PENANG,"The Pearl of the Orient" lies off the north-western coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Also known as "The Northern Gateway of Malaysia", it comprises the island of Penang covering an area of about 285 sq. km and a narrow strip of the mainland, Province Wellesley or Seberang Perai, which is about 760 sq. km.
It all began in 1786, when Captain Francis Light founded Penang. It was established as a trading port as it's strategic location in the north of the Straits of Malacca could control the trading going on in the straits. From then, it has developed into one of Malaysia's most advance state.
Separated by the North and South Channel with the mainland and the closest point of 3 km, it is connected with a 24-hour ferry service and a 13.5 km Penang Bridge. It's population of more than 1.2 million consists of the majority of Chinese (59%), Malays (32%), Indians(7%) and others(2%). The multi-racial community live in peace and harmony.
GEORGETOWN, at the north-eastern tip of the island is the seat of administration and is also the commercial hub of the state. This bustling metropolitan city combines the best of east and west as seen in its fascinating collection of fine old buildings, each bearing the stamp of different foreign influences in its colorful history. Due to this, Georgetown was listed in the UNESCO. Its population of over 4 hundred thousand in 1998 has ranked as the second biggest city in Malaysia.
Much of its charm also lies in its famous golden, white beaches and calm warm seas. Penang today is a resort island in full bloom - an idyllic playground for worshippers of the sun and the sea. Its multi-racial population contributes to a wealth of cultural attractions and festivals for visitors to bring home memories of happy times in Penang.
Georgetown is also famed as a shopper's paradise found at the large departmental stores and shops around this busting city as well as at Night Bazaars (Pasar Malam) around Penang.
A Brief History
Penang today bears the mark of an early history of successive foreign influences - from the early Indian Civilization that took root in northern Malaya to that of the Portuguese, Dutch and later the British who came to this part of the world in search of spices and stayed to participate in the lucrative trade.
This history of modern Penang can be traced back to 1786 when Francis Light to persuade the Sultan of Kedah to cede ''Pualu Pinang'' 9Betel Nut Island) to the British East India Company. Light landed at the site of the present Esplanade and according to local legend, fired gold coins into the surrounding jungle to induce his men to clear the area. The island was originally named Princes Of Wales island and the settlement that soon grew up was named Georgetown after King George lll.
In 1800, the sultan of Kedah further ceded a strip of land on the mainland across the channel which Light named Province Wellesley, after the then Governor of India. In 1832, Penang formed part of the Straits Settlement with Melaka and Singapore. It flourished and grew to be a major trading post for a lucrative trade a hundred years, it remained under the British Colonial rule until 1957 when it gained independence and became one of the states of the newly formed Federation of Malaya and later Malaysia in 1963.