General Introductions about Penang
Malaysia's 'Pearl of the Orient' carries a natural beauty and cultural splendour like no other place. Its name comes from the Malay translation of betel nut - 'Pinang'.
Every year, thousands of visitors come here to experience the unique cultural heritage and scenery. It is also a very cosmopolitan city, perhaps the second busiest in the country after Kuala Lumpur.
Penang's history was official recorded when the Sultan of Kedah ceded the state (then under his control) to Francis Light of the British East India Company in 1786. In exchange, the Sultan was promised British military protection from the Siamese by the crafty Light who had, in fact, no such backing.
When the Siamese invaded, there was no help rendered to the Sultan. He attempted to retake Penang back in 1790. The attack was unsuccessful and Penang continued to remain under British control with an additional strip of mainland added in 1800. The Sultan was paid 10,000 Spanish Dollars per annum in return.
Through the decades, Penang flourished as a centre for trade of tea, spices, china and cloth. It remained under British rule until it became part of Malaysia in 1957 during Independence Day.
While the population is multi-racial, the culture here seems to have adopted a permanent a Chinese tinge. It is not unusual to find Malays and Indians being able to speak the Hokkien language alongside the largely Chinese population (65 percent) of Penang.
Eating out is a very popular past time and Penang's hawker stalls are legendary among Malaysians for their excellent food and lively atmosphere.
Penang consists of a 285 sq. km island connected via a 13 km bridge to an additional 760 sq. km of mainland, referred to as Seberang Perai.
Commercial and administrative activity is concentrated in the capital of Georgetown, located on the northeast tip of the island. Temples and other historical sites are scattered in many places and the northern areas hides some picturesque beaches.
The Modern Penang
Today, Penang is fast, furious and alive with culture and people.
Though the number of visitors may have lessened since its duty-free status was taken over by Langkawi, the island state is currently undergoing a revival among visitors through tourism efforts by its people and the Government to return it to its glory days.