Penang (Malay: Pulau Pinang) is a state in Malaysia, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia after Perlis, and the eighth most populous. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite.
The name "Penang" comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means island of the areca nut tree (Areca catechu, family Palmae). The name Penang can refer either to the island of Penang or the state of Penang. The capital of Penang state is George Town. More specifically, George Town is also called Tanjung in Malay. Penang Island is simply Pulau Pinang and Penang state is Negeri Pulau Pinang in Malay.
Penang is also known colloquially as "The Pearl of the Orient" and because of this Penang is also known as "Pulau Pinang Pulau Mutiara" (Penang Island of Pearls).
On July 7, 2008, George Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Many early settlers succumbed to malaria, earning Penang the "the White Man's Grave" epithet.
Unbeknownst to the Sultan, Light had acted without the approval of the East India Company when he promised military protection. When the Company failed to aid Kedah when it was attacked by Siam, the Sultan tried to retake the island in 1790. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the Sultan was forced to cede the island to the Company for an honorarium of 6,000 Spanish dollars per annum. This was later increased to 10,000 dollars, with Province Wellesley being added to Penang in 1800. An annual honorarium of 10,000 ringgits continues to this day be paid by the Malaysian Federal Government to the state of Kedah.
In 1826, Penang, along with Malacca and Singapore, became part of the Straits Settlements under the British administration in India, moving to direct British colonial rule in 1867. In 1946 it became part of the Malayan Union, before becoming in 1948 a state of the Federation of Malaya, which gained independence in 1957 and became Malaysia in 1963.
The island was a free port until 1969. Despite the loss of the island's free-port status, from the 1970s to the late 1990s the state built up one of the largest electronics manufacturing bases in Asia, in the Free Trade Zone around the airport in the south of the island.
On 7 July 2008, George Town, the historic capital of Penang was formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside with Malacca. It is officially recognized as having a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.
|Japanese occupation||19 December 1941|
|Malayan Union||1 April 1946|
|Federation of Malaya||1 February 1948|
|Independence||31 August 1957|
|Malaysia||16 September 1963|
The state is geographically divided into two sections:
The body of water between Penang Island and Province Wellesley is the North Channel to the north of George Town and the South Channel to the south of George Town. Penang Island is irregularly shaped, with a granitic, hilly and mostly forested interior, the highest point being Western Hill (part of Penang Hill) at 830 metres above sea level. The coastal plains are narrow, the most extensive of which is in the northeast which forms a triangular promontory where George Town, the state capital, is situated. The topography of Province Wellesley is mostly flat. Butterworth, the main town in Province Wellesley, lies along the Perai River estuary and faces George Town at a distance of 3 km (2 miles) across the channel to the east.
Air Itam - Balik Pulau - Bandar Baru Air Itam - Batu Ferringhi - Batu Maung - Batu Lanchang - Bayan Baru - Bayan Lepas - Gelugor - George Town - Green Lane - Gurney Drive - Jelutong - Paya Terubong - Pulau Tikus - Pulau Betong - Sungai Ara - Sungai Dua - Sungai Nibong - Tanjung Bungah - Tanjung Tokong - Teluk Bahang
Alma - Bagan Ajam - Bagan Luar - Batu Kawan - Bukit Mertajam - Bukit Minyak - Butterworth - Jawi - Juru - Kepala Batas - Mak Mandin - Nibong Tebal - Pantai Aceh - Permatang Pauh - Perai - Raja Uda - Seberang Jaya - Simpang Ampat - Sungai Bakap - Bukit Tambun - Permatang Tinggi
The greater metropolitan area of Penang consists of highly urbanized Penang Island, Seberang Prai, Sungai Petani, Kulim and the surrounding areas. In terms of population, it is the second largest metropolitan area in Malaysia after the Conurbation of Kuala Lumpur (Klang Valley). According to National Census 2000, the population of this urban area in is about 1.6 million. As for the Conurbation of Kuala Lumpur, the population in 2000 is about 4.9 million while the population of Johor Bahru is 1.5 million. Currently, the population of this urban area is approximately 2 million.
Under 9th Malaysia Plan, this urban area is referred to as the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER). The Northern Corridor Economic Region is one of the three development regions formed in Peninsular Malaysia, other development regions being the South Johor Economic Region (SJER) or Iskandar Development Region (IDR) and the East Coast Development Region. The Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) encompases Penang (Penang Island and Seberang Prai), Kedah (Alor Star, Sungai Petani and Kulim) and Northern Perak.
The Bayan Lepas Regional Meteorological Office is the primary weather forecast facility for northern Peninsular Malaysia.
|Ave annual rainfall||2670 mm|
|Average min (°C)||23.2||23.5||23.7||24.1||24.2||23.8||23.4||23.4||23.2||23.3||23.3||23.4|
|Average max (°C)||31.6||32.2||32.2||31.9||31.6||31.4||31.0||30.9||30.4||30.4||30.4||30.7|
|Lowest recorded (°C)||19||19||19||20||19||20||22||21||20||20||18||20|
|Highest recorded (°C)||37||36||36||37||35||36||35||35||36||34||35||35|
|Average rainfall (millimeters)||69||72||146||221||203||178||192||242||356||383||232||114|
|Ave no of days with 1 mm||5||6||9||14||14||11||12||14||18||19||15||9|
The state has the highest population density in Malaysia with 2,031.74 people per square kilometre on the island and 865.99 people per square kilometre on the mainland. It also the only non-Malay dominated state in Malaysia. Penang is the only state in Malaysia where ethnic Chinese forms a plurality. The ethnic composition in 2008 was:
There were Jewish and Armenian communities in Penang before World War II, but these dissipated as a result of the Japanese occupation and the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. A small but commercially significant community of German merchants also existed in Penang. Today, Penang has a sizeable expatriate population especially from Japan and Britain, many of which settle in Penang after their retirement as part of the Malaysia My Second Home programme.
The Peranakan, also known as the Straits Chinese or Baba-Nyonya, are the descendants of the early Chinese immigrants to Penang as well as to Malacca and Singapore. They have partially adopted Malay customs and speak a Chinese-Malay creole. The Peranakan community possesses a distinct identity in terms of food, costume, rites, crafts and culture. Most of the Peranakan Chinese are not Muslims but practise ancestor worship and Chinese religion. During British rule, the Peranakan had a reputation of being loyal British subjects and many of them adopted British mannerisms. They prided themselves as being Anglophone and distinguished themselves from the newly-arrived Chinamen or sinkheh. The Peranakan, however, are almost extinct today due to their re-absorption into the mainstream Chinese community. However, their legacy lives on in their great cuisine, their intricate nyonya kebaya costume and exquisite handicrafts.
Penang Hokkien is a variant of Minnan and is widely spoken by a substantial proportion of the Penang populace who are descendants of early Chinese settlers. It bears strong resemblance to the language spoken by Chinese living in the Indonesian city of Medan and is based on the Minnan dialect of Zhangzhou prefecture in Fujian province, China. It incorporates a large number of loanwords from Malay and English. Many Penangites who are not ethnically Chinese are also able to speak in Hokkien. Most Penang Hokkien speakers are not literate in Hokkien but instead read and write in standard (Mandarin) Chinese, English and/or Malay.
Malay is spoken locally with north-western dialect features, such as hang for "you" and depa for "they/them".
English is a working language widely used in business and commerce, and is also the language of instruction of Science and Mathematics in schools. English used in an official or formal context is predominantly British English with some American influences. Spoken English, as in the rest of Malaysia, is often in the form of Manglish (Malaysian colloquial English).
The official religion of Penang is Islam and the head of Islam is the Yang Dipertuan Agong, but other religions are freely practised. These are Buddhism, in the Theravada, Mahayana and increasingly also Vajrayana traditions, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism (the largest denominations of which are the Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptists) and Sikhism- reflecting Penang's diverse ethnic and socio-cultural amalgamation.
There is also a small, but little-known, community of Jews in Penang, mainly along Jalan Zainal Abidin (formerly Jalan Yahudi or Jewish Street) .
21st century Penang remains a thriving commercial (and now industrial) centre with a relatively high standard of living. However, in terms of development it has been overtaken in recent years by the Klang Valley, which is the political and economic heart of modern Malaysia. While the slower rate of development in Penang has left much of its cultural and architectural heritage intact, what development there has been poorly managed due to underfunding in infrastructure by the federal government, corruption and the breakdown of participatory local government since the late 1960s. Nonetheless, Penangites maintain a strong civic identity rooted in Penang's former pre-eminence, reinforced by a strong local cultural and linguistic identity.
The head of the state executive is a Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia). The present Governor is Tun Dato' Seri Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abbas. In practice the Governor is a figurehead, and he acts upon the advice of the state Executive Council, which is appointed from the majority party in the Legislative Assembly.
Penang is the only state in Malaysia in which its Chief Minister has been continuously held by an ethnic Chinese since Independence, reflecting the state's ethnic majority. Lim's deputy, Prof. Ramasamy made history by becoming the first ethnic Indian to hold the Deputy Chief Minister post. Ever since coming into power, Chief Minister Lim has been espousing a clean and efficient government based on CAT (Competency, Accountability, and Transparency).
The Chief Minister heads the State Executive Council, the highest administrative body in the state, which answers to the Legislative Assembly. The state Secretariat and other state or federal government departments assist the Executive Council in the state's administration. Most government offices are housed in the 65-storey tower block of the Tun Abdul Razak Complex (KOMTAR) in the heart of George Town.
When Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, a coalition member of the Barisan Nasional (BN), headed the then state government, there have been occasional calls by United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) its other coalition member, to rotate the position of Chief Minister between BN component parties. However, this has consistently been rejected by the Barisan leadership. Such demand reached new heights in 2006 on allegations of the marginalisation of the Malay populace. Interestingly, one of the more vocal proponents is Khairy Jamaludin, the son-in-law of the current Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It is to be noted that during Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad's tenure of prime ministership, he refuted claims of marginalisation by alluding to the Malay-governed state of Kelantan. In fact, Malays in Penang are only second to their counterparts in the Klang Valley. They fare better than those from other states such as Kedah, Perlis and Terengganu.
There are two local authorities in Penang, the Municipal Council of Penang Island (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang) and the Municipal Council of Province Wellesley (Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai) Local councillors have been appointed by the state government since local elections were abolished in Malaysia in the 1960s. Both municipal councils are made up of a president, a municipal secretary and 24 councillors. The president is appointed by the State Government for two-year terms of office while the councillors are appointed for one-year terms of office. The state is divided into 5 administrative divisions:
Each district is headed by a district officer.
The following table shows the succession of the heads of governments of Penang from its founding years to the present day.
|Head of Government||From||To|
|British colonial period|
|Superintendent||11 August 1786||1799|
|Japanese occupation (World War II)|
|Japanese governor||December 1941||1945|
|Postwar British rule|
|British military governor||1945||1946|
|Yang Dipertua Negeri/Governor (ceremonial)||31 August 1957||Present|
|Chief minister||12 June 1959||Present|
The unicameral state legislature, whose members are called state assemblymen, convenes at the neoclassical state Legislative Assembly (Dewan Undangan Negeri) building at Light Street. It has 40 seats, 19 of which are held by the Democratic Action Party, 11 by Barisan Nasional, nine by Parti Keadilan Rakyat and one by PAS since the 2008 general elections. It was a sharp reversal from the 38 seats held by BN in the 2004 elections and only the second time since Independence that the state fell into non-BN control, the last being in 1969.
In the Malaysian Parliament, Penang is represented by 13 elected Members of Parliament in the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives), serving a five-year term, and has two senators in the Dewan Negara (Senate), both appointed by the state Legislative Assembly to serve a three-year term.
Today, the judicial power is almost completely vested in the federal court system. The Supreme Court Building in Light Street and Farquhar Street houses the Penang registry of the High Court in Malaya as well as the George Town Sessions Court and Magistrates courts. The Penang Prison is located at Gaol Road.
The entrepôt trade has greatly declined, due in part to the loss of Penang's free-port status, but also due to the active development of Port Klang near the federal capital Kuala Lumpur. However, there is a container terminal in Butterworth which continues to service the northern area.
Other important sectors of Penang's economy include tourism, finance, shipping and other services.
The Penang Development Corporation (PDC) is the state development agency to develop, plan, implement and promote development projects in the form of socio-economic interests on behalf of the State Government of Penang. It functions as the investment arm of the state government.
Owing to limited land size and the highly industrialised nature of Penang's economy, agriculture is given little emphasis. In fact, agriculture is the only sector to record negative growth in the state, contributing only 1.3% to the state GDP in 2000. The share of Penang's paddy area to the national paddy area accounts for only 4.9%.
Penang was the centre of banking of Malaysia at a time when Kuala Lumpur was still a small outpost. The oldest bank in Malaysia, Standard Chartered Bank (then the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China) opened its doors in 1875. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, now known as HSBC, opened its first branch in Penang in 1885. The UK-based Royal Bank of Scotland (then ABN AMRO) opened its first office in Penang in 1888 to cater to the financial requirements of the early European traders. Most of the older banks still maintain their local headquarters on Beach Street, the old commercial centre of George Town.
Today, Penang remains a banking hub with branches of Citibank, United Overseas Bank, and Bank Negara Malaysia (the Malaysian central bank) together with local banks such as Public Bank, Maybank, Ambank and CIMB Bank.
Penang island is a paradise for food lovers who come from all over Malaysia and even Singapore to sample the island's unique cuisine, earning Penang the nickname of the food capital of Malaysia. Penang was recognised as having the Best Street Food in Asia by TIME magazine in 2004, citing that nowhere else can such great tasting food be so cheap. Penang's cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but is also strongly influenced by the cuisine of Thailand to the north. It's especially famous "hawker food", sold and eaten roadside, strongly features noodles and fresh seafood. Places to savour Penang's food are Gurney Drive, Pulau Tikus, New Lane, Swatow Lane, Penang Road and Chulia Street. Local Chinese restaurants serve excellent fare too. American fast food outlets and cafés are readily found throughout the state.
Although Penang has lost much of its shopping paradise grandeur of its past, it still boasts several modern shopping malls catering a wide range of merchandise. Among the more popular ones on Penang Island are:
Other notable shopping malls on the mainland part of Penang:
The best way to capture Penang’s mixed heritage is to stroll around town. The aged buildings are noted for their faded colours and crumbling walls. Old houses have columns or multi-coloured Peranakan tiles. The Aceh Mosque is the oldest house of worship in the city. The smell of incense drifts in the air amidst gold settings of Burmese, Thai and Chinese temples. The Khoo Kongsi is a traditional form of Chinese art with its delicately carved wooden panels. Other long-time occupants include elderly Chinese shopkeepers, colourful Indian food stalls and trishaws with their drivers.
| Private Hospitals|
In addition to public hospitals are numerous smaller community clinics. Private hospitals supplement the system with better facilities and equipments. These hospitals cater not only to the local population but also to people from other states and health tourists from neighbouring countries. Patients from the Indonesian city of Medan across the Straits regularly visit these hospitals for quality treatment, and because the cost is less than in places like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Penang is, therefore, actively promoting health tourism.
Penang Island is connected to the mainland by the 13.5-kilometre Penang Bridge (completed in 1985), one of the longest bridges in Asia. Due to heavy traffic, the bridge is currently being broadened into 3 lanes from the current two. On March 31 2006, the Malaysian government announced a second bridge project, tentatively named the Penang Second Bridge.
Penang on the side of Province Wellesley is connected to the North-South Expressway (Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan), the 966-km long expressway which traverses the western part of Peninsular Malaysia linking major cities and towns. The expressway also incorporates the Penang Bridge.
The proposed Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) was mooted to cut travelling time on the eastern part of the island. Concerned citizens voiced protests over the designated route which will cut across quiet residential areas and may also adversely affect the environments. On the 26 June 2008, the Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that the project has been deferred in the Mid-Term Review of Ninth Malaysia Plan as it was said to be not people-centric and would not have an immediate impact on the residents of Penang.
Another expressway, the Jelutong Expressway has reduced travelling time from the Penang Bridge to the city centre by half.
The Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR) is a 14-km tolled expressway that serves primarily Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam to ameliorate the upsurge in vehicular traffic due to intense urban and industrial development.
Penang boasted an efficient public transport network right up to the 1970s. Electric trams, trolleybuses and double deckers used to ply the streets of Penang. The Penang Hill Railway, a funicular railway to the top of Penang Hill, was an engineering feat of sorts when it was completed in 1923, and is still in use today.
The Penang public bus service today is generally unsystematic and do not have a reputation of reliability. Therefore, the usage of public transport is still low, exacerbating the traffic jams in the city during rush hours. The city council has, however, provided free shuttle bus services for short intra-city travel to lessen the congestion.
In April 2006, the local authorities announced a revamp of the public bus service to bring about a more reliable and efficient network without any visible progress. On February 20, 2007, the government announced that Rapid KL would operate the public bus service in Penang under the new entity called Rapid Penang which is formed for this purpose. The service started on 31 July 2007 with 150 buses covering 38 routes on the island and mainland.
There are two main bus terminals for inter-state express coaches. One is located at the ferry terminal in Province Wellesley, and a newer one at Sungai Nibong on the island.
Taxis in Penang have not conformed to the meter system as exhorted by the federal authorities, citing unprofitability. A new ruling implemented on August 1, 2006 made it compulsory for taxis to use the meter system. Although taxi drivers have been repeatedly warned by the state government and the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB), the meter system is still not adhered to by taxi drivers in Penang.
A quaint mode of transport, the three-wheeled trishaw, still operates in certain parts of George Town. However, with the advent of modern transport, the trishaw has increasingly become a mere tourist attraction.
Penang has had a monorail under consideration since 1999. The Penang Monorail project was finally approved on March 31, 2006 under the Ninth Malaysia Plan. The Monorail route connects Tanjung Tokong in the north with Bayan Lepas in the south, Air Itam in the west and Weld Quay in the east. Unfortunately, on 26 June 2008, this long-overdue project suffered the same fate as the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) when the Federal government decided to defer it.
Cross-channel ferry services, provided by the Penang Ferry Service, connect George Town and Butterworth, and were the only link between the island and the mainland until the bridge was built in 1985. High-speed ferries to the resort island of Langkawi, Kedah in the north as well as to Medan are also available daily.
The Port of Penang is operated by the Penang Port Commission. There are four terminals, one on Penang island (Swettenham Pier) and three on the mainland, namely North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT), Butterworth Deep Water Wharves (BDWW), and Prai Bulk Cargo Terminal (PBCT). Malaysia being the 13th largest exporting nation, the Port of Penang plays a leading role in the nation's shipping industry, linking Penang to more than 200 ports worldwide. Swettenham Pier also accommodates cruise ships.
Penang was among the first states in Malaya to be electrified in 1905 upon the completion of the first hydroelectric scheme. At present, electricity for industrial and domestic consumption is provided by the national electricity utility company, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB).
Sewage treatment in Penang is managed by the national sewerage company, Indah Water Konsortium. Prior to systematic sewerage piping and treatment, waste water was haphazardly disposed, mostly in the sea, causing environmental pollution.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action is an organization based in Penang whose objectives are to protect, promote and support breastfeeding globally.
The Penang Heritage Trust is an NGO whose objective is to promote the conservation of Penang's heritage, and to foster cultural education about the history and heritage of Penang. PHT works to enlist the historic enclave of George Town as a World Heritage Site. The organisation had played an important role in saving many heritage buildings in Penang from the encroachment of development.
The Women's Centre for Change Penang (WCC) is a non-profit organisation which supports women and children in crisis.
Friends of the Penang Botanic Gardens Society is a voluntary organisation dedicated to supporting the botanic, horticultural, educational and recreational objectives of the Penang Botanic Gardens.
The state has good sporting facilities which provide good training grounds for aspiring sportsmen. The two major stadia are the City Stadium in George Town and the Batu Kawan Stadium in Southern Province Wellesley. The Penang International Sports Arena (PISA) in Relau has an indoor stadium and an aquatics centre.
Penang has 4 golf courses, namely the 18-hole Bukit Jambul Country Club (on the island), the 36-hole Bukit Jawi Golf Resort, the 36-hole Penang Golf Resort and the 18-hole Kristal Golf Resort.
Sports clubs in Penang include the Bukit Mertajam Country Club, Penang Club, Chinese Recreation Club (CRC), Penang Sports Club, Penang Rifle Club, Penang Polo Club, Penang Swimming Club, Chinese Swimming Club, Penang Squash Centre and the Tanjung City Marina which can accommodate up to 140 yachts and boats of various sizes, along the historic Weld Quay, to attract seafarers from around the world.
The world famous international dragon boat festival is held in Penang annually since 1979 around the fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar. Penang International Dragon Boat Festival (PIDBF) which lead the development of the sports has also won the right to hold the World Club Crew Championship 2008 at Teluk Bahang Dam in August. Normally, the state will hold two races in a year, the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival in the month of June and Penang Pesta Dragon Boat race around early December.
Penang also has the only Chingay procession in the world currently which were started about 100 years ago with the first parade in 1919 in Penang. It is held in celebration with the birthdays of the Chinese deities or the procession of the Goddess of Mercy (Guan Yin) which was to worship and enjoy the deity. The procession can be seen yearly on the night of the Christmas Day or during Chinese festivals such as new year or any big scale events in Penang.
Selamat Tuhan kurniakan
Selamat Pulau Pinang
Negeriku yang mulia
Kutaat dan setia
Aman dan bahagia
Negeriku yang ku cinta
Bersatu dan bersama
Untuk negeri kita
May God grant safety
Safety to Penang
My noble state
To which I am loyal and faithful
Peaceful and happy
May you progress and succeed
My state which I love
United and together
For our state