HOTEL PENAGA, in the heart of Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, is in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Owners, Hijjas Kasturi, a well-known Malaysian architect, and his environmentalist wife Angela, converted a cluster of 15 pre-war terraces and shophouses, facing Hutton Lane, Transfer Road and Clark Street, into a boutique hotel that maintains the character of the heritage zone while meeting the highest modern expectations.
Hotel Penaga gets its name from Tanjong Penaga, meaning the cape where the penaga trees grow. This was the original Malay name for the first settlement on Penang Island, where GeorgeTown stands today.
It is not unusual for Malay places to be named for the plants that were found there. Penaga trees (Calophyllum inophyllum) grow on the seashore, produce excellent wood and have traditional medicinal qualities. While there are no penaga trees left in GeorgeTown, the name is an echo of the original place that we thought worth commemorating, and we have planted some penaga trees in our hotel garden.
Spending the afternoon inspecting Penaga boutique Hotel and Eastern & Oriental Hotel with such gorgeous views!—
JAN SHIM (@janshim) May 22, 2011
The ‘antique’ Chinese furniture pieces in the hotel are actually contemporary reconstructions made in Zhongshan from remnants of old furniture. Their old Asian cottage aesthetic fits the age and ambience of our buildings and makes each room unique. The kitchen equipment, spa baths, LED lights, table lamps, modern furniture and the many wood carvings and wedding beds were sourced from Guangdong, giving Hotel Penaga a Chinese ambience. In Indonesia, too, we found many furnishings that suited us perfectly, like the white glass pendant lights, contemporary but reminiscent of the old Dutch style; the Venetian mirrors; and the modern stained glass that we used to create feature windows, mixing the art deco style of Frank Lloyd Wright with a Chinese aesthetic.
The restoration and redevelopment of Hotel Penaga has used recycled materials wherever possible. The roof tiles have been salvaged from demolished buildings in Penang. The timber for structures and floors has been sourced from demolished colonial period buildings throughout the Peninsula. The reconstructed ‘antique’ furniture is from southern China where bits and pieces of old pieces are refabricated. Elsewhere new materials are generally handmade, like the encaustic cement patterned floor tiles from Vietnam and Indonesia, where they still use 80 year old presses and techniques. Carpets are either handmade bamboo mats from east Malaysia, patchwork kilims from Turkey, patchwork cow skin from China or sisal from India.
Penaga Spa is inspired by the healing qualities of the indigenous plant of the Malay Peninsula. Years of research have unearthed the many benefits of the penaga tree, which contribute to the hotel’s holistic approach of well-being. The Penaga Spa feature sancient remedies and treatments to rejuvenate the the body, calm the mind and uplift the spirit.
Although we live outside Kuala Lumpur, we have long been fascinated by the architectural and cultural history of GeorgeTown. In 2008, we bought three rows of pre-war Art Deco double-storey terraces in GeorgeTown, and decided to convert them into the sort of hotel in which we would like to stay while exploring the delights of this city. By the time we bought them, many of the terraces had been left vacant and all had fallen into disrepair. A thorough renovation, respecting our twin interests of architecture and environmentalism, was needed to convert the site into a viable, beautiful and comfortable hotel. — Hijjas Kasturi and Angela.
After Hotel Penaga, we headed to The Eastern & Oriental Hotel for high tea and second hotel inspection.