Maya Kirana,15 November 2011
Penang is shaping up nicely indeed, if going by the lovely restored buildings of character each day. Just last Sunday, we were at the old Oasis Hotel on 23, Love Lane.
Love Lane is a quaint old name, conjuring all sorts of imaginative visuals – why Love Lane? (It's good alliteration too…rolls off the tongue in one long loop!). Did secret love trysts happen here? Was it named after someone called Love?
Love Lane reminds me of my maternal grandparents who used to live in a rented room (room, mind you, not even a house) on 76, Love Lane. Like a movie, I can remember as a child of 4 or 5 being in this little room which functioned as a bedroom and dining room. I can still recall the amalgam of smells of that room. Like a whiff of everything – food, old people's minyak urut, old newsprint and Tiger plasters. I cannot recall exactly but the people who rented rooms in that building shared their bathrooms and kitchen. I can imagine the morning rush!
Anyway, Love Lane also connects to Convent Light Street and St Xavier's. These are the schools my mom and dad studied at, respectively. Apparently that is how most girls met their future husbands. (Why are all convents situated near boys' schools? I studied in a co-ed school so I really can't understand why boys and girls can't just study together instead of separated?)
We almost couldn't tour the old Oasis Hotel as Nic forgot to RSVP Sook Foong of PHT. Luckily some who RSVPed did not turn up so we quickly joined the PHT tour. As the boutique hotel of 10 rooms is not yet open to the public(it opens on 1 December), joining PHT has its privileges! We were taken on a private tour of this new premises, restored and perhaps looking even better than it was looking before!
Dr Gywnn led us to gape at the wonderful work that has been done on this building. It certainly looked painstaking and arduous, going by the ruins it was in when the current owner bought it in 2008. Back then, this building was an old backpackers' hostel called Oasis Hotel and owned by the Tan family (who now runs the famous Rainforest Bakery on Chulia Street).
Despite most PHT members coming armed with cameras, we weren't allowed to snap any photos. It was a pity as the restored hotel is absolutely beautiful. It abounds with nostalgia. Hence, you won't see any photos here. But I am sure you will soon see them as the hotel prepares to be launched next month.
You can of course follow their restoration blog where they've chronicled every detail which went into making this building a pride of George Town again. This is truly a helpful and immensely detailed blog, useful for people who are looking to restore old buildings and wanting to know what work goes into it.
It helps that the rooms are impeccably decorated with classic teak furniture and lots of local artwork. It seems that finally the owner has a place for his art pieces and furniture he's collected over the years. I for one am glad that there isn't any ugly or cheap furniture. You may spot one or two IKEA items. The best piece of furniture has to be the Planter's Lazy Chair on the verandahs -a lounge chair where one could lie back and have a 'stengah' or two!
The new hotel is also wheel-chair friendly so disabled guests can also enjoy this little boutique hotel.
While working/digging the old hotel, workers found shards of old crockery. These are cleverly used as decor pieces around the hotel. An old horse shoe or two was also found, giving some information that there used to be a horse stable at the back. Even the Chinese doors when sanded off their paint revealed some Chinese couplets!
I love old buildings like these – high ceilings, lots of wooden louvred windows complete with sheer cotton curtains with deep green borders fluttering in the breeze. The only modern items would be the Sony iPOD dock and Sony TVs in each room. Other than that, it simply reeks old world charm all around.
The upper floors are made of real wood, not the laminated floorboards we know today. Walking barefooted on real wood floors is divine.
We never did find out how much accommodation per night costs here but we hope it will be affordable enough that locals can try out a night or two. I was bemused when one of the staff commented that Nic and I could stay in their “Secret Room” with the Spectacular Bath for our honeymoon. Nice try but I've been married for a decade already. Too bad. Otherwise I would book it for our honeymoon!
Until then, I'm satisfied that I know what is behind the Chinese gate.
I could say this place could be called The House No One Loved, Look At It Now….fabulous!