Great four-star value
1 & 2, Pengkalan Weld, Georgetown T: (04) 259 8888
Heritage hostels, homestays and boutique hotels have really mushroomed in Georgetown over the last few years, but options for quality larger hotels, with rates that won’t break the bank, are still a lot more limited. However, the recently-opened Royale Bintang Penang is changing the game, and is giving some of the island’s bland, over-priced and underwhelming four-stars a real run for their money.
The Royale Bintang Penang has more than a few trump cards: it’s brand new; it’s about as central as you could possibly get; it has character; and best of all, it is very reasonably priced. Add to that a whole glut of large-hotel facilities, including several dining options, and it’s a fair bet that this hotel is at the beginning of a serious winning streak.
The colonial facade of the building fronts on to Pengkalan Weld, or Weld Quay, and was constructed in order to house the offices and stores of Bousted and Sons, one of the region’s most prosperous and influential shipping merchants. The nearby port and warehouses are a reminder of the building’s utilitarian past and to be fair, Pengkalan Weld is not exactly the prettiest street in Georgetown. However, the building itself is undeniably handsome and its recent facelift is part of the ongoing regeneration of the street, where trendy restaurants and bars are already moving in.
The restored facade is complemented by a purpose-built new wing, which forms a courtyard around what must be one of one of Penang’s best pools. Confusingly, the main entrance to the hotel is actually at the back, accessed via a lane to the right of the building which leads to a fresh, white lobby. Don’t be put off by the low ceiling, because as you make your way through to the original colonial building, the character of the place really shines through. The bar area, cigar lounge and restaurant all offer a good dose of colonial-style grandeur, but the glass-roofed atrium that connects old and new is a modern architectural stroke of genius. Upstairs, meanwhile, enormous steel pillars and wide open spaces pay homage to the building’s original function as a warehouse.
The hotel is big, with 180 comfortable and spacious rooms, and although they don’t have the character of the rest of the hotel, they are – without a doubt – the very best in Penang for this price bracket, offering all mod cons including TV, mini bar, safe, bathrobes, hairdryer, as well as brand new bathrooms with rain showers, stylish fixtures, fittings and toiletries and fluffy white towels.
Meanwhile, facilities elsewhere in the hotel are extensive. The pool area is a complete suntrap, perfect for a spot of afternoon tanning when it’s too hot to be out exploring Georgetown. With a generously sized pool and a large deck area, there is plenty of space to spread out and find a sunlounger to yourself. After a cooling dip you can make use of the adjacent gym or, for something more self-indulgent and relaxing, check out the outdoor jacuzzi or the soon-to-be-opened spa.
Room rates are much better value than some of the less well-equipped boutique hotels in Georgetown. A superior double room costs 290/300 ringgit a night for weekdays/weekends, plus 6% government tax, and includes breakfast. Deluxe rooms are priced from 340 ringgit a night while suites go from 700 ringgit a night – both offer more space and better views over the pool area or the city, but if it’s a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed you’re after, the superiors are perfectly adequate. That said, if you fancy a real treat and have some cash to flash – 2,100 ringgit a night, to be exact – you could always opt for the Royale Suite, which has glorious views of the port and the Straits beyond.
Larger hotels often feel a bit impersonal, but the Royale Bintang Penang has a good injection of character and very friendly staff that help to counter this. It is also very close to the ferry terminal and bus station and, since it’s right in the core heritage zone, it is only a few minutes’ walk to most of Georgetown’s main attractions. As such it is a great location, and if you’re after a touch of pampering with a smattering of heritage thrown in, this is the perfect base.
By Mark Thompson
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.