The Hong Kong Bar in Chulia Street is something of a Penang institution.
It has been owned and run by the same family since 1955 and has always been a popular haunt for servicemen from the RAF/RAAF Butterworth days and visiting sailors and soldiers.
RAF Butterworth handed over to the RAAF in 1957 and since then Aussies have been the most frequent patrons. The RAAF base closed down in 1988 but Butterworth (and the bar) still hosts Rifle Company units of the Australian army who come out to Malaysia for three month stints of jungle warfare training.
The servicemen have left mementos of their many hours spent in the bar and the walls are lined with plaques and photos. The bar also has the custom of maintaining photo albums and visitors books of all its clients.
Sadly there was a major fire at the bar in September 2004 which gutted much of the interior and destroyed the old photo books. Since the fire, the owners have made a good job of recreating the nostalgic feel of the old bar. From the outside the place looks much as it always has except that the sign now carries a Malay description Pusat Istirehat which I think translates as ‘leisure centre’.
Business is probably not what it used to be when the RAAF base was operational and when I visited in March 2012 I was the only customer. But this did give me an opportunity to chat to the middle aged lady who runs the place. She told me more about Malaysian current affairs in 5 minutes than I had learned in the last 2 years of living here!
Here are a few photos for readers who may have fond memories of this place.