There is something special about waking up to the sound of the streets in George Town, Penang. In a tiny kopitiam tucked away in an alley near Chulia Street, a tea spoon stirring sweet condensed milk in a cup of thick, black coffee clatters away like a cheerful song. In another corner, a group of aunties and uncles chattering in a mix of Hokkien, Malay and Tamil echo through its backlanes.
A Unesco World Heritage Site for its centuries old colonial and Peranakan styled architecture, George Town provides a glimpse into what a thriving colonial port with a multicultural society looked like — you have gleaming Chinese temples, a 200-year-old mosque, and the best Indian food in Little India, all within walking distance from each other. Much of its charm is still retained today.
While there are many interesting parts of George Town, Chulia Street, one of the main streets in the heritage zone, is where most of the colorful daily scenes and best street food are. That makes Tien Hotel your best bet when booking a stay in George Town.
Read on to know why this hotel should be your pick the next time you visit Penang!
Penangites would know this building as crowds would throng the kopitiam downstairs famous for its char siew (honey-glazed barbecued pork). The hotel occupies the first and second floor of the building. Previously known as Sky Hotel, the building is given a facelift in 2017 and renamed Tien, which means sky in Mandarin.
What we love about the hotel is its rooftop patio, lined with potted plants and overlooking the heritage enclave of Georgetown. There is a small pool (too small to swim or even wade, though) which you can dip your tired feet and body in, after a day of roaming the streets and alleys in search of Penang’s famous street murals.
But first, some protocols. The hotel requires its guests to remove their shoes before entering the property. We kept them in a small shelf which they provided. As the building has no elevators, it’s a daily climb up and down those stairs, which can be quite a workout if you stay on the second floor. Also, do be patient while waiting for the receptionist as they need to come down from the second floor to open the door when you first arrive. But don’t worry, once checked-in, you’ll be given an access card so you can come in and go as you please.
This cozy boutique hotel has only eight rooms, with four additional ones on the way. While the rooms are quite compact, they are well-equipped and have everything you need. Each room has a comfy queen-sized bed, a TV, and a closet to hang your weekend getaway clothes as well as bathrobes and slippers. Each room also has universal sockets and USB ports for the international traveler in mind.
Comfort aside, our bright and airy room’s interior design is a good mix of both modern (we especially love the wooden bed frame that comes with a glass and steel headboard!) and slightly traditional. The throw cushions on our bed, in white and blue with bird motives, definitely remind us of home. All in all, the color scheme of the room is soothing and pleasing to the eye.
We’d like to put a little note here that its bathrooms are however, doorless which may be a deal-breaker for some. In place, is a thick curtain that separates the bathroom from other parts of the room. If you’re uncomfortable with that, just turn on the music with the built-in Bluetooth speaker in the shower and your partner in the room won’t even hear a thing 😉
Out of the room and onto the first floor we go. Here, there is a pantry where you can make tea and coffee and meet other fellow travelers for a quick chat. Did we say, all that over a sleek kitchen island with a marble tabletop?
Penang is famous for having so many Insta-worthy spots, and Tien’s interior deco certainly does not disappoint. A highlight is the staircase leading to the second floor, where the section of the wall is decorated with white, wooden panels and window frames with glass panes. Juxtaposed against the old school-looking mosaic tiled staircase and soft lighting, we think this spot is such an Insta-dream!
So, if you’re looking for a stylish yet cozy stay in the heart of George Town, check in to Tien Hotel!
See and Do
Within walking distance to most of the attractions in George Town, Tien Hotel is a perfect stay for those who want to be in the thick of the action. Here are our favorite things to do during our stay:
Learn a history lesson at Khoo Kongsi
The Khoo Kongsi is the largest Chinese clan house in the country. Built in the 19th century by the affluent Khoo family which was pivotal to Penang’s commerce during the colonial era, the clan house was built primarily to showcase the family’s successes, and you can learn more about the heritage and history of the family here. Visit the Chinese clan house for its elaborate detailing in its architecture, featuring rich wood carvings and lavish decorations. Fun fact: the clan house was also one of the filming locations of the movie Anna and the King!
Penang Khoo Kongsi
18, Cannon Square, Georgetown
Opening hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm
Tel: +604 261 4609
Stroll along the art-sy Hin Bus Depot
The Hin Bus Depot was a depot for the bus company in the 1950s. It was vacant for many years until Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, the man behind several famous mural paintings around George Town, used this abandoned space for his solo exhibition Art is Art is Rubbish in 2014. Nowadays, it is a bustling art-sy spot with several establishments including an art gallery, a café and pop-up market on Sundays.
Hin Bus Depot
31A, Jalan Gurdwara, George Town
Opening hours: 12.00pm – 8.00pm (Monday to Friday), 11.00am – 8.00pm (Saturday and Sunday)
Have nasi kandar dinner at Deens Maju
What’s a visit to Penang without eating at least one plate of nasi kandar? To the uninitiated, nasi kandar is a meal of steamed rice served with a variety of curries and side dishes such as fried chicken, vegetables and a variety of seafood. It’s popularized by the Indian Muslim traders from India who settled in Penang centuries ago. The best way to eat nasi kandar is to have so much curry sauce poured onto the steaming plate of rice, until it almost looks like a stew dish. When paired with crispy fried chicken and steamed okra, mmm… yummy!
Deen Maju Nasi Kandar
Jalan Gurdwara, George Town
Tel: +6012-425 2421
Operating hours: 2.30pm – 11.00pm daily
With such a wide range of accommodation options across the country, it can be a challenge to pick the one that’s best for you. To be in the know when it comes to Malaysia’s stand-out stays, keep your eyes peeled for Traveloka’s ‘Super Stays’ posts, a bi-weekly hotel special featuring our top picks!