There are some things which some service providers excel in doing, and there are some which only those in the know will have the know-how to deliver. I suppose the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang is the latter, and not only because of its historicity but also because of its many capable and pleasant staff.
For presenting that period feel, the old-world charm and the colonial days of years gone by, you cannot fault the E & O. In fact, because of some chips off the door sills at the lobby toilets, and the peeling off of some paints in the restaurants, you get the very authentic feel that you've entered a time machine. Whether this is deliberate or not remains arguable; what's obvious is that the E & O promises that old-world charm and that grand dame of colonial Penang feeling, and it delivers exactly just that. So if you're like me, a sucker for an era gone by and the dolce vita seen in the good, old colonial days, you will like the E & O almost at the instant you step into its lobby.
The attention to details in the restoration of this grand dame of colonial Penang is as meticulous as one could be. The examples can be endless, but I shall name a few. Just check out the key deposit cabinet at the lobby, the telephone on the check in counter and the furniture used and you cannot help but agree that the designer / architect of this restoration project truly knows his stuff at the back of his palm. If you are blind to the modern amenities such as a flat-screen computer at the check-in counter and the ubiquitous mobile phones used by visitors lingering at the lobby, you'd most probably mistake for being in 1920s Georgetown. These details extend to the lifts used (check out the oldest one with metal shutters!) and the room amenities. What can I say? This is a tender loving job very, very well done indeed!
The room I had, Number 208 is big enough to house a family of four. The bed could have been better if it's a genuine king-sized bed, instead of a combination of two super single beds. But that said, all the rest of the amenities are first-class and work very well, while at the same time evoking that 1920s feel. Details like the old-fashioned shower stall, the very quaint bath-tub and the lamps used at the very authentically-restored Charles Dickens-style writing table all make the experience at this room doubly special. Yet the the modern amenities such as WiFi, telephones with two lines, a big flat-screen LCD TV set and hot water for shower are all there. You cannot get the better of these two worlds.
So what is it that made me not award the last star for the E & O? I suppose it's the food at the breakfast restaurant which is nothing to shout about frankly. In fact, the fried noodles my partner and I had had sand in them for two days in a row! The spread of sushi was also not welcoming at all while the use of bottled / packaged fruit juices cheapen the otherwise high-class feel of eating at the E & O. I was told the 1885 haute cuisine restaurant is famous and well-regarded, but I hardly saw any patrons there during the 4 days I was at the hotel.
The location of the hotel away from the centre of Georgetown also means you need to walk, or take a taxi to the places of interest within the city itself. Granted the walk usually takes no more than 30 minutes, and the taxi rides can be very zippy and relatively cheap, but with the merciless Penang sun blazing over you most of the time, walking is not truly a good option here.
The very adept and affable staff of the E & O however more than made up for any of these shortcomings. The check-in staff were a joy to speak to, and cheerful and ever-grinning Kelly P'ng actually brought us to our room personally, after offering us a (very) cold towel to cool down from the hot weather and a most wonderful welcome drink. The concierge was very obliging with all sorts of requests, and the housekeeping staff was attentive and at the same time not intrusive. When we were there, there was a party to light up the Christmas tree and that was a jolly and enjoyable event. although the food was nothing great, even as there was ample booze. All in all, the software also made the E & O, I suppose and this is one aspect I hope they continue to keep it up.
The E & O is one of those hotels which I'd been dying to stay in, just like the Raffles in Singapore and the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. I am glad I made the splurge this time round and given a chance and also the financial ability, there is a strong possibility of me returning to this hotel again. Well done!
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.