BACKGROUND Lying off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the state of the Penang comprises Penang island with an area of 285 sq km and a narrow strip of land approximately 760 sq km on the mainland known as Seberang Perai.
Aptly called the Pearl of the Orient, Penang is one of the prime destinations in the country. State capital Georgetown is a bustling town known for its fascinating collection of fine old buildings. Much of Penang's charm lies in its fabulous beaches as well as rich cultural potpourri.
HISTORY 1786, Englishman Francis Light landed on the island at what is known as the Esplanade today. He later managed to persuade the Sultan of Kedah to cede the island to the British East India Company.
The island was renamed Prince of Wales Island and the major town on the island was name Georgetown after King George III.
In 1800, the Sultan of Kedah further ceded a strip of land on the mainland across the channel which Light named Province Wellesley, after the then Governor of India.
Penang later became part of the Straits Settlement, along with Malacca and Singapore, and flourished to become a major trading port.
It remained under the British colonial rule until 1957 when it became part of the independent Federation of Malaya.
GETTING THERE Penang boasts convenient direct air links to major cities in the region, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Nagoya, Medan, Xiamen and Madras. The national carrier Malaysia Airlines provides frequent daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Tourists can also arrive by road via the 13.5 km Penang Bridge while regular ferries transport passengers as well as vehicles from Butterworth to Georgetown.