Penang heritage hotel falls on hard times

GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA -  A treasure trove of historical artefacts that adorned a heritage hotel were auctioned off after it could not pay rent.

Touted as the first Chinese heritage hotel in Penang, 1881 Chong Tian was ornately furnished with valuable antiques in a row of 130-year-old shop houses.

A Sessions Court bailiff and court-appointed auctioneer was at the property in Jalan Pintal Tali yesterday to auction 108 artefacts, mostly antiques from China.

They included 34 vases, 18 paintings, 16 lamps, 10 chairs, six wood carvings, six cupboards, three altars, two woven baskets, a table, bed and a set of chinaware. A reception counter and three air coolers also went under the hammer.

Seah Kok Heng, the managing director, stood resigned to fate as all the items went to the highest bidder for RM125,000.

"These antiques are priceless. I spent more than 10 years collecting them.

"It was my dream to build a hotel full of antiques. I felt tourists would love it," said Seah.

He said he bought the antiques from old families throughout Penang and other states.

The hotel's top room, the Seah Suite, had a published walk-in room rate of RM2,188 a night with promo rates of RM800 to RM1,000.

Of the other 10 suites, the cheapest were the Tan and Chua Suites with a published rate of RM588 a night and promo rates of RM300.

According to the writ of possession dated June 5, the court bailiff was given authority by the Sessions Court to hold the auction for plaintiff Khoo Chooi Poh to recover RM126,809.59 that the hotel owed in rent, interests and costs.

The court also ordered Seah to deliver vacant possession of Lots 38 and 40 of the hotel premises. The hotel was built on three lots.

After the auction, workers built a wooden partition to separate those two lots from Lot 42.