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Penang is the northern gateway to Malaysia and the country's oldest British settlement. To the tourist industry, Penang has been marketed for a long time as the "Pearl of the Orient".
When the British, under Captain Francis Light, took possession of Penang in 1786, they found the island covered in dense jungle and uninhabited, except for a handful of Malay fishermen and a few pirates. The small township, named Georgetown after George III (Prince of Wales), developed around the camp by the harbour. Many immigrants were attracted by the newly declared free port status and the island quickly became a cultural melting pot with an eclectic mix of races and religions in a unique blend of east and west. By 1789, Georgetown had a population of 5,000. By the end of the next decade, the population had doubled.
Colonial Penang prospered until the outbreak of World War II. When the Japanese advanced down the peninsula, Penang Island was cut off and British residents were evacuated to Singapore. The Japanese administration lasted from December 1941 to July 1945. Remarkably, Georgetown's buildings were virtually unscathed despite Allied bombing attacks. In fact today, Georgetown is noted for the largest collection of pre-war houses in all of Southeast Asia, preserved and protected under the auspices of the Penang Heritage Trust. In July 2008, the city of Georgetown, in conjunction with Malacca, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, listed under "Melaka and Georgetown, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca".
In addition to the island itself, Penang State also includes a strip of land on the mainland opposite Province Wellesley. The two entities are linked by the eight-mile-long (12.8 km) Penang Bridge and a 24-hour ferry service.
Although Penang is best known for its beaches, there is much more here than just sand and sea. The island is considered a cultural and architectural gem with Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences.
Going Ashore at Penang
The ship is scheduled to tender due to ongoing expansion works at Swettenham Pier. The landing point of the tender boats is at the Tanjong City Marina. The Marina is located about two miles (3.2 km) from the centre of Georgetown. It is about a 200-yard walk to the tour coaches which are lined outside the Marina. Taxis and trishaws are available. The fares should be agreed upon before setting out.
Along Jalan Penang and at Prangin Mall are a variety of department stores and shops. For goldsmiths, look on Lebuh Campbell in Chinatown. Batik, silk, Royal Selangor pewter and jewellery are also available in Penang. The local currency is the ringgit.
There are restaurants to suit every taste, but Penang's specialties include such dishes as assam laksa (hot and sour fish soup), nasi kandar (rice with curry dishes), mee yoke (prawns and chilli noodle soup) and inche kabin (a marinated and fried chicken). There is a food court in the Komtar Mall.
St. George's Church
Built in 1818, it is of classic Georgian architecture. On its grounds stands a monument to the memory of Captain Francis Light, founder of Georgetown.
Ascend this 2,500-foot hill by funicular and enjoy a splendid view over Georgetown. It is about 10°F (4°C) cooler on Penang Hill than in town.
The 74-acre landscaped gardens feature many indigenous and exotic plant species, a waterfall, jungle-clad hills and two species of monkeys, the macaque and dusky leaf monkeys.
For those guests interested in touring at your leisure, we are pleased to offer Silver Shore Privato - both half-day and full-day private arrangements by private car or van. You may book this in advance at Silversea.com or it may be purchased on board, subject to availability. Other private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board.
||© 2013 by Fodor's Travel, a division of Random House, LLC.