Chic hostel on a fashionable street
There is no shortage of accommodation in Penang but to be frank, many of Georgetown’s tired-looking budget hostels may not really cut it with today’s discerning backpacker. However, Ryokan on Lebuh Muntri is bucking the trend and has successfully bridged the gap between the drab hostels on nearby Lebuh Chulia and the clutch of high-end boutique hotels that are springing up all over town.
Situated on what is arguably one of central Georgetown’s most fashionable streets, it markets itself as a ‘chic hostel’, and once you step in through the very traditional shophouse facade you find yourself in a world of sleek polished cement, chrome and a baffling array of feature lighting.
Designed with modern backpackers in mind, it not only looks contemporary, but is also well equipped with plug sockets for recharging phones and laptops and, unlike some other Penang hostels, offers free WiFi that actually works. Beanbags dot every corner and plenty of places beckon to sit and relax, including a lounge with LCD TV and a quiet reading area.
It may look small from the outside, but its narrow frontage is deceptive. The building extends back a long way and the upstairs corridor is impossibly long. To be truthful, it is also a little bit dark but don’t let that put you off, as there is plenty of decent accommodation beyond.
The various four- or six-person mixed dorms (33-38 ringgit per bed per night) are small and simple, with whitewashed walls and wooden floors. Prices depend on size and proximity to the shared polished-cement bathroom along the hall, but all are well equipped with chunky white bunk-beds, personal lockers, reading lights and ‘charging stations’ for your electronic devices.
The dorms have air-con, although if you prefer your air fresh and your light natural, it is worth avoiding the cheaper windowless rooms. For a few extra ringgit, women can upgrade to the four-bed ‘Chic Dorm’ (40 ringgit per bed per night) with its cerise feature-wall, makeup mirror and all-important hairdryer.
For flashpackers, there are three luxury double rooms (136 ringgit per room per night) with king bed, 32’’ LCD TV and en suite (but curiously, no hairdryer). What they lack in terms of size and character, they make up for in comfort and affordability, and are a steal compared to the boutique hotels in this area.
Accommodation rates are slightly higher than other hostels in Georgetown, but include breakfast in the friendly downstairs cafe, Tit Bits, which also serves a small but quality range of Western snacks, sandwiches and burgers (6–18 ringgit) throughout the day. Bottles of Tiger, Skol and Heineken are a reasonable 7 ringgit.
Ryokan is a sociable place and attracts a young, mixed crowd of travellers from Asia and further afield. In high season its bar can rival those on nearby Upper Penang Road for both affordability and atmosphere, and although they can’t always promise you a party, the front terrace is usually busy and is a good place to meet fellow travellers.
If you are a budding singer, magician or comedian, you can earn yourself a free night’s stay by performing to the crowd for two hours, although with prices this reasonable, you may be better off sitting back, relaxing and letting someone else do the entertaining.
If Ryokan is full, you could always try Star Lodge, Guest Inn Muntri or 75 Travellers Lodge, all on the same street. The Hainanese Temple is almost opposite, and a short walk away are two of Georgetown’s main attractions: the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in one direction, and the Goddess of Mercy Temple in the other.
We’ve also recently covered a selection of other favourite places to stay in Georgetown.
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By Mark Thompson
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.