Since we will be making our first visit to Penang, Malaysia soon, we wanted to do a little research in advance of our visit.
Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia, and is composed of two parts – Penang Island and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula.
Here are 14 Fun Facts about Penang, Malaysia
An aerial view of Penang Island in Malaysia. Photo by Goh PS.
1. Residents of Penang are know as Penagites.
2. Penang was part of the Malay sultanate of Kedah until 1786, when Captain Francis Light built a fort at the site of present-day Georgetown and managed to get the island ceded to the British East India Company. Penang became the first British outpost in Southeast Asia in 1786. The island, along with Malacca and Singapore, was one of the three British Straits Settlements.
3. The name Penang comes from the Malay word Pinang, means the betel nut tree. The original name of Penang was Pulau Ka-satu or “First Island”, but on August 12, 1786 it was it renamed to Prince of Wales Island to commemorate the birthday of the Prince of Wales, who later became George IV.
4.. The capital, Georgetown, was named after King George III of Great Britain. Today, Penang has the highest population density in Malaysia and is the only state where the ethnic Chinese are the majority. Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. George Town became the first city in the Federation of Malaya — by a royal charter granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II — on January 1, 1957.
5. Penang is the birthplace of shoe designer Jimmy Choo, the co-founder of Jimmy Choo Ltd that is known for its handmade women’s shoes. Born into a family of shoemakers, Choo’s father taught him the art of shoe-making. Jimmy made his first shoe when he was 11 years old.
Gurney Drive Food Court in Penang, Malayasia.
6. Penang is known for being the “food paradise” of Malaysia with a wealth of street food or “hawker food” that emphasizes noodles, spices, and fresh seafood. Penang’s cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, as well as influences from Thailand. Some of the best known dishes include:
- Assam Laksa, the best known Penang dish, is a spicy noodley soup of poached mackerel in a broth with tamarind, lemongrass, chilies and shrimp paste,topped with rice vermicelli.
- Mee Goreng consists of thin noodles fried together with garlic, onions, and meat, usually prawns or chicken,with chili, egg, cabbage and pickles. Think of it as a Malay version of Chinese chow mein.
- Char Kway Teow is big flat rice noodles with prawns, cockles, beansprouts, Chinese chives, egg, soy sauce, chili, belacan (Malay shrimp paste), fried together inpork lard.
- Hokkien Hae Mee, is soup-based noodle dish that combines prawns, slices of chicken, squid and fish cake, and water spinach, found in all of the hawker stands. The dish is said to originate from Fujian, China.
- Laksa Lemak is a spicy currry-flavored noodle soup with coconut milk, shrimp or fish, chilli paste and coriander.
- Nasi Lemak focuses on a mound of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk, at the center of the plate the banana/pandan leaf, surrounded by small servings of Sambal, anchovies, peanuts and hard-boiled egg, a chicken leg and/or other ingredients to eat with the rice.
- Roti canai is an adopted Malaysian flatbread, originally from India, usually served with curry sauce for breakfast or dinner.
- Rojak is a fruit salad that in Penang is typically made with cucumber, pineapple, mango, jambu, cuttlefish, jicama, bean sprouts, puffed bean cake and fried dough fritters, tossed with a dressing made of sugar, chili, lime juice and dark prawn paste, then topped with crushed peanuts and crunchy crackers.
- Prawn Malai Curry is made with shrimp cooked in a rich cashew nut and coconut milk sauce.
- Popiah are spring rolls made from little porous crepes that wrap soybean curd, eggs, vegetable stew and Chinese lettuce. They are dipped in sweet sauce, chili sauce or black sauce.
- Char Koay Kak, also known as carrot cake or kway kak in Penang. It does not have an carrots but contains pieces “carrot cake”made of white radish and rice,stir-fried with salted turnips, bean sprouts, eggs, dark soy sauce, chili paste and lard.
- Ice Kacang is a typical Malaysian dessert of shaved ice and red beans also known as ABC. The concoction includes a weird combination of sweet corn, grass jelly and cubes of agar, with a coconut milk topping.
7. Penang has an equatorial climate with temperatures ranging between 72°F to 86°F and 70-90 percent humidity.
The view from the top of Penang Hill. Photo by Ac101.
8. Penang Hill offers the best view of Georgetown, and can be reached via a five minute ride on the Penang Hill Railway which was opened in 1923. The cable train service lifts you out of the heat and humidity of the coastal plain and up to a fabulous view with cool breezes.
9. Penang Botanic Gardens, established by Charles Curtis of Britain in 1884; it’s generally known as the Waterfall Gardens because of a little waterfall located within it. Many locals will come to the gardens to perform their daily exercises like walking, jogging, jungle trekking, aerobic dance, and to practice Tai Chi, or Qi Gong.
10. The Kek Lok Si-Temple of Supreme Bliss, a sprawling hillside structure, is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia. A funicular train transports you to the summit of the hill featuring a giant statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.
11. Established in 1816, St George’s Anglican Church is the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia and the only building from Penang that was declared one of the 50 National Treasures by the Malaysian Government.
12. Kwong Wah Yit Poh or Kwong Wah Daily — Malaysia’s oldest Chinese newspaper still in circulation, was founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Penang on December 20th, 1910.
13. Penang is the first state in Malaysia to launch the “No Plastic Bag Day” campaign.
14. Established in 2012 with extensive collections, the Camera Museum is South East Asia’s first and only museum focused on — cameras.
Have you visited Penang? What fun fact can you add to this list? Please share in comments below.
If you enjoy reading interesting facts about far-flung destinations, check out these other Fun Facts posts:
Follow us on Twitter or interact with us on Facebook
Or, check out our boards on Pinterest and/or our photos on Instagram.