The Eastern & Oriental Hotel within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site is among the finest hotels in Southeast Asia. It was founded in 1885 by the famous Armenian brothers, the Sarkies, who would go on to establish The Raffles Hotel in Singapore and The Strand in Yangon.
With its colonial architecture, excellent service, luxurious rooms and restaurants, the hotel also comes highly recommended for fine dining in the heart of George Town. In addition, the hotel has the world's longest sea-front lawn. It is also within easy reach of George Town's nightlife precint around Upper Penang Road.
The Sarkies brothers, Martin, Tigran, Aviet and Arshak, were among the early Armenian economic refugees who originated from Isfahan, Persia (now Iran). In the 1880s, the Sarkies developed a new fusion of Eurasian hospitality by establishing elegant hotels in George Town, Singapore and Yangon. These hotels were among the finest in Asia at the time and dominated the hospitality business for the next five decades. Their background as merchants and their lack of experience in the hospitality business actually helped them to create a new vision of the needs of potential guests, untainted by the prevailing notions at the time.
Although Martin Sarkies, an engineer, had settled in George Town since 1869, it was Tigran Sarkies who first ventured into the hospitality trade. In 1885, the Sarkies met the Khaw family in Bangkok to persuade them to establish a hotel on Penang Island. The Khaws had built a large mansion at Light Street in 1884, and subsequently constructed Hotel de l'Europe on the seafront at Farquhar Street. Tigran Sarkies took over the lease of the mansion at Light Street in 1884 and renamed it the Eastern Hotel, while both Tigran and Martin acquired Hotel de l'Europe in 1885 and renamed it the Oriental Hotel.
Tigran was responsible for the management of the Oriental, while Martin ran the Eastern. Their younger brother, Aviet, joined them as a manager of the Eastern Hotel. By 1889, the renovation of the Oriental Hotel was completed. The Sarkies then decided to let go of the Eastern Hotel, but did not want to lose the goodwill and familiarity of its name. So, they renamed the Oriental Hotel as the Eastern & Oriental Hotel . Today, the original Eastern & Oriental Hotel, which was formerly Hotel de l'Europe, is known as the 'Heritage Wing'.
The merger of both Eastern and Oriental Hotels created one of the most elegant hotels in Southeast Asia. At the time, it was said to be "The Premier Hotel East of Suez". To this day, it boasts a 902-foot long seafront lawn, the longest of its kind in the world.
However, the success of the hotel soon led to a rental hike, as the landlord realised the increase in the value of his properties. The Sarkies had to scour the region for more reasonable opportunities, while maintaining their management of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. In 1887, they founded The Raffles Hotel at Beach Road in downtown Singapore.
In the meantime, the landlord in George Town decided to persuade the Sarkies to stay, as their talents as hoteliers were indispensable. An agreement was reached between both parties and the Sarkies found themselves in the possession of two hotels - one in George Town and another in Singapore. Under Arshak Sarkies, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel was expanded several times up to 1929.
The hotel struggled against intense competition in the decades after World War 2. In 1996, the hotel management closed it down for major reconstruction works. Although the Heritage Wing was restored, the rest of the hotel, including the easternmost 1929 'New Wing', were either gutted and refurbished, or completely reconstructed in the style of the hotel's older architectural design.
Under its new owner, the E&O Group, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel was reopened in 2001. In 2013, a new larger wing, called the 'Victory Annexe', was launched.
Since its inception in the 1880s, many dignitaries and famous personalities have stayed inside the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. Among them are :
- Sir Noël Coward, a British playwright
- Rudyard Kipling, a British novelist, poet and author of 'The Jungle Book'
- W. Somerset Maugham, a British author
- Charlie Chaplin, a silent-film actor
- Karl May, a German author and poet
- Hermann Hesse, a Nobel Prize in Literature winner
- Douglas Fairbanks, a Hollywood actor between 1910 and the 1920s
- Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China
- Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore
- Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei
Water Limousine Service
*All prices are quoted in Malaysian Ringgit (RM).
The Lady Martina Water Limousine Service shuttles along the shores of George Town between the Eastern & Oriental Hotel and Straits Quay within the suburb of Tanjung Tokong. Rides are available between Tuesdays and Sundays. Each ticket costs RM10. In-house guests can purchase tickets at the Bombay Shop.
Penang State Government
N.26 Padang Kota State Assemblyman : Chow Kon Yeow (Democratic Action Party)
Malaysian Federal Parliament
P.049 Tanjong Member of Parliament : Ng Wei Aik (Democratic Action Party)
- Hockton, K., Howard Tan, 2012. Penang : An Inside Guide to Its Historic Homes, Buildings, Monuments and Parks. MPH Group, Kuala Lumpur.