Monday, March 16, 2020


Rudyard Kipling. Somerset Maugham. Charlie Chaplin. Noel Coward. Dato’ Michelle Yeoh. They were among the coterie of famous guests who have graced the iconic Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang.
Thus we too had the privilege of living the luxe life, albeit it was only for a weekend, after the E&O Hotel completed a 9-month meticulous refurbishment programme of its Heritage Wing. Retaining its rarified old-world charm coupled with newer culinary experiences, the grand dame of Penang greeted the new decade with aplomb.
Upon entering the spacious lobby, my Crazy Rich Asians-style staycation experience was triggered. After welcoming pleasantries, we were instantly escorted to our plush Twin Queen Deluxe Suite. Just a squiggle of my signature completed the swift and smooth check-in process. Guests residing at the Heritage Wing also enjoy butler service on request.

Like Alice in Wonderland, I explored and admired every inch of the tastefully appointed suite. Soft, muted colours abound, complemented by white and dark wood trimmings, carefully curated framed prints and two queen-size beds bestowed understated colonial era-inspired elegance. An ornate writing table with multiple slots and drawers made those who need to catch up on work a complete breeze.

Founder of Interiors International Sdn Bhd Datin Tham Oi Wah who restored the Heritage Wing back to its former glory has done an excellent job overall. For instance, padded armchairs and a comfy settee turned the adjoining seating area into an inviting lounge for reading, watching the UHD flatscreen TV and rustling up drinks from the side cupboard. Banks of retro louvre windows opened out to breathtaking views of blue skies, towering palm trees, aquamarine sea and the Heritage Wing pool surrounded by potted greenery.

Cocktail hours en-suite are possible thanks to the provision of glass decanters filled with vodka, gin and whiskey. A mini bar with soft drinks, bottled juices, soda water and cold towels comes built-in within the side cupboard. It also proffers a Nespresso machine, an array of Harney & Sons premium tea complete with a tea press, three types of nibbles (handcrafted pralines and nuts) and daily fresh fruit. 
Strolling into the elongated walk-in wardrobe and dressing area, I felt like a pampered superstar. The dark wood vanity cum dressing table was splendid for dolling myself up whilst the ample shelving and storage space ensured our luggage and necessities were kept in order. Aside from the bathrobes provided, a touch of local culture in the form of two batik sarong (tying instructions provided) are made available.
I could stay ensconced forever in the luxurious bathroom with a long bath, signature twin vanities and a separate shower. In the hotel’s quest to reduce the usage of one-time plastic,  amenities such as bamboo toothbrush, comb and emery board came packed in biodegradable cornstarch material. Instead of miniature plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, full-size ceramic pump bottles of toiletries are now de rigueur.
Although we were reluctant to tear ourselves away from the creature comforts of our plush suite, we went a whirlwind tour of the E&O. The echo dome – an original structure from the Sarkies management era – reigns overhead in the Heritage Wing lobby. A four-sided upholstered banquette seat crowned with a cluster of palm fronds makes it a majestic rendezvous point for guests.

At the expansive reception area, a dark wood key slots cabinet from the heritage hotel’s halcyon days along with the manually controlled Waygood Otis lift with a sliding grill – featured in the Crazy Rich Asians movie – remains ship-shape even though it is no longer in use.
Nearby, groups of retro-designed armchairs and settees with side tables bearing fresh orchids beckon from strategic nooks and corners. Along the marbled corridor leading to the Grand Ballroom and Victory Annexe, huge potted palms and more orchids add touches of vibrancy. By night, the mellow lighting casts a romantic vibe.
“Generations of guests and visitors alike have chosen the famous Heritage Wing as the backdrop for their magical moments over its 134-year history” said Alison Fraser, general manager of the E&O Hotel Penang. “Mindful of this beloved legacy, careful consideration has been taken to ensure we retain E&O’s treasured style of timeless elegance that is unique to this cherished heritage landmark.

A new art colonnade situated along the hallway outside The Cornwallis does double duty as a showcase of artworks by local talents. The artistic collection changes periodically, promoting different homegrown artists' creative efforts to the E&O Hotel guests from around the world.
Strolling along the verdant seafront lawn, we saw a lovely garden wedding set-up. More elaborate banquets and formal affairs are usually held at the gilded Grand Ballroom which oozes class and discernment.  

History buffs can refer to the beautifully produced map provided in their suite, listing interesting historical elements found onsite the hotel. For instance, three decommissioned cannons from Fort Cornwallis remain in place at the seafront facing the Andaman Sea – important testaments of not only to the historical significance of the E&O and its guests but also that of Penang.

Our walk ended at the 232-suite Victory Annexe where Emporium – the hotel’s retail shop is located. Stocked with a treasure trove of keepsakes such as "The E&O Hotel – Pearl of Penang" coffee table book by Ilsa Sharp, unique artisanal souvenirs, framed landmark photographs of Penang, eclectic semi-precious stones and silver designer jewellery, delicately beaded cheongsam dresses, batik stoles and sarong, Emporium is bound to keep avid shopaholics happy. To replicate the E&O’s restorative bath experience, Emporium also offers organic spa accoutrements by Panpuri, essential oils, plush E&O bath towels and robes.

Sunset saw us venturing into The Cornwallis lounge for complimentary cocktails and canapes from 6pm to 7pm. Tempting nibbles of lamb meatballs with a zingy sauce, baby potato halves topped with sour cream and chopped streaky beef, roti jala with chicken curry, crudites, a cheese board with assorted nuts and fruits, and tropical sliced fruits whetted our appetite.

Thirst-quenchers include house white or red wine, beer, juices or soft drinks. Otherwise, the resident mixologist will readily whip up a classic cocktail or inventive mocktail on request nightly. Conceived with an integrated seating and dining area, the convivial lounge looks out to the Heritage Wing swimming pool.
As guests of the Heritage Wing, we had the privilege of having breakfast at the Cornwallis, Planters Lounge (Level 6, Victory Annexe) or Sarkies. Our first morning was spent admiring the seaview vista from the spacious balcony of Planters Lounge (the alternative is air-conditioned comfort inside the lounge).

Rarely did we revel in the tropical balmy weather but somehow the luxury of having breakfast prepared to our liking made it a distinct experience. Thanks to the cordial and attentive service, I relished every bite of my White Only Omelette with Spinach and Tomato while my other half tackled his Breakfast Steak and Eggs, and for my girl, Cured Salmon and Eggs Benedict.

The following morning our Continental breakfast at The Cornwallis was equally on-point. Laid out for guests to help themselves were yoghurt, fruits, muesli and cereals, pastries and bread. Our omelette and scrambled eggs came up to expectations. Again, service was impeccable and left no room for complaint.

Whether you’re staying in a Superior, Deluxe, George Town, Premier, Straits, Writers, Pinang Suite or the ultimate E&O Suite at the Heritage Wing, the courtesies accorded will include all the privileges we had experienced, complimentary in-suite WiFi access, complimentary local newspaper (Chinese, English or Malay), and laundry and pressing service of 3 garments per stay.
Views from Pinang Suite
Premier Suite
When it comes to food & beverage, the E&O Hotel Penang will leave discerning gourmands spoiled for choice. That's another story best told on another day in another blogpost.

For your own Crazy Rich Asians staycation or more information, visit the E&O Hotel Penang website

Coming soon: Reviews on the dining options available at the E&O Hotel Penang: Palm Court and Java Tree.

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