ONCE an exclusive place meant only for the higher class tin miners and triad members, the Han Chin Pet Soo (Han Chin Villa) at Jalan Bijeh Timah in Ipoh is now opening its doors to the public.
The villa underwent a 15-month restoration work and has been turned into an exhibition centre that showcases the history of the Han Chin Miners’ Club and the tin-mining glory days of yesteryear.
The centre’s curator and project manager, Ian Anderson, said the villa was formerly a double-storey building before it was rebuilt into the three-storey structure it is today.
“Then tin mining tycoon Leong Fee had formed the club in 1893 and used the building as its clubhouse.
“In 1927, the club bought over the building and rebuilt it in 1929 into this unique structure,” the 76-year-old Anderson said.
He said the club membership was restricted to Hakka miners and it was a place where vice activities flourished.
“Members would meet with friends and fellow miners to smoke opium, gamble and have illicit sexual activities with prostitutes there.
“The activities were similar to those at Panglima Lane. The difference was that this place was only for the high class tin miners and triad members,” Anderson said.
“Its membership was so exclusive that only a 100% nod from all members got you in,” he said.
“It was also an all-male members only club and women were not allowed to go in,” he said.
Apart from the history of the club and building, Anderson said that the exhibition centre also showcased a brief look at the tin mining era.
“There are several displays of tin mining activities and life during the early 1920s.
“Most of the equipment used for the display are real and were used during the tin mining era,” he said.
“We also have a brief look at the history and the Hakka community travelling from China to Ipoh,” he added.
Anderson said the restoration works was like a community project, as it involved only local Ipoh folk.
“The cost of the restoration works was borne by Kinta Properties,” he said, adding that most of the furniture was authentic and estimated to be about 120 years old.
“The artefacts on display are paid by Tenby Schools Ipoh while some of the displays were built by the Perak Institute of Art,” he said, adding that about RM380,000 was spent.
“We also have a local contractor Y Cheng Thymes, who specialises in restoration work, to help out,” he said, adding that the centre was also available for private functions.
Anderson said feedback from visitors has been positive since the former villa was opened last month.
“Many are impressed with what was done with the place and noted that it could be educational for the younger generation, especially the Hakka community.
“One even asked us to bring back the glory days of the Majestic Hotel at the Ipoh railway station,” he said in jest.
“My next project is just next door, where the former Hovid Bhd building was to showcase its history of the company and its founder, Dr Ho Kai Cheong,” he added.
Anderson said the exhibition centre is open daily except Mondays with four slots on weekends and three slots on weekdays.
“There are three available times during weekdays, 9.30am, 11.30am and 2.30pm, while on weekends, the slots available are 9.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm.
“We can have between 17 to 20 people in each slot. We encourage people to book a few days earlier so we can make the arrangements,” he said.
“We will try to accommodate those that did not make any booking if there are still places available,” he added.
Anderson said each tour would be about one and a half hours long.
“There will be plenty of time for people to walk around and snap pictures. Admission is free but we do hope to get donations from visitors to help us run the place,” he said.
Those interested can book the tour through www.ipohworld.org/reservation or contact 05-529 3306.