Boutique hotels have always found success in colonial cities that boast rich historical backgrounds. Their connection to the intriguing local culture, be it via something as simple as the architecture or the hotels’ operating values capture the attention of travellers yearning for unique immersive experiences. The term was first coined in 1984 by Steve Rubell, the co-owner the legendary Studio 54 disco in New York while describing his own property, the iconic Morgans Hotel which he likened to a boutique.
Since then the term ‘boutique hotel’ has grown to encapsulate more than just a hotel’s interior looking intimate and polished. Such hotels these days offer distinctive accommodations that tie-in the essence of the locale in which they are situated with the principles they stand for. Moreover, boutique lodgings take pride in being one-of-a-kind, each hotel offering experiences unique to it.
A boutique hotel on our home ground that has been making waves is The Edison, located in the heart of George Town, Penang. Tapping into the spirit of the UNESCO-certified city,the hotel has been making waves amongst local and foreign guests since opening its doors in 2016. Here are five highlights of The Edison that make the hotel different from its peers.
The Edison, Penang: Top Five Highlights
A Whimsical Journey into Penang’s Past
Although the flagship property of The Edison Hotels only opened in 2016, the edifice in which it has taken root was commissioned to be built in 1906 as a residence for Yeo Wee Gark, an agricultural tycoon of Hakka descent. He was one of the many Hakka luminaries who made their homes at Lebuh Leith, the street which now fringes George Town’s UNESCO’s World Heritage Site core zone.During the Second World War, the building served as an administrative centre for the Japanese when they occupied Malaya. After the war, the former domicile was quickly transformed to become a hotel. However, after struggling for many years, the dingy lodging finally threw in the towel. ET Group, a hospitality consultancy founded by Eugene Tan and his wife Rina Teoh quickly came in not only to save the building from further deterioration but also breathe fresh new life into it.
MORE: Why not extend your stay in Penang with Seven Terraces, another award-winning boutique accommodation on Penang Island?
Immaculate Attention to Detail
The Edison does not rely only on its rich past when packaging itself as a boutique hotel, but also takes into account the quirkiness of blending timeless elegance with modern charm. Located on the historical street of Lebuh Leith, which is named after Sir George Alexander William Leith, the hotel pays homage to the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Prince of Wales Island by naming its two luxurious suites George and William respectively.Architecturally much of the finishing of the original mansion was unharmed as well, including the wooden shuttered windows, Corinthian-style columns, and the carvings on the ceilings. Even the Chinese-style fountain complete with a dragon on the front porch that was built the 1960s is kept as is, grounding the hotel to its straits settlement background.
The highlight of The Edison, however, is the open-air courtyard which separates the front of the hotel (reception) with the back, where the 24-hour lounge is located. Not only does the centre court aerate the entire hotel, it also provides ample natural lighting during the day. In addition, the mansion’s original cast-iron pillars that were made in Scotland are on display here as well. Specially designed by the mansion’s architect David Nathaniel, the pillars also act as drainage from the roof.
If you’re wondering how the name The Edison came about for the hotel, it’s a portmanteau of Eugene’s father Eddie’s name with ‘son’ for Eugene. As a nod to the more famous Thomas Edison, chandeliers at the hotel feature light bulbs instead of the more popular versions made of glass.
Exemplary of the luxury branding of the boutique hotel, The Edison presents guests with a 24-hour lounge stuffed with round-the-clock complimentary refreshments. Apart from the run-of-the-mill tea, coffee, juices, and yogurt, the lounge also serves beloved local snacks such as tau sar pneah, jam biscuits, Haw Flakes, and Twisties.Guests will also get to enjoy a free-flow of wine every evening for an hour, while tea time is punctuated by a wide selection of locally procured kueh. The lounge is also where breakfast is served every morning.
No restaurant, but there’s a saltwater pool and a library
In addition to the lounge, the hotel boasts a saltwater-chlorinated pool with comfortable cabanas around it. There is also a library where guests can delve into some local history or catch up on their own reading. One thing visibly missing from the hotel is a restaurant, a calculated decision by the proprietors not to take away the thunder from the critically-acclaimed local cuisine.
Award-Winning Small Luxury Hotel of the World
The Edison also has the distinction of being the only Penang-based property that is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the distinguished chain of intimate luxury hotels around the world. Furthermore, the hotel as also received numerous awards and accolades for hospitality design and service excellence namely the World Luxury Hotels Awards 2017 and World Boutique Hotel Awards 2017.
Where to Find The Edison, Penang
15 Lebuh Leith
10200 George Town
+604 262 2990
Photos: The Edison