Widely known as the Pearl of the Orient,
Penang is one of Asia's most famous islands. Its natural beauty
and exotic heritage have been attracting curious visitors
Travel guides have referred to it as "a
place of mysterious temples and palm-shrouded beaches",
while literary giant Somerset Maugham is known to have stayed
on the island and spun tales about the romance of the white
planter in South-East Asia.
Penang today is very much an amalgam of the
old and the new – a bustling port, a heritage city and
an industrial base. Perhaps it has more to offer per square
mile than any other place in the world. For sheer variety
of locales, cultures and foods, Penang is hard to beat.
In it's capital Georgetown, modern skyscrapers
rise from one of Southeast Asia's largest collections of intact
prewar buildings. Manufactures of sophisticated electronic
goods compete for space with wet markets and old temples.
Where else can you find a century-old church, a Chinese temple,
an Indian temple, and a Muslim mosque all within a five-minute
walk from one another? Likewise, tall urban structures stand
beside the red-tiled roofs of Chinatown and "Little India"
is just across the road, while the Malay kampungs lie on the
outskirts. The seamless melding of the many peoples of Penang
is best reflected in the delicious hawker foods (available
around the clock) and the adherence to traditions and customs.
Festivals abound throughout the year.
Should one wish to get away from the busy
city, the idlyllic beaches and soothing hills are but minutes
away, while the industrial free trade zone, the "Silicon
Valley of the East", and the international airport are
Penang or its Malay name of Pulau Pinang
is made up of a turtle-shaped island, a total of 285 square
kilometers, and a strip of land called Seberang Prai on Peninsular
Malaysia about 48 kilometers wide.
Since 1985, the island has been joined to
the mainland by the Penang Bridge, one of the longest bridges
in the world. Alternatively, travellers arriving from the
mainland can hop onto the ferry and take a 20-minute ride
across. There are also international flights that connect
directly to the international airport on the island