Located just across Penang island is a quaint little town known as Butterworth.
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Although this rather unassuming town is often relegated to a mere footnote in most travellers' minds, it quietly forms the first impression and last visual memory of their visit to Penang. The town has long been the gateway into Penang island as it is home to the Penang Ferry Service, which was the only way across to the island prior to the completion of the Penang Bridge in 1985.
Butterworth was founded after the British had annexed a strip of land bordering Penang in the early 19th century as reparation from the Kedah Sultanate after an unsuccessful attack on the island. The land, dubbed Province Wellesley, lay undeveloped with only a few local settlements till the booming tin era of the mid 19th century. Penang then developed into a major trading city, with tin as one of its major exports and the fledging railway line that begun at the tin mines in Perak ending at Butterworth, where raw tin was ferried across to be smelted at Georgetown before being shipped overseas.
Butterworth has little to offer in terms of tourist attractions, but there are a few places of interest around the town that might amuse visitors. Being a coastal town, it has a couple of seafood restaurants that are reputed to serve up an array of delicious seafood dishes.
Butterworth continues to serve in its vital role as a major transport hub for the northern region of Malaysia, and there are plans to upgrade and centralise the various transport terminals in one terminal complex known as Penang Sentral. At present, the various terminals for the rail, ferry and bus services are located convienently within the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal and its surrounding areas.
With a long history as a railway destination, the town is one of the stops of KTM's Intercity train service. KTM's northern bound train service, the International Express, between Butterworth and Bangkok, is a firm favourite for both locals and foreigners alike who wish to hop across the border for a short trip. Butterworth is also a stop for the Singapore-bound Eastern and Oriental Express, and train passengers are welcomed at the station before embarking on a tour of Georgetown.
Travellers bound for Penang island via ferry must make their way through the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal. The ferry terminal is still capable of accomodating heavy volumes of traffic even though it shut down its dedicated terminal for pedestrian and vehicle ferries after part of the terminal collapsed in 1988.
Butterworth's bus terminal sees a lot of traffic daily as it is a major hub for various destinations in Peninsular Malaysia. The present terminal is a temporary terminal located just in front of the railway station.
Although not a tourist destination in itself, there a couple places within the town limits and outlying areas that warrant a visit if you have the time.
Penang Bird Park
Set up in 1988, Penang Bird Park, a five acre park boasting of an extensive collection of birds from all over the world, offers bird lovers the chance at close encounters with over 300 species of birds.
Tow Boo Kong temple
A well supported local temple dedicated to the Chinese Nine Emperor Gods, this temple comes alive during the ninth Chinese lunar month, as devotees and worshippers alike celebrate a festival commemorating these deities of the sea. Originally housed in a humble shed, the temple has grown into a magnificient example of Chinese architecture, using artistic designs and traditional motifs to depict various Chinese myths and legends.
Convienently located by the Juru exit of the North-South Expressway, Juru Auto-City is fast developing into a watering hole for young local generation. Juru Auto-City is a collection of shops specialising in cars and auto parts as well as a variety of food and beverage outlets.