito repellent with me because the mosquito net was hardly enough to keep away the mosquitoes! My CEB who had refused to use the net over his bed ended up crawling into my bed in the middle of the night because of the many mosquitos, the cold and other reason.
Ok, don't get me wrong - the other reason has to do with the strong sense of unease he felt (think spirits) in CFSM. To be honest, we have stayed in some pretty crummy places before during our adventures together but till today, he cites CFSM as the worst place he has stayed in. On the other hand, I was so charmed by CFSM after this stay (despite the mosquitos) that I even queried about being able to do our wedding photoshoot here in January. I guess this is something that isn't ever going to materialise given my CEB's aversion to the place. Oh well. And if u must know, he has told me to stick to booking standard business hotels for future holidays.

Oh well. If you like details, symbolism and have an appreciation of heritiage and beauty, CFSM is still the place to stay at (Despite the lousy breakfast spread and slightly smug attitude of the male staff here) Look at the intricacy of the railings of the second floor in the pic above. The pic below shows one of the large function rooms on the second floor too. Apparently, the entire place (not just the room) can be booked for a private event.

Below is a picture of the balcony outside the doors of the room above. Those are actually 3D hand-painted carvings and not just stickers or posters above each archway. Each carving is different and breathtakingly exquisite and detailed in its depiction of both people and objects. I would draw your attention too to the mosiac on the floor. Apparently each tile features 8 petals or 8 something. This mansion is big on the number 8, like there are 8 rooms in each wing of the mansion, and there are 8 pillars (instead of 4 which would have been sufficient) in the courtyard.

Eight of course is one of the lucky numbers for Chinese and for CFS whom this mansion is named after, fengshui is such a huge thing for him that it isn't just the house which is themed around the number 8. He apparently died leaving 8 official wives and 16 children. But I digress. Anyway, from the balcony, one is able to see to the opposite side of the road which the mansion faces (this balcony is above the doors of the entrance). The 5 houses there were built by CFS too because he was terrified that someone would buy the plot of the land opposite his fengshui-themed mansion and construct a building that would be inauspicious or otherwise affect the "qi" of CFSM.

And so. With that I conclude the review of our stay at CFSM. Since my CEB and I have such vastly differing views on our stay here, I have decided to refrain from rating this place but to encourage all who visit Penang and want to come away with an unforgettable experience, to book 1 of the 16 rooms here for a night's stay (do not forget the repellant)

And if one is into pussies as I am, CFSM has the most lazy and adorable looking house cat that lounges on one of the steel benches near the rooms all day. Be warned that one should can only access the pussy and the rooms if one is a guest of the house - pussy and the rooms are off limits to those on the guided tours!

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