PEARL OF THE ORIENT
For the epic Spring/Summer ’13 collections shoot, BAZAAR catwalked into Penang, staying at both the iconic Eastern & Oriental Hotel and the captivating Lone Pine Hotel. By Cai Mei Khoo.
The BAZAAR fashion team gets inspired by the Eastern and Oriental Hotel and Lone Pine Hotel
The room was filled with racks of clothes, the sitting area strewn with row upon row of shoes from Dior to Roger Vivier, not forgetting accessories such as that amazing Alexander McQueen beekeeper’s hat. Thankfully, we were staying at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, the guest rooms of which were large enough to occupy the tonne of looks brought in for the collections shoot that ran in our 10th anniversary issue last April. Such a milestone issue deserved only the best, and in Penang, the Eastern & Oriental hotel, or the E&O as it’s more fondly known, was the obvious choice.
The grand dame of all hotels in Penang, the E&O has a rich, illustrious past. Established by the Armenien Sarkies brothers, the E&O started life as The Eastern in 1884, catering to the well-heeled traveller. Due to its popularity, the brothers then added another hotel, The Oriental, a year later on an adjacent piece of land that faced the Andaman Sea. Combined, the hotel was thereafter known as the Eastern & Oriental Hotel and became the largest hotel in Penang, boasting a seafront lawn acknowledged as the world’s longest at 842 feet.
Once, renowned writers, playwrights, and famous actors the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Sir Noël Coward, and Mary Pickford arrived in Penang, the Pearl of the Orient, via steamship. Fast forward to 2013 and half the BAZAAR fashion team drove up from KL while the other half flew in from Singapore, large suitcases in tow, all in preparation for the shoot.
Located in George Town, the hotel’s cool, quiet interior is a welcome respite from the humid, balmy Penang weather. We were immediately given cold towels and a welcome drink upon arrival, while waiting to be checked in.
Positioning itself as an all-suite hotel, the rooms are delightfully spacious – our room in the Heritage Wing had a huge walk-in wardrobe – and as well-appointed as you would expect from a hotel of this standard and reputation. The genteel, refined atmosphere is further enhanced by the presence of an army of butlers smartly dressed in white suits, who are on-call 24 hours, should your dress require immediate pressing or if you would like your shoes
shined. Details in the colonial architecture, from dark wood flooring in the rooms right down to the toggle switches make you feel as if you’ve been transported into a different era. It’s this old-world charm and elegance the E&O exudes that places it above the rest.
A new addition to the hotel is the Victory Annexe, its namesake being a grand 40-room addition that was unveiled by Arshak Sarkies in 1923. More flamboyant than his brothers, Martin and Tigran, it was Arshak who added the ballroom in 1903, the very venue that catered to many a glittering extravaganza.
By 1927, the E&O was advertised as ‘The Premier Hotel East of the Suez’, which boasted more than 100 rooms, 40 of them with adjoining bathrooms offering both hot and cold running water, a luxury at the time. These days, the new Victory Annexe boasts 122 seaview suites with rain showers, and Victorian details such as claw-foot long baths and pedestal ceramic basins to keep with the original colonial style.
All guests at the Victory Annexe enjoy delightful little extras, such as a Lavazza coffee machine in each room. Alternatively, you could always call someone to prepare a fresh brew; a stay at the Victory Annexe also includes full butler service. Apart from daily breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails at The Planters Lounge are also included in your room rate, tempting you to stay indoors and indulge.
If it’s a change of scenery you’re after, head downstairs to The Sarkies coffee house and choose a spot alfresco, overlooking the sea. The Sarkies offers a sumptuous buffet spread, including a mix of local and international cuisine.
But you can’t travel to Penang and not savour its Peranakan delights, and it was at the Lone Pine Hotel that we savoured the best Peranakan food this side of the island.
A mere 20-minute drive out of Georgetown transports you to a wildly different setting. Situated on a stretch of white sandy beach on the Batu Ferringhi coastline, Lone Pine Hotel is a charming luxury boutique hotel that offers just 90 rooms, all of which face the sea. A gentle breeze sweeps through the tall glass doors in the lobby, a refreshing welcome to the modern refurbishments that have been making waves since the hotel reopened in 2010.
Established in 1948, the original building was a lovely bungalow owned by Dr. Albert McKern, who ran a medical practice in George Town. He later leased out the building with the intention of operating the first hotel in Batu Ferringhi. After the renovation, a new block was added, offering facilities such as a gym, a spa, and meeting rooms, which the hotel graciously allowed us to use.
Two restaurants are offered at the Lone Pine Hotel: Matsu, a casual Japanese restaurant, and The Bungalow, the hotel’s coffee house. Its chic Batubar plays ambient lounge tunes, great for sunset cocktails. The delicious lunch set at The Bungalow offers authentic Peranakan cuisine served in a tiffin carrier. It was just what the team needed to refuel after shooting under the sweltering sun. With a mostly outdoor setting, The Bungalow is the perfect spot to enjoy the sea breeze, be it at lunch or dinner, under the stars.
While you may be tempted to spend your entire holiday by the picturesque waters, it is highly recommended that you take the time to enjoy the many arts, cultural, and culinary delights Penang has to offer – and there’s no better place to start than these two sides of paradise. Eastern & Oriental Hotel, 10 Lebuh Farquhar, Penang. Tel: 04-222 2000. www.eohotels.com. Lone Pine Hotel, 97, Batu Ferringhi, Penang. Tel: 04- 886 8686. www.lonepinehotel.com
The poolside terrace at the Victory Annexe
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel
A Corner Suite at the Victory Annexe
The modern interior of Lone Pine Hotel’s lobby
The swimming pool at Lone Pine Hotel
The chic bathroom of a Corner Suite in the Victory Annexe