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About Penang

In 1786, Captain Francis Light, a young British captain, landed and adopted Penang as a military and commercial base for the British India Company.  Penang flourished as a major trading port for the lucrative markets in spices and tin.  As business boomed, so did immigration.  Eurasians, Thais, Malays, Tamils, Burmese, Arabs, Armenians, Persians, Jews, Acehnese, and Chinese flooded the island bringing rapid development and a wide variety of languages and cultures.

The communities of Penang continue to change as immigrants arrive on the island from all over the world.  This diversity in the past and the evolving diversity of the present is seen daily on the island through festivals, language, and of course, food.

When people think of Penang, they immediately think of food - sizzling plates of char koay teow, spicy sourish laksa noodles, soup-based prawn noodles, crispy roti canai, coconut-flavored nasi lemak and the list goes on.

At every corner there is food to savour, and at every corner there is history. Evocative colonial buildings can be found all over Penang - some have been restored and converted into functional buildings but many great mansions are still deserted and rotting away. 

A walk in the historic inner city of George Town, can bring you to more pre-World War II shophouses, temples, and clan associations than anywhere else in South-East Asia. There is a story behind every door.

But its colorful culture and rich history were largely forgotten by the world until recently when George Town was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.  It is hard to imagine as you walk the streets of George Town and see the historical buildings, and more importantly, experience the living culture, that the award was only given to the island in 2008.

Today, the island is in the beginning of a new chapter. A story of development versus conservation.  Traditions versus modern culture.  Can Penang move forward while retaining its charm?

More on Penang:
..."Penang's Melting Pot" by BBC
..."Penang Heritage Site Conudrum" by Al Jazeera

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