This refurbished resort offers a getaway from the heady hustle of George Town.
Penang Island is well known for its beaches, and the Parkroyal Penang Resort sits on one of the island's best – Batu Ferringhi. Built in 1990, the resort has undergone several refreshments, but the recent year-long MYR55 million refurbishment brings it into a class of its own. I'm here for the re-launch celebration, and the mood couldn't be more lively.
All 308 guestrooms, public areas, Cinnamon restaurant and Javana lounge have been renovated and transformed into classy and contemporary spaces. The tropical gardens, with two swimming pools (one with water slides), sunset bar, waterfront dining, massage hut and ample sun lounges make it a relaxing retreat from the heady hustle of the capital George Town.
If Penang Island is shaped like a sea turtle, the Parkroyal Penang Resort is towards the front left flipper, a 50-minute drive from Penang International Airport and 45 minutes to George Town. A stroll through the resort gardens brings you straight to the palm-fringed Batu Ferringhi beach (no roads to cross). The pint-sized Penang National Park is a 15-minute drive west, or if shopping is more your bag the Batu Ferringhi night markets are a coconut's throw away.
The calm, light-filled reception with local artworks, blonde timber and high ceilings sets the Zen-like theme for the rest of the resort. Vertical slats look like an oversized Chinese abacus, while the repeating wooden beads are a nod to the local betel nut. From reception to restaurant to rooms, this creative detail is used to delineate areas while providing an artistic statement. The sprawling, mid-rise resort features four restaurants and bars, St Gregory spa, 24-hour gymnasium, watersports centre, a raft of daily activities, kids' club (Koko-Nut Klub), shops, business centre, and tour desk.
There are 308 rooms across 10 room categories, ranging from superior rooms at entry level to premier seaview suites with private sundecks and separate living and dining areas. Mine is a premier seaview room with private balcony and striking ocean views. At 35 square metres the room is a decent size, but clever design, contemporary lines and balcony make it appear even more spacious.
Light timber boards with steel grey and bone-white accents keep it fresh and light. There is ample hanging space, power points where you expect them to be and a king bed large enough to host the entire Royal family. As well as fast (and complimentary) Wi-Fi, the room comes with two televisions, work desk, mini-bar, and tea and coffee making facilities. For this tea-drinker the tea selection (Lipton black tea) was disappointing. Being a five-star hotel there's a nightly turn-down service with complimentary cookies. The only design fault is the lack of a power point near any mirror (those who like to blow-dry their hair will understand my grumble).
Penang, with its glorious fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine, is considered one of Asia's most exciting food destinations. The newly revamped Cinnamon restaurant (open all day) serves up street snacks such as Penang Char Koay Teow, crowd-pleasers like satay chicken kebabs and Chinese specialty Hainanease chicken rice. The emphasis is on fresh ingredients and authentic flavours. Uncle Zac By The Beach is the place for sunset seafood and tapas, while poolside Cool Bananas offers up Western-style snacks (with plans under way to upgrade to a casual Italian eatery).
With its enviable beachside location you don't have to go far for activities such as parasailing, fishing and banana boat rides, or head out each evening for the night markets. Take a short bus trip to Penang National Park, Tropical Spice Garden or Escape Adventure Park (the bus stop is out the front, and costs 1.40 ringgit a sector). You'll need a full day to explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed George Town, with its shophouses, temples, street eats and street art. Don't miss Penang Hill with the newly opened Canopy Walk at The Habitat.
Refurbished and refreshed, Parkroyal Penang Resort is ideal for anyone looking for a resort-style break smack on the beach.
Parkroyal Penang Resort, Penang. Premier Seaview rooms start from MYR720 a night. Phone +60 4 886 2288 or 1800 192 144. See parkroyalhotels.com/Malaysia/Penang
Parkroyal Penang Resort looks and feels new, but benefits from loyal, long-term staff, who are all ever willing to go the extra mile.
No bathtubs in any room category.
Kerry van der Jagt travelled as a guest of Parkroyal Penang Resort.