Located towards the end of the Third Concubine Lane, Han Chin Pet Soo used to be the Hakka Gentlemen’s Club in its tin mining glorious days. The elaborated white building was where the Hakka elite miners came to entertain themselves in various ways possible. I learned of Han Chin Pet Soo from the local guide map provided by Sarang Paloh Heritage Stay. Since the project is part of the conservation efforts by Ipoh World along site with Ian Anderson with much of its original furnishing maintained recreating the early days of the glorious Han Chin Pet Soo, it sounds all promising to me. I made a booking on the same day while having breakfast by calling Han Chin Pet Soo. Luckily, they managed to slot the three of us for 1.30pm tour.
After entering the elegant mansion door, I spotted the other guests who had arrived and already seated around the main dining area. To ensure the safety of the guests and given the old age of the building, the number of visitors is limited to 20 persons at any one time.
Located along Jalan Bijeh Timah (previously Treacher Street), the villa was built by the Hakka Miners Clubhouse founder, Leong Fee, a tin miner/towkay. The clubhouse was originally called Han Chin Pat Sou; Han Chin was the given name to the building while Pat Sou is Hakka for villa.
Visiting the Han Chin Pet Soo is akin to a time travel to the glory days of Ipoh tin-mining and into the high society of Hakka tin miners.
The tour began with brief introduction of the founder of the Han Chin Pet Soo, Liang Pi Joo @ Leong Fe. He came to the then Malaya in 1876 and worked many jobs before coming the successful miner by the late 1880s. The gentlemen club was restricted to Hakka miners to connect with their colleagues and friends with lodging facilities.
The tour continued to the tin mining exhibition where the original tin mining equipment and process of tin mining were shown. The guests also had the chance to watch a historic video explaining the process of tin mining in 1940s.
We proceeded to the kitchen which has been restored to its 1930s environment. Don’t forget to check out the utensils and old-school food tin containers.
The kitchen is connected to the backyard which has been turned into a town square. There were mural of a tin dredge, a street in Ipoh and a tin shop where tin ores were sold. There were also sacks of tin ores that you can try to carry with your bare hands. A sack filled with tin ores was very heavy and I could not help but imagine the labor work the tin miners had to undergo back then.
We then ascended the wooden stairs to have some insight on the activities of the club members over the 122 years. To be honest, this is my favourite section of Han Chin Pet Soo. Here, the four evils of the Han Chin Pet Soo are introduced: gambling, opium smoking, prostitution and triads (secret societies). Gambling in Han Chin Pet Soo was legal activity during its heyday by the order of the district magistrate. Smoking opium gave a peculiar state of pleasure through the addiction. There was even a section dedicated for the opium smokers at the villa.
There was a room where the Hakka tin miners spent gambling or watching the entertainment by ladies of leisure.
On the second floor, there are the lodging facilities with some really old furniture and things fitting an old era. There is also a huge balcony thought to be useful for the Hakka men to be on the look out just in case their wives or concubines came looking for them at the Han Chin Pet Soo. I really enjoyed our tour around the Han Chin Pet Soo as I got to learn about Ipoh I never knew firsthand.