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Penang (in Malay Pulau Pinang) is an island of 113 sq. miles (293 sq. km.) on the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is also the name of one of the states of Malaysia (state capital: George Town), which consists of the island and a small strip of land on the mainland known as Province Wellesley (principal town: Butterworth). The island is named after the Pinang tree.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Government
3 Culture and Economy
4 Transport


Penang was part of the Malay state of Kedah before Captain Francis Light successfully negotiated with the Sultan of Kedah to cede the island to the British East India Company on August 12, 1786. Province Wellesley was ceded to the Company in 1790.

The East India Company was attracted to the natural harbour which could serve as an anchorage for their trading ships. The town on the northeastern tip of the island was named George Town after King George III of Great Britain. Penang island was originally called Prince of Wales Island by the Company.

In 1832, Penang, along with Malacca and Singapore, became part of the Straits Settlements, moving to direct British rule in 1867. In 1946 it became part of the Malayan Union, before becoming in 1948 a state of the Federation of Malaya, which gained independence in 1957. In 1963 it became one of the 13 states of Malaysia.

The island was a free port until 1969. Despite the loss of the island's free port status, from the 1970s to the late 1990s the state built up one of the largest electronics manufacturing bases in Asia, in the Free Trade Zone around the airport in the south of the island.


The state government has very limited powers in comparison with the Federal government.

Penang has a Governor appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (or King) of Malaysia. In practice the Governor is a figurehead, and he acts upon the advice of the state Executive Council, which is made up of Legislative Assembly members from the Barisan Nasional coalition. The Chief Minister of Penang, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu-Khoon, is from the Gerakan party, which has held the chief-ministership since 1969. It is the only state chief-ministership in Malaysia which is held by an ethnic Chinese, which reflects the state's ethnic majority.

The current Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is from Penang state, as is the gaoled former Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Culture and Economy

Penang island, also known as the Pearl of the Orient, is a heaven for food lovers, who come from all over Malaysia and Singapore. Penang's cuisine reflects the Chinese, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but is strongly influenced by the cuisine of Thailand to the north. Penang is especially famous for the "hawker food" sold and eaten by the street, in which noodles and fresh seafood feature strongly. Penang's most famous dish may be the eponymous Penang laksa.

The north shore of Penang, known as Batu Feringghi, is a popular beach resort. Many tourists also spend time in the historic centre of George Town, which is largely made of old Straits Chinese shophouses, with Indian and Malay quarters. Old Anglo-Indian colonial buildings are also to be found amongst elaborate Chinese and Indian temples and Indian-Muslim mosques.

The entrepot trade has greatly declined, due in part to the loss of Penang's free port status, but also due to the active development of Port Klang near the federal capital Kuala Lumpur. However, there is a container terminal in Butterworth which continues to service the northern area.

The southern part of the island is highly industrialized with high-tech electronics plants (such as Intel, AMD and Seagate) located within the Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone. There are also many clothes factories in the area.


Penang island is connected to the mainland by a bridge 13.5 km long (completed in 1985). Ferry services are available to the town of Butterworth (where the nearest Malayan Railway station is located) on the mainland and to the resort island of Langkawi in the north. Penang International Airport is located in the south of the island, and international flights are available to London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Medan.