The Copthorne Orchid Hotel in Penang, Malaysia is around a 40 minute drive from the Penang International airport. I chose to stay here because it was a short way from a conference I had to attend – and I got it pretty cheap. The Standard Room cost around Rs. 29000/- for 6 nights – which was decent since I shared the room with a friend and paid half.

HOTEL REVIEW – COPTHORNE ORCHID HOTEL

I didn’t get to go around and explore the area or the hotel a lot as we were out most of the day and only came back to sleep. The hotel looks pretty impressive from the front – with a wide driveway and flags atop the entrance.

RECEPTION
While the lobby looks well furnished at first glance – thanks to the shiny floors and sparkling counters, a closer look will reveal old and faded furniture. I checked-in in the morning and the staff at the reception were very welcoming.

HOTEL REVIEW – COPTHORNE ORCHID HOTEL

ROOMS
The hotel itself has around 320 rooms that get more luxurious as you go up – and most of them have sea facing windows. Mine did too, although not an unobstructed one. There are a little balconies outside the standard room with basic furniture – from where I briefly watched a tennis match on the rooftop court atop a smaller building.

HOTEL REVIEW – COPTHORNE ORCHID HOTEL

The rooms have free wi-fi, a mini bar, a coffee maker and hairdryer. There were two cushioned chairs, a little table and a dresser – but again, they all looked really old and matched well with the faded carpet.

The bathrooms were clean with basic toiletries – not what you would expect at a 4 star. The least they could have done was to put a shower mat outside the tub.

HOTEL REVIEW – COPTHORNE ORCHID HOTEL

The only thing great about the room was the bed. It was so comfortable you literally sunk in and drifted off to dreamland in an instant. That could have just been the tiredness after the long day, but the bed was sweet!

FOOD
While there was no opportunity to order room service, I did have the complimentary buffet breakfast everyday. It had a huge spread of Asian food, which was average at best. There was plain bread that you need to toast yourself – butter, jam and an assortment of fruits.

The scrambled eggs and sausages did not look very appetizing and neither did the baked beans. There were a lot of people down for breakfast every day, so the entire place was messy – the spoons had fallen in the dishes, spillages everywhere… a clean freak’s nightmare.

One can sit around in the a/c dining area or out by the pool, which, by the way, was spotlessly clean.

THE BEACH
An elevator near the pool takes you down to the garden area from where you go down a few steps to the beach. It’s a small beach called Tanjung Bungah, but very picturesque. There are signboards that warn people to beware of jellyfish so the idea of a short swim was dismissed.

Jade Dsa - That Goan Girl

AMENITIES
The Copthorne Orchid has a gym with three exercise equipment and a large mirror to create the feeling a lot more machines. They also have a gift shop, which you definitely must skip because it’s so full of junk.

THE VERDICT
All in all, it’s a very average hotel and it would make sense staying here if you have work in the neighborhood. Although the entire place needs a thorough refurbish, at least you can be assured of cleanliness. The public bus stops outside, there are plenty of restaurants in walking distance as well as convenience stores and chemists.

If “blogger’s block” isn’t a thing by now, it should be. I’ve had an unusually long case of it for the last week. Sitting down to blog, and waiting for inspiration to strike is not fun.

So after a week of watching cat videos and TLC (of course) during blog time, I finally came across the old picture of a taxi driver who shared my Kuala Lumpur mis-adventure.

So how did I meet Mr. Malaysian Taxi driver? Funny story.

I was travelling from Mumbai to Penang and a last minute, hurried booking had me stuck at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for close to 16 hours. I landed in KL at around 3 pm and my flight out to Penang was at 7 am the next morning.

No complaints there… I love airports. People watching, cafes, bookstores… what’s not to love? Apart from the fact that you can’t get a decent night’s sleep and free charging points – nothing!

After whiling away a couple of hours, I met Lydia… a girl who was in her late twenties or so and glued to her mobile phone. Turns out she was travelling from Mumbai to Penang on the same flight, and we went to grab a coffee somewhere in the airport. While I enthusiastically talked about stepping out to explore the city, she yawned and said that she was going to find the departure gate for next morning’s flight and stay there.

Malaysia cabbieWe parted ways, and I stepped out of the airport. Standing outside his bright orange cab was… I don’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Cabbie. He was a polite, middle aged man and I felt I could out-run him, should the need arise (good tip if you’re a female solo traveler lol)

“I want to go to Petronas,” I told him.

“PETRONAS??” He shot me such a bewildered look that would have been more aptly used for someone asking to see the Statue of Liberty in Malaysia. “What do you want to go there for?”

It appeared that the iconic Kuala Lumpur landmark was an ordinary sight to the locals. I’d probably react the same way if someone told me that they wanted to go to Juhu Beach.

Anyways, I got in the car and we drove for an hour along the highway with nothing to see on either side. He asked me about India and compared everything I said with that in Malaysia. We spoke about Bollywood, festivals, driving etiquette, pets, family and more.

Finally he stopped the car and indicated that we had arrived. There was no Petronas Tower in sight. Instead, at the side of the highway was a Petrol Pump…. a Petronas Petrol Pump.

Was this a joke? Was he going to leave me at the side of the highway at a petrol station?

“Where are the towers?” I asked him.

“Towers?” he turned around and looked at me.

“The Petronas Towers”

Cabbie then proceeded to grumble aloud (I’m assuming) in Malaysian with a little bit of English thrown in. Words like “you young girls,” “tourists,” “Petronas Towers,” were audible before he rattled off in Malaysian again.

Then he turns to me and says “It’s called Twin Towers. Not Petronas. Petronas is a Petrol Pump. Do you want to go to Twin Towers? Will take 3 hours to and fro. 200 Ringgits.”

I would have considered if it wasn’t 11 pm or if I had company.

Hfood in malasiae probably knew what I was thinking and said “I’ll take you back to the airport… have you had your dinner yet?”

I hadn’t.

On the way back, he stopped at a well lit restaurant off the highway. There were a lot of cars parked outside with people standing around and eating delicious smelling Malaysian food. He parked and indicated to me to follow him inside. We went up the counter of the Malaysian fast food joint and he pointed out and explained the foreign dishes displayed on boards behind the cashier.

I ordered the Charsiew (BBQ Pork) to go. These long boneless pieces of barbequed pork were seasoned with honey, five-spice, and soy sauce. We ate in the car on the way back. My charsiew was sticky, shiny, and a delight to eat. Beautifully caramelized on the outside and tender on the inside it was delicious enough to make a grown man weep.

We reached the airport. I didn’t see the Petronas… I mean, Twin Towers, or much of KL. But I had the most amazing Malay food and met a great person. And that sure beat staying at the airport all night.

P.S. I saw Lydia fast asleep on a bench by the departure gate the next morning, oblivious to the announcements that boarding had begun. Should I wake her up or shouldn’t I? I would have got to see the towers if she hadn’t spent all night sleeping.

*Sigh*… I woke her up.