Penang – Diversity of Ethnicity, Culture & Religion

Penang is a state in Malaysia and the name of its constituent island, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca.

The name “Penang” comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means “island of the areca nut palm. The name Penang may refer either to the island of Penang (Pulau Pinang) or the state of Penang (Negeri Pulau Pinang).


It is bordered by Kedah in the north and east, and Perak in the south. Penang is the second smallest Malaysian state in area after Perlis, and the eighth most populous. It is composed of two parts — Penang Island, where the seat of government is, and Seberang Perai (formerly Province Wellesley in English) on the Malay Peninsula.

Penang is a geographically divided into two sections:

  • Penang Island(Pulau Pinang in Malay): an island of 293 km2 (113 sq mi) located in the Straits of Malacca; and
  • Seberang Perai: a narrow hinterland of 753 km2(291 sq mi) on the peninsula across a narrow channel whose smallest width is 4 km (2.5 mi). It is bordered by Kedah in the east and north (demarcated by the Muda River), and by Perak in the south.

Penang has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical rainforest climate bordering on a tropical monsoon climate, though Penang does experience slightly drier conditions from December to February of the following year.


Penang Island is connected to the mainland by the 13.5 km (8.4 mi), three-lane, dual carriageway Penang Bridge (completed in 1985), one of the longest bridges in Asia. A second bridge, the 24-km long Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, linking Batu Maung on the southeastern part of the island to Batu Kawan on the mainland, was opened to the public in early 2014.


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

Penang is the third-largest economy amongst the states of Malaysia, after Selangor and Johor. Penang is the state with the highest GDP per capita in Malaysia in 2010 with RM 33,456.00 (USD $10,893.00).  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, Renesas, Osram, Plexus Corporation, Bosch and Seagate) in the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone – earning Penang the nickname Silicon Island


In 2009, Penang attracted 5.96 million tourists, ranking third in tourist arrivals in Malaysia.

Penang has been ranked by Yahoo! Travel as one of the “10 Islands to Explore Before You Die”

The most popular beaches in Penang are located at Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi, and Teluk Bahang, and these contiguous beaches are home to Penang’s famed hotel and resort belt. More secluded Muka Head, which hosts a lighthouse and a marine research station, and Monkey Beach – both within the Penang National Park – offer more pristine water.


Penang was a pioneer in education in Malaysia, having some of the earliest established schools in the country. The public school system comprises national schools, vernacular (Chinese and Tamil) schools, vocational schools, and religious schools. There are also a few international schools, such as Dalat International School, Tenby International School, Prince of Wales Island International School, The International School of Penang, the Penang Japanese School, and St. Christopher’s International Primary School for both expatriates’ and Malaysian children.

The Wawasan Open University in George Town, one of the university in Penang that has both distance-learning and on campus programs

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