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History runs deep in the veins of Penang, which once lay at the crossroads of the trade routes between East and West. The island remains a fascinating, cosmopolitan place thanks to its rich living tapestry of culture and history, and most famously, its cuisine, which is as diverse as its populace.

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Named for the once-ubiquitous pinang tree, or the areca nut palm also known as betelnut, Penang today is the most urbanised of Malaysia’s islands, though it boasts a wealth of pretty scenery along its capes and interior. Its east coast is dotted with high-rises and crammed with holiday resorts, but travellers who have experienced beaches elsewhere in Asia will probably be underwhelmed with the most popular beach spots.

This is Penang. Photo by: Sally Arnold.
This is Penang. Photo: Sally Arnold

The capital, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Georgetown, offers a bountiful miscellany of fabulous architecture stretching from the British colonial era to the present, as well as its many varied living cultures. Experience the smells, sights and sounds of Chinese, Indian and Malay life. One of Penang’s greatest draws, is its rich blend of cuisines from around the world, spiced with plenty of local specialities: Penang is touted as the food capital of Malaysia, and in our option, deservedly so.

The bustling Penang of today is a far cry from that of yesteryear. Ruled by the fractious Sultans of Kedah until the late 18th century, Penang’s strategic location by the northern entrance of the Straits of Melaka made it a beacon for seafarers crossing the Bay of Bengal—and for the pirates that sought their wares. Dutch, Portuguese, French and British traders vied for influence in the region, and the 17th and 18th centuries were periods of wheeling and dealing as the colonialists—often trading opium and Indian textiles in return for minerals and spice—sought to gain as much influence as possible, often at the end ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 2,200 words.)

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