The latest in an ever-increasing number of heritage hotels to grace George Town has a more infamous history than most. The stark white Anglo-Indian mansion on Leith Street, opposite Cheong Fatt Tze’s iconic Blue Mansion, was built by local tycoon Yeo Wee Gark in 1906 as a sumptuous and very extensive family residence. Inherited by Yeo’s son, the building was later gambled into the hands of a local drug cartel and turned into an opium den. Seized during the Japanese occupation in World War II, it was then converted into an administration office and gentleman’s club before becoming the Cathay Hotel, a scruffy budget inn that doubled as a brothel. Scrubbed, buffed, and finished in tones of charcoal and fern green, the mansion’s latest incarnation has returned it to its original level of luxury. There are 35 elegant guest rooms, all fanning off from a two-story central hall studded with original ironwork, stained glass, and hand-painted tiles. But it’s the generous communal spaces that give the property an edge, including a charming upstairs library, outdoor cabanas, and The Lounge, a self-service all-inclusive café offering breakfast and all-day snacks of old-school Penang favorites like pineapple biscuits and iced gems.
60-4/262-2990; theedisonhotels.com; doubles from US$125).