25-A Lebuh Farquhar
Our ambitions of a six-night holiday in Beijing having run into the ground, we were compelled to come up with a Plan B rapidly. A return to Penang (after a three-year gap) seemed the easiest way forward, so we started hunting for a hotel. The luxurious stay we’d had in the E&O was high in our minds, but we wondered what else might be available at a more reasonable price. The Bayview just across the road seemed to offer a cheap and cheerful alternative, with generally good reviews, so we made an online booking for a deluxe room for three nights and hoped for – well, maybe not the best, but something tolerably good. We asked for a smoking room, a double bed and a sea view; if you don’t ask, you don’t get, do you?
Our arrival from Penang Airport was straightforward enough – we booked a taxi from the counter inside the arrivals hall. (NB – the hotel was renamed fairly recently, and taxi drivers still generally know it by the old name. So make sure you ask for the City Bayview in Georgetown, or else you may get taken to the Bayview Beach Resort on Ferringhi Beach instead. We’re sure it’s a lovely place to stay, but it’s miles away from Georgetown, which is where we like to be.) We caught sight of the hotel’s major feature – the revolving restaurant fifteen floors up – from some distance away. It was raining as we pulled up at the hotel entrance, but friendly staff whisked us and our bags smoothly into the lobby.
Check-in was mostly hassle-free. There was one anxious moment when we thought they might have got the booking wrong, as the receptionist double-checked whether we’d asked for a non-smoking room. On hearing that we’d asked for a smoking room, he seemed relieved. (Kay certainly was.) A minor hitch over deposits and the acceptability of plastic cards was readily resolved – fortunately there was a cashpoint at the Maybank next door, so Dave endured a brief soaking to get the necessary readies.
We made our way up to Floor 9 and round the cavernous atrium to our room. As soon as we walked in we knew we’d got our money’s worth – it was clean and generously sized, with a comfortable king-sized bed, a settee and coffee table, plus a desk and chair, complete with cable for a 2MB broadband connection at a reasonable RM20 for 24 hours. (Which meant that the newspaper delivered to our room every morning was perhaps a little bit redundant – but a nice touch anyway, and one we appreciated; local newspapers are always a great way to get the feel for a country.)
The bathroom was of a similar good size and standard, with separate shower and bathtub (which also had a shower attachment). And, of course, we’d asked for a sea view – we had a splendid one, looking north-eastwards over the Penang Strait to Butterworth (and down onto the roof of the E&O below).
Housekeeping was efficient. We spent a large part of our first full day in the hotel recovering from the night before and catching up on things online, so we missed the chance to get our room made up – but found a note pushed under our door saying that we could have the room made up and supplies replenished by calling housekeeping. Likewise, when we returned to the room after going out that evening we told the concierge that we needed more drinking water – it was delivered literally seconds after we got into the room!
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
All in all, an excellent stay. Yes, the E&O is great for a bit of pampering, but why pay over a hundred quid a night when you can get something almost as good for a third of the price (RM224.25 a night – about £35 – as of March 2008) and use the balance to treat yourself to a good night out? We told the cashier on departure that we’d definitely be returning if we went back to Penang; we meant it, too.