There’s something about the heritage city of George Town that invites a slower pace of travel, a deep appreciation of local life. It makes sense then that the Unesco World Heritage capital in the northern Malaysian state of Penang – or the second most visited city in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur – is home to some of the country’s best luxury boutique hotels.
The building was first commissioned and built in 1906 as a residence for a local tycoon before changing hands during the World War II. Most recently, it was known as the Cathay Hotel, also serving as a brothel at the time. The building’s storied walls have now been refurbished to something far more elegant – a colonial-style 35-room hotel with contemporary touches.
The space is designed with opulence in the form of antiques and mantelpiece ornaments, but they’re carefully juxtaposed against the property’s original Peranakan tiles and new furniture. The arched open-air courtyard just beyond the lobby is a mark of thoughtful design – guests are encouraged to make use of the sun-dappled space as a common area.
While the brand tries to sell its brand of heritage, the rooms come across as mostly chic and modern. What we like best are the pops of turquoise and navy blue in the drawers, carpets, and borders, making for some very photogenic detailing.
The Deluxe rooms are comfortable enough for two and situated on the ground floor for easy access, but the Suite is a better option if you want the luxury of space. The latter also comes equipped with windows, allowing natural light that the Deluxe rooms lack. A word of caution: The bathrooms are separated from the bedroom by a curtain, which might prove inconvenient for those who treasure their privacy.
Facilities and services
One of the best things about the hotel is the all-day snack system. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Guests are entitled to a bottomless stock of local tidbits, tea, and coffee at any time of the day. On top of that, daily wine hour from 6-7pm means you get a complimentary free flow of the house red or white accompanied by cheese.
Not only does wine o’clock promote lingering in the common lounge, it also pushes a sense of community in a small hotel. We also had the privilege of chatting to the hospitable staff, namely Shafiq and Thamil, both of whom were friendly, efficient, and consistently armed with smiles.
The pool too is quite a treat: While small and narrow, it’s shaded by trees and flanked by umbrella-protected daybeds.
It’s difficult to fault The Edison’s strategic location along Lebuh Leith and opposite the tourist-heavy (albeit slightly kitsch) Red Garden, a sprawling food court serving local dishes. It’s also minutes away (by foot) to Lebuh Muntri’s Mish Mash, arguably Penang’s best cocktail bar, as well as Love Lane’s many bars selling affordable booze.
A 10-minute walk away is the bustling Lebuh Chulia where the popular Mugshot Café and various street food stalls are located. And a little way away along Lebuh Carnavon is Teksen, an immensely popular Peranakan-Chinese seafood restaurant that seems a rite of passage for anyone passing through Penang.