Crag Hotel is an abandoned hotel and school located in the jungle on the north edge of Penang Hill, Pilau Pinang, Malayisa. In its time it has been a private residence, a hotel, an international school, and a film set. Most recently it has been used for the BBC series Indian Summers. The old is located on a hill top not far from the road leading from Penang botanic gardens to the top of Penang Hill. An easier way to reach it than completing this rather long hike is to take the funicular up Penang Hill, then follow the road down. The hotel is at the end of the first left junction on the way down.
Crag Hotel History
Around 1885 a bungalow was built on the site by Captain John W Kerr, an employee of the East India Company. Penang Hill was a favourite location for Europeans who lived on Penang island to come to escape the intense heat and humidity of lower elevations.
In the late 1880s four Armenian immigrants to Malaysia (then Malaya), the Sarkies brothers, were busy establishing hotels throughout South East Asia. Their properties included the Oriental Hotel in George Town, Penang, the Hotel Oranje in Indonesia, and the famous Raffles hotel in Singapore. They bought the Crag bungalow and developed it into a hotel, opening it in 1894. The hotel apparently changed hands in the 1920s and was extended around this time too.
The Crag Hotel continued operation until World War 2. When the Japanese occupied Penang they seconded the building. After the war, the building was disused for a decade before being leased to the Uplands School (now called the Penang International School). The school opened in 1955. The relatively isolated location was considered a bonus in terms of safety – this was the time of the Malay Emergency. The school was even visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. Uplands School moved to a new site (their second of three) in 1977, and the Crag Hotel site was abandoned.
Around the back of the main hotel building are buildings that were used for dormitories during this period, in an advanced stage of decay.
After being abandoned, the Crag Hotel / Uplands School site saw brief action as a location for the 1992 film Indochina, before being left to decay again. Around 2012 there were several attempts at a deal with an overseas hotel chain to redevelop the Crag Hotel site, but nothing came of them.
In 2015 the new BBC series Indian Summers decided to use the Crag Hotel as a location and the site was somewhat cleaned up. The main building has seen some renovation – vegetation has been cleared, a new path has been installed, new doors and windows have been fitted, and the interior and exterior have been painted.
However, around the rear and even the sides of the main building, away from where the television cameras were pointing, the buildings are in an advanced stage of decay. The buildings very overgrown and derelict, with several of them having suffered partial collapses.
Because of its more recent use there are very few artifacts of interest in the buildings, but the exteriors themselves provide a very photogenic and interesting look into Penang’s history.