Monday, 30 April 2012

Where to Stay and Eat in Penang

UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a reputation for the best street food in Malaysia (including Penang Assam Laksa making CNN's Top 10 list of the World's Most Delicious Foods), laid back island life, green hills and sea vistas, Penang is sprouting with things to do, see and eat. With a range of accommodation popping up all over and new upscale eateries launching every week, everyone will find a bed and a dish to make themselves happy. Less than an hour flight from KL or a four hour drive, this tasty location is an ideal weekend escape. Click on the links below to find out more details about individual establishments.

Where to Stay in Penang
Campbell House

Rasa Sayang - Batu Feringgi. Acres of majestic gardens celebrating nature and centuries old trees, superior five star service and admirable attempts at being a socially responsible corporation. A first class experience.

Straits Collection, Armenian St. Residences - Georgetown. Chic, rustic, artistic, in central heritage location. Spacious living areas make it ideal for families or those wanting a bit more space or longer stay.

Campbell House - Georgetown. Boutique hotellery at its finest. Luxurious accommodation well suited for a couple's getaway.

Hard Rock Hotel - Batu Feringgi. Fun, fun, fun! Be sure to book a Deluxe Lagoon room where you can dive off your deck straight into the pool.
Hard Rock Hotel

Rasa Sayang
Straits Collection
Where to Eat in Penang
While known for its street food, Penang is teaming with newly opened more upscale eateries.

Spasso Milano
Weissbrau - Wholesome porky meals, nothing artificial, no chemicals. Must try their pork knuckle, seamen's mussels and ice cold beer.

Feringgi Grill
Spasso Milano - A real Milanese chef and al fresco dining by the marina.

Feringgi Grill - Must do the tasting menu and if you have room order their 25 year old specialities - table service tomato soup and caesar salad.

Tree Monkey - Don't leave the island without a visit. Thai tapas and thrilling cocktails in the tree tops.

Il Bacaro - Venetian style tapas and home made limoncello.

Hard Rock Cafe - Rockin' ambience, juicy burgers, giant sized meals
Tree Monkey
Il Bacaro

Hard Rock Cafe
Irawaddy Fine Foods

Irawaddy Fine Foods - NY style deli. Probably the only place on the island you can get a Classic NY toasted Reuban Sandwich.

Pizzeria @ Hard Rock Hotel - Wood fired pizzas by the sea and a humble chef with a heart warming story

China House - Georgetown. Espresso based coffees brewed by trained baristas and home made cakes. Live jazz Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. 
China House

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Hard Rock Hotel, Batu Ferinnghi, Penang, Malaysia

Welcome drinks and memorabilia

Say hello to The Beatles

The unmistakable entrance

 Although it's right on the beach, we hardly left the hotel
 Shady deck chairs under the trees and by the pool

 Big kids and little kids are taken care of with a Kids' Club and Teen Room + Rock n' Roll Rickshaw 

 The Sunset Stage is available for hire for private functions - the most popular time is evenings when the sun goes down and you benefit from salty sea breezes and burnt sunsets
 Diversion - all day and into the night

 The view from our room - dive straight off your deck into the pool - why would you want to leave?
From some rooms you can swim up to the bar
 Sundowners in Kings' Club

 Breakfast in the executive lounge, Kings' Club, top floor
 French Toast with Caramelized Banana

 Entertainment for the kids
Entertainment for the adults

 Feel like a rock star in The Rock Spa
 View from the foot reflexology lounge
 The Deluxe Lagoon Rooms all have direct access to the pool - different positions along the pool cater to various needs - get the far end for a quieter couples room, the middle section for kids as they can dive out and swim straight across to the giant water spurting adventure playground and kids' club and to the left of the lobby lounge to be able to swim up to the pool bar

Fun, fun, fun! Hard Rock Hotel on Batu Feringgi, Penang has to be the most happy and convivial place to stay on the island. I have to admit, with my tail between my legs, that when hubby suggested it, I quickly turned my nose up, snuffing it as an overly commercial gimmick. As much as I dislike putting this in writing, "I was wrong." Our weekend getaway at Hard Rock Hotel in Penang is one of the best vacations I've had. Catering for everyone with a range of accommodation, eateries and activities, even snooty nosed travelers like myself will be pleased. 

Starting with the lodging. You must stay in a Deluxe Lagoon Room. With direct pool access you dive off your balcony straight into the enormous, three Olympic sized, pool. For couples stay at the far end for a quieter more private experience. Families should stay in the middle rooms near the lobby where children can swim across to the action packed recreation area and Lil' Rock Kids' Club. For the sloshes amongst us, stay on the other side of the lobby where you can paddle directly across to the swim up bar, The Shack. All are technologically pimped out with DVD/CD players, LCD TVs, iPod docking stations, wi-fi and interactive TV. The Sleep Like a Rock bedding will have you doing just that and the small guitar insignias, song lyrics and cleverly worded information will keep astounding you at the amount of effort that has gone into branding every detail.

Tummies will be satisfied by any number of outlets. Chef Joe will cook you up one of his famous wood fired pizzas for lunch or dinner at the Pizzeria, or you could amble across to the Hard Rock Cafe for USA size classic diner meals. Many room packages come with breakfast included at Starz Diner, which is ideal if you have a mob of kids and are tired of pompous places shaking their fingers at children being children. If you'd like a more refined atmosphere pay a small amount extra and take your breakfast, a free flow of non-alcoholic drinks, tea and coffee throughout the day, and cocktails, wine or beer with a light spread during the evening cocktail hour, all with striking coastal views, in the King's Club on the top floor. For the thirsty, an extensive cocktails list is available from all outlets. You can even splash up to The Shack and have your thirst quenched while wading in the pool.  

All ages are taken care of with entertainment too. Wander the site and remember your youth with over 500 pieces of original rock n' roll memorabilia. Body Rock Gym and the Stylista Coiffure will have you looking like a rock star. While the Lobby Lounge and adjacent Hard Rock Cafe, with it's nightly live music and tremendous drink list, will have you partying like one. Little kids and big ones are spoiled for choice with a daily schedule of activities at Lil'Rock Kids and Teens Clubs. While the young ones are occupied, adults can be pampered in the Rock Spa with any number of treatments. We luxuriated on the spa's balcony in oversized lounges while having our feet rubbed by trained reflexologists savouring the cool sea breeze and tropical paradise scenery. And then there's the pool! 26 000 square feet of free form swimming magnificence. With that much space you can choose: a more subdued end to sun yourself or lay about in a deck chair; the action packed centre with toys, dance classes & all day entertainment; the beach pool section dragging your feet through the sandy bottom; or chill at the bar watching the crowd, cocktail in hand. 

With the constant rock ambient music, Hard Rock Hotel is a place where people bop around humming with a spring in their step and a swing in the hip. Lip synching is a wide spread habit and the vivacious staff live by the mantra, "Love All. Serve All." 

Reason to visit: It's soooo much fun! Chef Joe's pizza, magnificent pool, Deluxe Lagoon Rooms, toe tapping rock n' roll

Hard Rock Hotel
Batu Feringghi

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hard Rock Cafe, Batu Feringghi, Penang, Malaysia

You can't miss the entrance
Dining tables are cleared later in the evening to make way for some hip swinging and toe tapping to the nightly rock n' roll band 
Acts change regularly and special guests are a frequent feature - this band from KL gave an hour show before the house band came on

Cocktails - yes please - X Ray Hypnotist and the famous Hurricane (pay a small amount extra and you get to keep the glass)
Legendary 10 Ounce Burger - 42RM - seasoned bacon, juicy patty, cheddar cheese, crisp fried onion rings, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and crunchy fries

Famous Fajita Trio - 50 RM - shrimp, beef, chicken, pico de gallo, shredded Jack & cheddar cheeses, fresh guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, hot tortillas

Your feet start tapping from the moment you enter Hard Rock Cafe. If a live bland isn't playing, some energetic ambience music will be. Everyone, patrons and staff alike, seem to be in a constant state of motion, either doing the chicken with their head, shaking their foot, lip synching or jumping about letting it all hang out on the dance floor.

Glancing around the walls it's easy to believe you're in a museum of music, because you are! Hard Rock Cafe and Hotel Penang have over 500 pieces of original rock n' roll memorabilia. Time is transformed as you wander around gazing at the guitars and clothing imagining your beloved stars belting out their chart topping hits. Friday and Saturday nights draw large crowds but you can come any day of the week to benefit from some thumping beats from bands around the region. Hard Rock Cafe also presents international artists and recently played host to a slew of performers for the Penang World Music Festival.

The menu sees some hearty meals on offer with their burgers, ribs and fajitas being the most ordered. Come with a giant's appetite, or plan to share, as portions are full USA diner style sizes - grand! Both the meals we tried got a thumbs up for freshness, taste and quantity. We stayed three hours bopping to the music, sipping from a serious cocktail and liquor list and attempting to finish what we ordered. Some say the burgers are the best on the island and we just might be inclined to agree.

Reason to visit: rockin' ambience, juicy burgers, enormous meals

Hard Rock Hotel
Batu Feringghi