Penang is one of 14 Malaysian states located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It consists of two parts: Penang Island, where USM Main Campus and the capital city, George Town, is located, and Seberang Perai (formerly known as the Province Wellesley) on the main land. The second smallest Malaysian state by land mass, Penang is bordered by Kedah to the north and the east, and Perak to the south. Penang used to be part of the state of Kedah.
Penang's population stood at nearly 1.75 million as of 2017, while its population density rose to 1,666.3/km2 (4,316/sq mi). Thus, Penang has among the highest population densities in Malaysia and is one of the country's most urbanized states. Penang Island, which includes George Town, is Malaysia's second largest city by population. George Town, in particular, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012 and a thriving tourist destination that thirst in heritage and culture.
Penang's modern history began in 1786, when Francis Light founded George Town as a trading post of the British East India Company. Today, Penang attracts many investors and it is known as the 'Silicon Valley of the East' for its industries thereby Penang is one of the most vital economic powerhouses in Malaysia. Penang has the highest GDP per-capita among all Malaysian states. In addition, Penang recorded the third highest Human Development Index in Malaysia, after the State of Selangor and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.
Photos show some of many heritage buildings in George Town. Many of these buildings were built in the late 1800's and the early 1900's. Naturally, the English heritage buildings are the most imposing. Penang was part of the British Empire for almost two hundred years.
The clock tower of the former FMS building in George Town. The building is now used as Penang's Custom Department.
The style of architecture is neo-classical which stays true to the order of architecture. Government buildings that house lawyers and decision-makers are perfect examples of British-style heritage buildings. These buildings have massive Doric columns modeled after the Parthenon of the ancient Greek. They become fine examples of heritage buildings in Penang.
There are five major clans (kongsi) which have their own areas where the leaders hold court. This is a self-sustained community, complete with temples, mansions , residences and lecture halls. The biggest clan house is the Khoo Kongsi. It is located in the heritage enclave. Once, it was burned down because its similarity to the Royal Palace of the Emperor of China was too close. Later, the building was rebuilt, nonetheless, the beauty of its carvings are stunning. The next one worth mentioning is the Cheah Kongsi. It is also located within the heritage zone of the inner George Town. Once inside the walls of this Kongsi, the hustle and bustle of the city outside is miraculously toned down.
The last two points show how the Chinese Straits shop houses are so important to the business community in George Town. For almost two hundred years, the shop houses have played the major part in fuelling the trade on the island. The styles of the shop houses have changed tremendously, in step with the growth of the city. Without them, the city would have lost its trademark identity. That is why a sample of a shop house graces the logo of Penang Heritage City web site.
Besides those shop houses, private mansions deserve accolades for massive restoration works like the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion.
Rich and powerful Muslim traders that came from India, the Middle East and Indonesia also played a significant role in building the city in the 19th century. Before air transport became available, Penang was the meeting place for pilgrims who were waiting for the trade wind to sail to Mecca. So, the city became a significant learning center for Islam. Beautiful mosques and shrines were built in the area designated by the British ruler for this group.
There are many shopping malls in Penang and there are pretty much convenience for USM students to shop. TESCO is located 10 minutes walk from the main gate of the campus. Queensbay Mall is the largest shopping mall in Penang and it is located 10 minutes drive from the Main Campus. Other popular malls are the Gurney Paragon Mall, Gurney Plaza and 1st Avenue. These mall offers vast outlet to shop from H&M, Topshop, Forever 21, Uniqlo, Guess, Coach, Rolex etc. You can enjoy many entertainment facilities in these mall such as bowling and watching movies in the cinema. Penang Design Village offers branded clothes at affordable prices. Tentatively, in 2018, Penang will have it's first IKEA store open.
Penang is also known as food heaven. You will get tourists that come and re-visit Penang just because of the food. You won't get hungry here since there are many restaurants that operates 24 hours. Due to the long history of trades on the island, there are lots of fusion food invented such as the Peranakan food, nasi kandar, and laksa. When you go to any of the restaurant, make sure that you've ordered extra big glass of drink if you cannot handle the hot and spiciness of the food cause 'Hot' is our main vocabulary here!
There are lots of activities you can do in Penang. You can stroll along many golden sand beaches around the island. The most popular is Batu Feringghi or Feringghi Beach. Why don't you take this opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a warm climate and build sand-snowman on the beach. If you are into adventure and nature, Penang National Park and Penang Botanical Garden offer the best nature experience for you. You can find various types of flora and fauna such as sea turtles, tarantulas, monitor lizards, porcupine, monkeys, lush rain forest canopy and canon ball tree.
If you wanted to escape from the heat, you can just take a tram up to Penang Hill. You can enjoy slightly lower air temperature with magnificent views of Penang from the top of highest peak in Penang.
At Kerachut Beach, you can find the one and only Meromictic lake in Malaysia where two water ecosystems exist. The fresh water fish will swim at the bottom of the lake and the salt water fish swim on top. On this beach is located the turtle sanctuary to educate people on turtle conservation.
Come and experience the best of Penang that it can offer!!!