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Penang
, "The Pearl of the Orient"
lies off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The state comprises the island of Penang covering an area of about 285 sq. km and a narrow strip of approximately 760 sq. km on the mainland known as Seberang Perai (Province Wellesley) separated by a channel 3 km wide at the closest point. They are linked by the Penang Bridge and a 24-hour ferry service. Its population of more than 1 million represents a happy mix of the major races found in Malaysia with Malays making up 32%, the Chinese 59% and Indians 7%.

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. Much of its charm also lies in its famous golden beached 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.

 


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.

   The history of modern Penang can be traced back to1786 when Francis Light managed to persuade the Sultan of Kedah to cede "Pulau Pinang" (Betel 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 Prince of Wales Island and the settlement that soon grow up was named Georgetown after King George lll. In 1800, the Sultan of Kedah further ceded a strip o 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 grow to be a major trading post for a lucrative trade in tea, spices, china and cloth. For more than a hundred years, it remained under British Colonial rule until 1957 when it gained independence and became on of the states of the newly formed Federation of Malaya and later Malaysia in 1963.

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