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Malaysia: Penang – Khoo Kongsi

Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, or Khoo Kongsi for short, is one of the most distinctive Chinese clan associations in Malaysia. It is known for its extensive lineage that can be traced back 650 years ago, as well as its closely-knit and defensive congregation of buildings and a magnificent clanhouse.

One of the places we had been recommended to visit was the Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, or Khoo Kongsi for short, which we found tucked away behind a very understated gate.

When the Hokkien Chinese emigrated to Penang in the early 19th century they created clan associations to help their fellow clansmen who came to Penang to settle. The members of these clans share a common surname and ancestors. Although the clans were initially set up for the sake of offering help, by the second half of the 19th century, intense rivalry manifested itself as one clan tried to outdo the other. Nevertheless, the Hokkien clans remained close-knit against peoples of other dialect groups, such as the Hakka and the Cantonese.

The wealthiest of the Hokkien clans is the Khoo, which built the most extravagant clan temple, Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, at Cannon Square. It is not the only Khoo clan temple in Penang. A short distance away is the quieter, less visited Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi, also another clan temple belonging to a subset of the main Khoo clan. Within Penang, five Hokkien clan associations are regarded as the backbone of the Penang Hokkien clan associations. They are the Khoo, the Tan, the Lim, the Cheah and the Yeoh, and they each have a clan temple somewhere in George Town. Whilst the temple is the centre of the community around it the members of the clan lived and conducted their daily business, creating a clan village within the city.

The Khoo Kongsi temple or clan house is indeed very impressive. It sits high on a pedestal, with steps on either side that you must climb on each side to reach the temple itself. The temple itself was commissioned in 1894 and took a team of craftsmen from Southern Fujian eight years to complete. Mysteriously the temple caught fire that same year and new work had to be commissioned to repair the clan house. During World War II the clan house was damaged by Japanese bombing, and it was not until 1958 that another major reconstruction project got underway. Today, you can see the efforts of these craftsmen over the decades. The carving, stone masonry and guilding work were exquisite. We particularly loved the intricate design work on the ceilings.

There are seven murals in the rear corridor of the clan house, three of them large and four of them small. They have survived the test of time for almost a century, since the completion of Leong San Tong. Their perfect condition makes them some of the most important heritage paintings in Malaysia.
In front of the clan house is a large square with an opera stage opposite the main building where performances would have been put on for the clan members.

We descended the stair of the clan house and entered the door on the right-hand at ground level. In here we found a fascinating museum that explained the history of the clan house and the clan system.

Planning your visit to Khoo Kongsi

Address:18, Cannon Square, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Telephone:+60 4-261 4609
Hours:Open daily, including Sundays and Public Holidays, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Cost:10 MYR

The best time to visit George Town

The climate of George Town

George Town, in Malaysia, has a prominent Af Köppen climate classification. This delineation identifies the area as having a Tropical rainforest climatic zone, imbued with high temperatures and abundant rainfall year-round – two main characteristics driven by its latitude close to the equator.

Throughout the year, the city is marked by high temperatures, consistently ranging from a minimum of 23.8°C to a soaring 31.6°C. Each month, there are limited fluctuations in such thermal readings, as the lowest temperature seldom falls below 23.8°C while the upper temperature rarely surpasses 31.6°C. Correspondingly, relative humidity remains comparably high throughout the year, primarily within 76% to 81%, thus contributing to the overall sensation of warmth.

Rainfall in George Town varies from month to month, judging by the parameters provided. The range dips to a low of 65mm, and climbs a high of 193mm, marking December as the month with the heaviest rain showers. Correspondingly, the number of rainfall days has a similar trend, with a peak in November and December, where rain is expected for more than 28 days.

Observing the number of sunshine hours, they fluctuate narrowly from a modest 7.6 hours in November to a bright 9.3 hours in February, reflecting the region’s tropical nature. In conjunction with daylight hours, they remain quite constant throughout the year, hovering approximately around 12 hours daily.


The best time to visit George Town

Taking into consideration predominantly the temperature, humidity, and rainfall, the period from February to April emerges as the most suitable time to visit George Town. In these months, rainfall measures stay below 106mm and the days with rain are notably fewer than other times, below 24 per February. Concurrently, the temperature hovers between the comfortable 23.8°C and 31.3°C, allowing for outdoor exploration without extreme heat. During this time, hours of sunshine are also in their peak, exceeding 9 hours daily.

Other places to visit while in Penang


Built between 1896 to 1904, teams of master craftsmen from China were hired. The majestic blue house was built with 38 rooms and 5 courtyards. At that time, 3 of his wives occupied the Blue Mansion. The Blue Mansion (otherwise known as Cheong Fatt Tze’s Mansion) was large enough to accommodate his extended family.


The Pinang Peranakan Museum has a distinctive green exterior - George Town, Penang, Malaysia

The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a museum dedicated to Penang’s Peranakan heritage. The museum itself is housed within a distinctive green-hued mansion at Church Street, George Town.


George Town’s street art scene boomed in 2012. That year Ernest Zacharevicm, a Lithuanian artist, created 6 wall paintings during the celebration of the annual George Town festival. These murals soon achieved worldwide fame.


Chew Jetty was one of 5 wooden jetties constructed in 1888 as part of a development project on the quayside in George Town. 2 other wooden jetties were built in the same area in the 1960s. One jetty burnt down so only five remain.

Where to stay in Penang


Nestled in the heart of Penang’s heritage centre, Noordin Mews is an intimate 1920s Peranakan shophouse turned hotel. With rooms meticulously restored to capture the essence of a simpler age, Noordin Mews is a living memory of Penang’s colonial architecture.
Set within a working-class neighbourhood known as the Seven Streets Precinct, our converted Straits Eclectic shophouse was originally for the trishaws and hand carts that populated Noordin Street in the early 1900s.

Abandoned after its purpose declined over the years, the main hotel building was rediscovered by an acclaimed hotelier, who skilfully restored it to its glorious years, coupled with modern times’ finer touches.


The Eastern & Oriental Hotel – known simply as the ‘E&O’ to generations of travellers – exudes a charm that is inimitably its own. For most of its history, its passageways and halls were the preserve of the rich and privileged from the Western world – intrepid travellers that included acclaimed writers and aspiring literati who arrived in steamships seeking to experience the exotic East. Even with the passage of time, this unique pearl at the heart of George Town continues to shine as a testament to the grand elegance of the British colonial era, the embodiment of both a special time and a special place. Indeed, at the E&O, life’s true pleasures never go out of fashion. For over 138 years, the hotel has welcomed the world in timeless style. This legacy is conserved and further elevated with the re-opening of the Heritage Wing that is now setting the new standard as a leading destination in classic hospitality.


Swing & Pillows @ Beach Street is located in George Town, within 1.5 miles of Northam Beach and a 17-minute walk of Penang Times Square. Among the facilities at this property are a shared kitchen and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Straits Quay is 5.1 miles from the hostel and Penang Botanic Gardens is 5.3 miles away.

All guest rooms at the hostel feature air conditioning and a desk.

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