Pulau Pinang or
Penang - Malaysia
370km from Kuala Lumpur
on Malaysia's northwestern coast, is a confusing amalgam of state
and island. Everything of interest in Penang State is on Penang
Island - Pulau Pinang (Betel Nut Island) in Malay - a large island
of 285 square kilo-metres upon which the first British settlement
on the Malay Peninsula was sited. Penang needs little introduction
to many visitors to Malaysia, having long been known as one of Southeast
Asia's finest destinations. Penang's outstanding beaches and exotic
sights have made it one of the most popular destinations in the
region. The island is linked to the mainland by the Penang Bridge,
which at 13.5 km long is the longest bridge in Asia. Butterworth,
has ferry services across to the island.
According to local folklore, the Snake
Temple, dedicated to a Buddhist healer-priest, was inhabited
by snakes who crawled out of the jungle on the night of the temple's
completion. The snakes are still there today. The Kek
Lok Si temple, at Air Itam, is reputed to be the most beautiful
and largest temple complex in Southeast Asia. Its seven-story pagoda,
over 90 feet high, is a harmonious blend of Chinese, Thai, and Burmese
architecture and craftsmanship.
The confusion of naming conventions is due to
the island's capital, and Malaysia's second largest city, Georgetown,often
being referred to as "Penang". Georgetown is a fast-moving, go-ahead
place, and has a reputation as a duty-free shopping mecca that accords
with its history as a trading port. The epitome of its commercial
development is the gigantic high-rise KOMTAR building, visible even
from the mainland.
Nonetheless, Georgetown has sacrificed few of its
traditional buildings and customs to the modern day approach. It
has one of Malaysia's most vibrant Chinatowns, faded two-storey
shop-houses and ornate temples predominate, legacies of the massive
influx of immigrants attracted here by the early establishment of
a colonial port. Later there was an influx of Indian merchants,
bringing with them spices, rich cloths and religious customs, nowhere
more evident in the city than during the annual festival of Thaipusam.
Georgetown also has some of the best British colonial architecture
in the country in the area surrounding crumbling Fort Cornwallis,
the island's oldest building. To the northwest of the centre of
town, huge mansions and elegant gardens highlight the rewards gained
by early entrepreneurs.
The island is the focus of several important festivals
throughout the year, starting with Thaipusarn in February but perhaps
the best known of the rest is the Penang Bridge Run held in May,
when thousands of competitors proceed across the bridge to Butterworth
at dawn as part of a half-marathon. June is also a busy month, with
the International Dragonboat Race, the Equestrian Carnival and a
beach volleyball tournament on the northern coast. In July the flower
festival and Grand Parade provide colour, while the Cultural Festival
provides a showcase for the various ethnic groups - the Malays,
Chinese and Indians - who make up Penang's population.
Until the late eighteenth century, Pulau Pinang
was ruled by the Sultans of Kedah. For many years Kedah had been
harassed by enemies, which meant that its Sultan, Mohammed J'wa
Mu'Azzam Shah II, was prepared to afford trade facilities to any
nation that would provide him with military protection. Francis
Light arrived in Penang in 1771, a ship's captain of the European
trading company of Jourdain, Sullivan and de Souza, who was in search
of a regional trading base for both his company and the East India
Company. According to contemporary accounts, Captain Light was a
charming man, well trained in the art of diplomacy, and it was not
long before the Sultan had housed the captain in his fort at Kuala
Kedah, conferred upon him the honorary title of "Deva Raja" (God-king)
and taken him into his confidence.
Light knew that the East India Company wanted to
obtain a strategic port in the region to facilitate its trade with
China, and as a refuge from its enemies in the Bay of Bengal. In
forwarding the Sultan's offer of the island of Penang to the Company,
light drew particular attention to its safe harbour, and to the
opportunities for local commerce. In 1772 the Company sent its own
agent, Edward Moncton, to negotiate with the Sultan, but the talks
soon broke down and it was another twelve years before agreement
was reached, spurred by the accession of a new Sultan, Abdullah,
and the East India Company's mounting concern that other countries
were gaining a regional foothold - the French, at war with Britain,
had acquired port facilities in northern Sumatra having already
made a pact with Burma, and the Dutch were consolidating their position
in the Straits of Melaka.
In accordance with an agreement arranged by light,
the Company was to pay Sultan Abdullah $30,000 a year. Unfortunately
for the Sultan, the Company's new governor-general Charles Cornwallis
firmly stated that he could not be party to the Sultan's disputes
with the other Malay princes, or promise to protect him from the
Burmese or Siamese. This rather pulled the rug from under Light's
feet because it was on the basis of these promises that the Sultan
had ceded the island of Penang in the first place. Undeterred, Light
decided to conceal the facts from both parties and formally established
a port at Penang on August 11, 1786 on his own initiative. For the
next five years Light adopted stalling tactics with the Sultan,
assuring him that the matter of protection was being referred to
authorities in London. The Sultan eventually began to suspect that
the company had reneged on the agreement, and he attempted to drive
the British out of Penang by force, but the effort failed and the
subsequent settlement imposed by the British allowed the Sultan
an annual payment of only $6000, and no role in the future government
of the island.
So it was that Penang, then inhabited by less than
a hundred indigenous fishermen, became the first British settlement
in the Malay Peninsula. Densely forested, the island was open to
settlers to claim as much land as they could clear - in somewhat
debonair mood, Light encouraged the razing of the jungle by firing
coins from a cannon into the undergrowth. After an initial, late-eighteenth
century influx, mainly of Chinese immigrants attracted by the possibilities
of new commerce, Penang quickly became a major colonial administrative
centre - within two years, four hundred acres were under Cultivation
and the population had reached ten thousand. Francis Light was made
superintendent and declared the island a free port, renaming it
"Prince of Wales Island" after the British heir apparent, whose
birthday fell the day after the founding of the island. Georgetown
was, unsurprisingly, named after the king at that time, George III;
it has retained its colonial name, even after the island reverted
to the name of Penang. Later in 1800, the Sultan of Kedah surrendered
another large tract of land, this time on the mainland adjacent
to the island. This was named Province Wellesley (now Seberang Perai)
after the British Governor of India at that time. The pioneer settlement
flourished and the population swelled from 1,000 to 12,000 within
two decades. In 1805, Penang was upgraded to the status of a Presidency.
For a long period Penang was endowed with a successful
economy, with Georgetown proclaimed as capital of the newly established
Straits Settlements (incorporating Melaka
in 1826. But the founding of Singapore in 1819 was the beginning
of the end for Georgetown, and as the new colony overtook its predecessor
in every respect (replacing it as capital of the Straits Settlements
in 1832), Penang's fortunes rapidly began to wane. In retrospect,
this had one beneficial effect, since with Georgetown stuck in the
economic doldrums for a century or more, there was no significant
development within the city; many of its colonial and early Chinese
buildings survive to this day. Although occupied by the
Japanese in 1942 during World War II and placed under the authority
of a Japanese governor, the strategic significance of Singapore
once more proved to be Penang's saving grace, and there was little
or no bomb damage to the island.
The British had ruled Penang for 100 years by the
time it became part of the Federation of Malaya in 1957.
flag features vertical stripes of equal width with an areca
nut tree on the white centre panel. Light blue represents
the sea surrounding the island; white stands for its serenity
and yellow signifies prosperity. Pulau Pinang (Penang Island)
derives its name from the areca nut tree, called pokok
pinang in Malay.
The State emblem shows
an areca nut tree above a tricolour shield of yellow, blue
and white. The island derives its name from the areca nut
tree (pokok pinang in Malay). Inside the shield, the
Penang Bridge is shown against a yellow background. It symbolises
unity between the State and the Federal government. The two
pillars of the bridge represent the dual objectives of the
New Economic Policy, that is, the eradication of poverty and
the restructuring of society. The four cables of the bridge
represent the four major races, Malay, Chinese, Indians and
others. The five blue and white waves below the bridge stand
for the five principles of the Rukunegara (the national
ideology) and the 5 administrative districts of the state.
The five blue and white sections at the base of the areca
nut tree have the same significance.
Heading north from Taiping
towards the coast, the landscape becomes increasingly flat and
arid, as the road eases away from the backbone of mountains that
dominate the western seaboard. Sitting 94km north of Taiping is
the dusty, industrial town of BUTTERWORTH, the port for the island
of Penang and the island's capital Georgetown.
Visiting Georgetown in 1879, stalwart Victorian
traveller Isabella Bird called it "a brilliant place under a brilliant
sky" and it's hard to improve on this simple statement - Malaysia's
most fascinating city retains more of its cultural history than
virtually anywhere else in the country. Fort Cornwallis, St George's
Church and the many buildings on and around Lebuh Pantai all survive
from the earliest colonial days, and the coinmunities of Chinatown
and Little India have contributed some fine temples. Later Thai
and Burmese arrivals left their mark on the city, but its predominant
character is formed by the rows of peeling two-storey Chinese
shophouses which have shutters painted in pastel colours, bright
red Chinese lettering covering their colonnades, and cheerfully
designed awnings to shield the goods from the glaring sun. While
the confusion of rickshaws, buses, lorries and scooters make parts
of Georgetown as frenetic and polluted as most other places in
the region, life in the slow lane has changed very little over
the years. The rituals of worship, eating out at a roadside stall,
the running of the family business, have all continued with little
concern for Georgetown's contemporary technological development.
It may no longer be a sleepy backwater - most of the island's
one-million strong population now lives here - hut the city's
soul is firmly rooted in the past.
Strategically sited Georgetown is no stranger
to visitors, since ships from all over the world have been docking
at present-day Swettenham Pier since Francis Light first established
his port here in 1786. Over the years, not surprisingly, it acquired
a rather dubious reputation for backstreet dives frequented by
boisterous sailors on shore leave. Where once ships' chandlers
and supply merchants ran thriving businesses, modern-day maritime
trade is of an entirely different nature: neon-lit bars and dingy
brothels help to boost the spirits of foreign navy crews who make
regular forays around the city's streets. There's been a gradual
change though, especially since the late 1970s, when foreign tourists
first descended upon Penang in significant numbers.
Bandar Bayan Baru
Bandar Bayan Baru is located on the western
side of Penang Island. Among the tourist attractions close to
this town are the Snake Temple and
the Bukit Jambul Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Fort Cornwallis is located in Georgetown and
was built on the site of Francis Light's historic landing in 1786.
Originally a wooden stockade, it was replaced by a concrete structure
built by convict labour, in 1804 and named after the Governor
General of India at that time, Charles Marquis Cornwallis. Today,
an open-air amphitheatre, a history gallery, and a handicraft
and souvenir centre occupies the interior. Fort Cornwallis also
houses a famous Dutch cannon, called Seri Rambai, that
in some way or another has been associated with virtually every
shift in political alliances on the Peninsula since the early
17th century. The cannon arrived on the Peninsula in 1606 as a
present from the Dutch to the Sultan of Johor. Only a few years
later the Dutch cannon was taken by the Achenese in a raid on
Johor's capital. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the
cannon was sent to by the Achenese to Kuala Selangor in hopes
of establishing an alliance with the Bugis. The cannon's last
move, from Kuala Selangor to Penang, followed the British bombardment
on Kuala Selangor in 1871.
Padang Kota Lama
One of the important historical sites of Penang,
this is also the site of Fort Cornwallis where Captain Francis
Light first landed.
The hills of Penang - Western Hill, Tiger Hill,
Strawberry Hill, and others - have long been popular refuges from
the heat of the low-lying city. As the funicular railway proceeds
along its half-hour climb of the hill, a broad panoramic view
of Georgetown slowly unfolds. The view from Flagstaff Hill, at
the top of the line, is a lovely way to watch night descend over
The Khoo Kongsi is situated in Cannon Square.
The construction of the clan house or kongsi began around
1894 and was only completed in 1905. The wave of Chinese immigration
to Penang during the nineteenth century gave rise to the formation
of clan formations, or kongsi, which served as surrogate kinship
and professional associations for immigrants who had left behind
family and friends. A multitude of kongsi arose in Penang, and
each organization constructed a hall to serve as the locus of
its community. The clan house, Khoo Kongsi, is for the exclusive
use of members of the Leong San Tong clan and is the most famous
example of these halls, having been designed with such magnificence
that it was said to rival the palace of China's emperor. Whether
by misfortune or because such a resemblance was viewed as an offence,
the original Khoo Kongsi burnt to the ground almost as soon as
it was completed. The present structure was built as a scaled
down version of that original, though it is an extraordinarily
impressive structure nonetheless. Comprising of two buildings
that face each other, one is the clan temple and the other houses
an opera stage. The Khoo Kongsi is unique not only for its historical
value but also for the fine elements in construction and design.
The building features a magnificent hall embellished with intricate
carvings and richly ornamented beams of the finest wood, each
bearing the mark of master craftsmen from China.
Bendera Hill is located in Ayer Hitam. The hill
is 800 m above sea level and it is the highest peak on the island.
The summit is accessible by a cable railway that is more than
50 years old and other attractions here include a 100-year-old
cannon. From the highest point on the hill, visitors can enjoy
a panoramic view of Penang.
The Botanical Gardens offer peace and tranquility
amidst lush green surroundings, tropical plants, and the vibrant
colors of Penang's flora. The 30-hectare garden also features
a waterfall. Created in 1884 by the British, it was meant as a
tribute to Charles Curtis, the garden's first superintendent.
Curtis collected botanical specimens from the surrounding hills
- specimens that have since become significant samples in the
world's major herbaria. The gardens are also well known for their
bold Rhesus monkeys who do not restrict themselves to the bounds
of the gardens.
This Buddhist temple of Thai architecture houses
a magnificent gold-plated reclining Buddha that is said to be
the third largest in the world. The niches behind the statue house
urns containing the ashes of devotees.
Probably the only temple of its kind in the world.
The multitude of pit vipers coiled around objects on the altar
are believed to be rendered harmless by the smoke of the burning
incense in the temple. Just for good measure, the snakes have
also been devenomed.
Kek Lok Si
The Kek Lok Si Temple is located on a hilltop
in Ayer Hitam and is reputedly the largest Buddhist temple complex
in South-East Asia. The construction of the temple began in 1893
but it was only completed in 1905. The temple is also widely-known
for the beauty of its design, which incorporates elements of Chinese,
Thai, and Burmese architecture. Kek Lok Si is dominated by the
seven-tiered pagoda of Ban Po Thar, the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas
that was completed in 1930, which is dedicated to the Boddhisattva
Tsi Tsuang Wang, who declined to enter nirvana after enlightenment
in order that he might assist others along the path.
St George's Church
St. George's Church is located on the corner
of Lebuh Farquhar and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling. It is the oldest
Anglican Church in the country and its architectural design was
modelled after a much larger church in Madras. Built with convict
labor in 1818, this stately Anglican colonial church is one of
the oldest landmarks in the city. A memorial canopy, dedicated
to Captain Francis Light, the founder of Penang who died on 21
October 1794, stands in the entrance of the church, he is buried
in the adjoining cemetery.
Sri Mariamman Temple
This Hindi temple, built in the late nineteenth
century, features fascinating sculptures of gods and goddesses
over its entrance and on its facade. Housed within its ornately
decorated interior is a priceless statue of Lord Subramaniam,
embellished with gold, silver, diamonds, and emeralds. The statue
figures prominently in the annual Thaipusam Festival, when it
is borne on a silver chariot through the city streets to the temple
at Jalan Waterfall.
Located at the junction of Jalan Ayer Hitam
and Green Lane, the Penang State Mosque was built in 1979. It
was designed by Filipino architect E B Paz.
The Penang Bridge was officially opened in 1985
and it is the crowning landmark of Penang Island. The 13.5 km
long bridge is the longest in Asia and the third longest the world.
It connects Penang Island to mainland Peninsular Malaysia.
||1,030 square km
| State Capital
Namely:- Central Seberang Perai, North Seberang Perai, South
Seberang Perai, Northeast dan Southwest
Breakdown of Races (1994)