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Penang: The Pearl of the Orient, and a Food Paradise of Malaysia

Penang is a state in Malaysia, encompassing a part of the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Penang Island in the Strait of Malacca. Rich in multicultural heritage, it is a lovely place for sight-seeing, food tasting, and leisure activities.

Attractions and things to do
  • Sight-seeing in Georgetown (the capital of the state), with its unique architectural and cultural townscape; a UNESCO´s World Heritage Site.
  • KOMTAR (the highest building on the island) Scenic View.
    Waterfall Gardens (Botanic Garden).
  • Cable train to Penang Hill.
  • Kek Lok Si Temple.
  • Pulau Jerejak Resort (“the Alcatraz of Malaysia”).
  • Batu Ferringhi, popular holiday paradise with white beaches.
  • Snake Temple.
  • Fort Cornwallis.
  • Jungle trekking & camping in Teluk Bahang.
  • Golfing.
Hotels
Budget, mid-range, or splurge accommodation in Georgetown; beach resorts along the main tourist beach of Batu Feringghi.

What to eat
Tasting food in some of the many food stalls is one of must-do things in Penang. Region´s culinary originality and diversity is famous: try Asam Laksa, Hokkien Mee, Penang Char Koay Teow; taste coconut tart, and durian fruit. In Penang's cuisine the Malaysian ethnic mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian is reflected. Nyonya cuisine (traditional way of combining Malay and Chinese cooking, practiced by descendants to Chinese early emigrants, Baba-Nyonya) is exquisite; the food culture is also influenced by the cuisine of Thailand. The "hawker food" – where noodles and fresh seafood - are the main ingredients - is sold and eaten roadside. Traditional are also Nutmeg products and Chinese biscuits.

Shopping
Shopping malls, also in KOMTAR skyscraper, shopping areas with great number of antique shops in Georgetown, and of course famous night markets (Pasar Malam) that are available all over the state, not to mention the one in Batu Ferringi – Penang is a place where shopping is a real pleasure.

Getting here and getting around
Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport (PEN) is one of Malaysia's larger airports. It has regular connections with Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi, and Johor Bahru.  Bangkok, Phuket, and Taipei are some foreign destination that Penang can be reached from.  It takes 20 minutes to get from the airport to the state capital, Georgetown. 

There are overnight trains from Bangkok to Butterworth, then one has to take a ferry. There are also ferries from Langkawi. Long distance buses and minivans operate daily between Penang and many Malaysian and Thai cities. Travelers by car take North-South Expressway from the mainland and cross the Penang Bridge.

Transport within Penang: There are no trains, the ordinary bus service is sporadic, but RapidPenang new public bus service and free shuttle bus service in Georgetown are now quite convenient. Optionally, motorcycles and bicycles can be rented. Try a trishaw for a city tour.
 
History
Penang was first part of the Malay Sultanate of Kedah, then, in 1786, it was given to the British East India Company. In exchange, Captain Francis Light, known as the founder of Penang (he renamed it Prince of Wales Island), promised the Sultan military protection against Siam and Burma, but since he did it without acceptance of BEIC and failed to assist against aggressors, the Sultan tried to retake the territory. He was unsuccessful and forced to cede the island to the British.

Penang became first (in 1826) part of the Straits Settlements under the British administration in India, then, since 1867, fell under direct British colonial rule.  In 1946 it became part of the Malayan Union, and two years later a state of the Federation of Malaya. The federation gained independence in 1957 and became Malaysia in 1963.

In 1969 Penang lost its free-port status and in consequence the cargo trade diminished; today the state´s economy is based on tourism and electronic manufacturing. 

Climate & weather
Eequatorial climate. Warm (ca 23-30°C) and sunny all year long; rich rainfall during the southwest monsoon in April, and September - November. January and February have the highest average temperature of 32°C (and min. 24°C) and are the driest months of the year.

Currency: Malaysian ringgit (MYR)
Time zone: UTC (GMT) +8

 

 

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