The Frame Guesthouse

The Frame Guesthouse

Contemporary-heritage minimalism

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In the thick of Penang’s backpacker area on Lebuh Chulia, just a short saunter from Chulia night market, The Frame Guesthouse doesn't make much of an impression as you pass by.

Travelfish says:

It could be easily mistaken as the frame shop it was previously, with a collection of picture frames and signboards leaning against the spartan reception area, but this heritage shophouse turned guesthouse is worth checking out. The renovation to the triple-storey building has preserved the existing concrete floors, and walls and other surfaces have been given minimal treatment to retain the authentic patina of history with the resulting industrial-style finish, a smart and contemporary, if somewhat austere look.

No pretensions. : Sally Arnold.
No pretensions. Photo: Sally Arnold

Air-con dorms, twins and doubles are spotless and roomy enough that you won’t trip over your bag and fall into bed, but you wouldn’t want to be doing much cat swinging either. Doubles and some dorms rooms enjoy a bit of natural light with windows, but others and the twin rooms are windowless which with the raw finishes makes them feel a tad bunker-like.

Dorms offer four and eight-bed mixed or four-bed female-only. Metal bunks are sturdy with solidly built ladders and safety rails on the top and wooden bedheads offer a little privacy and include a built-in nook that serves as a shelf with personal power sockets and reading lights. Quality mattresses and pillows sport crisp white linens with a quilt and fluffy towel included in the rate and the large lockers include keys.

Dorm beds are solid. : Sally Arnold.
Dorm beds are solid. Photo: Sally Arnold

Mixed gender share bathrooms maintain the minimal industrial aesthetic with a long trough-style raw cement washbasin, with a wide ledge to balance your toothbrush and simple, but very clean stalls with toilets and powerful hot-water showers in separate cubicles. Basic shampoo and body wash is supplied and there’s a shelf and hooks in the cubicles too, a rarity in many hostels.

Choose between private twins or doubles with a shared bathroom or doubles with ensuite. Aside from privacy, and the expectation of an undisturbed sleep, these rooms offer little else in the form of decor, bar a couple of Ikea stools as bedside tables and a chair or two. A hanging rack provides a spot for your (hair)shirt and a mirror to check you’re looking decent in it.

Private rooms are similarly minimalist. : Sally Arnold.
Private rooms are similarly minimalist. Photo: Sally Arnold

What really gives The Frame Guesthouse the edge, is the terrific light-filled common areas, conducive for meeting other travellers. The open industrial kitchen gleams with white and stainless steel finishes and provides free flow coffee, tea and drinking water, with a simple breakfast of toast and fruit provided. If you want to heat up a takeaway, a microwave and toaster are available too.

Chill areas include a cosy TV room with books, magazines and drink vending machine, a dining area with a long communal table and a narrow outdoor “garden” with a couple of trees struggling through the cracks in the concrete.

Cook up a storm, or at least some toast. : Sally Arnold.
Cook up a storm, or at least some toast. Photo: Sally Arnold

Young friendly staff seem on the ball, happy to recommend things to do and help with transport. The Frame Guesthouse is a solid budget choice, the only downside is that due to its location on the busy street it can be a little noisy, but if you’re a light sleeper, ask for a pair of free earplugs from reception.

Walk-in rates we were quoted were a better deal than either on their own website or booking sites, so may be worth giving them a call to book, or chance a last minute walk-in.

If The Frame Guesthouse is fully booked or you’d prefer a marginally quieter location, try your luck at The 80s Guesthouse in Love Lane which has the same owners and very similar style. If the historical / industrial aesthetic appeals and you’re a bit more cashed up, check out Sinkeh or Sekeping.

Contact details for The Frame Guesthouse

Address: 168 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown
T: (0426) 38 807;  
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º20'15.15" E, 5º25'2.8" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: Under 60 ringgit

Room rates

What we were quoted as a walk-in.

Dorm air-con
8 bed mixed dorm. 4-bed mixed or female-only dorm: 38 ringgit; 4-bed mixed deluxe dorm 45 ringgit
33 ringgit 33 ringgit
Dbl air-con share bathroom 85 ringgit 85 ringgit
Dbl air-con private bathroom 125 ringgit 125 ringgit

Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

From US$12

Provided by Travelfish partner Agoda.

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