A few days at the wonderful E&O Hotel in Penang, Malaysia, was a reminder of the outstanding value Asia offers travellers.
We’d left it rather late and booked only a few weeks in advance. Yet for the price of a nondescript room in a second-rate hotel in my home town of Sydney, instead at the E&O we were given a spacious deluxe suite with sea views – as well as free broadband. Other luxury hotels should take note!
The specialty of the Eastern & Oriental is gracious “old-school” hospitality. And our bargain room rate included superb breakfast spreads to entice lengthy lingering: fresh fruit, cereals, eggs cooked to order every which way, hot dishes ranging from congee to hash browns, waffles with a bewildering variety of toppings, fresh espresso and tea. All this bounty – and service with a smile. It was difficult not to spend the entire morning over such a meal enjoyed on the verandah overlooking the sea.
The Penang hotel has had its ups and down over the years and was recently restored. Thankfully it retains a pervading sense of the colonial grandeur and refined sense of service that in past years has pleased a honour-roll of guests such as Rudyard Kipling and Herman Hesse, Charlie Chaplin and Noel Coward.
Although it’s Penang’s grande dame of hotels, the E&O is devoid of snootiness and exclusivity. Everyone may pass through its doors and are made welcome by a courteous and friendly staff. More tellingly, half of Penang seems to eat there on the hotel’s regular buffet nights, which is all the more remarkable considering Penang’s reputation as a city brimming with culinary competition and renowned globally as a foodie hot spot.