The jade-green color popped, catching our eye, as did the smiling young man waving us over to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion.
We just had to take a closer peek.
It looked like a museum – an interesting one.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion, George Town
Ah, yes, it was the Peranakan museum in Penang.
Maybe it would be air-conditioned inside too?
What to do in George Town, Penang?
When cruising, we usually take guided tours ashore.
But we’d read that the historic center of George Town, Malaysia – declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 – could be explored independently on foot.
(George Town is found on Penang Island off the northwest coast of the Malaysia peninsula.)
So we decided to walk out on our own, trusty map in hand to show us the way to the George Town, Penang, attractions we wanted to see.
To beat the heat, we’d leave the air-conditioned sanctum of our Windstar cruise ship, the Star Pride, right after an early-bird breakfast and be back in time for lunch.
Well, let’s just say that by the time we set off, the heat almost sucked the life out of us.
You’d think that after so many (wonderful!) years of traveling together, we’d recognize our tendency to dilly-dally.
And dilly-dally we did.
Another cappuccino. A second helping of strawberries – because everyone should eat lots of fruit in the morning. More Camembert, and perhaps just another half croissant – we don’t want to venture out hungry!
So now it’s almost noon.
It’s hotter than Hades. And it’s hard to read a map when even your sunglasses are perspiring.
So when we stumbled upon the jade-green mansion in Penang we were quite delighted.
It turned out to be the Pinang Peranakan Mansion (consistently rated on TripAdvisor as the #1 or #2 attraction out of all the things to do in George Town, Penang, so it must be really really good, right?
We were saved from heat stroke!
And we’d get a dose of Peranakan culture too.
“Peranakan” describes the descendants of early Chinese traders who intermarried with local Malay women in Malacca, Singapore and the island of Penang (also known as Pinang).
Many amassed great wealth, and when their settlements became British colonies in the mid 1800s, they adopted British and European customs.
Like playing polo.
And decorating Victorian-style dining tables with epergnes (ornate table centerpieces with containers to hold candles, sweetmeats or flowers).
The young girls and women, known as “Nyonas,” also made the most gorgeous beaded slippers and shoes, dozens of which are on display at the mansion museum.
“Baba” refers to a Peranakan male.
History of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion
A Chinese tycoon by the name of Chung Keng Quee commissioned the building of the mansion in the 1890s.
He’d moved to Penang from China, and although he wasn’t a Peranakan, he wanted it built in the Peranakan style.
After he died in 1901, his family inherited it. But when they lost their riches during WW II, it was abandoned.
Much later in the 1990s, a native Peranakan architect, Peter Soon, took over the mansion.
He painted it the distinctive green color, filled it with his personal collection of over 1,000 antiques and opened it as a museum.
More recently, the Peranakan Mansion has been the movie set for popular shows like The Amazing Race and The Little Nyonya (a Singapore drama).
Lots of bling at this Peranakan museum, Penang
What else did we see at this Baba Nyonya museum ?
The beaded slippers that the young women made and wore are quite eye-popping.
Apparently, the slippers even delighted couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo when he visited the mansion.
The Peranakans also loved everything gold.
Indeed there’s enough gold at this museum to make King Midas drool!
We ogled a large gold belt, gold bowls, gold ear-cleaning picks, gold hair pins, gold ankle bracelets and more…
We also tried not to stare too obviously at the cute bridal couple posing for their wedding photos in one of the mansion’s salons.
The bride wore red, like the bride we saw on our groovy trishaw ride in Malacca.
And, yes, thank you for asking :-).
We did eventually make it back to our ship – dripping from the humidity, but in time for the latest lunch possible (and very happy with what we’d seen in George Town).
Photo credits: 1, 6, 8 to 12 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 2, 4 Pinang Peranakan Mansion