When we mapped out the itinerary for our Malaysia trip, the famous island of Penang (in Malay Pulau Pinang) made it to our bucket list – we did some research and decided to split our time on the island between Batu Ferringhi and Georgetown. Both stays turned out to be epic and the perfect location to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary in style and elegance. For Georgetown, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, we chose The Eastern & Oriental Hotel – known simply as “The E&O” to generations of travellers.
The hotel – which was established in 1885 – looks back on a remarkable, well over a century long history. It stands as a testament to the grand elegance of the British colonial era and represents in many ways Penang itself; its story inextricably woven into the island’s history and its traditions; its name synonymous with the magical island once known as The Pearl Of the Orient.
As the first British trading post in the East, Penang was already well established as a major emporium of trade with travellers and seafarers in the early 19th century. But it was not until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the arrival of the steamship that travels to Asia assumed unprecedented style and luxury.
From this mélange of cultures and colonial commerce, four Armenian brothers, the Sarkies, would emerge to establish some of the world’s greatest hotels in the East, including The Raffles in Singapore and The Strand in Rangoon, Burma, which nowadays count to the world’s finest and best known hotels. The first of these, in 1885, would be the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, once pronounced as “The Premier Hotel East of Suez”, boasting more than 100 rooms, 40 of them with adjoining bathrooms, hot and cold running water, individual telephones and a 902-foot seafront, “the longest of any hotel in the world”.
In its long and colourful history, the E&O Hotel has seen two World Wars, the wane of the British Empire as well as the birth of Malaysia. It has welcomed many celebrities of the literary and entertainment worlds including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Hermann Hesse. Through the highs and lows of events around the world, the E&O has retained its charm and weathered the passage of time with character and grace.
Today, more than a century since its establishment, the hotel is divided into the Heritage Wing and the Victory Annex – we stayed in the latter, which reopened in March 2013 after extensive renovation. Having stayed in many hotels around the globe, we stood in awe when we entered the spacious room. We felt like royalty, thrown back in time. The elegance and modern classic design of the room merge beautifully with the hotel’s long heritage.
Our highlights were the grand bathroom and the loggia overlooking the sea front. The view is stunning and we spent hours sitting out, starring at the water, observing the passing ships and daydreaming. The perfect spot before or after a day exploring!
When staying in the Victory Annexe, you get access to the Planters Lounge where complimentary breakfast, coffee and tea during the day as well as evening cocktails are served, which we obviously didn’t miss.
Sipping on cold beers or a glass of champagne and savoring some of the tasty snack, we enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets in front of George Town’s skyline.
If you happen to still be hungry after the rich aperitif, you have several dining options within the hotel serving both local and international delicacies. Just outside the hotel there are also plenty of restaurants and bars satisfying nearly every taste.
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel is a special place to stay – you can feel the character and heritage of this traditional house, which sometimes is missing in huge, universal establishments belonging to international chains. If you want to pamper yourself and make a special memory, we can highly recommend “The E&O”.
The hotel is overlooking the Andaman Sea and is conveniently located at the intersection of Farquhar Street and Penang Road. The hotel is 20 kilometers from the Penang International Airport and within walking distance from the downtown area where you can browse the shops, bazaars and restaurants for great bargains or delicious treats discover temples, mosques and churches in quiet little corners or admire the fascinating street art.
If your travel budget does not allow a stay in “The E&O” (we actually got a really good deal travelling in April which is considered off season), head to the Farquhar’s bar for a round of sundowners or a snack. With its deep armchairs and long dark wood bar, the bar exudes an exclusive private clubroom atmosphere; you can breath in the graceful elegance and storied colonial charm.