With more than ten direct flights from Singapore each day, visiting the city of Penang is a great way to spend the weekend. Prior to my flight out of Singapore, I dropped by the Plaza Premium Lounge (which I get complimentary access to due to my credit card) in Terminal 1 of the Changi Airport for some breakfast. While I really enjoyed my previous stay in the beautiful Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang, I wanted to stay somewhere closer to the city this time and so it was between The Eastern & Oriental Hotel and the G Hotel Kelawai (which is different from the G Hotel Gurney that most travelers are familiar with.
Getting from the airport to the hotel was easy and while the hotel did offer a number of affordable airport transfer options, I ended up booking from a private airport transfer company (approximately MYR 90) as they had the vehicle I wanted. However, if you are looking for the most fuss-free and affordable method, I would definitely recommend getting a GrabCar (approximately MYR 30) from the airport especially since they are legalised in Malaysia now.
Located between the Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon, the G Hotel Kelawai is only a short stroll away from Gurney Drive - a famous street where roadside iron chefs gather to showcase the street food that Penang is famous for. In fact, there is even a dedicated buggy and driver that is located outside the hotel that will take you to surrounding points of interest (this includes the Gurney Drive) for free! Granted it is slightly touristy (it reminds me of the Newton Food Centre in Singapore), the food over here at the Gurney Drive is infinitely better than what you can generally get at an average hawker centre back home. Since I visited the G Hotel Kelawai with my family, I actually had a reservation for two rooms - the crème de la crème of the property, the Premier Suite, as well as the Executive Premier room (second best room category).
I arrived at the G Hotel Kelawai at approximately 2PM and upon checking-in, the receptionist realised that I have booked a Premier Suite and the Executive Premier room which gives access to the Executive Lounge. As such, I was quickly given the option to enjoy a private check-in experience at the Executive Lounge instead. It is definitely worth highlighting again that the G Hotel Kelawai is a separate and different property to the G Hotel Gurney even though hotel guests do enjoy cross-usage and signing facilities across both properties.
There are only two Premier Suites here at the G Hotel Kelawai and I had the pleasure of staying in one - my understanding is that the two suites have a contrasting layout and they are slightly different from each other. Truth to be told, one of the main reasons that I picked the Premier Suite over at the G Hotel Kelawai over the Corner Suite at The Eastern & Oriental Hotel is the bathroom (more on this later!) and how modern the entire suite looks. With 81sqm of beautifully-appointed space, the Premier Suite feels a lot more like a luxurious home than a hotel. The first thing I noticed about the Premier Suite is the beautiful living room and the incredibly large sofa where I spent a lot of time on - there is something different about watching that huge 55-inch TV while lying on the sofa versus lying in bed.
The Premier Suite also comes with a small pantry area where you will find a minibar (the contents of which are complimentary for your consumption), a wash basin, a water kettle, glassware and plenty to empty cupboards and drawers. While I did like how the Premier Suite comes with a small pantry area, I was surprised that there were in fact no bowls, plates or cutlery in them. I bought food back from Gurney Drive on one evening and had to have disposable plates and cutlery sent up - something that could have been avoided if they were placed in the cupboards and drawers from the start.
Since I mentioned that I would be celebrating my mom's birthday over the weekend, the team was also kind enough to arrange for a huge birthday cake and a bottle of wine to be placed in the Premier Suite. The dining table in the Premier Suite is a nice touch and it can fit up to four adults comfortably - this is also one of the many perks for staying in the G Hotel Kelawai (you do not have to eat at Gurney Drive if you wish to avoid the heat and crowd).
There is also a large work desk here by the living room which comes with an ergonomic Herman Miller designer work chair and an adjustable table lamp. I would imagine most Singaporeans who come over to Penang over the weekends would probably not bring much (if any) work along with them, but in the event you do, the sizeable work desk here is conducive enough for you to get things done. Complimentary high-speed WiFi is also provided throughout the hotel - advertising high-speed internet is something that a lot of business hotels overpromise but it is great to see the G Hotel Kelawai living up to expectations. WiFi coverage and speed is excellent here - it works without a hitch!
The bedroom of the Premier Suite is connected to the living room (separable by a sliding door) and it features an incredibly comfortable Serta mattress (one that I slept so soundly in), another huge 55-inch smart HD LED TV, a huge wardrobe (including a semi-private walk-in area), a safe and plenty of space to store your belongings. I love how understated and elegant the entire suite looks - the deep dark grey and the accentuation of brighter colours helped to create a modern yet contemporary looking space that is perfect for lounging in at any time of the day.
The Serta mattress is also a dream to sleep in and I dare say it is one of my favourite beds so far. One thing that I do at the hotels I visit is to check out which brand of mattress they use in the bedrooms. Reading lamps and light controls are also accessible from the bed - there is nothing more annoying than having to get out of bed just to switch off a light when you are all comfortable under the blanket.
While the bedroom in the Premier Suite that I was in did not come with a view of the sea (that would have been perfect!), you can see the surrounding group of peaks from the comfort of your bedroom. You will also find both a day and night curtain here so there will be no issues in terms of rest - you can sleep in darkness at any time of the day! Premier Suites are also located at the end of the corridors in the corner and more importantly, the living room area acts as noise buffers so you can be certain of a good night's sleep.
As I have mentioned earlier in the article, one of the key reasons why I picked the Premier Suite here at the G Hotel Kelawai over the more famous Eastern & Oriental Hotel is the bathroom right here. I love the monochrome theme and that ladder at the end of the room (which reminds me of the iconic ladder in W Taipei). One thing that could have made this otherwise-perfect bathroom better would probably be the installation of a double sink (there is plenty of room for that!).
Bath amenities throughout the G Hotel Kelawai are provided by the eco-friendly APPELLES Apothecary & Lab from Australia (I first encountered this brand in Sydney when I visited back in 2015). Interestingly though, it appears that only the Premier Suites get the specially bottled packaging as photographed above. As I was traveling with my family, we also booked the Executive Premier room (which is the second highest category of rooms here at the G Hotel Kelawai) and the amenities were given in a squeeze tube packaging (which I prefer) instead.
Expect to find a deep-soaking standalone tub here as well in the Premier Suite - bath salts are also provided here but oddly they were not scented (they just looked like pink Himalayan salt). The water pressure here is great and the tub filled up pretty quickly. In the photo above, you will also notice two other doors - the left one leads to a massive shower area and the other one leads to the toilet.
In case you were wondering what the Executive Premier room looks like, the photos above should give you a really good idea. Measuring 45sqm, the second-best room in this property is not small at all - the stylish room and optimised layout actually gives such a great sense of space that it feels a lot bigger than what it is. Guests staying in Executive Premier rooms will also have access to the Executive Lounge and will be able to enjoy the benefits of being an Executive guest (more on this later!).
One of the greatest perks of having Executive Lounge access is complimentary (alcoholic) drinks and food in the evening. This is especially valuable in cities where alcohol prices are comparatively higher and if you do enjoy a tipple or two in the evening, you would be amazed at how much upgrading your room can save you. From 6:00PM to 8:00PM daily, guests with access to the Executive Lounge will be able to enjoy a selection of wines and beers alongside some light snacks and canapés. While I have seen blogs and websites stating that the lounge serves Champagne, I can confirm that what they do serve is an Australian sparkling varietal instead - nothing wrong with that but Champagne-lovers like me are awfully pedantic and picky.
There is also a selection of hot and cold food on the buffet spread - while the hot food is limited, I really did enjoy the mussels on the first night that I was there. You can also expect to find a small salad counter, cold cuts, cheeses and dessert on offer. Remember if you are still feeling hungry after 8:00PM (when the free-flowing alcohol stops), you can always take a short stroll to Gurney Drive for that famous fried oyster omelette!
If you are up for it, the G Hotel Kelawai is also home to one of the coolest rooftop bars in Penang where you can groove to music, sip on your beverage and take in the sights from a vantage point - check out the famous Rainbow Margarita if you are looking for an Instagram-worthy beverage!
The next morning, a full buffet breakfast is served at the G Hotel Kelawai's all-day dining restaurant, Spoon Cafe. Located on level 2 of the hotel, the restaurant enjoys plenty of natural light in the day and it looks stunning! There are also little pockets of space which makes it relatively private for families and couples looking to enjoy a quiet breakfast.
Breakfast is served here at Spoon Cafe from 6:30AM every morning and since I am generally an early-riser, the restaurant was relatively quiet and empty when I got in around 8:00AM. There is quite an extensive selection of dishes here and you can expect to find a 'live' egg station that will prepare eggs to the way you like as well as a range of local delights like nasi lemak, curries and even roti canai. Those of you with a preference for cereals and seemingly healthier options will also be able to find it here at a separate table.
Since I spent two nights over at the G Hotel Kelawai, I took the opportunity the other morning to check out the breakfast selection over at the Executive Lounge. While the lounge does open from 6:30AM to 10:00PM daily, breakfast is also served here for guests staying in Executive Rooms and Suites. The selection is definitely a lot smaller than what Spoon Cafe has to offer but you do get the undivided attention of the lounge staff here - eggs can also be ordered here but as far as I know, there is no a la carte menu that guests can order from (something that I also think can be improved with time). I did find the quality of food here to be of a slightly more superior quality and I would recommend having a light breakfast at the lounge as you would want to leave some room in your stomach for all the delicious food outside of the hotel as well.
The G Hotel Kelawai has a rooftop infinity pool that is actually large enough to swim in - you can easily do a couple of laps here! There is also a well-equipped gym located one floor below the pool and the Executive Lounge and it is actually accessible throughout our stay (24 hours) so long you have your keycard. Bicycles (G Cycle) are also available at the hotel for guests wanting to explore the area on wheels. If you need to get something printed (complimentary!) or if you do not have your laptop with you, the G Hotel Kelawai also has a Business Centre where hotel guests are able to access with their keycard.
You might already know this but the G Hotel Kelawai is not a seafront property but on some levels, you are able to enjoy the view of the ocean on one side and the bustling city on the other.
While the G Hotel Gurney does seem to have a stronger reputation and higher awareness, I do feel that the G Hotel Kelawai deserves a lot more recognition. The interiors of the rooms and suites here are beautiful and incredibly modern, the location of the property allows for travellers to enjoy a wide selection of hawker food over at Gurney Drive and in the event where you wish to drop by a shopping mall, you have both at your doorstep - there is even a dedicated buggy driver who will take you there if you do not wish to walk at all. If you are not at all encouraged to stay in Batu Feringgi, look past the E&O and check out the G Hotel Kelawai instead - the rates are comparatively lower and the rooms look infinitely better.