Monday, March 23, 2009

Bangkok Lane曼谷巷(10250 Penang)

Bangkok Lane or Lorong Bangkok, is the most beautiful lane in Penang. It is located between Burma Road(Jalan Burma) and Kelawai Road(Jalan Kelawei), located in the Pulau Tikus area (literally means Rat Island), but the area is neither an island nor the place infested with rats) area. But it may be named after a little isle or small rocky island shaped like a mouse, off north-east coast of Penang island, about 2km away from Pulau Tikus. It is actually one of the high end residential area in Penang, mainly Eurasians.

The Bangkok Lane is lined with two rows of beautiful linked townhouses, totalling 41 units which are all of similar design. The houses were built in 1928 by Cheah Leong Keah, who started out as maker and repair of horse carriages and pioneer the motor firm in Penang. All these colonial pre-war buildings belong to one family. In old days,only the family members of Cheah and Kee can lived in these houses. But it was reported that the grandchildren of the owner are now staying oversea, and they now rented out the buildings.

While walking along the road, you feel like you are now walking in one of the European town.

From the Burma Road end, there is famous Mee Goreng(Fried Noodles, mamak style) at the left of Burma Road/Bangkok Lane junction. It is located in the Chinese coffee shop, Seng Lee Cafe(胜利茶室), the owner of the mee stall is an Indian Muslim(or Mamak) who can speak Hokkian.

From the Kalawei Road, it started with two mansions at the frontage facing the road. On the right is the house once stayed by the former CEO of Sin Ping Jit Pau, who is my classmate Danny Goh's father. I have once visited the house during my sixth form days.

MR. CHEAH LEONG KEAH(谢永嘉局绅), J.P.(b1875~d1941)

1875 - He was born in 1875 in

Chenghai District(澄海区),Swatow City(now known as Shantou City(汕头市), Guangdong Province(广东省), South China. He is son of Mr. Cheah Chin Seah (振声).  He is a Teowchew. Hardworking, and intelligent with the rare gift of vision and a sound belief that life is full of opportunities, he had a great urge to get away from China and seek his fortune in the wide world.
1914 - He had to choose a country where opportunities were abundant. With courage, confidence, foresight and a great belief in himself he left China in 1914 with his family and came to Penang. Penang was one of the three Straits Settlements under British rule along with Malacca and Singapore.

It was in Penang that his first vision was realized. He was the pioneer of the horse and carriage business and thereafter his company Chin Seng & Co. was born. It was located at Kimberley Street, Penang. Subsequenthly Chin Seng was the first importer of motor cars in Penang. When the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward the Eighth, visited Penang, Mr Cheah Leong Keah, JP , took the Prince ceremonially sightseeing in his car.

He was an entrepreneur and from cars he expanded his vision to rubber planting. He developed rubber estates: Napoh Estate and Chang Loon in Jitra, near the Thai border. He amassed land in Transfer Road and Kelawai Road and also a substantial plot of land stretching from Gurney beach to Kelawai Road and part of Burmah Road. He built residential properties at Phuah Hin Leong and retail outlets in Pulau Tikus and also at Trusan Road.

1928 - he built houses which are now Heritage houses in Bangkok Lane and it was his aspiration that the houses would be for his descendants. True to his dream some of  them are living there today or have a house to cherish his memory.

1931-1938 - he was one of the committee member(信理员) of Penang Teochew Association((source:

1935 -he donated 22.5 acres of land in Sungai Dua for the Jubilee Home in honour of the anniversary of the coronation of King George V. He wanted to give 50 acres but it was considered too large a plot to handle at that time. He gave alms to various charities, the Buddhist association at Anson Road was one of them and also at Beow Hong Lim temple near the foot hill of Ayer Itam. There are a hundred and thirty one units of residential and commercial properties which are rented out or lived in at Bangkok Lane by his descendants.

He was decorous in manner and conduct and though Bangkok Lane could be named after him, it seemed he would rather remain anonymous and let Bangkok Lane be a historical name.

He was a philanthropist and in his lifetime helped finance the poor, young entrepreneurs to gain a foothold in business. He was awarded the very rare and highly honoured title, in those days, Justice of the Peace.

1940- He was giving a speech at Kek Lok Si Temple(一九四0年,太虛大師受重慶政府邀請,組織「國際佛教訪問團」, 以國府林森主席為名譽顧問,印光法師為名譽導師,他為團長,率領慈航、葦舫、等慈、惟幻諸師為團員,至印度、緬甸、越南等東南亞各國佈教。歸經星馬,曾來檳城數日,在極樂寺歡迎會演講佛法,參加的僑領有林耀椿、陳肇琪、謝永嘉、何如群、及會泉和尚,相繼演說)。( is active in Buddhist community in Penang, and donated graciously to temple and Buddhist associations.

1941- A great man of honour and integrity, he died on 25 March 1941, never suspecting that within a few months the Japanese would overrun his beloved Penang.

8-9-2003 09:19 PM


  1. Dear Raymond.
    Read your interesting article which was brought to my attention by relatives staying overseas. By the way, my name is Cheah Mei Lin and I am one of the grand-daugher of the Late Mr Cheah. Fyi, the correct name for my great grand-father should be spelt CHEAH LEONG KEAH.
    Would appreciate if you can amend accordingly. Thank you
    Mei Lin
    37 Bangkok Lane

  2. Thank you Mei Lin, for correcting the error on the spelling. I am trying to get his Chinese name and the historical background about him.

    Appreciate the great work by your grandfather.

    I love to look at the beautiful architecture,& well preserved houses, I am proud of him for these heritage buildings.

  3. hello,i'm maggie cheah from utm skudai architecture student are doing a research on houses in bangkok lane. i'm really glad that u've some information about these houses.i would like 2 know d sources of ur information as i would like 2 do futher studies on it...

  4. Hi Raymond, well done! I'm also one of the great grand-daughters and am building some written archives on Cheah Leong Keah. Could you share where you got your information? Keep up the good work and please come visit next time.

    Jasmine Low
    15 Bangkok Lane

  5. Hi, I like the mee goreng at Bangkok lane. Reading this write up by Raymond made penangites proud too. But it is a pitty to see his philanthropy was not well inherited. The family own the idling land stretches from Gurney Drive to Kelawei, but pity to see not put into good use for decades, the income generated could be for charity if the family does not need it. Hope when I have that sort of fortune in future, I don't forget what I wrote here. Salute to those came to Malaya penniless and lent their hands to less fortunate when they have done well.

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