Penang, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, started life as part of the Malay Sultanate of Kedah. It came under Siamese control for a period before becoming part of the Straits Settlements under British administration in 1826. So many of its early European settlers succumbed to malaria that Penang earned the title of ‘the White Man’s Grave’.
After World War II it became part of the Federation of Malaya which gained independence in 1957 and was a free port until 1969. From the 1970s to the late 1990s the state gradually became one of the largest electronics manufacturing bases in Asia. George Town, the historic capital of Penang was formally inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The award came as little surprise with the city being regularly cited as one of the most livable in Asia. Penang’s multi-cultural composition ensures a succession of colourful festivals and celebrations and George Town, the state capital of Penang, has one of the largest collections of 19th, and early 20th century buildings in Southeast Asia. It is a living historic city, with inner city communities, places of worship, guilds, wet markets and bazaars, traditional trades and retail shops, trishaw peddlers and hawkers.
Penang is becoming increasingly accessible and a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines recently opened up a string of popular flights linking Penang International Airport to, among others, Phuket, Samui, Kota Bahru, Langkawi, Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu.