Crag Hotel, Abandoned hotel on Penang Hill

Crag Hotel, Penang Hill

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.

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

Crag Hotel on a distant hill top

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

Entrance to the site, recently fixed and painted

Crag Hotel History

Key Facts

Location: George Town, Penang
Distance: 1 km from Penang hill top
Difficulty: 1/5 (downhill)
Guidebook: The Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei (Rough Guides)(2018)
Accommodation: George Town

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.

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

Front balcony of the Crag hotel

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

Parts of the hotel are heavily decayed

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

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.

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

Former dormitory buildings

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

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.

Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel
Abandoned International School of Penang / Crag Hotel

Crag Hotel, Abandoned hotel on Penang Hill
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Crag Hotel, Abandoned hotel on Penang Hill
Crag Hotel is an abandoned hotel and school on Penang Hill, Malayisa. It has been a private residence, a hotel, an international school, and a film set.
From Here to Nowhere
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17 Comments on "Crag Hotel, Abandoned hotel on Penang Hill"

  1. Suzanne Doyle | April 3, 2017 at 11:05 am | Reply

    I went to Uplands School from 1957 to 1962. Mr. Thurley was the headmaster for my last couple of years. My mother, Mrs. Sylvia Debski taught Latin there during that time. I’m going back to Penang this year and hope to get a look at the old place.

    • Good luck with the visit Suzanne!

    • Charles Jackman | May 17, 2018 at 2:46 am | Reply

      I remember being taught Latin by Mrs Debski in 1957! Charles Jackman

    • Suzanne! My name is Mark Wolfe and I went to Uplands in the latter part of 1961 and 1962- your mother was one of my teachers. Also I had this huge crush on you though I’m sure you never knew it- our youngest daughter’s middle name is Suzanne thanks to you!…
      Anyway we live in a suburb of Richmond VA- please feel free to email me if you’ve a mind to…(total coincidence that I read your comment)

    • Valerie Swift | July 14, 2023 at 8:23 pm | Reply

      Hi Suzanne, I was at Uplands from 1958 to the end of 1961. I have very fond memories of both you and your beautiful yet formidable mum. Kindest regards, Valerie Swift.

  2. Marielle Sundo | December 9, 2017 at 8:44 am | Reply

    Hi there, I am a former Uplands Boarder myself – Marielle Veltema – together with my brother Rolf. We were there for a year in 1965. Mr. Thurley was the Headmaster. My teacher was Mrs. Chan and as it was a British boarding school, I did the 11+ exams there. After the year there, we went on to a boarding school in the Netherlands since we are Dutch. Must say that the general knowledge I learnt at Uplands, was helpful during later schooling. It had a good reputation. Our own experience was very much to do with the jungle: monkeys at teatime trying to filch our jam sandwiches, snakes in the classroom, bats at night flying through the dormitories! I am revisiting soon: in January 2018. Hope to find it.

    • Penang Hill Festival | June 19, 2018 at 7:25 pm | Reply

      Hi and good day to you! A not-to-be-missed opportunity for ex-Uplanders to re-visit and relive memories of their former school located at the former Crag Hotel on Penang Hill. Students of Uplands are invited to take this opportunity to discover the roots of their alma mater.
      On 29 July 2018, 9am-12pm at Crag Hotel Penang Hill. For more information, contact us at or 04-8288880 and do visit our website at

    • Marielle thats a name I remember when flying with you from Bangkok to the Netherlands, to another boarding school unluckily. Hooe all is well with you. Warm regards André Huberts

      • Marielle Sundo | March 11, 2021 at 11:22 am | Reply

        Hi André Jan, just saw your comment. It was a special to visit the old school. Brought back a lot of memories. I remember those long flights back to NL. Am now in Copenhagen. Leave a message on Facebook if you see this. Regards.

  3. I tried to get here in April 2018, but was advised to turn back by a local villager because there were a pack of aggressive feral dogs living around there. Whether it’s true or not I’m not sure, but I also got the feeling that I wasn’t welcome wandering around.

    • Yes, I also got the feeling that I wasn’t welcome 🙂

      There was a pack of dogs when I visited – not feral, but belonging to the lady in a small house just across the wooden bridge before the entrance. They were being quite aggressive and I was lucky that their barking brought her out of the house to control them.

  4. Susan Mulholland Neiman | June 28, 2019 at 9:56 am | Reply

    I was there in 1969. Ms Voon was my teacher and Mr Banfield was the headmaster. Lynn Brink, Mariani Setiadharma, Fiona and Cindy, Julie Leonard and Ann Bertone were the oldest girls there. We started the girl guides then with Joan Butler, Angie Spellacy and Eileen Baldwin. Would love to go back but the pictures that I see make it look so depressing. I won’t be going back. I did speak to Ms Daniels though a couple of years ago thanks to Patrick Tan. Have a great trip in 2020!!!

  5. Anita Leggatt | August 9, 2019 at 11:23 am | Reply

    I was at Uplands in the 70’s and spanned 2 locations : ‘up-the-hill’ & ‘down-the-hill’! I’m also part of the alumni and we frequently organise reunions in both Penang and London. The next reunion is 2020 in Penang. Do look us up on Facebook. Reunions always include a trip back up the hill to Crag Hotel! (As Long as it’s there!)

  6. Hello Mariella, I remember you so well but not from the school. My sister Caroline Adams was such a good friend of yours in Penang and I (Diane) went to Uplands but before you. Your memories of the school reflect mine.

  7. Wow!!! Thanks for all the sharing! I feel like I’ve travelled back in time!

  8. My mom was a Dorm Matron for the junior girls from 1957-1962. I posted a picture in the ex-Uplands Facebook group asking if any students would recognize and remember her. Her name is Swee Fong.

  9. Gudmundur Gislason | March 19, 2022 at 9:28 am | Reply

    I went to Upland school in 1976 and 1977 when the school moved to Georgetown.
    I have some great memories from this time and I´m planning a visit in February, next year.
    It would be great if it would be possible to visit the school.

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