In Penang, stay at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel – the grande dame of the city’s hospitality scene since 1885, when it was established by the illustrious Sarkies Brothers. This is the sister hotel to the Raffles Hotel in Singapore and the Strand Hotel in Rangoon, and a close cousin to the present Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya.
In its time, The E & O – as it is familiarly known to Penangites – played host to nobility and heads of state as well as literary and cinematic greats, such as British authors Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling and American movie stars Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks.
The E & O is the second stop on our Grand Tour of Southeast Asia. Period postcard views from the early 1900s, and photographs from today show that it hasn’t changed much in spirit and ambience in 100 years, though of course, the E & O today has all the fittings of a modern hotel – in particular its swimming pool set right by sea along the hotel’s seafront promenade.
Be sure to opt for one of the sea-facing suites with attached balcony, if only to wake up to spectacular views of the Malacca Straits and the ships bringing cargo from afar, exactly like they have done so for two centuries.
The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia will be available from 15 April onwards at all major bookstores in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, as well as at hotels featured in the book. It will also be available online at http://www.amazon.co.uk.