The Blue Mansion – The words children and boutique hotels aren’t normally talked about in the same sentence. However it was one of my objectives to try to balance the needs and wants of the whole family during our travels. That includes trying to fulfil some of my own interests, which of course can include staying in a historical boutique hotel!
Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion in George Town, Penang is a little piece of old world, iconic asian heritage. They don’t publicize themselves as a family friendly hotel but they are; and welcome families with open arms, the hotel is also a member of the Secret Retreats Collection.
The 19th Century Mansion was built by Cheong Fatt Tze for his 7th wife and son, his aim was to preserve his heritage and preserve his love of culture and tradition.
From the moment I walked into the house I was intrigued, I had an urge to explore the galleried wooden hallways overlooking the many inner courtyards. The colour black is used extensively through the house mostly on the Timber frames and windows it is the perfect compliment to the striking blue used through out the house. I discovered that the colour was chosen as a sign of prosperity as Indigo was one of the most expensive pigments to purchase.
What struck me most about the building was extensive restoration that had taken place trying to restore the mansion to it’s former glory. I later learned that the restoration took six years to complete and was over seen with a restoration philosophy that only restrained repairs were made, changing only what was required, using only traditional methods and amazingly little was discarded and much was recycled.
To give you one example, the intricate fresco’s which were created from colourful porcelain bowls were cut and placed in the moment by artisan craftsmen.
We were staying in the The Han suites located at the corners of the Blue Mansion. Not only was the suit spacious, the furniture and elegance of the rooms transported me back in time, even the bathroom with a roll top bath which the girls loved to play in and I had the most relaxing bath.
The Duration of our stay at the Blue Mansion I kept thinking to myself if only the walls could talk. Cheong Fatt Tze’s himself intrigued me. Famously known as the Rockefeller of the East, J.P. Morgan of China and the Last Mandarin & First Capitalist of China. In his day, he was a man who wore many important hats, juggling elegantly the roles and responsibilities of a financier, tycoon, diplomat, politician, philanthropist and minister.
One of the businesses he established still lives on today he established Chang Yu winery in 1892 the winery specialized in producing the finest wines. Rather ironically it is now owned by the communist Chinese Government and is touted as among the largest wineries in the world.
He had definitely created a legend for himself and his influence in the house could be seen through out He had an eye for detail and excellence, Cheong Fatt Tze was determined to use only the best materials from around the world. The mansion is the eclectic mix of styles from very different cultures that Cheong Fatt Tze has managed to integrate seamlessly and so elegantly through out.
I feel this is one of the reasons I feel so drawn to house, and I endeavour to do the same in my own house one day. However I’m not sure I would do it with such skill. For example Scottish cast-iron balusters contrasted with Cantonese timber lattices; English Art Nouveau stained glass windows and Hokkien cut and paste porcelain Chien Nien works.
This buildings restoration is a true testament to the talented team and even now as it runs as hotel you are not lacking in any creature comforts, it really is an immersive experience taking you back in time.
Even having breakfast in the main courtyard, little details were considered like the wicker high chair for the kids, which blends gracefully with the other antique furniture not to spoil the illusion of stepping back in time.
The breakfast menu was a feast of varied dishes, from a continental breakfast to duck pancakes, we ordered something different everyday.
Of course the kids weren’t interested in the history of the mansion, however I can confirm they did enjoy running around and playing in the numerous courtyards and hall ways. They even enjoyed a games of hide and seek in our huge Han Suite.
The highlight for Bella and Maya though, was the swimming pool, which was unexpected surprise to have in such an old house.
The highlight for Marco and I was was having lunch in the Indigo restaurant. I couldn’t have imagined the rooms to be any grander until I opened the big double height wooden door to the dinning room. It was a true homage to Cheong Fatt Tze’s; a fusion of east meets west, the elegant and refined decor and the fusion or asian and western dishes on the menu.
We enjoyed a relaxed lunch and Marco and Isabella were able to indulge on one of their favourite dishes, a delicious seafood pasta dish and I went for the very british but delicious cod with croquet potatoes. Marco and I couldn’t pass up a delicious tiramisu for dessert of which we able to enjoy in relative piece and quiet as Maya had fallen a sleep.
This was a perfect end to our stay in George Town and the Blue Mansion, although there are tours operating though out the day at the mansion, they are not intrusive and of course some parts of the hotel are off limits to the public.
The Blue Mansion has a perfect location, to explore the centre of Georgetown. One of favourite experiences was exploring the cities street art.
The girls would delight in finding new pieces and having their photo taken with them, their favourite being the swings, which was very Bansky esque. There is also a great food court located right next door to the Blue Mansion it serves big variety of asian cuisines and even hosts a cabaret show.
Thinking Nomads verdict
We were glad we indulged ourselves and to give the girls credit they behaved themselves and didn’t scare any of the other guest off. In fact we actually talked to many of the other guest because of the girls.
The hotel is the perfect combination of fascinating history and culture merged with old world elegance. Most importantly it is family friendly and has all the necessities you would need for a 3-4 day stay. So I would urge all parents to go ahead and indulge, I’m certain the kids will enjoy it too.
- Explore George Town Street Art
- Go up to Penang Hill in the cable Car
- Do some shopping at the many modern shopping centres dotted across George Town
- Wander around little India and eat an authentic South Indian Thali
- Red Dragon Night Market