"Penang - The Pearl of the Orient" Penang by Willettsworld

Penang Travel Guide: 2,546 reviews and 5,621 photos

Penang (meaning betel nut in Malay) is an island off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is also the name of the Malaysian state which is made up of Penang Island and the facing strip of territory on the mainland called Seberang Perai which includes the city of Butterworth. These two halves of Penang are connected by the 8-mile (13.4km) long Penang Bridge, the longest bridge in Malaysia and one of the longest in Asia.

Penang was part of the Malay sultanate of Kedah until 1786, when Captain Francis Light built a fort at the site of present-day George Town and managed to get the island ceded to the British East India Company, along with Malacca and Singapore. The island was one of the three British Straits Settlements. The original name of Penang was Pulau Ka-satu or "First Island", it was renamed to Prince of Wales Island on 12 August 1786 to commemorate the birthday of the Prince of Wales, later, King George IV. During the early and middle part of the last century, Penang Island was also known as "The Pearl of the Orient".

Tourism is big business on the island, although Penang's beaches are nice, they are a little lackluster when compared to those in some other Malaysian states. However, this is more than compensated for by the island's rich multicultural history which is full of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European influences. This can be found in George Town with an area within a radius of about a mile from Fort Cornwallis forming the old quarters with many splendid colonial buildings alongside gleaming temples, mosques, churches, Chinese clan houses and shophouses and a labyrinthine of alleys that all make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as George Town, other major attractions on the island include the Kek Lok Si Temple, reputed to be the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia; Penang Hill with its funicular railway; Botanical Gardens established in 1884; Orchid, Retile and Butterfly Gardens; and Snake Temple.

I've been to Penang twice now. The first time I stayed for a few days in Batu Feringghi - the islands main beach resort but came back here in February 2009 as part of a big backpacking trip I did around SE Asia when I stayed in George Town. I came to George Town from over the Thai border and then carried on down Peninsula Malaysia to Taiping, Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh and KL.

  • Last visit to Penang: Feb 2009
  • Intro Updated Aug 18, 2010
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  • Dec 10, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    Hi Willetsworld, When was the last time you visited Penang? Glo has closed down, Momo has closed down & if I'm not mistaken the Tiger Arms has also closed down! SS is still going strong though & Segafredo still open.


“"Don't listen to what they say. Go see." ~ Chinese proverb”

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