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We spent two unforgettable days in the Cameron Highlands and its unique ecosystem and wild nature (you can find the blog post here: Cameron Highlands ). Our next stop was the turtle-shaped island of Penang, located on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, in the Strait of Malacca. The journey from Cameron Highlands to Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal in Penang took about 4 hours, followed by another 30 minutes of a drive (by Grab!) to the capital of the island – George Town.
Penang is logistically perfect arranged – the Penang International Airport connects the island with several major regional cities from the neighbouring countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. The longest bridge of Malaysia connects Penang with the rest of Peninsular Malaysia. Additionally, the port of Penang is still the major link to the rest of the World, as it connects the island with more than 200 ports worldwide!
But why we decided to visit Penang? Actually, there are numerous reasons why this island is the most tourist-visited destination in Malaysia! George Town, the capital city of Penang, is one of the most colourful and culturally diverse cities in Southeast Asia. Penang has a very reach history! Back in the days, the island was highly important trade route between Europe, India, China and the Middle East. As all travellers and merchants brought their own cultures over the years, Penang became home to three ancient cultures – the Chinese, Malayan and Indian. Even so, none of these gave the name to the capital city, as George Town was named after King George III (the King of Great Britain between the years of 1760 and 1801).
A Short History of George Town, Penang
A long, long time ago, somewhere in the 1st century, Penang was part of the very important Indian trade community Kedah. Kedah has an important role in the history of Malaysia. The island of Penang was a meeting point for Indian merchants who were trading with herbs, spices and gold. Logically, all these merchants brought their own religion and culture and that is how Buddhism and Hinduism were introduced to George Town! The same thing happened during the 9th century as numerous Muslim merchants from the Middle East came to Malaysia in order to trade, but they left their religion and culture as the others did before.
In the 17th century, George Town was one of the very first British settlements in Southeast Asia. During this period Penang was the hub for lucrative opium trade, wisely managed by some Chinese drug dealers. A century later the island became part of the British Crown Colony in the Straits Settlements (a group of British territories located in Southeast Asia).
Nowadays, Penang is the only state in Malaysia which has a Chinese majority in the population! Perchance this is the main reason why George Town is the most tolerant region in Malaysia toward any kind of religion and culture (in my opinion Buddhism is the most tolerant religion out there).
My Thoughts about George Town, Penang
It should not be a secret – we enjoyed every single minute of all 4 days that we spent in George Town! Due to its reach religious, cultural and even colonial past, Penang features numerous must-see attractions! Georg Town has been introduced as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year of 2008 and there is no doubt – the city is like walking through the paths of history!
The historical core of George Town is a well-preserved cultural and historical mishmash of colonial architecture, all kind of people and cultures, unique street art, hippie boutiques and cafés, Hindu and Buddhist temples, churches and mosques, narrow roads with old-fashioned mansions, great nightlife and according all different kinds of media – the food capital of Malaysia!
My advice to all of you who are planning to visit Penang – take your time in this city! There is so much to be discovered … Feel the magic of the streets! Talk to the locals! Learn more about the Chinese culture! Eat well! Feel gorgeous! This city is spreading peace and freedom … and the feeling of being very welcomed on this Earth!
Have you been to Penang?! Which are your favourite places in George Town?! I’m really excited to learn more about it!
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Street Art in George Town ~ Penang