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George Town Heritage Hotels

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About Chris Ong, Founder

Investment banker turned international hotelier Chris Ong, first ventured into the hospitality business together with his then partner, when they moved to Sri Lanka in 2003. He bought a 17th-century Dutch mansion in Galle and restored it into a 12-suite heritage boutique hotel and named it “Galle Fort Hotel”. In 2007, Galle Fort Hotel was one of the recipients of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award of Distinction in recognition of the conservation work done on it. In 2011, it was sold to a Sri Lankans public company and remains to this day as one of Sri Lanka’s top hotels.

Upon returning home to Penang in 2007 due to family reasons, and in 2007, he purchased a decrepit  Anglo-Indian bungalow on Clove Hall Road on what was once the Sarkies Brothers’ estate. Chris lovingly restored it and turned it into a 5-suite cozy heritage boutique hotel. Clove Hall was his first project in Penang, which was later sold when the purchaser made him an offer he could not refuse.

George Town, Penang, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, which spurred Chris to save more heritage buildings in the core heritage zone. In 2009, two more properties were added to his portfolio, namely Muntri Mews and Noordin Mews. Noordin Mews was sold during its first month of operation when Chris was again made an offer he could not turn down. Chris then used the gains from the sale to save more crumbling buildings.

Where others saw decay and neglect, Chris could visualize grace and beauty. Shortly after that, more properties were acquired, namely, Seven Terraces and Muntri Grove. and the latest addition to the list is Jawi Peranakan Mansion, which started operations in January 2017. Each hotel showcases a range of 19th-century architecture, integral to Penang’s history and heritage, with hip and yet comfortable interiors for today’s living.

George Town Heritage & Hotels (GTHH) is now a portal for Chris Ong’s portfolio of hotels to better serve guests with seamless bookings, reservations, and inquiries for each hotel in the group.

Made With Love


George Town Heritage Hotels was created with my love of my culture and heritage. Growing up in a Straits Chinese family where both paternal and maternal grandmothers were very traditional sarong wearing, betel nut and sirreh chewing matriarchs, I couldn’t help being siphoned into their curious world which centred around familial and religious traditions including celebrating the feast days and death anniversaries of their immediate ancestors as well as the pantheon of divinities out there. The constant preparations and exchange of information via their web of relationships kept us as well informed and connected as the social media of today. I was definitely sucked into their world with my overactive creative mind.


Chris preparing for the Hokkien Chinese New Year Celebration, Jade Emperor's Birthday at Seven Terraces.

The renaissance of art and culture is Chris's aspiration for his community.

Fuelled With Passion

My love for the world they lived in stayed with me while I worked and travelled the world to finish off my study of decorative arts. George Town Heritage Hotels is the culmination of my lifetime of interest, passion and study into the Peranakan Chinese material culture, art and architectural style.

Hospitality through our hotels and restaurants and cafes are the natural extension of my efforts to adapt the buildings to be backdrops for my personal collections to showcase my Peranakan Chinese antiques and objects of art primarily from Georgetown. The motivation is to preserve and make relevant the Straits Chinese cultural period for reference, study and simplistically to keep the motherlode here in George Town.

The economic power of our gigantic neighbours always dwarfs any NGO or individual efforts to succeed here but someone like me had to try to amass a decent quantity of artefacts to show not all has been lost.



Chris Ong loves nothing better than piecing together fragments of old carvings to create sensational new furniture & home accessories. Here he is working with GTHH in-house carpenter, Ah Lai, to make a Peranakan style wedding bed.

Driven By Purpose

All of what I have accumulated and amassed will have a game plan. The businesses are established and to be run like institutions into the future to be self-funded into the Foundation that they will be part of and the purpose is going back to what I love and cherish for the future generations from my childhood here in Georgetown.

It’s a second chance to recognise the contribution of the Chinese community who acculturated and assimilated themselves into the local Anglo Indian Malay culture they adopted.


 
Chris's dearest aunty, Aunty Baby, a true Nyonya who keeps traditions alive and inspires modern chefs during the winter solstice celebration.

Where You’ll Be

ACTIVITY

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