The latest collection of boutique hotels to sprout up in George Town redefines luxury and comfort, setting the bar high for others to follow. At prices well over RM500 per night, Lillian Tong and Su Aziz list down their distinct features while soaking in their historical value if not their gorgeous interiors.
23 Love Lane (pictured)
This quaint turn of the century building is a remarkable store of colonial architectural surprises. Nestled together in its comfortable compound behind a walled garden and an enormous Chinese gate are four heritage quarters - an Anglo Indian bungalow, a Straits Eclectic building, a 1920’s Jack Roof Annexe and an Indian Shop House. These en suite rooms pander to the needs of the lone traveller, a romantic couple, or a bunch of happy family.
These quarters, set in a sunlit garden of heliconias and bamboo, provide a peaceful haven and escape from bustling George Town outside. The Anglo-Indian Bungalow has a Garden Room with its own private garden for you to patter around and an ample bathroom with a free-standing bath under the open skies.
Shuttered windows allow shafts of sunlight into cool air-conditioned rooms of the Straits Eclectic rooms while French doors open out to the picturesque gardens and pathways. Upstairs, a reading room, library and kitchenette make for a comfortable den. The windows overlook the garden and provide views of the old tiled rooftops of surrounding houses.
All 10 rooms are furnished with a treasury of art and vintage furniture. This charming hotel is located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site enclave. The heritage sites of George Town like the clan jetties, kongsi, temples and museums are within walking distance.
The room rates include a choice of American or local breakfast and for tea time, cakes and kuihs are served. Dinner is at the adjoining Steak Frites @ 23 restaurant next door. It serves a one item menu, the specialty tenderloin steak with butter sauce. Alternatively, take a walk out for scrumptious local fare around the corner, or the many trendy restaurants in the vicinity. Massage and babysitting services are available on request. A ground floor suite with wheelchair access is reserved for physically challenged guests have access to and wheelchair accessible.
Fig Tree Hill Resort
Set among the hills and vales of Sungei Ara, Fig Tree Hill is an enchanting find. Off the main road, be prepared for a 15-minute rocky and bumpy ride on a one lane dirt escarpment between the hills and a river below. Ensconced in the midst of the towering rainforest, the five tropical villas are a rustic fusion of Thai and Balinese design.
The expansive villas are all distinctly composed, aptly named Melor, Cempaka, Jasmine, and Kemboja after exotic tropical flowers. Each villa comes with a spacious living room where the cool air from the hills whisper through shuttered windows. A roomy and open dining area in each villa can seat up to ten guests while an exhilarating bath or shower can be had under open skies before a comfortable interlude atop canopied beds.
Railway sleepers pave the walkways to your own private patio and the deck is ideal for bird watching or observing dragonflies flitting above the pool. Take time to listen to the rush of waterfalls or trickling streams surrounding the site.
For some outdoors, a mountain bike ride to the plateau offers and expansive view of the hills beyond, hike along a trail that leads to nowhere or trek following the stream to mini waterfalls. There is a jacuzzi, pool and mini gym to stay trim and fit and there’s even a quality karaoke system in Kemboja villa.
While the villa stay is inclusive of breakfast, make your own arrangements for a picnic lunch or an evening barbecue, as there is no restaurant or room service menu. A short drive gets you to the town and its nearby restaurants. Each villa can take a maximum of five guests. Airport and town shuttles are available upon request.
Fig Tree Hill Resort
Macalister Mansion’s Eight Rooms
The mansion, named after Sir Norman Macalister, one of the first British Governors of Penang, was built early 100 years ago. Its Eight Rooms is the luxurious suites on the upper floors at the mansion.
Decorated entirely in quiet muted shades of white and selective art pieces and installations, these self-contained suites have enough for you not to want to step out of your room! Catch up on letter writing with your own personalized letterhead and designer stationary items. A nespresso machine and TWG teas in your room provides a delightful brew to accompany you while you catch a movie on the flat screen TV or take time to connect with friends on the wireless keyboard.
Pamper yourself with quality designer toiletries and cosmetics in the palatial bathroom. This glass bathroom can be curtained off in velvet for a degree of privacy. After an indulgent soak in the free-standing bathtub, take your time picking from the pillow menu. As you rest on the white goose down pillow, the superb Bang & Olufsen BeoSound System provides an unsurpassed music to match your mood.
Outside of your room, sit and bask on the lawn or by the swimming pool outdoors or marvel at the food presentation at the all day dining restaurant, Living Room. In the evening, the Bagan Bar (now, The Cellar) offers cocktails and a live band or enjoy elegant dining at the fine dining restaurant, Dining Room. After which you can contemplate this holistic experience with a cigar and single malt whiskies that are a speciality of the whisky bar, The Den.
Here’s where you can as a local and have your own address in the middle of George Town. Muntri Suites is a house on Muntri Street, named in honour of the 19th century Menteri of Larut, Ngah Ibrahim and an extension of 23 Love Lane.
The double-storey house is of Straits Eclectic style architecture and has three bedrooms and living spaces ample for an entire family. It sits next to the earliest Christian mission school and stands at the beginning of a row of town houses that has been around since the city of George Town was founded.
The neighbourhood is filled with Cantonese associations and trade guilds that flank both sides of the street while tourists ride by on trishaws and bicycles, alongside bikes whizz and weave in between cars in the afternoon traffic. Down the road, the Hainanese temple and clan house has some religious celebrations and festivities going on.
Inside the house, the owner’s private collection of art and antiques make up the gorgeous interiors of a living room, hall, kitchen and maid’s room on the ground floor, and bedrooms on the second floor. There’s a large flat screen television in the living area, air-conditioning in the rooms and en suite bathrooms as well. The published, full rate for the whole house is RM3,000 per night, but check for seasonal discounts.
Chinoiserie chic meets Peranakan at Seven Terraces. This top of the class lux boutique hotel houses one of the finest arrangements of Peranakan furnishings, artwork and porcelain collection. It is made up of a row of seven Anglo-Chinese town houses.
Latticed and gold gilded Straits Chinese door from a narrow street off Jalan Kapitan Keling opens into an elegant interior that altogether polished and debonair. The timeless quiet, beauty and elegance exude from an open courtyard, paved with granite stone slabs and ornamented by two frangipani trees. Beyond, stairs with interesting woodwork leads to 18 suites furnished with a collection of Peranakan art and treasures.
The suites have a living room space, spacious en-suite bathroom hidden behind giant latticed screens where an antique cabinet opens to reveal the wash basin and rain shower drops from the ceiling. Some suites have outdoor decks with views overlooking the Georgian church, the Kuan Yin temple and the townscape of George Town.
Congenial spaces within the hotel include a reading room and a living room lead to a lap pool. The Kebaya Restaurant and Baba Bar behind gilded doors, stand on Victorian tiles. The restaurant serves familiar Straits Chinese and Indo-Chine cuisines with imaginative twists served in exquisite Nyonya porcelain set on pristine mother-of-pearl tabletops. A piano completes the evocative mood of the Kebaya.
Foot and body massage, beauty indulgences and cosmetics care are available. The hotel’s shop is a mini museum of Peranakan and Chinese collection. Baba Nyonya antique furniture, lacquer wares and an admirable assortment of blue and white china and nyonya porcelains are for sale. Seven Terraces is also within George Town’s heritage site and walking distance to Little India, Chinatown, mansions, museums and the many local shops and street stalls.
Tucked into a corner of a most unassuming lane in George Town, and a mere stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Transfer and Penang Roads, is this newly renovated boutique hotel. The building itself was built in 1929 and boasts nine terraces while the hotel is the only one that has a private museum showcasing a private collection of antiques that’s exclusively for its guests. Here, as its in-house guest, you’ll be able to feast visually upon old Straits Chinese and Victorian furniture, Chinese porcelain and porcelain dolls.
An interesting feature is the staircase in the hotel lobby that’s been reconstructed to fit into the building structure. Then again, there are a lot of personal touches within the hotel. Its interior has been designed around the lovingly restored antique pieces. Each of its 15 room is made lovelier with art deco furniture, authentic shutters, a functioning bakelite phone and old English brass and porcelain light switches.
Modern facilities and creature comforts such as flat screen television with satellite channels, air conditioning, high-thread count cotton bed linen, synthetic feather pillows and coffee or tea making facilities offset the old charm the rooms exudes. What’s more, bath time is made terribly pleasant with a rain shower accompanied by a full set of complimentary toiletries and hairdryer.
Sea Home Boutique
This hotel is visible from the busy road of Jalan Tanjung Bungah. What you’ll see is an extra large bungalow with its exterior washed in brilliant white paint. Inside, a Peranakan feel is born from the myriad Nyonya antiques and collectibles dotting its 12 rooms. These lovely pieces of history are actually owned by the proprietor himself and part of the experience here is falling asleep in a grand mother of pearl carved wedding bed. Yes, fancy that!
The rooms here come in three sizes of large, medium and small but even the latter are spacious and quite intriguing in that they blend old world and modern luxury most effortlessly. Each one has flat screen television offering numerous satellite TV channels, safe deposit box, hairdryer, air conditioner, fan and bath with solar shower.
Part of the hotel’s amenities are laundry service, WiFi, outdoor pools, complimentary fruits, cookies and non-alcoholic beverages. Location wise, it’s a stone’s throw from one of the prettiest beaches in Penang, it’s a mere 20-minute ride to the heart of George Town and less than that to Batu Ferringhi. What’s most convenient is, there are a few good restaurants within its vicinity and the Straits Quay marina and mall is less than 10 minutes away.
Sea Home Boutique
This is one of the features from the latest Time Out Penang annual guide 2013/14. You can purchase the guide here.