8 things I learnt from staying in a Penang resort hotel for two weeks

I am not known as the kind of traveller who stays in a resort hotel. In fact, I’ve only ever bought a “resort package” style holiday once, on a last-minute trip to Egypt just after I’d arrived in Germany to work, but was promptly given two weeks off as all the students were going on holiday too!

When I was figuring out our accommodation for our fortnight in Penang earlier this year to visit a local friend, she quite accurately and quickly surmised that I would not be wanting to stay in the typical kind of resort that most Aussies would visit while spending part of their summer in Penang, so she agreed that a hotel a bit closer to George Town would work. It wasn’t a luxury resort but it was still not quite the kind of place I usually stay in – I guess the easiest way to describe it is as a “cheaper” resort. Most of the other guests were from countries like China, India, eastern Europe, Russia, plus a lot from other parts of Malaysia. And this was definitely fine by me, although it did mean my little blonde Aussie/German boy got quite a lot of attention (not something he’s really into).

8 things I learnt from staying in a resort in Penang

Anyway, staying in this semi-resort for a full two weeks was a really unusual travel experience for me. And I learnt a lot, both good and bad. Including all this:

1. Having a beautiful view actually is a very cool thing

I have no idea what possessed me to do this, but when I was making the booking, I could pay just a little extra and upgraded to a room higher up with a view. Paying extra for something unnecessary is very unlike me, but I was so glad I did. Even now if I see one of the numerous photos I took of our view, it physically makes me smile.

2. A non-isolated resort is an essential for me

If I’m going to be in a resort-ish place then it has to be one that has life around it. Because we were halfway between the real tourist zone and the city, our hotel was in what I can best describe as “Penang suburbia”. There were a few other hotels on (our) beach side of the road, but crossing the road (despite being slightly scary at times, with a three-year-old in tow) took us to fruit stalls, hawker centres, small restaurants, convenience stores, bakeries and more. Plus the feel that we were, to some extent, actually mingling with the locals.

3. Multicultural guests make me feel better

I have nothing against native English speakers – I mean, I am one! – but when I am travelling in a foreign country I don’t want to feel surrounded by them. I could just stay at home then! The multicultural nature of the guests at our hotel made me feel much more like I was travelling, and of course made it more interesting, too.

4. Resort breakfasts get boring

They had all kinds of great stuff here. I can still remember the thrill I felt as I arrived at the buffet the first two or three mornings. And they did rotate all the dishes so it was never the same breakfast. But it was kind of the same. And once my son and I figured out the stuff that we really liked, it got really the same. Weirdly, at home I can eat the same muesli every day for approximately 27 years and not get bored with it, but these hotel breakfasts did start to get a bit repetitive. Even the thrill of a croissant and jam with a side of cucumber slices and a serve of juice (several of his favourite foods) got too much for my son after a week.

8 things I learnt from staying in a resort in Penang

My son’s favourite breakfast at our Penang hotel

5. I am not good at complaining

This was something I only realised after I got home. After the first couple of nights, I ditched the hotel-supplied pillow and slept on a rolled up jumper, because their pillows were way too big. Did it occur to me to just ask the hotel staff if they had some smaller pillows? No, of course not. I’m not very good at stuff like that because I feel uncomfortable about the guest-staff relationship – I don’t want to highlight any kind of superiority in that relationship, or something. I think that’s why I like hostels and budget hotels better, because if they don’t want to help you they’ll just say so – at a more resort-style place they will try and that makes me feel weird!

6. Yet I do love having my room cleaned each day

Oh, this was kind of blissful. While it was sometimes somewhat tricky to pack away whatever entertainment my son had devised for himself, it was beautiful to come back to a freshly-made bed and a sparkling room. (Although on the one occasion when they forgot to leave any towels for us to use, I hated having to call housekeeping and ask for them!!)

7. I became temporarily addicted to newspapers again

It is a long time since I have bought a newspaper, although I do flick through the Saturday papers my mother saves for us to use under our cat litter tray (probably the best place for them). However, one more bonus of our hotel choice was that our room included an English-language Malaysian daily newspaper and it was fascinating. I devoured it every day and learnt about things like the main nationalities of housemaids and other hired help and the debate over giving them a weekly day off, and that Malaysia had rated third best in a study of great countries for Americans to retire to

8. Popping down to the swimming pool each afternoon is not a bad thing

I’m always a bit critical of those people who go on holidays and then spend most of the time in the pool. (I know. Sue me. But if I wanted to swim every day I would just stay home – I live in a hot place. If I go somewhere else, I want to SEE it.) But being in a resort-style hotel with a nice swimming pool did make it kind of tempting – as did the warm weather. And, of course, the fact that my son was constantly begging to go swimming. We certainly didn’t go every day because sometimes our excursions and sightseeing adventures took all day, but if we took a break back at the hotel, we got dressed and went down. The other thing I noticed: most of the hotel guests didn’t actually *swim* – they just lazed around by the pool. Surely that didn’t help them cool down?

So, would I book a resort-style hotel again?

Oh, the million-dollar question. Probably, yes. But with the caveats I used this time – not a “real” resort that’s more self-contained and too far away from the main drag of a place. While my son is young, having breakfast handily on site is a definite bonus (although self-catering accommodation allows for this too and is still probably my preference), and a good swimming pool in a hot destination is very welcome. But I’m definitely not turning away from my preferred more budget-style accommodation. What about you?


  1. I’ll put aside the fact that I’m SOOO jealous. Some great points here… and I agree that free breakfasts aren’t always fab. LOVE being addicted to newspapers… but that’s the journo me!

    • Haha apologies for the jealous thing Emily!! Unfortunately the newspaper addiction hasn’t carried on since I got back to Oz though …

  2. Love the story! Two things resonate with me:
    1. Not being able to ask or tell staff what you need… maybe this comes with age! I remember being very like you and not wanting to upset them, but somewhere I got over that and the world did NOT cave in. In fact the stay wherever it was improved dramatically!
    2. I have only realised on this caravan trip that I am in fact addicted to newspapers – well one specifically really – the Weekend Australian. I buy it on Saturday, divide it up, and finish it about Thursday. I think it’s the variety and quality of articles, and having a break from reading the latest “news” online (often just sensational rubbish). In Cooktown, I was so distressed when the newsagent ran out of the WA really early, that he sold me a local’s saved copy!! I must have looked desperate hey.

    • Thanks Ginny! I wonder if #1 will improve for me in the coming years then … perhaps! And on #2 – oh, I used to love the Weekend Australian! Somewhere along the line (probably birth of Mr-now-4) I stopped buying it because it sat on the table unread, but I should try again.

  3. Amanda I love this, I actually “lol’d” reading it…when we go on holidays we ALWAYS stay at fancy smancy resorts & I never thought how silly that is when you are going somewhere new!

    Although we didn’t once, in France…but I was scared for my life walking down the street…

    • Haha, well then I actually LOLed reading your comment!! Sounds like you can teach me about spreadsheets and making my own washing powder and I can introduce you to the wonderful world of non-resort travel!!

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