LOCATION: REN I TANG Heritage Inn is located at 82-A Lebuh Penang within George Town's colourful & atmospheric Little India enclave. The streets are lined with speciality shops selling Indian spices & groceries; ethnic fashion, jewellery & textiles; Bollywood / Kollywood films & music; and religious paraphernalia.
This lively area is full of hustle & bustle with most businesses staying open till 10-11pm and the streets are busy with vehicular & pedestrian traffic. Not quite the right place for those seeking peace & quiet but a good base for those wanting to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds & scents of an exotic culture.
REN I TANG is 1 of the few Chinese-owned establishments in a predominately Indian neighbourhood. Most of George Town's attractions & sights are within easy walking distance (usually under 30 mins on foot) as it is situated within the UNESCO Core Heritage Zone.
DIRECTIONS: If you are arriving by flight, you can board Rapid Bus 401 (bus fare RM 2.70) from the bus-stop outside Penang Int'l Airport. Depending on traffic conditions, you should reach the city centre in about 60-80 mins. Alternatively, you can hire an Uber or Grab car (much cheaper than a Taxi) to take you all the way from airport to town, the 30-40 mins' ride will cost about RM 20.
OVERVIEW OF PROPERTY: The building itself dates back to the 1880s, it has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and converted to a Heritage Inn & Bistro. The black-&-white photos lining the walls document the various stages of restoration and showcase certain details of interest.
The building used to house YIN OI TONG, the oldest Chinese Medicinal Hall in South-East Asia, which served the local community for 124 years! Be sure to visit the on-site museum where you can view many vintage tools of the trade, various medicinal plants, dried herbs and other intriguing (albeit ethically questionable) ingredients used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) such as deer antlers, monkey skulls, rhinoceros horns & tiger bones.
REN I TANG has a retro-chic decor with much of its fittings & furnishings made from recycled materials e.g. beds, cabinets, tables & chairs built out of old hardwood scavenged from the restoration project. The ground floor is occupied by Bistro TANG, Reception & TCM Museum. The 17 rooms are spread across the 1st & 2nd floors, each has its own unique layout & distinctive decor - you can view them on their website's photo gallery.
A Word of Caution: there's NO Lift here and the steep wooden staircase is NOT for those with weak knees or wobbly legs!
ROOM: We stayed in Loft 17 on the 2nd floor. Despite the limited floor space, its high ceiling gives the fairly spartan room a bright, airy feel. Due to the presence of pesky mosquitoes, you may have to keep the windows closed but the loft is equipped with both fan & air-conditioning so it shouldn't feel too stuffy.
The lower level is simply furnished with a day-bed with small reading lamp; wooden desk with chair by the window; long, narrow table that holds a flat-screen TV, telephone, bottled water and coffee-&-tea-making facilities; and a small cabinet. A steep set of steps leads to the sparsely furnished upper level with just a platform bed, pair of hanging lamps and a waste basket in a corner.
MINOR ISSUES: Loft 17 in its current state is functional enough but a few small improvements would offer greater comfort & convenience for guests. A more sturdy & substantial railing around the perimeter of the upper level and the stairs would provide enhanced safety as the current railing felt rather flimsy & unstable. It's quite a steep drop so any accident would likely have tragic consequences... To avoid frequent trudging up & down those stairs, it'd be helpful to place a table and/or cabinet upstairs so that guests could have somewhere handy to keep their stuff.
BATHROOM: The clean & spacious bathroom appears rather austere with concrete floor and bare walls. It has a wall-mounted mirror above small wash basin, separate shower stall & toilet. Ample clean towels were provided as well as hand wash, shampoo & body wash. The shower had good water pressure and a steady supply of hot water.
F&B: Daily Breakfast is served in Bistro TANG on the ground floor. The breakfast buffet comprises a simple spread of bread with jam & butter, assorted cereals, tropical fruits, coffee & tea. Some cooked food is available, usually fried noodles & eggs (prepared any style you like).
SERVICE: Room Reservation via their website (cheaper to book directly online) was simple & hassle-free. Check-In & Check-Out both proceeded smoothly. Frontline staff spoke fluent English & Bahasa Melayu.
Karen & her team are genial & obliging hosts, ever ready to assist with any query or request. Don't hesitate to approach her if you need recommendations on places to visit, food to try or things to do in George Town.
FACILITIES: Bistro TANG is open daily for lunch & dinner (Closed on Tuesdays). It's a convenient & inviting place for meals or simply chilling out with a drink & a good book. They have a small library stocked with books of different genres to suit a diverse range of interests.
There is also an on-site Gift Shop where you can find a small collection of art works, books on regional history & culture, hand-crafted items & souvenirs with strong local flavour.
You can keep your valuables in the safe at Reception. Hair-dryer, iron & ironing board are also available on request here.
There is Free Wi-Fi throughout the property but connection seemed more stable in the Bistro than in the Loft.
In SHORT: Our 2nd stay @ REN I TANG was comfortable & pleasant. We enjoyed re-living the past in a Heritage Inn equipped with modern conveniences & filled with vintage charm!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Ren i Tang is the result of a 2-year long restoration project on a 19th century Early Straits Eclectic Styled Building located within the core zone of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Penang Island: Malaysia. The name "Ren i Tang" is the phonetic spelling in Mandarin of South East Asia's oldest Chinese Medical Hall Wholesaler, Yin Oi Tong which is translated as The Hall of Benevolence. Located at the junction of China Street and Penang Street, the building now hosts a variety of activities - the upper floors:Ren i Tang (Heritage Inn); the ground floor: Tang Bistro, The Yin Oi Tong Chinese Medical Hall Museum, and Yin Oi Tong Chinese Medical Hall. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Ren i Tang Penang/George Town