Pride of Armenia

Pride of Armenia

A veteran traveller with a gift for hospitality, Dr Angeline Yong launches her third hotel, 88 Armenian, in the centre of Penang’s famed Armenian street.

What was the main concept behind 88 Armenian?

This was the first time that we approached a property while trying to retain very modern elements without compromising on its heritage or origins. Our previous two properties were simpler in terms of design. They were heritage buildings and were refurbished to be heritage buildings. With this new approach we sort of wanted to modernise it a little but not subtract from the authenticity of the stay. We looked for historically relevant facts, one aspect being the copper elements that are used in various iterations of the hotel. The inspiration for that came about because the street was known as Coppersmith Street in Hokkien, many years ago. So taken that copper is a great element to use in interior design, we thought that there was relevance in utilising the elements in the hotel from bathroom finishes and lightings, down to the wares. The other thing that we wanted to incorporate was the history. Historically this building has been burned down before. Taking that as inspiration we used shou sugi ban , a traditional technique of preserving wood by torching, and utilised it on the ground floor to pay tribute to its history.

Dr Angeline Yong is a dermatologic surgeon and consultant whose love for travelling has inspired her to open three hotels in Laos and Penang, all of which are in UNESCO Heritage Sites.

All three of your hotels operate in UNESCO Heritage sites, was this planned or purely a coincidence?

No, I wouldn’t say that going down in the future we would not be open towards opening in sites other than UNESCO Heritage zones. But when we first came up with this we felt there were no other hotel group that really focused on that. The reason why Luang Prabang and Penang were chosen is because Luang Prabang has gazetted the whole zone. The whole town is basically UNESCO, it’s not a singular building and it’s not one single UNESCO site. The thing with Penang as well is the entire ‘core zone’ is UNESCO. Every building is a part of that precinct so it’s living history as well. It really allowed us to build on that common thread.

How has rehabilitating historic buildings into commercial property fared for you with your hotels?

We are not hoteliers by trade so it was more for the love of travelling and the passion for heritage buildings married into that whilst also doing our best to make it more commercially viable. When you start off from a perspective of having a love for historical old buildings and then trying to use it as a private investment whilst trying to maintain it via general upkeep, there has to be a business model that comes into place. With 88 Armenian we have really tried to make sure that there was no expense spared, fitting it out with comforts so that you can travel and have a good night’s rest. You can sleep in a comfortable Simmons bed, have a great shower experience, which is paramount to me, and you can unwind in the hotel and really feel at home.

What is the ethos behind your hotels?

We approach every building as an individual. There is beauty in everything. We try not to take the beauty away from the space. We are always very respectful and mindful of that. I feel that likeminded travellers would feel assured that it is true to its locality. We try to individualise everybody and bring out the best. I never like to try and make somebody, look like somebody else, and it’s the same with the buildings we have worked with.

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