Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Penang, My Hometown 檳城﹐我的故鄉 ペナン、私のふるさと

(pic on the left was taken by me as i flew off on my Malaysian Airlines plane, the city, Georgetown, is the area on the far north- right corner, whilst the bridge across the water is Penang Bridge, connecting Penang Island to the Malaysian mainland)
I went bck to Penang (a beautiful island situated north of the Malaysian peninsular and just south of Thailand) during my summer break and would just like to introduce to readers this island which probably doesn't come into the radarspan of most ppl who live outside of South East Asia. Penang got its name from the Pinang tree.
Penang was one of the Straits Settlements along with Malacca or Melaka and Singapore that was directly governed by the British colonials starting from the 1700s. The other states of Malaysia(then known as British Malaya)had there own Malay sultans (Kings) and only cooperated with the British but were not wholly controlled by the British. Only the Straits Settlements were directly controlled by the British and flourished throughout the 19 and early 20 century. As the British needed labour, and having a policy of 'divide and rule', the British imported large numbers of ethnic indians and ethnic chinese from india and china respectively thus paving the way for the multiculturalism of malaysian society. By the early 20th century, Malaysia's ethnic composition had become roughly 40% Chinese, 15% Indians and the rest local Malays, meaning that the local Malay population made up less than half the population by the 1940s.

Penang, like the rest of SEA and indeed Asia, was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Forces during WW2,and suffered 3 years and 8 months of Japanese Occupation. Many people were killed,especially the chinese (who had supported China against Japanese invasion) and quite a number of Chinese boys from the well known Chung Ling Chinese HighSchool were murdered for supporting the Chinese Resistance Effort. Comfort women were also taken to Penang and women, like women in other Japanese occupied areas, suffered as well. It is also said that there are a few schools in Penang which are supposed to be haunted as they were POW camps during the war.

After WW2, the British returned but by 1957, Penang was incorporated into the newly independent and formed Malaysia. Singapore joined Malaysia as one nation briefly between 1963 to 1965 and Penang lost its Free Port status in the 1970s. Currently Penang is the only state in Malaysia with a Chinese population that is more than 50% with all other states having a Malay majority. The ethnic population of Malaysia is now roughly Malay 60%,Chinese 24%,Indian 7%,aborigines 9%, thus showing the non-Malay population has declined considerably from its peak in the 1940s when non-Malays made up the majority in the country.

Penang is apparently the most popular domestic travel destination for Malaysians, given that it has arguably the second biggest economy in Malaysia, after KL, and its local food is undisputedly the most famous in Malaysia with people from even the capital city and Singapore going north to sample its delicacies like char koey teow, Siam Laksa, Penang Prawn Noodles, Lor Mee, etc...Being an island, it also has a tourist beach belt called Batu Ferringhi where foreigners enjoy the beach, sun, seafood feasts, watersports, and the natural environment. Penang is also famous for its Nyonya Food, being the cuisine of people of mixed malay-chinese parentage. The Nyonyas have a distinct culture marrying malay with chinese culture. They are also found in Melaka and Singapore. So for my readers, do visit this lovely island sometime....if i am bck, i may even take u around for a tour....
Enjoyed my stay back home in Penang with the yummy local food, nice ppl, and cheap DVDS!!

Now time to study again as i just got bck yesterday....and pleasantly surprised at how cold it was (normally its supposed to be very hot at this time of the year) ...still cold today, though i heard it was extremely hot just last week,hope this kind of weather continues. What can i say, this is TRULY Melbourne weather, always unpredictable, always exciting...

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