Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in a refurbished shophouse of yesteryear Penang? Well, Mark and I got the chance when we were invited to stay at 29 Ceylon Lane, an Airbnb in the heart of George Town.
Since living in Penang, I’ve often imagined what it was like to live in a shophouse. They are such an integral part of Georgetown’s history, so getting to spend the night in one is a real treat. Especially when it’s hosted by a very kind local woman who makes sure your stay is as lovely as she is.
For those of you who can’t travel yet, let me take you on a virtual tour.
For those of you who are here in Malaysia, a staycation is in order! To get the real splendor of the place, I suggest you stay for a couple of nights.***
Not only do you get to help the local economy, you get to live in an opulent heritage house for a bit.
So, let’s get crackin.’
As you walk through the front gate, you’ll be greeted by a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu God of Good Fortune and the patron of intellectuals, bankers, scribes, and authors. So ahhhhbviously, Mark and I fit right it
A Living Room Fit for a Museum
Once inside, we didn’t know where to look first.
It’s a feast for the eyes, like a museum. There is something to look at from floor to ceiling, but not in an overwhelming way. There are Asian antiques, period pieces, and unique collectibles—statues of Buddha, a vintage telephone, wood carvings. The Persian rugs, Ganesh, and a multitude of Buddhas add to the eclectic mix.
There are pieces from various time periods, different religions, and unique aesthetics. It’s a very eclectic collection, but somehow it all works together.
I am certain the longer you look, the more you’ll find.
One of the most striking pieces in the room is a standing Buddha draped in golden-yellow robes against a smoky-blue wall.
This section of the room is a good place to sit with a book and a glass of wine. And who doesn’t want to read with a gorgeous golden Buddha watching over you?
An Eat-in Kitchen for Four
To enter the kitchen, you’ll pass between the golden Buddha and colorful porcelain koi swimming up the wall. It’s these kinds of touches that make you want to wander around, mouth agape discovering what’s there.
The eat-in kitchen has all the basics, a coffee machine, a microwave, one burner hob, a fridge, a Buddha, and a birdcage, ya know, the essentials 😉.
Beyond the kitchen is a half bathroom with shelves of shells (say that 5 times fast) and vintage glassware.
Onwards and Upwards
Back through the living room, the very steep staircase leads to two spacious bedrooms.
The second bedroom is large and has quite a few windows but no bathroom. For that reason, I don’t recommend going with two couples unless one of the pairs doesn’t mind going downstairs to the bathroom.
The master bedroom, which is at the back of the house, is ensuite with a queen-size bed and flat-screen TV. The floor, peaked ceiling, and one wall are made of wooden slats, which gives it the warm appeal of a traditional Malay kampung (village) home.
But I’m not gonna lie, it also made me feel like I was in a sauna in Scandinavia somewhere.
The room has a moody dark feel to it and only two tiny windows in the bathroom. In that sense, it is a bit like a cave. If you don’t set an alarm, you won’t know if it’s morning or midnight. But again, there are plenty of light fixtures in the room.
The bathroom is very spacious with a lot of mirrors, closet space, and drawers. There is enough closet space to move in for a few months!
If you are a midnight snacker, you’ll be delighted because there is a minifridge in the bathroom. It’s all in the details, right?
However, the shower/toilet area wasn’t my fave.
It’s one of those wet showers, and it’s not for taller people. And by taller, I mean taller than Mark, who is 5 foot 8 on a good day (sorry, babe). Because if you are, you’ll have to sit and shower. For some reason, the ceiling is very low in that section of the bathroom.
Also, you have to walk through the shower to get to the toilet, so it’s really best suited for a couple.
The Moody Ambience
The ambiance of the Airbnb is lovely and moody, maybe even romantic.
There is little to no natural light because of the traditional shophouse layout. It is long and narrow with houses flanking it on both sides. That means natural light comes from two sources: the entryway doors and those to the alley out back.
When these homes were built, air conditioning wasn’t invented, so keeping it cool naturally was essential.
But don’t let the moodiness turn you off. It adds to the glamour and character of the place, which it has in spades.
Plus, the guy who restored it, a local Penang interior decorator, added an insane number of light switches. He brilliantly hid all of them behind old wooden doors or inside tile covered boxes. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt trying to find them all.
Luckily, Virginia shows you all the secret magic boxes when she hands over the keys.
Who’s it for?
Couples who appreciate art, antiques, and unique places to stay. It’s a perfect launching pad to hang out in George Town and explore the streets because it’s very centrally located. There are loads of date night restaurants and shops nearby. Plus there are loads of Unique Things to do in Penang that are nearby.
Who it’s Not For
Minimalists and people who want loungy comfort. It’s not uncomfortable by any means, but there are no big fluffy couches to laze around on. This is not the kind of Airbnb you rent if you are homebodies who like to lounge around and watch movies
This isn’t the place for a family with rambunctious little kids. There are far too many things to break.
Health and Safety Note
Virginia is following the proper SOPs for Airbnb’s, and then some.
Besides the house’s regular cleaning, she has some fancy disinfectant machiney-hoozie-whatsit that kills all the germs in the air. Plus, she sanitizes every key, doorknob, faucet, and light switch. The switches alone probably take her an hour.
How to Book it
You can call or WhatsApp Virginia directly at +6019-543-4833. Or you can book through Airbnb.
You Book Now
If you want to know what it’s like to stay in an old George Town heritage home, take a staycation at 29, Lorong Ceylon. The two-story pre-war shophouse will take you back in time the minute you open the gate.
If you want any more deets from me, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below or via through my contact me page.