Story of the Street
Muntri Street or Lebuh Muntri is a street that leads from Penang Road to Stewart Lane at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also the street that crosses Leith Street. The street may have been named after the Mentri of Larut, Ngah Ibrahim, son of Long Jaafar. Hence, Muntri is the old word for Mentri. However, some mentioned that Muntri was actually referring to the high ranking colonial officials that stayed in Leith Street and Muntri Street.
Cantonese associations and guilds dominate the street. There are many associations, clanhouses and a Hainanese Temple located along Muntri Street that has more than 100 years of history. According to the locals, traditional Cantonese black and white nannies were staying here as a group. Mah-cheh (妈姐) is the name for these ladies who wore white top with black silk trousers. They are a group of very professional and reliable maids who worked in the European colonial officials’ families. Therefore, some old Chinese also called this road as Mah-cheh-kay (妈姐街).
Furthermore, the first hospital for the poor, Lam Wah Ee, was founded here in 1883. Hence, Muntri Street is also known as Lâm-hoa-i īⁿ-ke (南华医院街) in Hokkien, named after the hospital that used to be here. Another Hokkien name for this street is Sin-hái-lâm-kong-si-ke (新海南公司街), which meant new Hainanese association street.
Muntri Street has one of the best-preserved facades of Straits Eclectic style houses. It is narrow but lined by exquisitely refurbished Straits Eclectic style double storey shophouses. In this recent decade, trendy boutique and budget hotels, modern cafes and street art has took over that adds beautiful colours and vibrance to this street.
Hainan Temple 天后宫
Penang Hainan Temple is also known as Thean Hou Kong Temple. The Hainanese community established the temple in 1866. Thean Hou Kong temple is dedicated to the Taoist Deity Mazu (妈祖), who is believed to be the protector of seafarers. The temple was then moved to its current location on Muntri Street in 1895 with the fundings and donations collected from the faithful devotees.
In 1925, Penang Kheng Chew Hooi Kuan Clan Association (槟州琼州会馆) was formed with the temple as its headquarters. The name Kheng Chew is a reference to the village on Hainan Island where the temple’s founders originated. The association established Aik Hua School in 1955. The school was constructed next to the Hainan Temple. Then, the name of the association was changed to the Hainan Clan Association in 1991 in order to embrace a wider ethnic identity.
The temple is built in the Hainanese style. Moreover, the elaborate stone carvings on the front of the building which were created by craftsmen were brought over from China in 1995 to mark the centenary of the temple’s construction.
Wooi Ning Wooi Koon 会甯会馆
Wooi Ning Wooi Koon is a Cantonese district association located next to Aik Hua School. Now, the ground floor of the building has been turned into a business premise, which is a textile wholesaler.
Penang Goldsmith Association
Another name for Penang Goldsmith Association is “Penang Ta Kam Hong”. It is the biggest Chinese goldsmith association in Malaysia. Besides, founded in 1832, it is also the oldest goldsmith association in Penang. The members from the association are mostly goldsmiths of Cantonese descent who came from Guangdong Province in southern China. Meanwhile, the building also serves as the guild’s temple, Voo Cheng Koo Mew. It was built in 1903 to worship the patron deity of goldsmiths, Wu Ching.
Penang Sao Lim Athletic Association
Penang Sao Lim Athletic Association is a martial arts association in Penang. This association was established by the Buddhist monk, Monnik Sik Koh Sum. It was founded in 1956 to teach the martial arts to the locals. The term “Sao Lim” is the Hokkien pronunciation for Shaolin Kung Fu (少林功夫).
Leong See Kah Miew Old Building 梁氏家庙
Leong See Kah Miew is the clan association of the Chinese holding the surname Leong. The name translated as Leong Clan Ancestral Temple. It was founded by people surnamed Leong, who hailed from Guangdong in 1871. The old clan temple was used until 1966 when the building was too old for repair. Thus, the three-storey association premise has moved to Perak Road and officially opened in 2020.
Koo Suo Kwong Choon Tong 姑苏广存堂
Koo Suo Kwong Choon Tong is a Cantonese tea shop and restaurant association. It occupies a double-storey townhouse at Muntri Street.
Where to Stay
Modern Hotel Georgetown
Modern Hotel Georgetown is a newly renovated hotel. It is residing in a classy heritage Art Nouveau building which was a budget hotel. In fact, this Instagram-worthy hotel includes a mixture of vintage and modern look with a classy black and white interior.
The building was built in 1920 and has served as retail shops, with one of its significant business occupied by an optician. In fact, the hotel has preserved one of its signage ‘The World Optical Co’ at the storefront. If you have ever noticed, the second floor of the building has always been ‘Modern Hotel’.
One century later, the whole building is refurbished with its heritage architecture preserved, and they had their grand opening in January 2020. The hotel offers 5 types of room, ranging from Superior Single Room to Deluxe Double Room Bathtub with Balcony. With its strategic location and spacious room, it is one of the best staycations in George Town.
The Southern Boutique Hotel
The Southern Boutique Hotel is housed in a double-storey heritage building that was built in 1924. This contemporary boutique hotel uses white colour as their main design concept. For instance, the clean lines and classic elements give a strong vibe on the grand elegance of the British colonial era. The hotel provides 3 types of room, such as Superior Double Room, Deluxe Double Room, and Family Room.
Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel
Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel is a modern hostel that is housed in a colonial-style building in the historical district. Additionally, the hostel is a 8 Times Winner of Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence Award Book Direct for the lowest rates guaranteed. This hostel offers 7 types of room, ranging from private rooms, mixed dormitory rooms to only female dormitory rooms. Though the rooms are not spacious, the hostel provides great facilities and good breakfast.
Muntri Grove was originally a row of 10 modest houses built as living quarters for the Mah-cheh. These double-storey houses were built in the 19th century. Then, in 2013, restoration works started. The interior of the hotel uses minimal palettes to create contemporary lines which provide a light and airy ambiance to the rooms. However, there is only one type of room here, which are Deluxe King Rooms that cater to couples who want a littler romantic experience.
Muntri Mews is a collection of Edwardian era buildings that was transformed into a contemporary and affordable luxury accommodation located in the heart of George Town. This hotel combines both antique and modern furnishings while preserving the Straits Eclectic aesthetic. They offer three main types of room, which are Mews Standard Room, Terrace Suite, and Loft Suite.
Muntri House Heritage Homestay
Muntri House sets in a traditional Chinese clan house. This homestay provides basic, comfortable air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi. Furthermore, they offer 6 types of room, ranging from private rooms to dormitory rooms.
What to See
Street Art: “One Leg Kicks All” Sculpture
The “One Leg Kicks All” steel-rod sculpture at Muntri Street is based on a caricature by Tang Mun Kian. This sculpture portrays the characteristics of a Mah-cheh (妈姐), or some called them as “Amah” (阿嬷). As their jobs and responsibilities cover the whole work from cooking, cleaning to caring for children, they called themselves “Yat-keok-tet” which means “one leg kicks all” in Cantonese.
Street Art: “Win Win Situation” Sculpture
The “Win Win Situation” sculpture is based on the artwork by Julian “Lefty” Kam. Muntri Street was the commercial trading link between the Orang Kaya Mantri or Ruler of Larut, and the Chinese traders of Penang who controlled the mining and melting of tin ore. This sculpture portrays a Chinese trader called Tauke greeting the ruler of Larut, Orang Kaya, before making deal of tin trading.
Mural: “Little Girl in Blue” aka “Kungfu Girl”
The “Little Girl in Blue” is another name for “Kungfu Girl”. It is an amazing street mural by Ernest Zacharevic. The model for the mural was apparently an eight-year-old girl at an art school. The face expression as well as the light on her clothes and hair making it very lively. Besides, the size of the mural is very impressive and the windows are a part of the art piece too.
Mural: “Big Mouth” by Gabriel Pitcher
The “Big Mouth” mural by Gabriel Pitcher is painted above an archway at the Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel. This mural is very creative as Gabriel makes excellent use of an awkward space above and to the sides of an archway.
What to Eat
Tai Buan Porridge 大满清香粥
Tai Buan Porridge serves one of the classic Teochew porridge. Teochew porridge is served as a banquet of vegetables, egg, fish and meats with plain rice porridge. For instance, some of the must-order dishes include braised pork, pork belly, braised duck, fried egg with preserved turnips, and more. As it is quite popular, the place is crowded during the peak hours.
Gala House Restaurant and Bar
Gala House is a retro-themed restaurant and bar that started its business in 2013. The menu features two different sets for lunch and dinner respectively. It offers Asian Western fusion cuisines. For instance, some of their special dishes include Clams in Wine & Fresh Herb Broth, Kimchi Salmon Spaghetti, Cheddar Ranch, Orang Kaya Coffee and more.
Sri Wangi Selera Ibunda
Sri Wangi Selera Ibunda is a restaurant that offers Malay food. The owner is a pair of husband and wife which the husband is from Bangladesh and the wife is from Indonesia. They serve authentic Malay food such as Nasi Goreng Biasa, Ayam Merah, Ayam Penyet, and more.
Originated from the UK, Emily’s Steakhouse has two branches in Malaysia, one in Penang and the other one in Kuala Lumpur. Previously located at Victoria Street, the restaurant expanded and moved to Muntri Street in September 2020. With the perfect tenderness and taste, this place serves one of the best steaks in town.
Mews Cafe is most probably one of the finest cafes in Muntri Street. It serves authentic Malay food in cozy restaurant settings. They prepare their food with fresh local ingredients as well as homemade sauces and spices. However, the price is slightly expensive. Some of their must-try dishes are Nasi Lemak, Beef Rendang, Ikan Sambal, Chai Creme Brulee and more.
Previously known as Behind 50, Hungry Chef is a newly open cafe that serves Western cuisine. The cafe has a strong rustic and vintage vibe as it’s decorated with a lot of grandma’s house antique. Hungry Chef serves Chicken Chop, Spaghetti, Burgers and more! In addition, it opens from Tuesday to Sunday, 4pm to 12am.
Seven Skulls is a cocktail bar located at Muntri Street. It is a lovely and classy place where you can enjoy chilled beer and occasional live band. It is not too noisy and thus, the vibes and energy here is suitable for networking and gathering.
Just a few doors next to Seven Skulls, Mish Mash is also a cocktail bar located at Muntri Street. It provides a welcoming mood, and casual, old-school European-style vibe. Mish Mash is renowned for cocktails. On the other hand, they also serve dinner, single malt whisky as well as craft beers.