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Geography of Penang

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Penang comprises Penang Island and Seberang Perai (also called Province Wellesley) on the mainland. The central part of Penang Island is hilly. The capital, George Town, rolls out from the northeast tip of Penang Island and spreads across the lowlying areas like a concrete carpet. The tourist belt of Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah are located on the hilly northern side of Penang Island. Over here, whatever land there is for development hugs the hillside, required much leveling and cutting before anything can be built there.

Penang Hill, located at the centre of the island, prevents the city from marching westward, forcing it to develop southward through Gelugor all the way to Batu Maung to the south. The demand for housing has resulted in new development taking place in Teluk Kumbar, Gertak Sanggul as well as Balik Pulau. Balik Pulau, a town whose name translates roughly as "hindside of the island", was pretty much a sleepy backwater until recently. Today Balik Pulau is undergoing rapid development. Nevertheless, the town is still popular among Penangites for its orchards, particularly of durians and nutmeg.

Seberang Perai is relatively flat, save for Bukit Mertajam, the name of a hillock as well as the town at its foot. The snooty urban folks of Penang Island seldom venture into Seberang Perai - regarding it as a far-away countryside - until the pressing need for cheap housing forced some of them to live there. Now towns in Seberang Perai such as Juru, Jawi, Sungai Bakap and Nibong Tebal, once regarded as the agricultural hinterland as late as a decade ago, have experience rapid development, in terms of industrialization and the sprouting of new housing estates. These towns are expected to benefit from the construction of the second Penang Bridge.

The Penang Bridge carries a dual-lane carriageway, the E36, across the channel connecting Penang Island and the mainland. Linked to the Penang Bridge is Route 1331, comprising Jelutong Expressway and Bayan Lepas Expressway. This is the main motorway on the east side of Penang Island, connecting Batu Maung in the south to Weld Quay in George Town.

On the mainland side, the Penang Bridge connects to the North-South Expressway, E1, the main motorway running along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The E1 connects to the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway, E15, and the Butterworth Outer Ring Road, E17. With the exception of the Jelutong and Bayan Lepas Expressways, all the motorways mentioned are tolled.

George Town, the capital, is located on the northeast tip of Penang Island. It is where most of the sights of historical significance and tourist attractions are located. It is also where most visitors to Penang will be staying.


The road on the north coast of Penang island is characterised by sharp bends.


Penang Hill, foreground, prevents George Town from further developing westward.


Pulau Betong, on the southwest of Penang island

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If you are coming to Penang and need someone to show you around, I can arrange for you a licensed tour guide to take you around. Guides charge a fixed fee of RM360 for taking a small group of up to 10 people on 4-hour walking tours. Walking tours exceeding 4 hours is charged an additional RM90 per hour. Tours are tailored to guest requirement. For more details, contact tour coordinator. Other types of tours also available. For details, click here.

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