The tropical jungles, the beach paradises, the wildlife – Malaysia has so very much to enjoy. However, many miss out on the pleasures of the peninsula for the joys of the islands. That, to put it mildly, is a bit of a mistake. Even considering the wonders of the Cameron Highlands and the charms of Malacca, Penang is very much the cultural lifeblood of peninsular Malaysia, drawing travelers from East and West. When it comes to luxury travel, guests will find three hotels that are a league above the rest.
Eastern and Oriental Hotel for Luxury
The Eastern and Oriental Hotel – more affectionately known as ‘The E&O’ – stands as testament to the grandiose era of British colonialism but also a timeless representation of Penang itself.
With the construction of the Suez Canal and the creation of the steamboat in the late 1800s, travelers from around the world brought their culture to the Malaysian island of Penang.
Among them were the Sarkies, four brothers from Armenia who established some of the world’s most famous hotels in Southeast Asia, including The E&O. Although, today the E&O terminology is mostly known for the Eastern and Oriental Express, a luxury train service that runs from Thailand to Singapore.
The heart of The E&O can be found in its Heritage Wing. This historical center, built in 1885, hosts 100 luxury suites, minarets built in the traditional style of the Moors, and lofty domes that tower above the grand lobby. Each suite is serviced by The E&O’s renowned butlers–add the traditionally clad doormen and bellhops, and guests are instantly transported back to the grandeur of the colonial age.
A new addition, the Victory Annexe, built in 2013, features more than 130 additional suites. These lodgings maintain the rich history for which The E&O is known, while also offering a more contemporary twist. Equipped with high-speed WiFi, a gym, an infinity pool, and an expansive view of the beautiful Andaman sea, the Victory Annexe is perfect for today’s refined business traveler.
Seven Terraces for the Charm and Location
The unique charm of Seven Terraces is undoubtedly due to the innovative repurposing of heritage Anglo-Chinese buildings. This luxury accommodation features terraces traditional to southern China and decorative details inspired by 19th-century England. And yet, Seven Terraces is also deeply emblematic of Penang, with shophouses along the ground floor connected by a covered walkway. These walkways, characteristic of Penang, are representative of grandiose colonial features which were adapted to fit the tropical climate, providing protection from rain and heat.
The traditionally Chinese architecture of Seven Terraces features open courtyards which function to create natural ventilation systems while allowing light into the rooms, keeping the house illuminated by sunlight all day, while also maintaining refreshingly cool temperatures inside despite Penang’s tropical climate.
Guests are welcomed to Seven Terraces by large, carved front doors and beautiful floor boards made of repurposed wood. The interior is decorated with ornate cast-iron details and gorgeous antique furniture. Each of the 18 suites hosts opulent blackwood furniture inlaid with mother of pearl, ornate tables and cabinets, and priceless porcelain antiques.
Seven Terraces is in the very heart of Georgetown. Within walking distance of the ‘street of harmony,’ guests can easily explore how temples, churches, and mosques come together to create a culture of acceptance and tolerance. Guests can also easily access former colonial mansions, historical monuments and the sea-facing Esplanade. The precinct is also home to traditional crafts and artisans, street art, murals and local eateries.
Shangri-la Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa for the Beach
The Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, a beachfront sanctuary set apart from the busy and bustling streets of the city, embodies the beauty of authentic Malaysia with traditional Minangkabau architecture and historical Malaysian cultural artifacts, including jewelry, batik prints, and sculptures made of coral. The grounds are home to century-old, regal rain trees that tower above the resort’s sprawling gardens and lush foliage.
The rooms in the Garden Wing have been designed to reflect the resort’s natural surroundings. With natural citrus tones and shades of blue, the 189 rooms of the Garden Wing are characterized by an airy, earthy ambience.
Each guestroom offers its own private balcony with views of the pool, sea or gardens. The Rasa Wing is nestled in the lush gardens and is arguably home to some of the most elegant accommodation in all of Penang.
Rasa’s 115 guestrooms come with complimentary access to a-la-carte breakfast and afternoon tea.