Magpie Residence is a combination hostel/boutique hotel that is away from the bustle of central George Town. It is located on a quiet street lined with city homes and small cafes. The hotel is a 5-minute walk to Chinatown, Chulia Street, and New World Park. Armenian Street is also about a 15-minute walk away. We were trying to book George Town hotels during the busy holiday season, so almost everywhere else was full. Magpie Residence was one of the only places left in our price range that was still close enough to attractions that we wanted to visit.
This is a non-sponsored review. Magpie Residence did not give me a free room or compensate me anything in exchange for a glowing recommendation. We had to pay for a room just like everyone else, and my opinions are based on my own experience.
Magpie Residence Amenities
Magpie Residence is located at the corner where Jalan A.S. Mansoor bends. Out front is a comfortable patio where many of the other hotel denizens, including the front desk staff, will be hanging out. In the corner next to the sidewalk, there is a small sink with soap.
There is a fridge in the lobby with bottled water, juice and reasonably priced Tiger Beer for sale. Mugs, coffee grounds and tea are available free for guests. The tea is basic Lipton black tea bags. There is a water dispenser with hot and cold water where you should fill up your reusable bottle every day. Its reservoir is seemingly unlimited, so you don’t need to feel guilty about draining its supply. Mark and I filled our water bladders to their limit every day, over 5 litres between the two of us, and the machine never ran out.
Next to this is a table with various things of interest to tourists. There are pamphlets to attractions, general maps of Penang and even a map of specifically street food. There is a bathroom in the corner of the lobby which you will be able to make last-minute use of after you’ve checked out.
Magpie Residence has one elevator, but it is very small. Two people can fit adequately, but two people each with luggage will probably require two trips. It’s also slow as hell. If your room is only on the next floor, you’ll spend more time waiting for the elevator than just walking your lazy ass up one flight of stairs. The elevator passes right next to the dormitory, so there is a house rule to not use it between 10pm and 8am to not disturb the guests in these rooms.
On each floor is a common area that will have a table, chairs and maybe a TV and a water dispenser. The water dispenser on our floor was the type with a big upturned jug on top and was empty for our entire stay. Magpie doesn’t bother to refill them as often as needed, so expect to get all your water from the lobby.
Rooms at Magpie Residence
8 Person Mixed Dormitory
Magpie has one dormitory on the second floor that is mixed and not restricted to any one gender. The dormitory is in the style of a Japanese capsule hotel. Long rectangular cubbies, two levels high, are built into the wall. According to pictures provided by the hotel, each pod will have its own controllable overhead light, outlet and curtain. If this is actually what it looks like, this is surprisingly private for a hostel dormitory. Additional storage cabinets and a shoe cubby with provided flip-flops are also in the room.
The rest of the hotel and the majority of Magpie Residence’s rooms are in the style of a typical boutique hotel. All of these rooms are meant for more than one person – you won’t find any single beds. These rooms range from two twin beds to a ginormous quadruple room with two full beds and a fold-out couch.
Room Review: Deluxe Twin Room
We booked room 4-2A, the Deluxe Twin Room, at Magpie Residence. The nearest room to this one was across the hall, and above us were stairs that led to a bare landing. During our stay, it was very quiet at night. If there was any noise coming from the dormitory or patio, we were far enough away to not hear it.
The room is very spacious for a small hotel like this. There is AC right above the beds, and a ceiling fan that can be controlled by a remote in the room. There is one standing wardrobe with a decent number of hangers available. Your towels will be stored and replenished here. Flip-flops are provided for you to wear around the room or common area. There are only a handful of channels on the TV, but they are helpfully labelled on a sheet.
Next to the kettle were Nescafe coffee sachets and OSK brand teabags in roasted brown rice flavour that tasted very nice and that I’m considering buying for the home. In an alcove was a table that didn’t have a view of much, just the building next door, but you could see KOMTAR in the distance. It was a nice spot to have our morning tea and discuss the plan for the day.
The bathroom has the usual fixtures including a bidet. The sink has liquid soap but it is small. You’ll invariably slop some water on to the floor when washing up. There’s so little counter space in here with only one shallow shelf under the mirror that’s supposed to be shared between two people. The window could be opened a fair bit, but the area just outside seemed to be a gathering spot for pigeons. We kept the windows only open a crack so that we wouldn’t come home to a live bird in our bathroom.
Normally in Malaysian hotels, the entire bathroom is a shower and so water gets all over the toilet and everywhere. In this specific room, the shower was, strangely, in its own alcove even though the picture on Booking.com displays the “shower over the toilet” layout. This “shower room” wasn’t pleasant to look at with exposed pipe all over it, but it was a much-welcomed oddity. It meant that the rest of the bathroom stayed dry and that one person could wash up at the sink while another showered. Provided toiletries included big bottles of shampoo and body gel. The water temperature at the shower was hot enough for Malaysian weather. The pressure was average, but there was a setting on the showerhead that turned it into a forceful, almost painful, thin jet.
Service at Magpie Residence
We were a little annoyed with the service at this hotel. Aside from the water dispenser in our common area that was never refilled, housekeeping does a half-assed job. There was a sign in our room to inform the front desk if you want your room cleaned. After the first night, we did just that, but we came home to an unmade room. We complained about it, and after that, the staff made sure to be vigilant in their housekeeping. They took a proactive stance from then on, asking us first each morning if we wanted a turndown service instead of us asking them.
Yes, they made the beds, replaced the towels and swept the floors, but housekeeping did not pay attention to the smaller details. They never once replaced the teabags we drank, provided more toilet paper when it was clear we were getting low or even washed the mugs we used. We drank tea every morning, so it was clear when we got home that housekeeping did not do anything about our tea-stained mugs with the bags still in them. We ended up just washing them ourselves before each use with the hand soap in the bathroom, and had to directly ask the front desk for more toiletries and tea.
Aside from that negative, the front desk staff was hospitable. They said goodbye in the mornings and welcomed us back at night. All of them, even the night staff, knew enough English to address any queries. There is a long-haired guy who will be your primary contact that is amicable enough and knows a lot about Penang if you need suggestions.
Price of Deluxe Twin Room at Magpie Residence
RM463.32 for 4 nights, Saturday to Wednesday, in January 2020.
I really liked the space we had at Magpie Residence. The twin room is actually better than the double or queen as it is a bigger room (34m² over 20m²). Our accommodations were roomy and the bathroom, while grim, was better than expected with the shower in a separate alcove. The dining table in our room made a big difference. It was an all-purpose space where we could chat, do some journaling, or throw our bags on to. It kept the bags off the floor and made the entire place look tidier.
Because of the common areas, there are several pleasant places to hang out around the hotel. If you and your travel companion need some “apart” time, one person doesn’t have to be dragooned into staying inside the room while the other gets to have the patio. Although, even our room wasn’t terrible to hang out in because of the table. I had a sunny spot to sit other than on the bed.
Despite this, I don’t think I would venture to stay at Magpie Residence in the future. The furnishings are a little too rustic and simple for me to feel pampered in the way I like while on vacation. The bathroom is my sanctuary, and with the bathroom at Magpie looking so bleak, it was not relaxing for me. Though I wouldn’t consider Magpie Residence to be “far” from the action, there are nicer, more modern hotels closer to the centre that are the same price or cheaper.
Address: 33, Jalan A.S. Mansoor, George Town, 10050 Pulau Pinang