The Watch List: Dr Angeline Yong

Get to know the brains behind Penang's luxurious 88 Armenian boutique hotel.
Wednesday 11 March 2020
It's not everyday you meet a dermatologist who owns successful hotel businesses. Photo: 88 Armenian

She’s extraordinary when it comes to multitasking. A mother of two and a dermatologist, Dr Angeline Yong is also the owner of three heritage hotels, including the beautiful 88 Armenian, a boutique hotel in Penang which she refurbished.

With so much going on, this go-getter still manages to take time to travel, visit other hotels and enjoy life, not to mention commit to a Masters in Public Health at Harvard University. This power woman can take on anything and she will, with future plans to restore other hotels and give guests an experience like no other.


What kind of traveller are you?

When I was younger and had boundless energy, I really liked travelling to the far reaches of the earth on a limited budget and typically ending up roughing it. Now that I am older, I can pamper myself and enjoy luxury travel options too. However, there are occasions when I do rough it for the fun of it.

How do you manage to multitask all the things in your life and where do you get the energy?

My friends and family always pointed out the boundless energy I’ve had from an early age, though I believe I’m still young! I think a lot of it is intrinsic, I’m just wired that way. People often compare me to an Energizer bunny; I think it’s joie de vivre. I also have ikigai now, meaning I enjoy everything I do, so I don’t get tired from doing it.

As a dermatologist, what is a skincare habit pet peeve of yours that you’ve seen recently?

Perhaps it is polypharmacy. Many patients like to buy and try different skincare products from various pharmacies, online retail sources, whilst shopping overseas, various doctor offices, all kinds. Oftentimes the products may not be suitable for their skin type and unfortunately, they sometimes layer them on top of each other, which can cause problems like irritation, clog their pores and cause acne outbreaks and contact dermatitis.

What inspired you to revamp heritage buildings into hotels?

I really enjoy staying in historical hotels. I think they have so much character and charm, like the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap, Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco (in Peru), Belmond Cataratas Hotel (in Brazil) overlooking the Iguazu Falls, and the Amangalla Hotel in Galle Fort (in Sri Lanka).

Where did you find the inspiration for the design and feel of the rooms in 88 Armenian?

Armenian Street was once known as the “coppersmith street” in Penang, and this history is told through the use of copper elements throughout the building. The use of burnt wood or shou sugi ban recalls the time when this building was torched by flames and burnt down. The overall design and feel of the rooms in 88 Armenian are reflective of personal design aesthetic and an appreciation of very clean lines with the maximisation of natural light through its airy windows.



What were the best hotels or places you’ve stayed at that have inspired you?

Honestly, there are too many as I constantly look for hotels to stay in that can inspire me in different ways. I enjoyed staying at Le Sources de Caudalie in the middle of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte close to Bordeaux (in France) as I really enjoyed the entire experience with the vinotherapie spa, farm-to-table Michelin-starred restaurants, and the elegant rustic buildings overlooking endless rows of vines. The Cape Grace in Cape Town oozes quiet elegance and overlooks the beautiful, and I also really love staying in the small elegant ryokans in Kyoto where you get to really experience Japanese hospitality first-hand.

How do you define success?

Success is determined by your own values in life. I think that if you manage to uphold your values and fulfil them, you would more or less have achieved personal success. To me, I think attaining ikigai is pretty much success. Ikigai is the reason why I wake up in the morning and do what I do. I think it can be defined also as finding a sweet spot where you are able to pursue what you like to do, to be good at it at the same time, and find value in doing it.

This is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s December 2019 issue from the article The Watch List: Dr Angeline Yoong