New kid on the block
17B Lorong Chulia, Georgetown T: (04) 261 1567
Hostels in Georgetown are undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment. As attention moves away from the tired establishments along the traditional backpacker row, Lebuh Chulia, a host of more happening hangouts are beginning to emerge, and Roommates Guesthouse on Lorong Chulia is one of the most recent new kids on the block.
Located conveniently close to the backpacker bars, but far enough removed to escape the crowds, Roommates is tucked down an attractive side road, where you get a real sense of old Georgetown and its bustling street life.
Small but perfectly formed, the hostel occupies a modest shophouse, whose sympathetic renovation has retained and recreated many of the building’s traditional period features. Wooden shutters and fanlights, terracotta tiles and the original front doors are combined with modern touches, such as full length glass doors, glazed walls and smooth cement floors. Unlike some of Georgetown’s hostels, the character of the building really strikes you. There are no frills here, and what you see is what you get, but the charm of this place is that it feels a bit like being in a very friendly private house.
In fact, there is an intimacy here – in the very best sense – from the moment you walk through the door. The staff are welcoming and knowledgeable about the area, and because the hostel only sleeps a maximum of sixteen and the communal area is relatively small, it is easy to meet people and there is a good vibe about the place.
You have the choice of two dorms, each of which sleeps eight people in four single bunks. The premier dorm, which has wider-than-average single hotel-grade mattresses, costs 32/35 rinngit per person (weekdays/weekends), and its original louvred windows look out over the street. The standard dorm is lighter and airier, thanks to an impressive glazed wall at the back. The mattresses – also hotel-grade – are slightly narrower than the other room, but also marginally cheaper, at 28/32 ringgit per person (weekdays/weekends).
On balance the standard dorm is actually more pleasant, but be aware that after dark you are on full display to the house behind thanks to the floor-to-ceiling glass. If that sounds slightly alarming, rest assured that all the bunks – top and bottom – have individual curtains, so if you really value your privacy and/or modesty, you can hide yourself away fairly easily.
Other features in both rooms include personal lights and plugs, air conditioning, towels and blankets, and secure lockers, as well as anti-bedbug mattress covers – a thoughtful touch, and this attention to hygiene and cleanliness is echoed throughout the establishment.
A toilet lies off the first floor landing, but the two showers are located downstairs, at the back of the property, which means walking past the reception area to access them. This is a mild inconvenience, but on the plus side, they are well appointed and very clean.
A breakfast of eggs, toast, jam and tea or coffee is included in the room price, and there is free WiFi. Since the property is quite small, the signal is available throughout, as advertised. If you don’t have your own internet device, there is a computer downstairs in the comfortable communal area, as well as a TV, beanbags, and tables and chairs for mealtimes. The hostel does not serve food other than breakfast, but they are happy for guests to bring back food from the many nearby hawker stalls and eateries.
One of the hostel’s real charms, however, is its outside seating area at the front, between the arches of the ‘five-foot way’. It’s a perfect spot for meeting fellow travellers, watching the world go by and experiencing Penang’s vibrant street life, and you don’t even need to leave the comfort of the hostel to do so.
Roommates is close to Love Lane and fashionable Lebuh Muntri, so it is worth checking out the area’s bars and cafes.
Good alternative accommodation can be found nearby at Ryokan Hostel, Guest Inn Muntri, Red Inn and Old Penang Guesthouse. You are also well placed for exploring the Goddess of Mercy Temple, the Street of Harmony and the Hainanese Temple.
By Mark Thompson
Last updated on 30th August, 2014.