If you're going to Georgetown I'm guessing you're probably there to browse the historic sights and eat street food, so it would take something pretty special for you not to stay in the heart of the heritage district in one of the newly-renovated shop-house hotels (plenty well-ranked here on Tripadvisor) or the luxury spots along the waterfront.
Well Macalister Mansion is that special. Everything about it (with the slight exception of the swimming pool - more on that later) is stunning. I was in Room #5 - the cheapest I think - and I was simply gobsmacked upon walking into the room. For the first time in my experience the room was actually better - way better - than the admittedly impressive pictures on the website. It is huge. It is amazingly designed. The lighting (a weird thing to mention I know) was extraordinary. I've stayed at a lot of high-end places and this I think was the best room I've ever stayed in. The bath! The two showers! Everything about it is a design triumph.
But it's not just the room that was so impressive, it was the level of pampering. At MM they go out of their way to make your every whim feel catered for. Some examples: the (very good) welcoming drink. The personalised stationary in the room (very cool!). Free juices in the fridge (refilled daily) and free water bottles all over the place. Free snacks (chocolate, chips, bars, etc) in the room (refilled, natch). Free Nespresso machine in the room (refills refilled daily). 2 groovy little cakes left in the room with each night's turndown. Complementary breakfast (and a good one at that, not just tea and toast). Excellent toiletries and great bubble bath (I know, but it was a bit more pampering). The pillow menu. 2 x 46 inch TVs with Blu-ray player (DVD and Blu-ray movies free at reception). Lots of little touches like...
...well here's a very small one that I thought spoke to the care and attention - in Room #5 where I was there are two twin beds. I was on my own. The first night during turn-down service they put out a little mat and 2 slippers next to one of the beds. I happened to use the other bed. From the next night on the slippers appeared by that bed.
Beyond that the staff were consistently helpful and ready to be helpful, from reception to the restaurants to the bars. With only 8 rooms there aren't a lot of guests (I didn't see any others) and the staff are there but unobtrusive (I never saw anyone cleaning or doing turndown in the rooms). The wine bar is very impressive with a 3 for 2 happy hour from 5pm to 7pm, making for very affordable wine by the glass (some good stuff too). The Den (whisky) was also cosy and elegant but I'm not a fan so I stuck to the Cellar. Great range of cigars too and knowledgeable service.
The two restaurants are excellent in different ways. The Living Room does a mix of local and European and is remarkably cheap for the quality. The Dining Room is fine dining and interestingly adventurous. I had the full degustation, most of which was very good and the less good bits were at least aiming for something. I'd eat there again in a flash, though I think the lights need to be a bit brighter to appreciate the colours of the food (a pet peeve of my pedantic mind, sorry).
Check-in and check-out couldn't have been more efficient, taxi to the airport ordered, and when I checked later in the day that it had been - being a bit paranoid - a different receptionist immediately said, without looking it up even, "yes the taxi's been booked for 9.30". They're onto it.
Talking taxis, it's about a half hour drive from the airport which costs 45 ringit. That's probably the only taxi run that actually uses meters (despite the signs on the side of many taxis) so, for anything else, agree a price before you start. To the heritage area is 5 minutes. It it's round town it'll be 10 - 20 ringit (i.e. not much) and it hardly seems reasonable to argue over a couple of ringit with people who obviously don't make a whole lot of money. 12? 15? Who cares? (BTW, since it's new a lot of drivers don't know the MM). But Jalan Macalister is a one-way street at that point and it's the white building on the left with a terracotta-coloured roof. Once you've seen it it's easy to identify for the taxi drivers and if you look left on Jalan Macalister you really can't miss it.) Also, if you want a cab, head to a hotel or shopping centre - they're a bit hard to flag down.
The only downside to MM is the pool, if you really want to swim. It's a bit near the road and there's a tall building being constructed next door (I didn't have any noise problems in my room - don't know about the others). It doesn't make for a very conducive atmosphere for swimming (though it's regularly cleaned and has a bar, etc). But that's the way it is and there's nothing can change it (the construction looks like it'll take a while). If your main plan is swimming, go somewhere else; I wasn't planning to so didn't care.
And - excuse the length here but I've got a few tips.
If you are in Penang for local food then remember there's quite a lot within walking distance of the hotel. Not the famous night markets but some damn fine stuff nonetheless. But you need to brave the notorious Penang pavements for 5 - 10 minutes. Seriously, these are not pavements in any strict sense of the word and the cars are close. But it looks and feels more dangerous than it is. (I wouldn't recommend doing this walk with small kids, unless they are a) brave, or b) well insured.)
Head left out of the hotel along Jalan Macalister. Nothing to see for about 500m. Then after the first intersection things appear. Another hundred metres and there are food stalls/courts of all varieties on both sides of the road. There's a particularly good one on the corner of Jalan Rangoon (on the left) but there are many, climaxing in the New Lane food centre which is open late every night (I forget the road but it's on the right just after Jalan Madras (which is on the left). A hundred metres down Jalan Madras there are more stalls, mainly vegetarian and offering food a bit different from the usual suspects.
Also, if you happen to be a fan of Sichuan food (not the most obvious thing for Penang I know), there are two Sichuan restaurants in walking distance. Da Ban is closest (I've forgotten the street already - it's on the left again) but I found the flavours muted and the cooking a bit sloppy. However... down Jalan Madras is Red Chillis Wok Restaurant which isn't as nicely decorated but will blow your mouth off with fantastic authentic Sichuan flavours and leave your lips tingling in pleasure (and that little bit of pain!). It rocks.
OK. There we go. Penang was a blast and the Macalister Mansion is brilliant. Can't recommend it highly enough. (Sorry about the length of this.)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Eight Rooms at Macalister Mansion promises a quirky and sophisticated new destination to relax and unwind… Set amidst a lovingly restored colonial mansion that was built in the early 1900s, we invite you to embark with us on a luxuriously new boutique hotel adventure within each of our individually designed 8 suites. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Macalister Mansion Penang/George Town