this is a companion piece to (G)Old Rush — Tracing My Great-Grandparents to The Land of the Mother Lode
for a while now one of my bucket list items has been to come to Penang because my dad’s dad is from here (before moving to Hong Kong, where my dad was born), and more specifically, the Khoo Kongsi (Khoo [邱, as i learned today] = my last name, Kongsi = clanhouse) in old George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site *smug*.
several centuries ago, my ancestors (lol for some reason that sounds odd) began to emigrate to Penang (among other locations in Southeast Asia) from South China and in the 19th century built this elaborate kongsi. the one standing today dates from the early part of the 20th century after the first burned down. (heh, one of these ancestors was Khoo Thean Teik who played a pivotal role in Penang history as well as dealing in opium and immigrant labor. lovely, huh?)
speaking of lovely, the clanhouse is really something to behold — lavish to an extreme. i don’t know if my grandfather and his immediate family ever partook of its offerings but it was amazing to see such an extravagant labor of love (am i romanticizing that?) by people in my direct family lineage.
sidebar yet again, foursquare ftw. if you’re out and about exploring old George Town you will most likely be hot and in need of a refreshing beverage and a snack. you’re not going to pay hawker center prices but China House [4sq page] is worth it for the very cool artsy space in a historic building as well as their drink and cake selection (oh and the air conditioning). seriously, i don’t remember the last time i saw so many cakes on offer. the “Ant Cake” is highly recommended — it is reminiscent of a Chinese steamed cake but with caramel flavoring!