From shiny skyscrapers to untouched stretches of sand, Malaysia offers a great combination of city and countryside. In all of that, there are a few must-visit destinations worth checking off your list. Here’s where to stay when in town, and why.
Best for heritage chic: Campbell House, George Town, Penang
Seamlessly blending heritage features with modern creature comforts across all three levels, this imposing white building dominates a street corner in the middle of historic George Town – an atmospheric tangle of streets, temples and decades-old shop houses that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. It might look like one of the larger hotels in the pocket-sized city centre, but inside it’s intimate and inviting – the 11 individually styled bedrooms have evocative names that hint at the décor, for example Rose, Calligraphy and Peacock. True to Penang’s reputation for great food, the downstairs Il Bacaro is a Venetian-style wine bar and eatery. Sure, you might not be expecting Italian in the middle of Malaysia, but it’s just one example of Campbell House’s many incarnations. Originally built as a hotel in 1903, it has been through a few unsavoury phases (it sits in the middle of George Town’s former red-light district) but that only adds to its colourful history.
Best for colonial grandeur: The Majestic, Kuala Lumpur
Make like lord and lady of the manor at this beautifully restored colonial-style hotel in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. Take afternoon tea in the lounge room – think scones and clotted cream, a characterful pianist tinkling the ivories, swirling ceiling fans, palms and plantation chairs. Every space exudes a different atmosphere, from the men’s club cigar smoke and classic cocktails of The Smoke House to the flower-filled Orchid Room. All suites in the original building – which have views over a stunning white-domed mosque and the spiral staircases of an old train station – come with a butler and driver, which means you can do rock star things like leave someone else to do your unpacking, or run you a bath, or fix you a cocktail while you dress for dinner. But if the formality of putting on clothes is too much to bear, keep your dressing gown on and enjoy breakfast in your private living room. If you do manage to lift a finger, you will find the bountiful (and complementary) mini bar is replenished daily.