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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yeng Keng Hotel

The Family was unanimous in its approval of Yeng Keng Hotel. More than once, I was praised for having made a wise choice in the lodgings I booked. That's saying something because even though there are just 4 of us, we always manage to have 4 different opinions about most things.

Yeng Keng Hotel is right smack in the middle of Lebuh Chulia (or Chulia Street)... a part of Georgetown that is chock-a-block full of prewar shophouses. The quartier is old... very very old. Yeng Keng Hotel rises out of that mess of buildings with peeling paint and mismatched facades like a glorious phoenix. It is resplendent in its glory. Colourful dragons adorn the roof of the portal that leads into the front courtyard. From the courtyard, you step over a knee high wall and enter into a vestibule that draws you into another time - a time where the luxuries of the East met the finest of the West in Penang.

Chinese carved furniture co-exist with Art Deco sofa sets. Round marble table tops with ornate carved legs support huge vases of flowers. Glass lamps that would have held gas lights or candles in the past hang from the ceiling and walls. You expected to run straight into a bibik as you entered the open private courtyard in the middle of the hotel. Here, plants grow and dappled sunlight splashes onto the floor like spilt drops of molten gold.

Generous staircases lead you upstairs to the living room. Books and Scrabble sets are laid out so that guests can hang out and chill out on the sofa sets coloured crimson red and gold. At the porch outside the vestibule, there is always iced water and a basket of local fruits. If you but sit down on the cane furniture on the porch, someone with a gentle smile and kind manner will come and ask "Would you be more comfortable with the fan on?" I didn't feel like I was at a hotel at all. Throughout our stay, it felt like I was a guest in the home of a rich Peranakan business man... and he had instructed his domestic staff to see to my every need. None of the the impersonal service in a 5-star hotel.

This hotel was small... warm... homelike, and yet dripping with the opulence of an age that is now past. The only thing I didn't like was the food. The Western food was poorly made. The Asian food couldn't match the street food outside the hotel's doors. Its self-styled Hainanese food didn't taste like the Hainanese food that I know... and believe me, I know my Hainanese food from KL to Singapore better than I know my French food. But really... this hotel is not about its food. It sits in the middle of a quartier that food bloggers claim to have the best cendol in Penang (it's true, we ate this) ... the best Nasi Kandar (we didn't manage to get to this) ... the best chee cheong fun (oh yes!)... all within walking distance.

I have my own list to add. 4 shophouses to the left of the hotel, we found really good char siew, roast duck and crispy pork. 4 shophouses to the right of the hotel, we found delicious seafood soup and pig's trotters. Go to the end of the street and turn right and a coffeeshop sells dimsum on pushcarts... fluffy char siew pau. If I were Yeng Keng Hotel, I would be careful to NOT compete with the famous of the famous of Penang street food. I would just content myself with being a sexy boutique hotel that sends its guests back in time to a world where people knew what True Hospitality was all about.

What was also nice was that we saved money too. The hotel was less pricey than the Penang beach resorts.

The front courtyard.

The private courtyard viewed from the living room.

The living room with books and Scrabble sets all laid out.

The ever solicitious Butler about the place. He made the place seem like home.


Marisa said...

This looks like a great recommendation. I stayed in Georgetown last year, and although I loved my hotel, it was a bit noisy into the evenings because of a food court next door.

Blur Ting said...

Good one. I'll pick this if I go to Penang.

Jules said...

I love the food in YK cafe and disagree with you. Although 4 doors down the road, chicken rice or char siew are nice. You cant beat the ambiance of the cafe. We have been there many times and each time food was good and service was excellence.