Macalister Mansion is a Design Hotels property in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. We moved here for two nights following our one-night stay at the Courtyard next door.
This would be my first experience staying at a Design Hotels property, so I was curious to see what would set it apart from other properties under Marriott’s umbrella.
Design Hotels is somewhat removed from Marriott’s core portfolio of brands, given that the hotels are marketed under the Marriott umbrella but don’t offer meaningful benefits to Marriott Bonvoy elite members.
However, you can still earn and redeem Bonvoy points at Design Hotels properties, and I was curious to find out what this collection of independent boutique hotels around the globe was all about.
Macalister Mansion, George Town – Booking
At this property, rates don’t come cheap. A one-night stay will cost you $400+. At the time of this stay, the hotel was offering a promotion of 30% off the best available rate, reducing a one-night stay to ~$300 per night.
This was indeed a more expensive stay for Penang, but I thought I would splurge a bit, considering we were celebrating our anniversary around this time.
You can also redeem points at this property for between 40,000–60,000 Bonvoy points per night. Since we’d value Bonvoy points at 0.9 cents (CAD) apiece, paying the discounted $300 cash rate was the better deal.
Looking at the rest of the season, the 30% promotion is generally widely available. However, the promotion has a 14-day non-refundable policy, which is relatively strict compared to most hotel policies.
Fortunately, we made the booking close to the stay, so this wasn’t too much of a concern.
It’s also worth noting that Design Hotels’s partnership with Marriott is fairly limited, and in particular, there aren’t too many concrete benefits for elite members to enjoy.
Thus, we wouldn’t be entitled to complimentary breakfast here at Macalister Mansion even as a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite member, and this was something I was aware of going in.
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Macalister Mansion, George Town – Location
Macalister Mansion sits on Macalister Road in the city of George Town. The hotel is just down the road from the Courtyard Penang, so if you want to combine the two stays within one trip, the proximity is exceedingly convenient.
There aren’t many other better-located hotels in town, as Penang is relatively sparse in terms of name-brand accommodations, so both of these hotels are as convenient as any.
However, despite Penang being fairly spread out, taking a Grab (the Uber equivalent of Southeast Asia) is easy and inexpensive.
The centre of George Town, where you’ll find everything from street hawkers to street art and local history, is a 30–40 minute walk from the hotel.
Other attractions within walking distance include Penang Times Square, a quick eight-minute walk away, and Komtar Tower, a 13-minute walk from the property.
For those who enjoy nature, Penang Hill is a 15-minute ride with Grab and is home to Habitat Penang Hill, a unique rainforest experience.
Lastly, Penang International Airport is a 30-minute ride from Macalister Mansion, conveniently accessible via Grab.
Macalister Mansion, George Town – Check-in
Macalister Mansion is housed in a refurbished colonial-era building, named after the former Governor Colonel of Penang, Norman Macalister. Due to its preservation, the hotel certainly stands out against the more modern cityscape of the surrounding area.
The hotel exterior has a pristine white colonial facade, fusing elegant sophistication with the historic architecture. The white facade pops against the property’s greenery that spans the exterior.
The lobby features a seating area with contemporary furniture and monochromatic colours, which was an evident theme throughout the hotel.
The check-in area was to the right of the lobby, featuring a more whimsical design with a marble-top desk sitting on a vibrant and patterned floor.
Furthermore, large dark wooden panels span the walls of the room and also some of the lobby. The hotel’s interior designs certainly left me with a striking first impression, and I thought it was a great introduction to the Design Hotels brand as a whole.
The hotel has just eight rooms, each with its own unique design. The rooms are divided into three collections.
Based on reviews I had read, I requested Room 4, part of the hotel’s Monarch Collection, for our two-night stay.
I mentioned we were celebrating our anniversary and we’d love to experience one of the hotel’s most notable rooms. To my delight, the hotel was happy to honour this request.
However, we had arrived relatively early in the morning, so the room wasn’t ready for now. We dropped off our luggage so we could head out and came back later to check in.
Macalister Mansion, George Town – Room 4
The hotel’s eight rooms are located on the second floor. A teardrop-shaped staircase leads from the first floor to the second.
The hallway’s design features a diverse range of textures and materials, setting the tone for the elevated design of the overall property.
As you enter Room 4, you’ll immediately note the high ceilings and large vertical pillars.
The palette of the room consists of soft whites and greys, while the wainscot and window trimmings were finished with Arabescato Orobico and Ice Emerald marble.
The king bed is the centrepiece of the room, with a large glass enclosing on the headboard. I found the king bed to be a softer sleeping surface than what you’d expect in Asia, which typically has harder beds – perhaps indicative of the Western crowd that the Macalister Mansion caters towards.
Against the wall is a solid timber desk for working, with a retro Marshall speaker and some reading materials. A welcome dessert was also provided, along with “Happy Anniversary” written on the plate, which was a nice touch.
For seating, a circular sofa stretched around the base of a gorgeous spiral staircase, which leads to the turret of the room. However, I’d note that the circular sofa wasn’t actually very comfortable at all, and seemed to be very much a case of form over function.
Taking the spiral staircase will lead you upstairs to a small sitting area. This space gets fairly hot, unlike the rest of the room which is air-conditioned.
I found it to be more of a novelty than an actually useful part of the room; however, I did make use of it for phone calls when I didn’t want to disturb my partner Jessy while she was still sleeping downstairs.
Behind the bed were large curtains which could be drawn to reveal the glass-enclosed bathroom. Inside, more layers of glass enclosed the toilet, shower, and bathtub.
The shower and bathtub were placed within a single “wet room”, which is always a type of bathroom design that I appreciate in high-end hotels.
On each side of the bathroom was a circular sink and a circular LED mirror built directly into the glass wall, and beside each sink was a multi-layered shelf stocked with Aesop-branded toiletries and amenities.
Lastly, the pantry behind the bed came with a complimentary selection of local snacks that Malaysians enjoyed in their childhood, which are relatively hard to find these days.
Overall, the space is exceptionally design-forward, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The use of glass throughout the room, the line art on the wall of Norman Macalister and his wife, and the curtains ensconcing the bathroom within were all unique attributes of the space that stood out to me.
One drawback of the room was the window blinds, which couldn’t be pulled back to allow more natural light into the room, as I assume the hotel wanted to ensure the building looked uniform from the outside.
Additionally, the room’s soundproofing wasn’t the greatest, and we could often hear street noises from outside during the daytime.
Still, on my first time staying at Design Hotels, the Macalister Mansion certainly left a strong first impression in terms of the brand’s namesake – design.
Macalister Mansion, George Town – Dining
As mentioned above, Design Hotels’s partnership with Marriott is purely of a marketing nature, and individual hotels aren’t obligated to offer complimentary breakfast to Marriott Bonvoy elite members.
The hotel does serve breakfast for a paid rate in the mornings, although it seemed like a fairly pricy yet pedestrian selection of Western pastries and eggs, so we preferred to head out and enjoy some street food.
There’s a contemporary French restaurant housed within the hotel: Restaurant Blanc Penang.
This is one of Penang’s best fine dining venues, and could certainly be a place worth visiting if you’re in town. Blanc offers a fairly affordable tasting menu, in line with Penang’s inexpensive food prices in general.
I was curious to check out Blanc at first and had booked a reservation, but ended up cancelling it in the end. Ultimately, we decided to skip fine-dining in Penang in favour of visiting some more hawker stalls.
Meanwhile, The Cellar is the hotel’s cocktail and wine bar, with over 20 different labels sold by the glass. It has a dark and eccentric design, with leather, old books, and touches of wildlife memorabilia used as wall art and decor.
Lastly, the Guest Lounge can be found to the left as you enter the front door. This area offers a more casual dining environment with light drinks and snacks.
It has a more light and airy atmosphere and features the original filigree window grilles of the mansion. The flooring is decorative red and white tiles and the furnishings are colourful mixed and matched seating.
Macalister Mansion, George Town – Other Facilities
The hotel has an outdoor infinity pool, which stretches across the front lawn of the property and is divided into two sections by a half-submerged marble deck in the middle.
I certainly appreciated the creative shape and design of the pool, with multiple levels in which to take a dip during Penang’s hot spring days.
Lounge chairs were placed around the pool on the front lawn. There was also a poolside bar, although it wasn’t staffed at the time of our visit, presumably due to the low occupancy at the time.
Indeed, we felt like the only guests at the hotel throughout our two-night stay, which I suppose wasn’t a major surprise as Malaysia had only opened to tourists two weeks prior to our visit.
Unfortunately, the hotel property is surrounded by high-rises and new construction projects, so the outdoor pool wasn’t the most relaxing place to sunbathe. Still, this ultimately speaks to the hotel’s unique identity in Penang as a well-preserved heritage building.
Finally, while there is no fitness centre available at the property, bicycles are available for guests to rent.
Checking out of our stay, I greatly appreciated Macalister Mansion for the fact that there are only eight rooms, all distinct in their design.
No matter which room you’re assigned, they all promise to be captivating in terms of their visual identity; however, I’d certainly recommend asking for Room 4 for the uniqueness of the spiral staircase.
Alas, despite willingly choosing to splurge for our anniversary, ultimately I found the price of Macalister Mansion to be relatively expensive for Penang, and I’m not sure the hotel’s soft product offers enough to justify the price outside of the visuals and the historical factor.
After experiencing this place once, I’m not certain I would return again, especially considering the immense value proposition you’ll find at the Courtyard next door.