Known as the Pearl of the Orient, Penang has welcomed many visitors through the years since its founding.
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A cosmopolitan state with a storied past, Penang Island and the lesser known Seberang Prai on the mainland, is the main holiday destination for the northern region of Malaysia. Famous among the locals for its many culinary treasures, Penang offers an assortment of delicacies which, sooner rather than later, will surely entice even the most picky eater.
First time visitors to this quaint island state will soon realise that Penang exudes a certain reassuring warmness that grows on them as time passes by. Like a grizzled veteran who watches the world contently, Penang welcomes all who comes to its shores, inviting them to explore and discover its very heart and soul. It is no wonder then, why many find themselves returning to Penang time and again.
Though it is the second smallest state in Malaysia, Penang has much to offer to its visitors. Cosy pocket sandy beaches are scattered along the northern side of the island, leading up to the nation's smallest national park at Teluk Bahang. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage City, Penang's capital city, Georgetown, is a contrast of modernity and old traditions, where age old professions and crafts intermingle with the hustle and bustle of the 21st century. Numerous tourist attractions, bound to captivate and amaze, are spread across the entire state, like little hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.
At the beginning, Penang was just an island off the coast of Kedah that attracted the attention of the British East India Company as it was looking for a place to establish a naval base and a natural harbor and anchorage for English ships. At that time, the Kedah Sultan, Sultan Abdullah, was facing looming threats from Siam and worrying that his sultanate would be absorbed into the Siamese empire, began contemplating about securing British military aid.
A British captain named Francis Light, who was rather a bit of an adventurer, capitalized on the situation and, although there is some disagreement about what actually transpired, signed an agreement with the Sultan, securing Penang island as a trading port for the British. The Union Flag was hoisted in Penang for the first time on 11 August 1786 and Light named the island as Prince of Wales Island. Work began almost immediately on the Crown's newest jewel, which in time would be known as the Pearl of the Orient.
Francis Light, however, had acted independently, without any official backing from British East India Company and when the Kedah Sultan discovered this, he attempted unsuccessfully to retake the island in 1790. The Sultan was forced to cede the island to the British East India Company on 1 May 1791. Province Wellesley, a strip of land on the mainland, was seceded in 1800 after another unsuccessful attack by the Kedah Sultan.
Penang rose to become an invaluable asset to the British empire, and an important destination on the route to the East. Many visitors flocked to the island, and many more came to stay, each adding their mark to this cosmopolitan island city. Today, these influences and the vibrant heritage can be still seen throughout Penang, and is acknowledged by UNESCO through its listing of Georgetown as a World Heritage City.