When one thinks of Penang (or Pulau Pinang in Malay), the first thing that comes to mind is its glorious plethora of insatiable food. However, food is not the only thing to look out for in Penang, as there are numerous sights and sounds to look out for in the “Pearl of the Orient”.
Modern day Penang began in 1786, when Captain Sir Francis Light of the British East India Company took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah, in exchange for British military aid. Quick note, Light’s son, William Light is noted for choosing the site of the city of Adelaide, South Australia. From then on, Penang has grown by leaps and bounds, having a current population of 1.77 million people, and notably having the highest GDP per capita amongst all Malaysian states.
Penang is highly developed, and with that, it has the second highest population density in Malaysia. The race relations in Penang is a homogeneous blend with Chinese and Malays being the most in population with a sizable Indian community as well. Due to its proximity to Thailand, there is a small Siamese community, together with a smattering of Eurasians as well.
Being a multi-ethnic society, many languages are spoken in Penang, with Malay, English, and Mandarin being common. A unique aspect of Penang is its unofficial lingua franca which is Penang Hokkien. Don’t be surprised to see locals, irrespective of race speaking Hokkien to each other!
Not many people know this but Penang is a great place to visit if you have an adventurous heart (and stamina to boot). There are numerous parks, waterfalls, hiking spots, beaches, and even a canopy walkway to explore.
Some of the best places to get your heart pumping and Instagram-worthy shots are The Habitat, which provides a 360 degree view of Penang Hill, Penang National Park, which is where the canopy walk is located, and Monkey Beach, as the name suggests, is full of monkeys, monkeying around!
Being a former British colony, Penang is also known for its beautiful colonial buildings together with local designs inspired by its Malay, Chinese, and Thai roots, like the Peranakan Mansion, Eastern & Oriental Hotel, and Kek Lok Si Pagoda. Make sure you have a power bank ready as you will definitely take a lot of photographs.
There is a well-established expatriate population in Penang (with 9% of Penang’s population being expatriates) mostly due to the presence of numerous Multinational Companies (MNCs) and factories. Companies like DELL, Western Digital, Intel, Cisco, & Hewlett Packard have made their home in Penang. Fun fact, Pathfinder Relocation Services started off in Penang!
For a small island, Penang sure has a diverse options when it comes to where an expatriate would want to live. For those who prefer to stay by the beach and watch the beautiful sunsets, then surely they would want to stay in areas like Batu Ferringhi, or Tanjung Bungah; for those with an affinity for nature, then a more local area like Balik Pulau would be their heaven on earth, and for those who prefer the city life, then they would want to live in George Town itself, or even Gurney Drive. You can be rest assured, no matter where you stay, you are only an hour away from any point in Penang.
International schools have mushroomed in Penang with British and American syllabus being the main systems adhered to. To name a few, the schools would be The International School of Penang, Straits International School, Fairview International School, and Prince of Wales Island International School.
Penang has its fair share of shopping delights to rival KL. You can obtain designer clothing to cultural knick knacks, from high-end shopping malls to street markets, Penang has the best of both worlds!
For you Gucci or Fendi fix, you can go to Gurney Paragon Mall or Queensbay Mall, or if you wish to become “cultured”, you may the Batu Ferringhi Night Market and haggle your way to a great deal. Anyway you choose, you will have a dollar-busting great time!
Food, oh that is another matter altogether and will probably require a whole book just to cover the breathtaking, yummy, incredible, and unique food in Penang. Come and experience Penang and be amazed by its people, sights, sounds, and tastes of the Pearl of the Orient.