Penang is the northern gateway to Malaysia and also the country'soldest British settlement. To the tourist industry, Penang has beenmarketed for a long time as the 'Pearl of the Orient.'
In August of1786, the British, under Captain Francis Light, formally tookpossession of Penang.The island was covered in dense jungle and wasuninhabited, apart from a handful of Malay fishermen and a few Bugispirates. The small township, named Georgetown after George III (Princeof Wales), grew up around the camp by the harbor. Many immigrants wereattracted by the newly declared free port status and the island quicklybecame a cultural melting pot with an eclectic mix of races andreligions in a unique blend of east and west. By 1789, Georgetown had apopulation of 5,000, which had more than doubled by the end of the nextdecade. Penang State also includes a strip of land on the mainlandopposite Province Wellesley, named after Colonel Arthur Wellesley,later to become the Duke of Wellington. The two entities are linked bythe eight-mile-long Penang Bridge and a 24-hour ferry service.
ColonialPenang prospered until the outbreak of World War II.When the Japaneseadvanced down the peninsula, Penang Island was cut off and Britishresidents were evacuated to Singapore. The Japanese administrationlasted from December 1941 to July 1945. Remarkably, Georgetown'sbuildings were virtually unscathed despite Allied bombing attacks. Infact, today Georgetown is noted for the largest collection of pre-warhouses in all of Southeast Asia and the Penang Heritage Trust has beenestablished to maintain its unique heritage. Although Penang is bestknown for its beaches, there is much more here than just sand and sea.The island is considered a cultural and architectural gem with Chinese,Malay and Indian influences.