One of the things that have become a defining part of the Penang landscape is its historical buildings, which appear to be frozen in a time long gone. As George Town inches towards another anniversary of being awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status, we take a look at three of these such establishments that have been given a new lease on life as opulent hotels.
06 Lebuh Campbell, 10100 Georgetown, Penang
A former shop house turned boutique hotel, Campbell House sits on the corner connecting Campbell Street and Cintra Street in George Town. First built in 1903, the couple who now run the establishment retained its original commercial facade as a nod to its century-long history. Once inside, guests will be pleased to see that the attention to colonial design detail perseveres, thanks to quaint stained glass windows and wooden accents. All in all, there are 11 suites, and they run the gamut of design styles that traditional Malaysian housing is known for, from Burmese and Indonesian to Indian and colonial.
Street food is all around you from the first foot out the door, so if you want something a little different, Campbell House has it in the form of Il Bacaro, the in-house Italian restaurant. Alternatively, guests can arrange for their orders to be sent up to the rooftop terrace, where they can wine and dine while enjoying views of the bustling town. Room rates start from RM400 per night.
228 Macalister Road, 10400 George Town, Penang
As one drives down Macalister Road, it’s impossible not to take notice of the sprawling Macalister Mansion, a 100-year-old manor that has been reborn as an upscale boutique hotel. Named after Sir Norman Macalister, one of Penang’s first British governors, it has maintained its British colonial exterior while attracting modern tourists with its more adventurous and fun-spirited interior design concept. Eight suites are all you’ll find here, as part of the hotel’s emphasis on maintaining exclusivity.
Apart from accommodation, many also visit Macalister Mansion for the Dining Room – their in-house restaurant which specialises in envelope-pushing gourmet cuisine. Game to add new flavours to your palate’s repertoire? Dishes like Blue Lobster with Peanut and Vietnamese Spring Roll Stick on Sugar Cane are just among the many possibilities. Once your appetite has been sated, don’t forget to make your way to The Living Room (the cafe), or choose from one of Penang’s largest wine collections at The Cellar (the bar). Room rates start from RM999 per night.
1881 Chong Tian Hotel
38, 40, 42, Jalan Pintal Tali, 10100 Georgetown, Penang
An architectural offspring of Malaysian Chinese culture, 1881 Chong Tian Hotel’s first incarnation was an accommodation for well-off merchants who found themselves on the shores of Penang for trade and business. However, it fell into disrepair over the years and was only recently rescued by local magnate Seah Kok Heng, who restored the hotel to its former glory.
11 private, 19th-century antique-furnished suites await guests, each one of them wittily named after various clans that migrated to the area in the 1800s. The homage to traditional Chinese culture continues in the form of the in-house restaurant, which serves the best in Chinese cuisine, whether it’s Cantonese, Teochew, or various other regional Chinese dishes. Room rates start from RM588 per night.
More Local Tips for Penang Trip
- Visit the Tropical Fruit Farm, located in Teluk Bahang to learn about and taste rare and exotic local fruits through a comprehensive tour and hearty buffets.
- Ride the Penang Hop On Hop Off Bus to tour the town. It has two routes, the City Route and Beach Route, which take you to 13 and 22 hotspots respectively for a reasonable fare.
- As Penang’s popularity grows, peak seasons make it increasingly harder for both locals and tourists to navigate the island. If you can help it, try to avoid planning trips here during long weekends and school holidays.
- For a taste of what the local hipsters are all about, head to Hin Bus Depot Art Centre. It’s an art exhibition centre which also houses a cosy cafe and wide outdoor area, where you can snap numerous photos with breathtaking murals.