Hong Kong Bar – Chulia Street, Penang

Hong Kong Bar, Penang as at March 2012

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.

Fire damaged plaques at Hong Kong Bar, Penang

Mementos from Auzzie military units.

Retro Style CD juke box has replaced the old record playing juke box.

Ex-servicemen make up a high proportion of Hong Kong Bar's customers these days.

Hong Kong Bar, Chulia Street, Penang

10 thoughts on “Hong Kong Bar – Chulia Street, Penang”

  1. Was in the Hong Kong Bar last Christmas and the juke box is back.As per normal Khe San by Cold Chisel was the first song to be played.Peter and Jenny are still fine hosts.The bar is slowly coming together again but will never be a patch on what it used to look like.Still serves the coldest beer on the island.

  2. The Hong Kong Bar! a BI institution. Called in there many times between 1970 and 1976. What a pity about all the ‘photo albums being lost. What history they had, along with the message books. Must get back there sometime before I pass the bar.

  3. My son has visited this bar many times over the past 17 years. I also visited it, several times, a few years ago. His dad was here on R & R during the Vietnam War and spoke of it often before he died. A couple of weeks ago he brought my 4 year old grandson, making it 3 generations to visit. Our pictures grace the walls. Peter and Jenny are still gracious hosts. They have preserved the heritage their father left them. It is sad they lost so much history in the fire.

  4. Had my 21st birthday in the Hong Kong Bar in Feb 1958..A little Chinese girl was playing with her dolls down the back of the bar..When I returned for the first time in 2009, Jenny was shocked when I told her age..Last visit there Nov 2015, and spent a pleasant evening with Jenny and one of her girl friends….She is a legend…Regards

  5. i was talking about this bar and was sad to hear of the fire.i was a regular when on visa runs from koh samuii.i know my picture was taken many times.(bulldog bar,koh samuii….used to stay in new asia hotel……it was nt that new though!

  6. Saddened to read of the 2004 fire and the loss of the photo albums. Went there in late 1974 on my first trip with Ben Line. Lovely place, always wanted to go back and look up the photos of that visit but now I’m too late.

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