Saturday, April 28, 2012

Penang: Where We Stayed

As soon as I decided to go to Penang, I knew where I wanted to stay: the Eastern and Oriental. This historic luxury hotel was founded in 1885 by a famous group of Armenian hoteliers (they also owned the Raffles Hotel in Singapore). Somerset Maugham was a frequent guest, and even set some of his stories there. The porters (they still call them porters) wear topi hats and khaki shorts, and the vibe in general is as if you'd been transported back to the heyday of British colonial luxury (minus the racism and sexism).
Lobby with grand piano (pianist was there at night) and dome producing echoes
Little R checking out the 19th century engravings
I like this place!
I had pretty high expectations, and they were completely exceeded. I absolutely loved staying there, and honestly didn't want to go home. All the rooms are suites, meaning the layout is three interconnected but separate spaces: sitting area, bedroom, and bathroom. This gave us a lot of privacy, even with a 14-month-old. Our room combined the best of the old (genuine Oriental carpets; antique furniture; charming architectural details) with the new (air conditioning that worked really well, free wifi). The bathroom in particular was really impressive: all marble, two sinks, a huge tub, separate mini-room for the toilet, etc.
Little R just found her ducky
The service was also great. They gave us a free room upgrade without being asked, meaning we had a sea view and a private balcony. The staff all spoke impeccable English, were incredibly polite, and more rarely in southeast Asia, both efficient and professional. They thought of everything (they even gave us a rubber ducky for little R's baths). Fresh fruit was delivered daily, in addition to TWO regular visits to clean/tidy the room (but only when we weren't there, they were sneaky like that). 
View from our  balcony
The hotel has several restaurants. We didn't go to the fine dining one (1885, which is supposed to be excellent), but the food at the more casual Sarkies was delicious. The (free) breakfast buffet was the best I have ever seen, with pretty much every kind of food imaginable included. Fresh waffles? Sushi? Twenty kinds of tropical fruit? Multiple varieties of still-warm fresh-baked bread? A salad bar (in Asia it's common to eat salad for breakfast)? No problem! 
Our view at breakfast
The vernandah where we ate
Maybe a fourth of the buffet?
How about fresh pastries from their own bakery?
Maybe half the fruit is pictured
Smoothie bar
And of course the location is perfect, with private waterfront views (the hotel has its own sea wall), within walking distance of all the historic center's main attractions. 
The pool
Part of the sea walk
Landscaping includes historic cannon, looted by pirates and then retrieved by the British navy
I give this hotel an A+.

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  1. Wow, it sounds like a dream!! What a beautiful hotel!

  2. Looks fantastic! My husband used to go to Penang for business, and he really liked it there. I never got the chance to go to Malaysia before he changed careers... hopefully one day!