Tales from The Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Penang

The Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Georgetown Penang is synonymous to the Malaya Colonial era. We may hear stories from our grandparents, read about it in books or admire the English architecture left behind in ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ as proof that the British once ruled this land.

The E&O hotel is unique, as it allows its guests to re-live these moments back in time. Upon arrival, the E&O brings you back to an era that only exists in our memories. As the doorman opens the main door to the entrance, clad in a colonial style uniform of khaki coloured shorts and shirt, knee-high white socks and a white hard hat, you know that you have arrived in Colonial Malaya.

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The E&O Hotel offers guests two hotel wings to choose from, the Heritage Wing where interior is kept to its original décor and the Victory Annexe Wing where modern architecture and age old décor are given a tasteful marriage. Easily explained as colonial, yet modern.

Walking into the E&O for the first time is quite an experience for those who enjoy heritage buildings, history and culture. The interior looks like one from the past, but the people surrounding you are from this day and age.

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You kind of expect to walk back in time, but it’s only the antique furniture that’s left to remind us of what was. But the most distinctive thing is it’s aroma the Heritage wing carries, its one that’s antique, it smells of history (if that makes any sense), musky, oaky, and aged. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad smell. Just an aroma that you know famous figures and flamboyant parties were once held here, history and souls left behind from memories of the good old days at the E&O Hotel. 

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The Heritage Wing features all-suites, evoking an aura of place and time, maintaining strong historical links and traditions yet coupled with the facilities of the present day. All suites are magnificently furnished, extravagantly spacious and come in eight different types, with either city of sea views. Each suite comes with modern day amenities and every guest who stays at the E&O Hotel receives individual attention. The hotel’s round-the-clock impeccable butler service guarantees that guest’s personal needs and comfort is the focus from the moment they arrive. Set amidst a beautifully manicured garden is their swimming pool that faces the sea and is the focal point for guests seeking to unwind. There is also the oldest ‘Java Tree,’ which was planted before 1885, which still stands. 

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Staying true to its architectural inspiration, E&O unveiled its new extension in March 2013- a 15-storey building named the Victory Annexe. The Annexe adds a further 122 classically appointed, sea-fronting suites, complemented by new restaurants, meeting rooms, pool, spa, and niche retail outlets.


The same architectural elements of the original hotel are incorporated into the Victory Annexe. In keeping with the original colonial styled guestrooms of the early 1900s, all suites feature Victorian details such as en-suite bathrooms fitted with claw footed long baths, pedestal ceramic basins, lazy ceiling fans and breezy private balconies. 

Guests staying at the Victory Annexe enjoy exclusive privileges such as complimentary non-alcoholic beverages from the mini bar. Also included in the room rate are daily continental breakfast and complimentary coffee and tea throughout the day as well as evening cocktails with canapés at The Planters Lounge from 6pm to 7pm daily. Privacy is assured and only guests staying at the Victory Annexe are allowed access to The Planters Lounge. Timeless elegance is coupled with modern conveniences such as a fully equipped gym and swimming pool. 


The property began its colourful history in 1884 as The Eastern. The Oriental was added in 1885 due to the Eastern’s overwhelming popularity. The Hotels were combined to become the Eastern & Oriental hotel and was established by the Armenian Sarkies brothers, Martin and Tigran.

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Penang drew travellers of every shade and description-merchants, missionaries, mercenaries, sailors and adventurers. Writers, actors, playwrights, the rich and the titled, bored with Europe and America, looked to the exotic East to satisfy their wanderlust.

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In 1891, another Sarkies brother, Arshak, joined the business. More flamboyant than his brother, he added a large ballroom in 1903. Before long, the E&O became the centre of the social life and gaiety of Penang and its surroundings. It was the venue for the island’s major functions, such as weddings, banquets and the annual St. George’s Day Ball. Visiting musicians and cabaret acts also found their way to the E&O. Famous guests who enjoyed its hospitality included Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling, Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham and Hermann Hesse.

Today, more than a century since its establishment, the E&O has reclaimed its heritage. And with its return to elegance, it would not be a matter of wonder, as a writer once pointed out, ‘those who have once visited the famous hotel, regard the E&O as a haven to be sought again and again, as the traveller returns to the home of his affection.’ 

1. 1885
Traditional in its décor and contemporary in its style of cuisine, o ers an artful ability to match wine and ne food. It also o ers a very traditional English Afternoon tea.
2. Farquhar’s Bar
A little piece of colonial Malaya, serving great pub grub.
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3. Sarkies
is new edition to the Victory Annexe o ers all day dining. It prides itself on their extensive bu ets for breakfast, lunch or dinner. When visiting one must-try their famous carvery station, o ering roast lamb, chicken, beef, and its signature roasted duck with plum sauce.

4. Sarkies Corner
A colonial Co ee Shop that o ers a la carte local and international cuisine. It’s an ideal place for a quick lunch or a cup of co ee. ey used to host the famous weekend bu ets for the elite of that era.

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5. The Deck
Set within the swimming pool grounds, it serves light meals and refreshments. 


If you’re interested to learn more about the rich history of The E&O Hotel, visit the Exhibition Gallery located at the Victory Annexe Wing. The curator Merlyn, will take you back in time with stories, antiques and relics from the past. There are beautiful dresses on display, which were worn by singers who entertained the guests. The dresses on display were truly a reminder of the glitz and glamorous days of the E&O Hotel.


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There is also a beautiful wedding dress on display which tells the story of the marriage of an American school teacher who met her husband while in Penang. They got married in the E&O, Penang. The original invitation cards are on display, and much like an English style wedding. Afternoon tea of scones and cucumber sandwiches were served to guests. 50 years later, she came back to The E&O to celebrate their golden anniversary. She made her own wedding gown, and the couple are still together today, residing in Kuala Lumpur.

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The original elevator from the E&O is still functioning. If you dare to take a ride inform the receptionist and they will take you on this unique experience. 

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