I visited Penang recently when my sister got married. I went one day earlier than everybody else so that I could stroll about Penang at my own pace. For the hotel, I picked the Campbell Antique Hotel & Cafe from iiCity.com; as usual, I always pick the ones that are conveniently located !
On iiCity, I saw that there are pick up services from various locations, such as bus stations, bus terminals and the airport. Out of curiosity, I chose pick up service from Penang International Airport to Campbell Antique Hotel and it was only at an additional cost of RM19.53 ! I didn’t need the service, but hopefully this information will come in handy for you.
Campbell Antique Hotel is converted from a shophouse that’s located on an iconic street in Penang – the Campbell Street, or also popularly known as “New Street” by Penangites. The lobby doubles up as a cafe and it’s beautifully decorated with old clocks on the wall and intriguing antique items on the shelves.
I was already very much in love with the lobby when I checked in, little did I realise that there was an even more stunning space after going through a narrow corridor.
The inner space is located directly under a sky well with lots of natural light. The old tables and chairs are refurbished to their former glory, while the ornaments are either originally part of the shophouse, or collected by the owner of the hotel. If you love antique, you will go crazy here, looking at every piece of decoration. The owner of the hotel, Ms Wong, is very knowledgeable and shared many stories about Penang, the hotel and the decorations inside.
I have two favorite items here, the storage box for pickled vegetables (it’s the white box that has a soy-sauce-look-alike-bottle painted on it) and the carpentry machine used for making gold accessories, both are heavily associated with Campbell Street’s history. The storage box was used by the original owner of the shophouse – the “Lean Seng Chan” company that sold sundry goods, while the carpentry machine was salvaged from one of the many gold shops on Campbell Street.
One of the walls also replicates what an old residential house’s facade would look like – typically with a placcard of the family’s surname hung on the wall.
Ms Wong also shared the story with me about the name “New Street”. Since it’s called “New Street”, I’ve always thought there’s an “older” street somewhere else, when in fact, Campbell Street is the first, and the oldest merchant street in Penang.
“Campbell Street was one of the very first places the Chinese immigrants settled in Penang. The shophouses are some of the most magnificent ones in Penang because it was Penang’s very first merchant street. What followed was the red light district in the same area. New prostitutes that arrived were called “xin gai”(新雞) in Hokkien, which has the same pronunciation as “new street” (新街), and hence an official name for Campbell Street was born”. Interesting right ?
Then finally, I came to my room on the third floor (RM 120 per night). There room was clean and it is the prettiest during the day when light shines through the multi-colored stained glass. It’s a comfortable (but small) room with a queen size bed, a corner for a TV and a mirror.
The toilette is newly done up and spotless.
You won’t get bored if you are staying in the vicinity of Campbell Street. The next morning I walked around the market and there were plenty of hawker places in the area.
When I was looking around to see what I should eat for breakfast, the sign “生日麵” (birthday noodles) caught my attention. I thought to myself “Ooooh, what is that ??” It turned out that it was really just bee hoon noodles with not so much soup. I was slightly disappointed but the noodles were good and it was only RM 3.50. I can’t remember when was the last time that I ate anything for RM3.50 !
The shops on this street are simply magnificent with a retro vibe; some are still being run by the original business owners, while some are converted into hotels and cafes.
You’ll discover that a lot of the shops still have the old tiles maintained on the floor. I found this beautiful patch of floor in pink, green and blue, that give a 3D cubical illusion. Campbell Street is indeed hipster at heart !
For lunch I went to the iconic Toh Soon Cafe (多春茶室). This cafe is barely in a proper building yet it is one of the cafes that’s most loved by Penangites. Even Lim Guan Eng eats at this old fashioned kopitiam. The coffee is robust and aromatic; while the toast is toasted on charcoal fire with a lightly charred scent. And can you imagine, it has rainbow “kui” as well ! Told you Campbell Street is hipster !
Overall, I really enjoyed the vibrancy of Campbell Street and my stay at the Campbell Antique Hotel. For visitors to Penang, checking out Campbell Street is mandatory and even if you are not staying at Campbell Antique Hotel, go grab coffee from the cafe and soak up the “Old Penang” vibe 🙂
**This article was written in collaboration with iicity.com.