Clove Hall

Georgetown, Penang & Pangkor, Malaysia Book from RM575

Feel the colonial splendour of old Penang in a beautifully restored, tranquil guesthouse
A gentlemen’s club in the 50s, this colonial mansion and outbuildings in a residential part of Georgetown were left to the termites for decades before being reclaimed and restored to, if anything more, than their former glory. Impeccable workmanship and care went into the conversion, and Jo and Jim Lim are now the proud owners of its 6 suites, cream walls, chocolate-brown rafters, great stone pillars, antique tile floors, open archways and lazily spinning ceiling fans. A tranquil swimming pool, fringed with ginger bushes, offers refreshment after a hard day’s sightseeing. Birds twitter in the tropical foliage as you rest on your flagstone veranda or recline on your silk-covered Chinese daybed before striking out again into UNESCO-listed Penang, full of heritage and history and one of Asia’s foodie heavens.

Furniture comes from India, China and Sri Lanka, including some colonial antiques, all assembled in the best possible taste. And if the operation is just a fraction short of the extra attention to your creature comforts that makes a truly great hotel, the abundance of things to do outside will mean you hardly notice it.

Highs

  • A taste of colonial tradition, beautifully restored
  • Friendly hosts who make everyone feel welcome, and friendly, discreet, helpful staff
  • Elegant spacious suites cosset you with four-poster beds and big bathtubs; just 6 of them ensures an intimate feel
  • The pool, a rare boon in Georgetown, in a lovely garden setting
  • The knowledgeably designed restaurant guide, which effectively makes the great local restaurant scene part of your accommodation

Lows

  • No fridge or bottle openers in the rooms, and no bar. Drinks are served 24 hours a day, but having to ask for everything means your suite feels less like a home from home than it might
  • You're not in the bustling centre of Georgetown (a plus for some) and the location isn't very interesting in the daytime, plus walking to the main sites is arduous. Rent a scooter or taxis are cheap and easily arranged
  • Children are not permitted to stay in the Hall Suites, though they are very welcome throughout the rest of the property
  • No rooms can be made up as twins, but an extra bed can be provided on request in some rooms

Best time to go

May to October is best. It rains hard from November to January, and February can be unbearably hot. But whenever you come you should expect stifling heat and some rain - this is a tropical island so the monsoon is more or less permanent.

Our top tips

Bring an international driver’s licence, comfortable shoes for walking, and for the tender-skinned a sunhat. Most will want to be here for a minimum of 2 days, but 4 or 5 days will do nicely; much longer and you’ll suffer some kind of syndrome. Or bracket a beach holiday in Langkawi or Phuket with a couple of days each end here.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 6
  • Breakfast only
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Ginger

Rooms

There are 6 gorgeous suites in total, 3 Hall Suites in the Main House, and 3 Garden Suites in the garden's converted outbuildings.

At the top of the stairs in the Main House, Saffron and Cardamom are mirror images of each other, with four-posters and handsome old rolltop desks from India. Both have airy balconies with table and colonial planter’s chairs. One overlooks the drive and a big tree, the other the pool. At the back they have compact bathrooms with rainshowers. Cinnamon is similar, with an attractive suite of cane furniture in the reception part, but lacks a balcony. Instead, it gets the master view over the front. Suites in the Main House are more like standard hotel rooms than those in the outbuildings but no worse for that, especially for people like me with a neurotic aversion to sleeping on the ground floor.

Of the Garden Suites, Star Anise is a new addition in the Sino-Portuguese shophouse style. A drawing room with an old display cabinet full of blue-and-white china, antique sideboard, armchair and silk-covered Chinese daybed takes up the downstairs, decorated like all the rooms with almost-sepia tint (in fact brown paper) prints of vieux Penang. Steep stairs lead to a cosy bedroom with generous four-poster and 2 adjacent cells, one for the rain shower, which is also open to the monsoon, and one for the loo, which isn’t.

Innocuous from the outside, Clove is in fact the biggest suite, taking up all of the former garage and then some. Surrounded by a stone veranda, its 800 sq.ft are divided into living and sleeping area by an Edwardian partition. At the end lies a vast bathroom, open to the elements and foliage one side, with a bathtub that seats (at a guess) 6 and a separate shower cubicle for easily as many people again.

The second-largest room, Ginger, also in the grounds off the pool, has its own little garden, making it by far the most private realm. A single airy studio space under exposed rafters, its best feature is a sprawling built-in seating area. The double bed rests on its own stone platform, and the bathroom has a vast bathtub.

Most necessities for a comfortably private stay are provided, including a large LCD TV with satellite channels. In the rain shower bathrooms there's fruity shampoo and shower gel from Thailand. You also get a couple of the usual kimono-style bathrobes, for once in a reasonable size for the European male.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Mosquito net
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast is taken in the hall on the airy ground floor or the terrace of the Main House, adjacent to the pool area. A plate of fruit is followed by a choice of eggs, bacon and toast, French toast or muesli, with coffee or tea - all served on delicate blue and white china. A delicious Asian breakfast can be ordered in advance; any request can be catered for.

Complimentary afternoon tea is available daily from 4-5pm - a welcome treat after a day's exploring - but that’s it. Although, you can expressly arrange a dinner party with fine cuisine served on period china at the long antique dining table, or arrange for a takeaway to be delivered to eat in one night (for an additional charge).

Instead, and wisely, the owners have drawn their environment into the operation by providing a map of surrounding restaurants, none more than 10 minutes’ walk away, and can make helpful recommendations. While the neighbourhood lies well beyond the Heritage Site and the buffer zone, it still has plenty of lanes of pre-war shophouses, with interesting places to eat in almost every other one, many of them catering to the local middle class and therefore the best in town.

Features include:

  • Afternoon tea
  • Breakfast
  • Cooking classes
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity: Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Activities

  • Sightseeing: a Unesco World Heritage Site, Penang has some of the best of everything, from proud colonial villas to Chinese and Hindu temples, all brought together in a handy compact location - be sure to visit the indigo-blue Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion which encapsulates the cultural diversity of Georgetown. But its great contribution to vernacular architecture is the shophouse, so the shophouse museum (Penang World Heritage Inc. at the end of Armenian Street), with its timelines and scale models, makes an indispensable starting point. It’s free and usually deserted, which just goes to show. The hotel provides a map of the sights
  • Further afield, have a look at Penang Hill, a colonial Hill Station straight out of Somerset Maugham, with a nice café for afternoon tea with scones and cream, and oddly pokey, suburban bungalows from the 1920s. The funicular rail is closed, so you have to take a four-wheel drive from the Botanic Gardens
  • The best way to get around is to rent a scooter (from any shop on Chulia Street) as taxis can be difficult to spot after dark on these roads. Bring your international driver’s license: Malaysia is an orderly country. Or book the hotel's SUV for the day or evening
  • Or take a guided tour arranged by Clove Hall, to go antiques shopping, explore the local markets, or discover heritage enclaves and artisan workshops; if your visit coincides with a local festival such as Nine Emperor God, Hungry Ghost Festival, or Thaipusam they'll show you the sights. Their concierge services extend to arranging trips to the beach (Batu Ferringhi is the most popular), boat trips, scuba diving and snorkelling, horse riding and cooking classes
  • Back at the hotel, lie by the pool; relax with an in-room massage; take a private yoga lesson (book in advance); get some clothes made up by a local dressmaker (ask for details)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming

Kids

Children are welcome in the Garden Suites only, so that tired little ones don't detract from the romantic atmosphere of the Hall Suites. This also provides families with more space and privacy.

Kids will enjoy splashing in the pool and exploring the grounds, but this isn't the ideal environment for them with antiques everywhere and a tranquil ambiance.

Family friendly accommodation:

Families are welcome in the 3 Garden Suites: Clove is the largest and has a huge bathtub the whole family could enjoy, Ginger has its own little garden and is the most private.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly: Batu Ferringhi

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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