Kek Lok Si 极乐寺  or 極樂寺

The Kek Lok Si Temple (Penang Hokkien for 'Temple of Supreme Bliss' or 'Temple of Sukhavati'; Simplified Chinese: 极乐寺; Traditional Chinese: 極樂寺) is a Buddhist temple situated in Air Itam in Penang and is one of the best known temples on the island. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.

Mahayana Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals blend into a harmonious whole, both in the temple architecture and artwork as well as in the daily activities of worshippers.

The construction of the temple began in 1890 and was inspired by the chief monk of the Goddess of Mercy Temple at Pitt Street. With the support of the consular representative of China in Penang, the project received the sanction of the Manchu Emperor Guangxu, who bestowed a tablet and gift of 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras.

The primary benefector of the Kek Lok Si Temple in 1906 was none other than Kapitan Chung Keng Quee.

In 1930, the seven storey main pagoda of the temple or the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, was completed. This pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base with a middle tier of Thai design, and a Burmese crown; reflecting the temple's embrace of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

In 2002, a 30.2m bronze statue of the Kuan Yin was completed and opened to public. The statue is located on the hillside above the pagoda.

A temple in the making
As the fairly recent date mentioned above may suggest, the temple is still growing. Generous donations from the affluent Chinese community allow the construction of additional buildings. The current focus is to create an ornate shelter for the Kuan Yin statue. 16 carved dragon pillars are being built, the concentric roof will be inspired by classical Ming architecture, reminiscent of the roof of Prayer Hall for Good Harvest in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Visiting the Temple
Most visitors approach the temple as they ascend a stairway, roofs of which provide shelter to a multitude of shops selling souvenirs and other - mostly secular - commodities. They pass by a so-called Liberation Pond, following the buddhist tradition of merit-making, turtles may be released into freedom, albeit a limited one.

The temple itself consists of several large hall for assembly and prayer, here, statues of Buddha, various Bodhisattvas as well as Chinese gods are being venerated. Intricate woodwork, often brightly painted and a plethora of laterns add to the visual impression.

There is an inclined lift to carry pilgrims and visitors further uphill. On the elevated platform, you can find a pond filled with Koi and the towering statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, which can also be regarded as Avalokitheshvara, Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion.

Annual Events
The temple is a focal point of festivals of the Chinese community in Penang. The Chinese New Year celebrations are particularly impressive: for 30 days following Chinese New Year, the temple remains open until late at night whilst thousands of lights turn the scenery into a sea of light.


Penang is a state in Malaysia, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia after Perlis, and the eighth most populous. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite.

The island was referred to as 檳榔嶼 (Bīnláng Yù) in the navigational drawings used by Admiral Zheng He of Ming-dynasty China in his expeditions to the South Seas in the 15th century. Early Malays called it Pulau Ka-Satu or 'First Island'.

The name 'Penang' comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means island of the areca nut tree (Areca catechu, family Palmae). The name Penang can refer either to the island of Penang or the state of Penang. The capital of Penang state is Georgetown. More specifically, Georgetown is also called Tanjung in Malay. Penang Island is simply Pulau Pinang (/'pulaʊ 'pinaŋ/) and Penang state is Negeri Pulau Pinang in Malay.

Penang is severally known as 'The Pearl of the Orient' and 'Pulau Pinang Pulau Mutiara' (Penang Island of Pearls).

Penang, originally part of the Malay Sultanate of Kedah, was given to the British East India Company in 1786 by the Sultan of Kedah, in exchange for military protection from Siamese and Burmese armies who were threatening Kedah. On 11 August 1786, Captain Francis Light, who was credited as the founder of Penang, landed in Penang and renamed it Prince of Wales Island in honour of heir to the British throne.

Many early settlers succumbed to malaria, earning Penang the 'the White Man's Grave' epithet.

Unbeknownst to the Sultan, Light had acted without the approval of the East India Company when he promised military protection. When the Company failed to aid Kedah when it was attacked by Siam, the Sultan tried to retake the island in 1790. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the Sultan was forced to cede the island to the Company for an honorarium of 6,000 Spanish dollars per annum. This was later increased to 10,000 dollars, with Province Wellesley on the mainland of the Malay Peninsula being added to Penang in 1800. An annual honorarium of 10,000 ringgits continues to this day be paid by the Malaysian Federal Government to the state of Kedah.

In 1826, Penang, along with Malacca and Singapore, became part of the Straits Settlements under the British administration in India, moving to direct British colonial rule in 1867. In 1946 it became part of the Malayan Union, before becoming in 1948 a state of the Federation of Malaya, which gained independence in 1957 and became Malaysia in 1963.

The island was a free port until 1969. Despite the loss of the island's free-port status, from the 1970s to the late 1990s the state built up one of the largest electronics manufacturing bases in Asia, in the Free Trade Zone around the airport in the south of the island.

On 7 July 2008, Georgetown, the historic capital of Penang was formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside with Malacca. It is officially recognized as having a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.
Incorporated into           Date
Straits Settlements         1826
Crown Colony                1867
Japanese occupation       19 December 1941
Malayan Union               1 April 1946
Federation of Malaya      1 February 1948
Independence                31 August 1957
Malaysia                        16 September 1963

The state is geographically divided into two sections:

* Penang Island: an island of 293 square kilometres located in the Straits of Malacca with an estimated population of 721,500; and

* Province Wellesley (also known as Seberang Perai in Malay): a narrow hinterland of 753 square kilometres on the peninsula across a narrow channel whose smallest width is 4 km (2.5 miles). It is bordered by Kedah in the north (demarcated by the Muda River) and east, and Perak in the south and has an estimated population of 796,500.

The body of water between Penang Island and Province Wellesley is the North Channel to the north of Georgetown and the South Channel to the south of Georgetown. Penang Island is irregularly shaped, with a granitic, hilly and mostly forested interior, the highest point being Western Hill (part of Penang Hill) at 830 metres above sea level. The coastal plains are narrow, the most extensive of which is in the northeast which forms a triangular promontory where Georgetown, the state capital, is situated. The topography of Province Wellesley is mostly flat. Butterworth, the main town in Province Wellesley, lies along the Perai River estuary and faces Georgetown at a distance of 3 km (2 miles) across the channel to the east.


Penang Island
Air Itam - Balik Pulau - Bandar Baru Air Itam - Batu Ferringhi - Batu Maung - Batu Lanchang - Bayan Baru - Bayan Lepas - Gelugor - Georgetown - Green Lane - Gurney Drive - Tanjung Tokong - Jelutong - Paya Terubong - Pulau Tikus - Pulau Betong - Sungai Ara - Sungai Dua - Sungai Nibong - Tanjung Bungah - Tanjung Tokong - Teluk Bahang

Province Wellesley
Alma - Bagan Ajam - Bagan Luar - Batu Kawan - Bukit Mertajam - Bukit Minyak - Butterworth - Jawi - Juru - Kepala Batas - Mak Mandin - Nibong Tebal - Pantai Aceh - Permatang Pauh - Perai - Raja Uda - Seberang Jaya - Simpang Ampat - Sungai Bakap - Bukit Tambun - Permatang Tinggi

Greater Metropolitan Area of Penang
The National Physical Plan of Malaysia envisages a Conurbation of Georgetown encompassing George Town and surrounding areas. The Conurbation of Georgetown, together with the Conurbation of Johor Bahru are designated as Regional Growth Conurbations while the Conurbation of Kuala Lumpur is the National Growth Conurbation.

The greater metropolitan area of Penang consists of highly urbanized Penang Island, Seberang Prai, Sungai Petani, Kulim and the surrounding areas. In terms of population, it is the second largest metropolitan area in Malaysia after the Conurbation of Kuala Lumpur (Klang Valley). According to National Census 2000, the population of this urban area in is about 1.6 million. As for the Conurbation of Kuala Lumpur, the population in 2000 is about 4.9 million while the population of Johor Bahru is 1.5 million. Currently, the population of this urban area is approximately 2 million.

This urban area is referred to as the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) under a repackaging of the Ninth Malaysian Plan (a five-year national development plan) which was announced earlier. The NCER is one of three development regions identified in Peninsular Malaysia, other development regions being the South Johor Economic Region (SJER) or Iskandar Development Region (IDR) and the East Coast Development Region. The NCER encompases Penang (Penang Island and Seberang Prai), Kedah (Alor Star, Sungai Petani and Kulim), Perlis (Kangar) and Northern Perak. Unfortunately, the Barisan Nasional-controlled federal government has decided to defer the two much-delayed major development projects of Penang Outer Ring Road and Penang Monorail following their dismal performance at the 12th General Election of 3 March 2008 which saw three northern states of Penang, Kedah and Perak falling to the opposition. Nevertheless, the federal authority cited economic situations for the deferment.

Penang Global City Centre (PGCC), another high-impact projects of NCER featuring state-of-art design of futuristic landmark twin towers, has also run aground following its rejection by the Penang Municipal Council in September 2008. It remains to be seen if the PGCC will be resurrected.

Outlying islets
There are a number of small islets off the coast of Penang, the biggest of which, Pulau Jerejak, is located in the narrow channel between Penang Island and the mainland. It was previously a leper and penal colony, but is now a tourist attraction. Other islands include:

Pulau Aman - Pulau Betong - Pulau Gedung - Pulau Kendi (Coral Island) - Pulau Rimau

Penang enjoys a year-round equatorial climate which is warm and sunny, along with plentiful rainfall, especially during the southwest monsoon from April to September. The climate is very much dictated by the surrounding sea and the wind system. Penang's proximity with Sumatra, Indonesia makes it susceptible to dust particles carried by wind from perennial but transient forest fires, creating a phenomenon known as the haze.

The Bayan Lepas Regional Meteorological Office is the primary weather forecast facility for northern Peninsular Malaysia.
Temperature (day)         27°C-30°C
Temperature (night)       22°C-24°C
Ave annual rainfall         2670 mm
Relative humidity           70%-90%
Month    Jan       Feb       Mar       Apr       May      Jun       Jul        Aug       Sep       Oct       Nov       Dec
Average min (°C)           23.2      23.5      23.7      24.1      24.2      23.8      23.4      23.4      23.2      23.3      23.3      23.4
Average max (°C)          31.6      32.2      32.2      31.9      31.6      31.4      31.0      30.9      30.4      30.4      30.4      30.7
Lowest recorded (°C)     19         19         19         20         19         20         22         21         20         20         18         20
Highest recorded (°C)     37         36         36         37         35         36         35         35         36         34         35         35
Average rainfall (millimeters)      69         72         146       221       203       178       192       242       356       383       232       114
Ave no of days with 1 mm           5          6          9          14         14         11         12         14         18         19         15         9

Source: National Environment Agency

The state has the highest population density in Malaysia with 2,457.33 people per square kilometre on the island and 1,055.77 people per square kilometre on the mainland. It is also the only non-Malay dominated state in Malaysia. Penang is the only state in Malaysia where ethnic Chinese forms a plurality. The ethnic composition in 2008 was:

* Ethnic Chinese: 635,000 (41.8%)
* Malay: 613,800 (40.5%)
* Ethnic Indian: 158,000 (10.4%)
* Others:
o Bumiputra - other than Malay: 6,200 (0.4%)
o Other races: 6,400 (0.4%)
o Non-Malaysian citizens: 98,600 (6.5%)

There were Jewish and Armenian communities in Penang before World War II, but these dissipated as a result of the Japanese occupation and the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. A small but commercially significant community of German merchants also existed in Penang. Today, Penang has a sizeable expatriate population especially from Japan and Britain, many of which settle in Penang after their retirement as part of the Malaysia My Second Home program.

The Peranakan, also known as the Straits Chinese or Baba-Nyonya, are the descendants of the early Chinese immigrants to Penang as well as to Malacca and Singapore. They have partially adopted Malay customs and speak a Chinese-Malay creole. The Peranakan community possesses a distinct identity in terms of food, costume, rites, crafts and culture. Most of the Peranakan Chinese are not Muslims but practise ancestor worship and Chinese religion. During British rule, the Peranakan had a reputation of being loyal British subjects and many of them adopted British mannerisms. They prided themselves as being Anglophone and distinguished themselves from the newly-arrived Chinamen or sinkheh. The Peranakan, however, are almost extinct today due to their re-absorption into the mainstream Chinese community. However, their legacy lives on in their great cuisine, their intricate nyonya kebaya costume and exquisite handicrafts.

The common languages of Penang, depending on social classes, social circles, and ethnic backgrounds are English, Penang Hokkien, Tamil and Malay. Mandarin, which is taught in Chinese-medium schools in the state, is also increasingly spoken.

Penang Hokkien is a variant of Minnan and is widely spoken by a substantial proportion of the Penang populace who are descendants of early Chinese settlers. It bears strong resemblance to the language spoken by Chinese living in the Indonesian city of Medan and is based on the Minnan dialect of Zhangzhou prefecture in Fujian province, China. It incorporates a large number of loanwords from Malay and English. Many Penangites who are not ethnically Chinese are also able to speak in Hokkien. Most Penang Hokkien speakers are not literate in Hokkien but instead read and write in standard (Mandarin) Chinese, English and/or Malay.

Malay is spoken locally with north-western dialect features, such as hang for 'you' and depa for 'they/them'.

English is a working language widely used in business and commerce, and is also the language of instruction of Science and Mathematics in schools. English used in an official or formal context is predominantly British English with some American influences. Spoken English, as in the rest of Malaysia, is often in the form of Manglish (Malaysian colloquial English).

Other languages, including Cantonese and Tamil, are also spoken in the state. Teochew is heard more in Province Wellesley than on Penang Island.

The official religion of Penang is Islam and the head of Islam is the Yang Dipertuan Agong, but other religions are freely practised. These are Buddhism, in the Theravada, Mahayana and increasingly also Vajrayana traditions, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism (the largest denominations of which are the Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptists) and Sikhism- reflecting Penang's diverse ethnic and socio-cultural amalgamation.

There is also a small, but little-known, community of Jews in Penang, mainly along Jalan Zainal Abidin (formerly Jalan Yahudi or Jewish Street).

Governance and Law
The state has its own state legislature and executive, but these have very limited powers in comparison with those of the Malaysian federal authorities.
Main article: Governance and law of Penang

Penang is one of only four states in Malaysia not to have a hereditary Malay Ruler or Sultan, being a former British settlement, the other three being Malacca, also a British settlement, whose sultanate was ended by the Portuguese conquest in 1511, and the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.

The head of the state executive is a Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia). The present Governor is Tun Dato' Seri Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abbas. In practice the Governor is a figurehead, and he acts upon the advice of the state Executive Council, which is appointed from the majority party in the Legislative Assembly.
Main article: Chief Minister of Penang

The Chief Minister of Penang is Mr. Lim Guan Eng from the Democratic Action Party (DAP). Following the 12th general election of 8 March 2008, the coalition of DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) formed the state government, with the chief ministership going to the former that emerged as the single largest party in the state legislature.

Penang is the only state in Malaysia in which its chief ministership has been continuously held by a non-Malay ethnic Chinese since independence, reflecting the state's ethnic majority.

Local Authorities
There are two local authorities in Penang, the Municipal Council of Penang Island (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang) and the Municipal Council of Province Wellesley (Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai). Local councillors have been appointed by the state government since local elections were abolished in Malaysia in the 1960s. Both municipal councils are made up of a president, a municipal secretary and 24 councillors. The president is appointed by the State Government for two-year terms of office while the councillors are appointed for one-year terms of office. The state is divided into 5 administrative divisions:

* Penang Island:
o North-East District (Daerah Timur Laut)
o South-West District (Daerah Barat Daya)

* Seberang Perai (formerly Province Wellesley):
o Northern Seberang Perai District (Daerah Seberang Perai Utara)
o Central Seberang Perai District (Daerah Seberang Perai Tengah)
o Southern Seberang Perai District (Daerah Seberang Perai Selatan)

Each district is headed by a district officer.

The unicameral state legislature, whose members are called state assemblymen, convenes at the neoclassical state Legislative Assembly (Dewan Undangan Negeri) building at Light Street. It has 40 seats, 19 of which are held by the Democratic Action Party, 11 by Barisan Nasional, nine by Parti Keadilan Rakyat and one by PAS since the 2008 general elections. It was a sharp reversal from the 38 seats held by BN in the 2004 elections and only the second time since Independence that the state fell into non-BN control, the last being in 1969.

In the Malaysian Parliament, Penang is represented by 13 elected Members of Parliament in the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives), serving a five-year term, and has two senators in the Dewan Negara (Senate), both appointed by the state Legislative Assembly to serve a three-year term.


Penang state is today the third-largest economy amongst the states of Malaysia, after Selangor and Johor. Manufacturing is the most important component of the Penang economy, contributing 45.9% of the State's GDP (2000). The southern part of the island is highly industrialised with high-tech electronics plants (such as Dell, Intel, AMD, Altera, Motorola, Agilent, Hitachi, Osram, Plexus, Bosch and Seagate) located within the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone. In January 2005, Penang was formally accorded the Multimedia Super Corridor Cyber City status, the first outside of Cyberjaya, with the aim of becoming a high-technology industrial park that conducts cutting-edge research. In recent years, however, the state is experiencing a gradual decline of foreign direct investments due to factors such as cheaper labour costs in China and India.

The entrepôt trade has greatly declined, due in part to the loss of Penang's free-port status, but also due to the active development of Port Klang near the federal capital Kuala Lumpur. However, there is a container terminal in Butterworth which continues to service the northern area.

Other important sectors of Penang's economy include tourism, finance, shipping and other services.

The Penang Development Corporation (PDC) is the state development agency to develop, plan, implement and promote development projects in the form of socio-economic interests on behalf of the State Government of Penang. It functions as the investment arm of the state government.

Penang agriculture is mainly made up of the major export crops of rubber and oil palm and some cocoa, the food commodities comprising paddy, fruits, coconut, vegetables, livestock (which is dominated by poultry and swine), fisheries and aquaculture, and new emerging industries such as ornamental fish and floriculture.

Owing to limited land size and the highly industrialised nature of Penang's economy, agriculture is given little emphasis. In fact, agriculture is the only sector to record negative growth in the state, contributing only 1.3% to the state GDP in 2000. The share of Penang's paddy area to the national paddy area accounts for only 4.9%.

Penang was the centre of banking of Malaysia at a time when Kuala Lumpur was still a small outpost. The oldest bank in Malaysia, Standard Chartered Bank (then the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China) opened its doors in 1875. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, now known as HSBC, opened its first branch in Penang in 1885. The UK-based Royal Bank of Scotland (then ABN AMRO) opened its first office in Penang in 1888 to cater to the financial requirements of the early European traders. Most of the older banks still maintain their local headquarters on Beach Street, the old commercial centre of George Town.

Today, Penang remains a banking hub with branches of Citibank, United Overseas Bank, and Bank Negara Malaysia (the Malaysian central bank) together with local banks such as Public Bank, Maybank, Ambank and CIMB Bank.

Culture and activities

Penang island is a paradise for food lovers who come from all over Malaysia and even Singapore to sample the island's unique cuisine, earning Penang the nickname of the food capital of Malaysia. Penang was recognised as having the Best Street Food in Asia by TIME magazine in 2004, citing that nowhere else can such great tasting food be so cheap. Penang's cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but is also strongly influenced by the cuisine of Thailand to the north. It's especially famous 'hawker food', sold and eaten roadside, strongly features noodles and fresh seafood. Places to savour Penang's food are Gurney Drive, Pulau Tikus, New Lane, Swatow Lane, Penang Road and Chulia Street. Local Chinese restaurants serve excellent fare too. American fast food outlets and cafés are readily found throughout the state.

Although Penang has lost much of its shopping paradise grandeur of its past, it still boasts several modern shopping malls catering a wide range of merchandise. Among the more popular ones on Penang Island are:

* Queensbay Mall, Penang's largest and longest shopping centre,
* Gurney Plaza, touted as Penang's first lifestyle-oriented shopping mall. Opened in 2001, it is located at the famous Gurney Drive precicnt.
* KOMTAR is Penang's first and oldest modern shopping mall. Plans are currently underway to revive the massive complex.

Other notable shopping malls on the mainland part of Penang:

* Sunway Carnival Mall located at Seberang Jaya.
* Seberang Prai City Perdana Mall located at Bandar Perda.


Penang's historic architecture is centred mainly in George Town. Its rows of 100 year-old shophouses and colonial villas give Georgetown its distinctive atmosphere. Penang was the venue for several historical movies, such as Anna and the King and the French film Indochine.

The best way to capture Penang’s mixed heritage is to stroll around town. The aged buildings are noted for their faded colours and crumbling walls. Old houses have columns or multi-coloured Peranakan tiles. The Aceh Mosque is the oldest house of worship in the city. The smell of incense drifts in the air amidst gold settings of Burmese, Thai and Chinese temples. The Khoo Kongsi is a traditional form of Chinese art with its delicately carved wooden panels. Other long-time occupants include elderly Chinese shopkeepers, colourful Indian food stalls and trishaws with their drivers.

State Tourism Development Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said that there were plans to clean up and landscape the beaches in Batu Ferringhi. 'The cleanliness of our beaches has been neglected for more than 10 years and this is a challenge to the tourism sector,'. He added that the state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) took water samples from beaches in Batu Ferringhi and determined numerous pollution sources including the sewage system, illegal restaurants and hawkers and car-washing activities.

State Tourism Development Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said he was informed of the matter by the management of Malaysia Airlines. 'The number of tourists from these regions has been steadily declining over the past decade' and 'Tourists come to the state for the surf and sand but they usually return home disappointed. We are even losing out domestically to Pangkor and Langkawi' 'Rivers will be cleaned up and illegal outlets draining sewage into the sea will be connected to a treatment plant by 2009.'

Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (ATAP) chairman Eddy Low said 'We strongly discourage food courts or stalls being set up or built near the sea to prevent the dumping of rubbish into the sea and around the area. 'He said there should also be a massive plan for a central sewerage system so that waste would not go to the sea. There is also a need to protect the outer islands such as Pulau Jerejak, Pulau Rimau and Pulau Aman. 'It is important for us to maintain these islands which are still pristine and untouched by pollution.'


Healthcare in Penang is provided by public as well as private hospitals. The healthcare system in Penang is good, and the public healthcare system was first established by the colonial authorities and was supplemented by healthcare provided by local Chinese charities, and Christian missionaries such as Roman Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist missionary groups. Hospices are also increasingly becoming the choice for long-term and terminal care.

Public Hospitals

Penang Island
* Penang General Hospital (main)
* Balik Pulau Hospital

Province Wellesley
* Seberang Jaya Hospital (main)
* Bukit Mertajam Hospital
* Sungai Bakap Hospital
* Kepala Batas Hospital

Private Hospitals

Penang Island
* Island Hospital
* Gleneagles Medical Centre
* Pantai Mutiara Hospital
* Loh Guan Lye Specialist Centre
* Lam Wah Ee Hospital
* Penang Adventist Hospital
* Tanjung Medical Centre
* Mt Miriam Hospital
* Srigim Medical Centre

Province Wellesley
* Bukit Mertajam Specialist Hospital
* Bagan Specialist Centre

In addition to public hospitals are numerous smaller community clinics. Private hospitals supplement the system with better facilities and equipments. These hospitals cater not only to the local population but also to people from other states and health tourists from neighbouring countries. Patients from the Indonesian city of Medan across the Straits regularly visit these hospitals for quality treatment, and because the cost is less than in places like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Penang is, therefore, actively promoting health tourism.


Getting to Penang both from within and outside Malaysia is easy as Penang is well-connected by road, rail, sea and air.

Bridges, roads and highways
Penang Island is connected to the mainland by the 13.5-kilometre Penang Bridge (completed in 1985), one of the longest bridges in Asia. Due to heavy traffic, the bridge is currently being broadened into 3 lanes from the current two. On 31 March 2006, the Malaysian government announced a second bridge project, tentatively named the Penang Second Bridge.

Penang on the side of Province Wellesley is connected to the North-South Expressway (Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan), the 966-km long expressway which traverses the western part of Peninsular Malaysia linking major cities and towns. The expressway also incorporates the Penang Bridge.

The proposed Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) was mooted to cut travelling time on the eastern part of the island. Concerned citizens voiced protests over the designated route which will cut across quiet residential areas and may also adversely affect the environments. On the 26 June 2008, the Prime Minister of Malaysia announced that the project has been deferred in the Mid-Term Review of Ninth Malaysia Plan as it was said to be not people-centric and would not have an immediate impact on the residents of Penang.

Another expressway, the Jelutong Expressway has reduced travelling time from the Penang Bridge to the city centre by half.

The Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR) is a 14-km tolled expressway that serves primarily Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam to ameliorate the upsurge in vehicular traffic due to intense urban and industrial development.

Public transport
Penang boasted an efficient public transport network right up to the 1970s. Electric trams, trolleybuses and double deckers used to ply the streets of Penang. The Penang Hill Railway, a funicular railway to the top of Penang Hill, was an engineering feat of sorts when it was completed in 1923, and is still in use today.

The Penang public bus service today is generally unsystematic and do not have a reputation of reliability.  Therefore, the usage of public transport is still low, exacerbating the traffic jams in the city during rush hours. The city council has, however, provided free shuttle bus services for short intra-city travel to lessen the congestion.

In April 2006, the local authorities announced a revamp of the public bus service to bring about a more reliable and efficient network without any visible progress. On 20 February 2007, the government announced that Rapid KL would operate the public bus service in Penang under the new entity called Rapid Penang which is formed for this purpose. The service started on 31 July 2007 with 150 buses covering 38 routes on the island and mainland.

There are two main bus terminals for inter-state express coaches. One is located at the ferry terminal in Province Wellesley, and a newer one at Sungai Nibong on the island.

Taxis in Penang have not conformed to the meter system as exhorted by the federal authorities, citing unprofitability. A new ruling implemented on 1 August 2006 made it compulsory for taxis to use the meter system. Although taxi drivers have been repeatedly warned by the state government and the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB), the meter system is still not adhered to by taxi drivers in Penang.

A quaint mode of transport, the three-wheeled trishaw, still operates in certain parts of Georgetown. However, with the advent of modern transport, the trishaw has increasingly become a mere tourist attraction.

Rail and monorail
Penang has 34.9 km of rail track within its border. Butterworth is serviced by the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) or Malayan Railway West Coast line which runs from Padang Besar on the Malaysia-Thailand Border in Perlis to Singapore. Senandung Langkawi is the daily night express running from Kuala Lumpur to Haadyai via Butterworth.

Penang has had a monorail under consideration since 1999. The Penang Monorail project was finally approved on 31 March 2006 under the Ninth Malaysia Plan. The Monorail route connects Tanjung Tokong in the north with Bayan Lepas in the south, Air Itam in the west and Weld Quay in the east. Unfortunately, on 26 June 2008, this long-overdue project suffered the same fate as the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) when the Federal government decided to defer it.

Penang International Airport (PEN) is located at Bayan Lepas in the south of the island. The airport serves as the northern gateway to Malaysia and is the hub of Firefly, a low-cost carrier wholly owned by Malaysia Airlines. Other airlines operating at Penang are national carrier Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air, Taiwan-based China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, together with Indonesian airlines Lion Air and Mandala Airlines.

Ferry and seaports
Cross-channel ferry services, provided by the Penang Ferry Service, connect Georgetown and Butterworth, and were the only link between the island and the mainland until the bridge was built in 1985. High-speed ferries to the resort island of Langkawi, Kedah in the north as well as to Medan are also available daily.

The Port of Penang is operated by the Penang Port Commission. There are four terminals, one on Penang island (Swettenham Pier) and three on the mainland, namely North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT), Butterworth Deep Water Wharves (BDWW), and Prai Bulk Cargo Terminal (PBCT). Malaysia being the 13th largest exporting nation, the Port of Penang plays a leading role in the nation's shipping industry, linking Penang to more than 200 ports worldwide. Swettenham Pier also accommodates cruise ships.

Water supply which comes under the state jurisdiction, is wholly managed by the state-owned but autonomous PBA Holdings Bhd whose sole subsidiary is the Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang Sdn Bhd (PBAPP). This public limited company provides reliable, round-the-clock drinking water to 100% of the urban areas and 99.5% of the rural areas throughout the state. Penang was cited by the World Development Movement as a case study in successful public water scheme. PBA's water rates are also one of the lowest in the world Penang's water supply is sourced from the Air Itam Dam, Mengkuang Dam, Teluk Bahang Dam, Bukit Panchor Dam, Berapit Dam, Cherok Tok Kun Dam, Waterfall Reservoir (at the Penang Botanic Gardens), Guillemard Reservoir, and also from neighbouring Kedah state.

Penang was among the first states in Malaya to be electrified in 1905 upon the completion of the first hydroelectric scheme. At present, electricity for industrial and domestic consumption is provided by the national electricity utility company, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB).

Telekom Malaysia Berhad is the landline telephone service provider as well as the main Internet service provider in the state. Penang also has excellent cell phone coverage.

Sewage treatment in Penang is managed by the national sewerage company, Indah Water Konsortium. Prior to systematic sewerage piping and treatment, waste water was haphazardly disposed, mostly in the sea, causing environmental pollution.

Sister Cities
* Adelaide, Australia (1973)
* Xiamen, China (1991)
* Medan, Indonesia
* Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
Penang is one of the hotbeds of social activism in the country. Anwar Fazal, who is one of the world's leading social advocate, together with several individuals founded the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) in 1969. The country's most vocal and active consumer protection group, CAP strives to protect the interests of consumers and is a vociferous critic of both the government and private enterprises. It publishes the Utusan Konsumer, Utusan Pengguna, Utusan Cina, Utusan Tamil, Majalah Pengguna Kanak-kanak. Anwar Fazal is also known as the 'Father of the Malaysian NGO Movement' and 'Ralph Nader of the East'.

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action is an organization based in Penang whose objectives are to protect, promote and support breastfeeding globally.

The Penang Heritage Trust is an NGO whose objective is to promote the conservation of Penang's heritage, and to foster cultural education about the history and heritage of Penang. PHT works to enlist the historic enclave of Georgetown as a World Heritage Site. The organisation had played an important role in saving many heritage buildings in Penang from the encroachment of development.

Friends of the Penang Botanic Gardens Society is a voluntary organisation dedicated to supporting the botanic, horticultural, educational and recreational objectives of the Penang Botanic Gardens.

The state has good sporting facilities which provide good training grounds for aspiring sportsmen. The two major stadia are the City Stadium in Georgetown and the Batu Kawan Stadium in Southern Province Wellesley. The Penang International Sports Arena (PISA) in Relau has an indoor stadium and an aquatics centre.

The Penang Bridege Marathon is popular annual event. The full marathon route starts from near Queensbay Mall, to the Bayan Lepas Expressway, then on to the 13.5 km length of the Penang Bridge, and finally back to the starting point for the finish. This event hosted over 16,000 runners in 2008.

Penang has 4 golf courses, namely the 18-hole Bukit Jambul Country Club (on the island), the 36-hole Bukit Jawi Golf Resort, the 36-hole Penang Golf Resort and the 18-hole Kristal Golf Resort.

The Penang Turf Club, established in 1864, is Malaysia's oldest horse racing and equestrian centre. The turf club is to be relocated to a new site now under construction in Province Wellesley.

Sports clubs in Penang include the Bukit Mertajam Country Club, Penang Club, Chinese Recreation Club (CRC), Penang Sports Club, Penang Rifle Club, Penang Polo Club, Penang Swimming Club, Chinese Swimming Club, Penang Squash Centre and the Tanjung City Marina which can accommodate up to 140 yachts and boats of various sizes, along the historic Weld Quay, to attract seafarers from around the world.

The world famous international dragon boat festival is held in Penang annually since 1979 around the fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar. Penang International Dragon Boat Festival (PIDBF) which lead the development of the sports has also won the right to hold the World Club Crew Championship 2008 at Teluk Bahang Dam in August. Normally, the state will hold two races in a year, the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival in the month of June and Penang Pesta Dragon Boat race around early December.

Penang also has the only Chingay procession in the world currently which were started about 100 years ago with the first parade in 1919 in Penang. It is held in celebration with the birthdays of the Chinese deities or the procession of the Goddess of Mercy (Guan Yin) which was to worship and enjoy the deity. The procession can be seen yearly on the night of the Christmas Day or during Chinese festivals such as new year or any big scale events in Penang.

Penang's Firsts
* Penang became the first British outpost in the then Malaya and South East Asia in 1786.
* The country's first newspaper made its appearance in Penang in 1805 - the Prince of Wales Island Gazette. This was followed by the Penang Gazette, first published in 1837.
* The Royal Malaysian Police was established when King George III awarded Penang a 'Charter of Justice’ in 1807 to form the police force and the Court of Justice.
* Penang Free School founded by Rev. Sparke Hutchings in 1816, is the first and oldest English School in South East Asia.
* St George's Anglican Church on Farquhar Street, established in 1816, is the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia and the only building from Penang that was declared one of the 50 National Treasures by the Malaysian Government.
* The Sekolah Kebangsaan Gelugor in Penang founded in 1826 is the first Malay school to be established in Malaysia.
* The St Xavier's Institution established in 1852, is the first school established in Malaysia to be administered and fully owned by the La Salle Brothers.
* Convent Light Street or the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, a girls' school established by a French Sisters' Mission in 1852, is the oldest girls' school in South East Asia.
* Chung Hwa Confucian School founded by Cheong Fatt Tze in 1904, was one of the oldest formal Chinese Schools established in South-east Asia as a result of influence by the educational reforms in China in early 1900s. Mandarin is the school’s medium of instruction.
* The Municipal Council of Penang Island (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang), is the successor of the Municipal Council of Georgetown, which was established in 1857 as Malaysia's first local authority.
* The Penang Turf Club, established in 1864, is Malaysia's oldest horse racing and equestrian centre.
* Standard Chartered Bank, the oldest bank in Malaysia, opened its doors in 1875.
* In 1905 Penang completed its first hydroelectric scheme.
* in 1906 Penang's first electric tramway made its appearance.
* Malaysia's oldest Chinese newspaper still in circulation today, Kwong Wah Yit Poh or Kwong Wah Daily (光华日报) was founded on 20 December 1910 by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in Penang.
* The Penang Players Music and Drama Society, the oldest English amateur theatre group in Malaysia, was founded in the early 1950s by a group of expatriates residing in Penang.
* Georgetown, the state capital of Penang, became a city by a royal charter granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 1 January 1957, becoming the first town in the Federation of Malaya to become a city. (For further discussion on the disputed city status, refer Municipal Council of Penang Island.)
* Penang's water rates/tariffs are amongst the lowest in Malaysia (the other being Kelantan).
* Covering 738 km², the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai) is the largest local authority in Malaysia.
* The 2,562-hectare Penang National Park in Teluk Bahang gazetted in 2003 is the world’s smallest national park.

 Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia Map


This webpage was updated 27th January 2020