First published on 2 May 2012. Updated on 7 May 2013.
George Town in Penang has always had colonial charm and colourful streetscapes, but it’s only recently – fuelled partly by its UNESCO-listed World Heritage status – that it’s really become known as an intimate, stylish sojourn as much as a beach destination. Inspirational hoteliers Narelle McMurtrie and Christopher Ong, the pair behind boho-boutique hotels Straits Collection, Clove Hall and Muntri Mews, have helped put the town on the map, along with McMurtrie’s new China House warehouse conversion, boasting restaurants, cafés and art galleries. Chef Anthony Bourdain raves about the mouthwatering hawker cuisine here, too. The following are our three favourite boutique hotels at the moment.
Crafted from a row of four shophouses updated with contemporary decor, the four-room Straits Collection (www.straitscollection.com.my; rooms from MYR450/$183) was the first boutique hotel to combine George Town’s heritage charm with modern creature comforts. Room 89 can sleep up to five on two floors, or if you’re travelling à deux, opt for room 93, which has an indoor courtyard with an antique wooden bath tub. Pick up similar take-home pieces at sister stores Bon Ton The Shop and China Joes at 86 Armenian Street.
For a pared-back take on Peranakan style, we love six-suite Clove Hall (www.clovehall.com; rooms from MYR550/$224), a romantic renovation of an elegant Edwardian plantation home in George Town. Exquisite objets d’art stand guard on black-and-white tiled floors, with hints of colour from cushions and flowers. The lush tropical gardens lend Clove Hall’s large pool a rarefied rainforest setting, and a cooling gin and tonic is never far away. There’s no restaurant, but delicious fruit platters, samosas and spring rolls are available any time.
The latest addition to George Town’s hip hostelries, Hotel Penaga (www.hotelpenaga.com; rooms from MYR350/$143) is a multi-culti boutique masterpiece that teams classic Peranakan features with modernist furniture, bright bedspreads and contemporary art. Straddling a grand central building and rows of shophouses, this glitzy 45-room designer den also offers one of the town’s best day spas. If casual restaurant Cinnamon was any closer to the blue-tiled lap-pool, the waiters would need to wear flippers; the left-of-centre fusion dishes are equally striking.
To book any of these stylish budget boutique hotels in Georgetown, visit www.mrandmrssmith.com or call their Travel Team on 800 321 1098 (Mon-Fri, 24 hours a day). Smith guests enjoy exclusive extras at all hotels, from cocktails to canapés and massage treats.