Penang - or, more properly, Pulau Pinang - is the northern gateway to Malaysia and is the country's oldest British settlement. It has been sold to generations of tourists as 'the Pearl of the Orient', but in shape Penang looks more like a frog than a pearl. Although the island is best known as a beach resort, it is also a cultural gem with Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. Georgetown has the largest collection of pre-war houses in all Southeast Asia.

Penang State includes a strip of land on the mainland opposite, Province Wellesley - named after Colonel Arthur Wellesley, later to become the Duke of Wellington, who went on to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo. Covering an area of 738 sq km, Province Wellesley is also known by its Malay name, Seberang Perai. Georgetown's founder, Captain Francis Light, originally christened Penang 'Prince of Wales Island'. In Malay,
is the word for the areca nut palm, an essential ingredient of betel nut. The palm was incorporated into the state crest in the days of the Straits Settlements during the 19th century. Today Pulau Pinang is translated as 'betel-nut island'. Light named Georgetown after George, the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV, as it was acquired on his birthday; most Malaysians know the town by its nickname, Tanjung, as it is situated on a sandy headland called Tanjung Penaga.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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