Have you heard of the adage “What happened in (the destination), stays in (that same destination)?” It usually refers to the idea that certain transpirations in the place that you visited should not be brought back with you. But sometimes things that transpired were just too good that you simply just have to share it.I recently went to Penang and though I very much prefer to keep a good thing to myself, I find the chance to expose a newly discovered gem on the island too good a chance to pass up and that gem comes in the form of an intimate and exquisite and boutique bed and breakfast enterprise called the PalanquInn Heritage Suites.Nestling in a small lane, the surroundings of PalanquInn Heritage Suites is secluded and historical, even though it is part of a bustling neighbourhood, with the ever busy Kelawei Road on one end and the teeming Burma Road on the other. Though the property is flanked by Penang’s two major arteries, guests could not help but notice that the location is selectively tranquil and quaint.
Both my colleague and I arrived at the bed and breakfast quite late in one evening after having to deal with the unforgiving traffic. Though we were weary from our travel, we could not help but to gaze at the elegant façade of a heritage structure for a few minutes. The owner himself, Mr. Kelvyn, greeted us with a warm smile, putting us more at ease.As we walked to the entrance, I wondered how many rooms there were in this smallish property. As if he was able to read my mind, Mr. Kelvyn confessed that the property only boasts two rooms. However, his team are currently working on another pre-war Chinese shophouse located on the same row by transforming it into another bed and breakfast that will be aptly named “PalanquInn II”.
Though the property’s lobby is undersized, it is purposeful and efficient. We were then ushered to our room upstairs that required us to climb a handsome and sturdy wooden staircase that welcomingly creaked as we stepped. According to Kelvyn, this property had undergone significant renovation, except for its original structure and façade, in accordance to UNESCO’s World Heritage building codes. I have to admit that Kelvyn and his partners have done such an incredible work: the original tiles, windows, roof, ceiling, walls and flooring are all original but had been given a new lease of life, making them look fresh yet charmingly nostalgic and classyat the same time.
I truly felt transported, as if standing in a bona fide living and breathing Chinese shophouse belonging to a rich merchant of the yesteryears who currently inhabit the place with his family.The man who built the two rows of shophouses along Bangkok Lane is the late and wise Cheah Leong Kah. He built the house for his family and relatives to live in and prior to World War II, he designated the house to be under the control of a trust, allowing the shophouses – all built in 1928 – to be conserved to this day. Of late, the descendants Cheah Leong Kah still reside in some of the houses, while the rest are scattered around the country and abroad. While some still remain as residential units, most of these shophouses have now been turned into boutiques, a massage parlour and offices.
The lane was named Bangkok Lane because during the colonial days, this area was once the settlement for the Thais. Parallel to it is the Burma Lane.After briefing us on what was awaiting the next day, I got the chance to explore the property, as if I had this almost 90-year-old property all to myself, with its tiles and stained glass windows all lovingly preserved. The guest room’s toilet is very special: the wash basin is made from old Chinese ceramic and the roof can be retracted to as much as the guest wants, giving the chance to bathe under the sky. I was reminded by Kelvyn to close the roof if I were to go out as the toilet could be drenched if it were to rain.
I woke up the next morning to the curious sounds of the street. As I stepped onto the balcony, this bit of Pulau Tikus neighbourhood had already risen. I could see a restaurant filled with people, including a stall selling fried mee and another peddling ‘satay’ to lines of patrons. The atmosphere was bustling and brimming with communal verve. I found the whole situation refreshing and stood there for almost an hour, taking in the surroundings as much as I could.I then decided to explore the area further.My first stop was the popular Bangkok Lane Fried Mee for breakfast.
My colleague and I, including Kelvyn, then went off to the market – considered as the heart of Pulau Tikus – just to ogle at the goods and wares being sold there, including observing the myriad of people from various ethnic backgrounds.Stopping by an Indian man selling putu mayam at the back of his van, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he spoke Hokkien to his customers. I asked him how he managed to pick up the language – he just smiled and answered, “after selling putu mayam for 15 years, you have no idea what else I have learned”.
Kelvyn then brought us to two temples: one is the Thai Temple, with one of the biggest sleeping Buddhas in Asia and the other one is the Burmese Temple that shows many paintings depicting the story of Buddha. Both temples possess unique characteristics, with tourists coming in droves to pay respect and admire them.For dinner, we headed for the Gurney Drive Food Court, which is only a 15-minute walk from PalanquInn. The whole area is crammed with stalls after stalls selling various kinds of street food, from Eastern all the way to Wastern dishes.
I decided for a modest yet tasty Penang pasembur as my meal for the night.We departed the next day and felt that our experience in PalanquInn Heritage Suites is not something that we should only keep to ourselves. With its awesome location, chic panache yet charmingly down-to-earth, we found that the property offers a promisingly stylish and memorable stay for guests looking for the delightfully quintessential Penang experience and hoped to be able to stay at the property again.
This time, I decide that what happened in Penang, should not stay in Penang….
PALANQUINN HERITAGE SUITES
39 Bangkok Lane
10250 George Town, Penang
Tel : +604-227-1088