The embodiment of tropical paradise, this state on the northwestern part of the Malaysian Peninsula is one of the hottest destinations on the planet now. Often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, it features on numerous ‘Must Visit’ lists by travel portals and writers – for good reason.

Deriving its name from the Pinang tree, Penang actually has two halves – a picturesque island that juxtaposes modernity with old-world charm and a strip of peninsular hinterland that is somewhat laid back but rapidly developing. The island was founded in 1786 by Francis Light as an outpost for the British East India Company, drawing large groups of migrants in the ensuing centuries.

Besides creating a cultural melting pot, this has also made its people immensely proud of their history and traditions – many of which have been preserved and still practiced to this day. The capital city George Town, located on the island’s northeastern coast, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, sparking a boom in tourism.

Strolling its streets, you’ll find hundred-year-old shophouses juxtaposed against modern skyscrapers. Some inhabitants have lived there for decades, many still practicing age-old crafts and trades. Penang is also one of the few places on the planet where you’ll find a mosque, Chinese temple and Indian temple, in close proximity along the same street. There are frequent street festivals where the multi-ethnic community comes out in force to put on a show of their cultures and traditions.

At every corner, there is bound to be what locals affectionately call ‘kopitiams’ or coffee shops. These are where hawkers dish up Penang’s world-renowned street food like Char Koay Teow and Assam Laksa – which was ranked no.7 in a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods by CNN in 2018.

But just like KL, Penang is also a hotbed of gastronomy. With lots of cafes, restaurants and bistros serving a plethora of global cuisines at various price points, rest assured this is a place where you will never go hungry!

You would probably have seen the iconic image of a street mural depicting two young children on a bicycle too. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, as such street art is ubiquitous throughout the city center. Explore its narrow alleyways, and you will also find artisans selling handcrafted knick-knacks and craft items.

Shopping for something more lavish? Fret not, as the state has many shopping malls offering everything from premium labels to bargain items under one roof.

Venture a little bit out of town, and you’ll find picture-postcard beaches and pristine rainforests.

Whether you’re up for some watersports or a stroll to reconnect with Mother Nature, these offer an escape from the city hustle and bustle.


Area Total 1,766,800
Population (2018) Total 872,900
Density 1,684/km2 (4,360/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Penangite
Demographics (2010) Ethnic composition
  • Malay: 31.20%
  • Chinese: 53.07%
  • Indian: 8.98%
  • Other Bumiputera: 0.39%
  • Non-Malaysian citizen: 5.89%
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