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The DA Guide to Penang

It was its strategic location on the Strait of Malacca that led 18th-century explorer Francis Light to claim Penang for the British Crown. As the nascent trading post took off, successive waves of immigration from elsewhere in Southeast Asia, India, and China brought in new settlers by the boatload. That cultural tapestry is reflected in Penang’s famous melting pot of flavors and the historic architecture of its capital, George Town, which gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008. Tourists come to ogle at the city’s trove of richly decorated Chinese clan houses, 19th-century mosques, Hindu temples, Peranakan mansions, and neoclassical buildings; together, they provide a distinctive backdrop for a diverse arts scene and a growing clutch of fine-dining venues and cool cocktail bars. Beyond George Town, the densely populated island still contains pockets of tranquility: there are old-growth rain forests, secluded beaches, and sleepy villages set amid orchards and paddy fields, offering a glimpse of the Penang that was when Light waded ashore.