Friday, May 11, 2007

Khoo Kongsi

Recently I traveled up to Penang to meet up with friends I haven't met for more than 2 years. It was a great trip, full of catching up and lots of talking over a cup of coffee and famous Penang grub. While I was there, I decided to check out places I've never visited before.

Most of us have been to the Kek Lok Si temple, Bukit Bendera, the famous hawker streets and other landmarks. But I wonder how many of us have actually been to the Khoo Kongsi?

The Khoo Kongsi is one of the most famous Chinese clan associations in Penang. And they have this really beautiful clan house/compound to hang out in. Just like how us modern 'intellectuals' hover around mamaks to discuss everything from the state of our politics to the state of our mental health due to job stress, the forefathers from days of yore used to meet to discuss things, help each other out and try to make life better for all. Well, for all the Khoos la.

The place is excellently restored to its former glory and the colours, especially the gold, absolutely stands out. The entire building is filled with intricate carvings on wood, metal and stone. From the roof, the high beams, the pillars, the walls and the windows, right down to the leading staircase, these carvings are so detailed and creative. It's amazing how people from the olden times can produce such sophisticated works of art without modern technology. It must've taken a LOT of dedication and perserverence.

According to the Khoo Kongsi website, the restoration works cost in excess of RM 4.2 million! The Khoos must be very rich people. That is a serious amount of money. Can eat Penang char kuey teow until you die. But I must say, all that money has been well spent.

The only two things I felt that more money should have been spent on are:

1. Tour guides/audiophones and information boards. It would have been much nicer if there were guided tours of the association compound and the tour guide could explain the history, the culture and provide interesting facts about the place (like a trap door we saw, but didn't know where it led to). Most museums or places of interest overseas have audiophones too, like a handset that u bring around. These have pre-recorded information that you can listen to while you're wandering around. Sadly, I have yet to see facilities like that in Malaysia. More placards around the place would've been a nice touch too. We only saw information about the statues and deco at the exit, which I think is too late.

2. Many more road signs leading to the area. After spending more than 4.2 million on restoring the building, I find it really baffling that they didn't spend that little bit more to tell people how to get there. I didn't see any signpost or direction arrow throughout the town until we had reached building! Plus, it doesn't help that the Khoo Kongsi is deep inside a crowded area of shophouses and terrace lots - not a place your typical tourist would stumble upon. In fact, we only found the entrance by chance after wandering the streets. We could have easily passed it by and not know it.

I quote this from the Khoo Kongsi website:
"Surprisingly, famous as it is, its location appears to be unknown to many Penangites."

Oih hello! No signboard, how to go??? Duh.

But if you do manage to locate it, do go in and take your time to stroll around. Enjoy the architecture, colours and step back in time for a while. It's worth every cent of the RM 5 entry fee.


nicole said...

I really liked that place too, when I visited college friends there, er... 12 years ago! Thank goodness we had "locals" to take us there. But woi! what happened to FOOD pictures??

eg said...

We ate them :P

Yengs said...

Surprisingly, food wasn't the main agenda for me this time around :)

JacJac said...

I wonder if people actually knows there's a hidden 'lucky' coin by the stairs?


There's 2 statues right?
a crying buddha (2nd pic)
and a laughing buddha

there's actually a not-so-hidden 'lucky' coin somewhere under it.

supposed to touch it for luck or wealth or something.. haha

I wonder if you know.