Colonial past at Penang, Malaysia’s fabulous E&O Hotel

E&O Hotel, Penang, MalaysiaI absolutely loved this hotel, where I stayed only briefly before going on to a project for work near Penang.

The Eastern and Oriental Hotel – widely known as the E&O – is one of those great, storied hotels dripping with character and ghosts of the past.

The E&O Hotel is located on the island of Penang, in northern Malaysia, with impressive views out over the Straits of Melaka.

E&O HotelThe hotel was built in 1885 during the British colonial era in what was then Malaya. Penang was a busy British trading post, with an important and strategic port.

Luxury tourism to Asia grew after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 facilitated travel by ship from Europe. The Sarkies, four Armenian brothers, would build three iconic hotels (all still in operation today) to attract tourists seeking out luxury and opulence in exotic Asian locations.

2014_February_E&O3Penang’s Eastern & Oriental was the first the Sarkie brothers built, followed by The Raffles in Singapore, and The Strand in Rangoon, Myanmar.

The E&O was popular with many of the leading literary figures of the past – Noel Coward, Herman Hesse, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham all stayed here. There’s a great period bar, too. I can see why they enjoyed it so much.

E&O Hotel, Penang, MalysiaThis modern day writer would love to check in for an extended stay to write out on the terrace with the views over the sea. During my stay, I had a great time reading Somerset Maugham’s wonderful  Far Eastern Tales out by the edge of the pool, hoping I might be reading stories he penned or dreamed up in the same spot.

Named a UNESCO Heritage site in 2008, Penang itself is a wonderful location to visit – I’ll write a future post about it.

The city is a blend of Malaysia’s three ethnic groups -Malay, Chinese, and Indians. E&O Hotel, Penang, MalaysiaThe city is filled with places of worship for the three Malysian communities: beautiful mosques, Buddhist temples and Hindu temples.

The city is also filled with beautiful buildings from Malaya’s colonial period, even if Malaya was not technically a British colony, but a protectorate.

The E&O Hotel is a great location to explore the bustle of Penang, and a lovely place to retreat back to the quiet and elegance of an earlier era. Dancing on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and mail days, anyone?

I can’t wait to go back for a longer visit (laptop and inspiration  in tow)… and eventually to visit the Sarkies’ other hotels. Rangoon’s The Strand has been on my wish list for  long time…

Historic advertisement, E&O Hotel, Penang

If you’re planning a trip to beautiful Malaysia, be sure to look at my earlier posts on Kuala Lumpur and Melaka.


  1. evelyneholingue on March 4, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Makes one want to pack a bag. Lovely writing with lovely photos.

    • kimberlysullivan on March 5, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Thanks, Evelyne. And yes, it’s definitely one of those dream-about-packing-your-bag kind of places…

  2. […] If you’re travelling in Malaysia, see my earlier posts on the colonial past in Melaka, and the not-to-be-missed E&O Hotel in Penang. […]

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