Note: This entry was posted HERE for the Blog Penang Contest in ocnjunction with the BlogFest.Asia 2010. Since it is more of a travel experience, I decided to move it here.
This is a story of three friends who made their first visit to Penang. They sat on the bench and their eyes fixed to the ferries plying the channel seperating the island and mainland connecting Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim on the mainland and Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda on the island. One ferry after another berthed but the the three friends did not embark on any of them when others left on every ferry that came. The terminal staff was wondering why the three of them did not follow the crowd when the ferry arrives. The three friends then were becoming restless because they have been waiting for hours since early morning and now its about lunch time and still there is no sign of the ferry for them to take. Losing patience, one of them decided to ask the terminal worker, when will the ferry to Pulau Pinang be arriving. The staff and his friends tried hard to contain their laughter and not to offend the man. Politely the worker explain that they can take any of the ferries because all of them go to Pulau Pinang.
Do you think its a joke? Yes, it is one of the joke related to the island. In relation to the fleet of ferries are named after islands Pulau Undan, Pulau Angsa, Pulau Rimau, Pulau Pinang, Pulau Payar, Pulau Kapas, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Talang-talang.
The name of the island Penang or Pulau Pinang derived from the pinang tree (betelnut) and hence transliterally translated as Betelnut Island. It is also dubbed the Pearl of The Orient was formally part of the Sultanate of Kedah until it became the British possession in 1786 after being ceded by the Sultan of Kedah to East India Company in exchange for military protection from Siamese and Burmese army.The island gained independence as part of Federation of Malaya in 1957.
On 17th July, 1786, Captain Francis Light landed on what now is called the Esplanade with a small group of civilians and naval staff and hoisted the Union Jack on 11 August to officially took possession of the island. The present Georgetown is named after King of England George III. Today Penang has grown into one of the busy port on Malaysiacatering mostly trade in the Northern region of peninsular Malaysia. Penang has two parts. Seberang Perai on the mainland and Penang Island. Most of the tourist activities is concentrated on the island that has stretches of beautiful sandy beaches for sunbathing or lazing around in the Tropical sun or the sea to take a dip and savour its cool refreshing water of the Straits of Malacca.
This island has many attractions and besides its white sandy beaches with hives of sea activities, Penang is also a food haven. There are abundance of restaurants serving varieties of food from local cuisine as well as foreign food. When in Penang you are not far away from home as one can find something as near as home. And what more if you visit the island, there will be activities to be witnessed since it is Visit Penang 2010-2012 and one of the attraction is her cultures.
I am here in Penang again for the Blog Fest Asia organised byDot.Asia Organisation, a Hong Kong based company and co host by Wawasan Open University. This event is also co-sponsored byTourism Malaysia, exabytes network, visit Penang 2010-2012,instantIT Asia and internews.
There are many choice to travel to Penang from other parts of Malaysia.Flights, train, taxis or Express buses. On this trip I travel over land since its the cheapest means of transport.The fare was RM32.00 I left the temporary Express bus terminal at Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur at 1.45 pm.and the journey was, well a bit tiring since it took 5 hours to reach Butterworth before connecting my journey on one of Penang’s icon the ferry. Sailing duration between the two ferry terminal is about 15 minutes and one just pay RM 1.20 to enjoy the sea breeze and the traffic on the channel. If you have the choice to travel to Penang, don’t miss both means of connection between the island and mainland, the ferry and the bridge. Both channel just charge you a one way fare and it means going out of the island is FREE. Don’t you think it is worth to travel to Penang?
The city of Georgetown
Georgetown is the earliest of Malaysian town to obtain its city status and it was granted on 1st January 1957. Since the city was developed during the colonial days roads are a bit narrow, buildings are old fashioned that helps the city achieve her UNESCO’s Heritage City status.
Whats the best food in Penang. Well, when people talk about Penang then there is this popular dish that originate from this state, Nasi Kandar. "It is a meal of steamed ricewhich can be plain or mildly flavored, and served with a variety of curries and side dishes.
The word Nasi Kandar, came about from a time when nasi [rice] hawkers or vendors would kandar[balance] a pole on the shoulder with two huge containers of rice meals. The name has remained and today the word Nasi Kandar is seen on most Tamil Muslimor "Malaysian Mamak" restaurants and Indian-Muslim stall meals.- Wikipedia.
So when in Penang, do not miss to test your taste bud on the dish. Among the popular stall is Line clear. This is a small stall located at one of the small alley near the junction of Chulia Street and Penang Road. What is Nasi Kandar by the way. For Malaysians is is becoming popular. Nasi kandar restaurants have been growing by day and not only in Penang island but throughout Malaysia. Hmm, I am not sure if the are Nasi Kandar restaurants in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan now. Besides this Line Clear, there are some other well known Nasi Kandar restaurants such as Pelita Nasi Kandar, Subaidah Restaurant. Whenever in Penang I will not miss this famous Hemeed’s ox tail soup at upper Penang Road opposite Hotel Malaysia. Hey guys the word goes, its good for men. Hmmm…. maybe because the ox’s tail never stops wagging its tail.
The soup is served with oven baked bread like this.
Please also not to miss the Penang Laksa or the rojak at the Esplanade. That was just a few. Ask around and the list of Penang specialty on the dinner table never ends.
The island community is made up of three main race that is Malays, Chinese and Indians. However there is also some unique local community, the Anak Mami. These are a mixed breed of Malays and Indians and to understand it, one has to open the history book. Due to her multiracial soceity and imigrants from different parts of the world, Penang’s culture is also unique. The Chinese has their Chingay that originated from China and the Malays with their Boria. believe to originate from Persia but both have been accepted as local culture and presented during various functions in Penang or other parts of Malaysia.
The uniqueness of Penang public transport is she still has the trishaw. It is a three wheeled transport pedaled driven by the peddler. This mode of transportation is slowly diminishing and maybe one day be history. So, if you visit this island, never miss your opportunity to ride on one.
Well, what else can be found in Penang? Too bad I do not have the time to walk the island but from visitors and tourist brochure, you must never miss the Penang hill, Butterfly Farm, Fort Cornwallis, Snake Temple to state a few.
Before I forget, and before you leave the island don’t forget to take home another souvenir considered native to Penang that is nutmeg oil, nutmeg balm, pickled nutmeg or the fruit itself. And lastly “Mai lagi no?” (Please come again).