Category Archives: EZ 45 – Captains & Legends

Transforming Heritage into Evocative Spaces 古迹的惊艳变身

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Christopher Ong

Penang’s Heritage Hotelier, Collector and Entrepreneur

“I was trying to get out of corporate life and the idea was always to retire in Asia.”

Ever since George Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Zone in 2008 in a joint listing with Malacca, the inner city has seen gradual changes over the years as gentrification takes place. Rows of heritage buildings were saved from collapsed and beautifully restored. Slowly, George Town began to see urban regeneration with vacant buildings filling up and the city becoming alive again.

One of the few who led these notable transformations is banker-turned-hotelier Christopher Ong. The illustrious banker came back to Penang and successfully turned previously derelict heritage houses into boutique hotels that retained all of its heritage features and yet boast of clean, contemporary lines.

Wanting to escape the trap of the banking industry after many years climbing the corporate ladder in Australia, Ong made a decision to retire somewhere in Asia by the age of 40. So, in 2002, he sold off an investment property in Australia and used the funds to move to Sri Lanka as his choice spot for retirement.

“I was trying to get out of corporate life and the idea was always to retire in Asia,” he said. He chose Sri Lanka after he did a fund manager analysis comparing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the place before making a decision.

Ong did not immediately find a property he liked in Sri Lanka but after searching for a while, he stumbled across the mansion in Galle Fort. It was perfect for what he had in mind so he bought it and spent 2003 restoring the mansion that had foundations dating back over three centuries.

The Galle Fort Hotel officially opened its doors with 13 rooms in November 2004. The building survived the devastating effects of the tsunami later that year and eventually became a makeshift hospital following the disaster.

A few years later, due to his father’s passing, Ong came back to Penang to fulfill his filial duty to his widowed mother. It was then that he brought his genius in restoring heritage buildings to his homeland. Back in Penang, he began a series of restoration projects that won him accolades and a reputation for having the Midas touch when it comes to boutique hotels.

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The projects under his belt in Penang are Clove Hall, Noordin Mews, Muntri Mews, Seven Terraces, Muntri Grove, Muntri Residences and most recently, Jawi Peranakan Mansion. Clove Hall, Noordin Mews and Jawi Peranakan Mansion are located outside of the heritage zone and except for Jawi Peranakan, the projects were subsequently sold off. Ong had also subsequently sold off Galle Fort Hotel. Now, all of his existing hotels are parked under his new brand, George Town Heritage and Hotels (GTHH).

Ong termed his work in restoring these heritage buildings in Penang as his way of setting a trend for adaptive reuse of buildings like these that were previously in derelict conditions. He also bought a pre-war house across the road from his great grandparents’ former residence which he restored and turned into his home. “I wanted to lead the way in restoring these old houses and live here so I attempted to get more people to move back into George Town,” he said.

He believes that living in the heritage city is not a mere romantic notion but that the inner city is a liveable, convenient space if only people gave it a chance. “Aside from parking issues, everything is nearby. We can go to the market and have convenience stores nearby, cafes, restaurants and hawker food all within walking distances,” he said.

While he does not oppose foreigners buying some of the heritage buildings and restoring these buildings rather than leaving it empty and going to rot, he felt that some of the local owners have a duty to keep the inner city vibrant, especially the clan associations, locally known as ‘kongsi’. Today, many of the heritage buildings within the city still belongs to the numerous clan associations in George Town.

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“I wanted to lead the way in restoring these old houses and live here so I attempted to get more people to move back into George Town.”

“Why aren’t these clan associations renting out their premises to their members at affordable rates? These clan associations are supposed to be non-profit so what are the reasons for them to increase their rental rates that locals could not afford it?” he asked. He also hoped the local authorities would consider introducing incentives to owners to restore their heritage buildings instead of burying them in bureaucracy. He lamented over the immense red tape that most home owners to go through while applying for restoration permits.

“Instead of incentives, what we now have are dis-incentives when it comes to restoration of these pre-war houses,” he said. He also hoped the local authorities will look into infrastructure and cleanliness issues within the city such as increasing electricity capacities for the inner city, getting rid of the rat problem and a more efficient waste disposal system. “I really feel that we could get people to move back into George Town as we do not want it to be filled with just hotels, cafes and restaurants, we need local communities living here to keep the local economy within the city going,” he said.

Today, Ong continues to lives in his house in Muntri Street and is working on expanding Muntri Residences by taking up leases for more buildings along the row. Muntri Residences are whole heritage buildings that are divided into several private living spaces that families can rent as a whole for events and long stays. Alternatively, individuals and couples can also rent each compartmentalised spaces within the houses.

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而其中引领这项巨大改造工程的操盘手包含了从银行家转向酒店行业的王礼强(Christopher Ong)。这名杰出的银行家回到槟城,并成功将遭遗弃的古迹房屋变为精品酒店,除了保留所有古迹印记,尚增添简洁现代感的线条。



当时他并没有立即寻觅到中意的斯里兰卡房产,但在搜寻一段时间,偶然发现加勒堡(Galle Fort)古老豪宅,这个已历经3个世纪的古宅大院,正是他心目中的完美目标,立即买下并在2003年展开修复工程。



他在槟城开发改造的房产包括Clove Hall,Noordin Mews, Muntri Mews,Seven Terraces,Muntri Grove,Muntri Residences及最近的Jawi Peranakan Mansion。而其中Clove Hall,Noordin Mews和Jawi Peranakan Mansion是位于古迹区外。目前除了Jawi Peranakan,所有发展项目均宣告售罄。 他随后卖掉加勒堡酒店,目前把酒店项目都聚焦在新品牌 – 乔治市古迹和酒店(GTHH)。



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今天,王礼强继续生活在南华医院街的房子,并正在扩充经营Muntri Residences,租用更多的沿排建筑物。作为一栋完整的古迹建筑物,Muntri Residences分为数个私人生活空间版块,家庭可租用作为活动空间和长期住宿。或者,个人与伴侣也可租用房屋内的每个隔间。


The Living Passion of One Man 一个人的生活的热情

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Dato’ Pang Yun Tiam

Founder and Managing Director of Chiptronics

“We wanted to save some money hiring performers for our annual events and decided to perform with friends and family. Little did we know, the reaction from the audience was explosive and we haven’t looked back since. Unexpectedly, it became a more family-oriented show promoting family values.”

There goes this story about a humble beginning and success story involving love, passion for music and thirst for learning. Dato’ Pang Yun Tiam founder and managing director of Chiptronics is a man of many passions. His love for playing the harmonica and electric saxophone and performing with his immediate family members have recently touched the hearts of audiences and fast becoming a favourite among the Chinese community. EZ discovers the modest man behind Chiptronics, a Penang-based and one of Malaysia’s largest equipment, tools and machinery suppliers for the electronics manufacturing sector, mass transit and defense sector.

As the story goes according to an infamous Chinese saying – ‘behind every successful man there stands a woman’ – rings truth in the story of Dato’ Pang. Just a slight tweak to this saying replacing ‘woman’ with ‘family’, this troupe of a singular family cell reminds us all of the importance of core family values that is at the verge of disappearing in this fast-moving and digital age.

Dato’ Pang has started a relationship with his harmonica in his early twenties that took him years before performing at his first concert. Revealing his passion for this instrument has not only helped inspire the musician skill in him but also brought his family closer together. His love for arts and culture meant that there is more to appreciating music. His daughters bore the fruit of his love for dance when they were sent to China to learn the Hakka cultural dance only to return with immediate requests to perform at private, charity and government events. They have also garnered support from friends, which led to more requests from charity and cultural events.


“The Harmonica is my first instrument.”

“We wanted to save some money hiring performers for our annual events and decided to perform with friends and family. Little did we know, the reaction from the audience was explosive and we haven’t looked back since. Unexpectedly, it became a more family-oriented show promoting family values.”

Dato’ Pang credits his wife’s dedication in managing rehearsal times and music education for their children and ultimately became the core person that brings the family together. It’s not the easiest job to manage a seven-people household of musicians. Nevertheless, each child has wonderfully picked up their own instrument of choice with the ultimate objective of creating a sound group.

 While Dato’ Pang’s passion has always been the harmonica and electric saxophone; Pang Yi Yun, her eldest daughter plays the percussion [shaker, chimes and claves]; Pang Yi Sha the second daughter and wife Datin Fan Mei Hoong on the keyboards; and Pang Yi Chuen the third daughter on the drums. While they were forming the band they came to identify the vital role of a bassist which saw Pang Yi Jia, Dato’s youngest daughter step up to the challenge. Pang Tze Yuan the youngest son shares his role with Yi Yun on the percussion department specialising in the Conga and Bongo. While these are their main instruments now, the children had the opportunity in earlier years to learn traditional Chinese instruments in their earlier years:  Yi Sha on the Guzheng; Yi Chuen on the Guzheng and Liuqin; and Yi Jia on the Yangqin.

This pure dedication and love for music play a huge part in them influencing each other to be better at their own individual instrument. Nevertheless, what was previously an individual and personal interest to play songs on a harmonica has motivated the whole family to go into music.


‘Behind every successful man there stands a woman.’ – rings true in the story of Dato’ Pang

The family’s performance has attracted the attention of The Malaysia Book of Records and was awarded for organising the ‘Most Number of Family Members Performing for a Charity Event (Band)’ at the 2nd edition of the annual celebration of the Malaysian Artist Society in November 2016.

A father and an avid golfer, Dato’ Pang holds various positions in various non-profit societies and associations in Penang such as the Northern Region President of Malaysian Artist Society; Advisory Committee of Taiwan Hakka Affairs council; Deputy President of Penang Hainan Friendship Association; Advisor of ASEAN Ambassador; and President of both Penang Hakka Association and World Pang Clan Business Forum just to name a few.

With a successful business that churns over RM20 million a year in revenue, Dato Pang has come a long way since the very beginning of his career. Originally from Malacca, he completed his Diploma in Electrical and Electronics at Institute Technology Jaya (ITJ) and pursued a career in consulting on project basis for Ramada Hotel (Malacca) and Park Royal (Penang).

During the economic downturn in the late 1980s, Dato’ Pang humbly took up a sales position with UNIPAC and National Semiconductor (NS) before founding Chiptronics in 1989. Over the years, the business has won the trust and confidence of many leading manufacturers and scored successful distribution and partnership deals. Headquarted in Penang, Chiptronics has over 40 staffs with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Singapore.












运作全年营收逾2000万令吉的企业公司,自从业以来,他也走过漫长艰辛路。出生于马六甲,他在Institute Technology Jaya(ITJ)完成电气和电子学位,过后在马六甲Ramada和槟城Park Royal酒店的基设项目计划担任咨询工作。