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Tag: Penang

Seven Terraces, Penang: The Best Of Peranakan Living

Penang has fast gained popular attention. Since its inscription in 2008 as one of five Unesco World Heritage Sites in Malaysia, local and foreign entrepreneurs have rushed in to painstakingly…

Penang has fast gained popular attention. Since its inscription in 2008 as one of five Unesco World Heritage Sites in Malaysia, local and foreign entrepreneurs have rushed in to painstakingly restore and preserve the untouched inner city bringing back a vibrant heartbeat to George Town, a once-almost-forgotten heart of Penang.

I’ve featured a number of hotels in Penang with the same vision of preservation but my recent stay at the Seven Terraces topped it all. Located on Stewart Lane adjacent to the Goddess of Mercy Temple, this hidden jewel is a celebration of the Peranakan culture, a mix of Chinese and Malay heritage, one that is unique to island city.


Backstory of Seven Terraces

A row of seven shophouses built by wealthy Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s was once a business hub for traders and merchants. Unfortunately calamity struck and a raging fire engulfed the structure leaving it in shambles. The building was forgotten and forsaken as nature took over allowing creepers and tree roots to hold anchor. A glimmer of hope struck in 2009 when award-winning conservators and designers, Karl Steinberg and Penang-born Christopher Ong took on the mammoth task of restoring and re-building the dilapidated shophouses.


During the reconstruction period, the original features of the building have been retained where possible and salvaged timber have been used to reduce the footprint and antique granite blocks from China were used for the central courtyard.

A celebration of the finest Peranakan living

Seven Terraces sets itself apart from other heritage boutique hotels in Penang because of its exclusivity and authenticity. The floor-to-ceiling gilded doors at its entrance opens up to the hotel’s lobby, an airy space with three mother-of-pearl Chinese opium beds, ornate antiques and blackwood furniture.


The lobby is the only public space before guests step into the private open courtyard with the highly acclaimed Kebaya restaurant and Baba Bar running the length of the shophouse on one side and a lap pool, lounge and library on the other side of the ground floor. Walking along the open courtyard, I begin to take in the grandeur and wealth of the rich Peranakan culture. Gilded doors, intricate wooden carvings, elaborate furnishings and polished reflected the wealth of that era. I climb up the wooden spiral staircase at the end of the courtyard into the sunlit verandahs leading to the hotel suites.


Arriving at Argus 5, the doors to my terraced duplex suite swung open as I entered into a tastefully curated contemporary-heritage suite with a homely living space on the ground floor and the bedroom on the mezzanine floor. The living space featured two plush arm chairs, a blackwood bench, rustic gilded cupboards, delicate antiques and framed embroidered costumes.


At the end of the living room, a floor-to-ceiling wooden partition folds back to reveal the large bathroom and toilet with chic black-and-white mosaic tiles, a seamless rain shower lodged in the ceiling, marble basin and wooden shuttered windows opening to the street below.


Above the living space is an intimate bedroom with a king-size four poster bed decked with fluffy feather pillows and a set of framed baba nyonya embroidered costumes as wall decor. Beyond the bed, a couple of wooden shuttered doors open to a small toilet for convenience and a private balcony that overlooks St. George’s church.


The suite lacked nothing in terms of modern amenities, with a flat screen tv, powerful air-conditioning for the entire suite, dainty teapot and cups set on colourful tiled trays for coffee and tea and free internet access.


At every turn of the hotel, a piece of antique beckons, from jade vases to wooden carvings, from blackwood furniture to memorable collectibles. The hotel’s Antiques shop, conveniently tucked at the corner of the ground floor is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir item or piece of furniture on the way out. The shop also features some of Ong’s personal collection that are now up for sale.


Still, a trip to Penang is incomplete without a rave on the city’s food. Lauded as food haven by local Malaysians, Penang is bursting from it seams with an endless array of country’s tastiest dishes. The hotel’s award-winning Kebaya restaurant offers a delectable menu of traditional Peranakan flavours using modern and French dining techniques. If you choose to explore some of the favourite local joints on foot, grab a copy of Christopher Ong’s personal food guide from the reception, with a list of recommended coffee shops and cafes.


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Syok! Penang: For The Flashpacker

In an ever changing face of travel, a new type of traveler has surfaced making his presence felt globally – challenging accommodation operators to fill the gap between budget backpacker…

In an ever changing face of travel, a new type of traveler has surfaced making his presence felt globally – challenging accommodation operators to fill the gap between budget backpacker and the mid-range traveler. They are flashpackers.

Independent travelers looking something more than the run-of-the-mill cheap hostels, with a little more than 30 dollars to spare for a night and ultimately seeking a unique, comfortable place to lay their head. From my observation, most flashpackers are young professionals in their late 20s and 30s who are majorly savvy with technology… so if they’ve found a great place to stay, they will shout about it!

And that’s what I’m about to do…

Introducing Syok! @ Chulia, a slightly up-market hostel with distinct offerings suited for the flashpacker who’s looking for a chic recluse yet within walking distance to the happening Lebuh Chulia (Chulia Street). The refurbished 3-storey corner shoplot recently made its debut in February 2013 and have experienced promising success. This is no surprise because it ticks off everything a flashpacker is looking for:

  • Clean, oversized single beds
  • Female only dorms for solo travelers
  • Personal lockers that fit massive suitcases
  • A really cool, hip and oh-so-comfy upper lounge to chill and relax – with DVDs, cable tv, board games and pool table for your entertainment
  • Beanbags! Yes, the quintessential lounge poofs for all hostels to laze away…
  • Free WIFI – There is no denying that flashpackers & connectivity go hand-in-hand
  • All-day free coffee and tea (how nice!) & water dispensers for free water refills
  • Laundry service at a very minimal fee, but you can also choose to DIY
  • Simple eat-all-you-can breakfast to kick start your day

Mega Plusses:

  • Free toiletries (which hostel gives you that?!)
  • Towels, hair dryer and daily housekeeping – what luxury!
  • Friendly staff that makes Syok! a cosy den

Syok chulia

Behind the louvered windows and thick door frames lies a quirky history – as with most shoplots in the heritage Georgetown square. It was once a leather shop, a shoe shop, a hawker place and a fortune teller’s lair before Syok! made its mark. Lavished with such history, the interior of Syok! seem to resonate the same kind of fun, eccentric history it has experienced. The bright orange and lively green hues, a colourful mural of Georgetown and amusing wall art gives Syok! a modern touch blending into existing brown cobbled brick walls.

Syok at Chulia_Ardent Traveler_2Syok at Chulia_Ardent Traveler_1

The same fun & chic interior translates into simple activities for guests. The ‘Before I Die’ chalkboard wall in the upper lounge was inspired by Candy Chang, a Vietnamese designer-artist and urban planner who through her work prods people to ponder on their aspirations in hope to gather collective wisdom to improve communities.

Syok at Chulia_Penang

Another fun activity also inspired by Chang is the ‘Confession Wall’ found in the common toilet area, a bright orange wall filled with brown post-it sized cards scribbled with pencil drawings of serious confessions to down-right funny ones. What better way to pass time while answering nature’s call. It’s no wonder the team at Syok found inspiration through Chang’s works, because holidays are ideal for pondering, reflecting and moving on.

Syok at Chulia_toilet_ardenttraveler

Quite rarely do I feel such attachment to a hostel, but with Syok!, it’s a different story. It’s not just an ordinary hostel with a clean bed to sleep on. Its comfort goes beyond the dormitory walls. The feeling of comfort is what sticks. Being a frequent traveler, I’ve bunked into a fair share of hostels and when I find a comfortable den that I can return to after hours of exploring; it’s like returning home to cosiness you can count on.

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Spices Residence: The Simple Luxury Of Home Away From Home

Georgetown, Penang’s vibrant capital is a living legacy of stories told and untold. Since its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Georgetown has undergone a major facelift…

Georgetown, Penang’s vibrant capital is a living legacy of stories told and untold. Since its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Georgetown has undergone a major facelift with delicate and meticulous precision in an effort to preserve its heritage and old charm. I returned for a visit after many years eager to explore the new Georgetown as opposed to just touring Penang’s Ferringhi beach front as a holiday-goer in my earlier teenage years.

The town is lined with idiosyncratic shop lots, narrow lanes, old-fashioned colonial mansions, ornate temples and schools with washed-out walls. I zigged-zagged in and out of five foot ways (pathways between the shop lots and the road) dodging café tables & chairs, cyclist on the road and the occasional cobbler or keymaker to get some respite from the Malaysian heat. Coffee shops beckon me to try Penang’s delicious meals, new cafes tempt me for a sit down while watching the world pass by and museums are aplenty, some fascinating and some just for the sake of it. What I found most apparent was the numerous independent boutique hotels that have sprouted up.


Spoilt for choice, Georgetown offers a hotchpotch of accommodation options for its travellers. From luxury boutique outfits dotted all over town to budget backpackers crammed on Chulia Street; you pay what you can afford and pick what matches your needs. Since I was traveling with my husband and 5-month old baby, I needed a place that was family / baby-friendly. I stumbled on Spices Residence, a tastefully refurbished set of 4 shop lots tucked in Lorong Lumut an unassuming lane, and a mere stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Armenian and Kimberly Street.

Lorong Lumut

Set directly next to the Acheen Street Mosque, the set of shop lots dates back to the 1800s and was once a layover for pilgrims’ enroute to Mekkah for the Haj. True to its label, ‘residence’, Spices was restored and designed to ensure that travellers have a homely stay while on holiday. Stepping into the living area, one immediately feels at home with a large plush swinging sofa hanging suspended slightly off the ground, inviting you for a swing. Warm decadent stained glass lamps hang from the high beamed ceiling bouncing off light from the raw brick walls setting the place aglow. Guests are even encouraged to leave their shoes at the entrance while walking barefoot in the residence, just like how we do at home.

Spices Residence_Ardent travelerSpices ResidenceSpices Residence is perfect for couples and families offering simple yet tastefully designed double rooms and loft rooms complete with ensuites. We stayed in the loft room, a split level unit with a day bed and a king size bed with a small balcony overlooking mosque’s open courtyard. It has all the basic amenities you need and no additional unnecessary frills. Still the best room yet, is the family room that fits up to 4 adults, a large split level unit on the first floor with a spacious sitting area. The restored bright green louvred windows and modern fittings make a perfect combination of old and new.

Loft roomSpices Family Suite

An interesting feature in the residence is the Bodhi tree with its roots and veiny bark engraved on the wall outside the courtyard. The living tree is perhaps the oldest asset within the residence. Its leaves still fall into the open narrow courtyard grounds while providing shade for the tiny sanctuary. When rain comes, the Bodhi tree reminds its guests of her existence, with light drips flowing gently through a crack in the living area.

Bodhi tree_Spices_Ardent traveler

On the ground floor is a cosy enclave with an oversized sofa and fluffy pillows in blue and green hues inviting you to sink in. A small library of books, magazines and board games are made available to all guests. Taking the open staircase in the courtyard that leads you up to the first floor is the other common area with dashing red and orange furniture taking on a slight Mediterranean feel. This common area transforms into a romantic rendezvous upon sun down as the flickering of candles illuminate the hall.

Still my favourite space is the dining area, as with all home, this is where good food and conversation collide. Beyond the arched brick frames next to the living area, is the dining area. A snug space lined with cushion chairs and acrylic-stained tables. Breakfast is served here with a small selection of Penang bites such as roti canai and mee goreng and the usual western selection of cold cuts, sausages and cheese. Eggs are made upon requests and I was delighted to discover that the 3-man team at Spices are all seasoned cooks.

Spices Residence Living AreaSpices Dining Area

I’ve found a crib in the ever thriving heritage town, a place I’d come back to simply because it really feels like home, a safe haven while on holiday. But more than that, Spices extends a kind of hospitality unlike any other and I’m delighted to have found new friends in our friendly hosts, Malcolm, Celeste and Fareh.

Hop onto the Spices Residence’s website for more information. I’d be back!

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