Pulau Pinang (Penang)

Europeans have been making frequent visits to South East Asia as early on as in the 15 th Century. First the Portuguese, then the Dutch and eventually the British and the French. The French went inland into Indochina whilst the British made their presence felt in Indonesia, Malaya, Burma and Singapore - strategically along shipping routes.

With regions secured (well, almost - apart from insurgence uprising by the Malays now and again), came the trading companies and along with that, changed the course of South East Asia's history.

Captain Francis Light

Captain Francis Light -first sculptured based on features of his eldest son William Light.

Francis Light was born in Suffolk, England in 1740. At age 19, he entered the Navy as a midshipman. After four years' service in various junior appointments, he went to India and became master of a ship trading between India and the Malay Peninsula. Francis Light picked up colloquial Malay and in no time made fast allies in Malaya.

On receiving an enquiry from the Madras government to look for a trading post east of India, Light on 22nd November 1771, recommended Penang as a "convenient magazine for trade". However, nothing came about on the recommendation until some 15years later under the leadership of Sir John MacPherson, the Governor-General of India. Light recommended two stations, Junk Ceylon (modern name, Salang), where he had his own headquarters, and Penang, which he was able to offer on behalf of the young Sultan of Kedah, with whom he was friendly.

Finally, Light was able to negotiate a settlement whereby Penang was ceded to the Company for the annual payment of £1,500. Francis Light became the first superintendent and moved his partner Martina Rozells of Thai-Portuguese descent and 2 children including young William Light who later followed his father's footsteps in reputation and founded the city of Adelaide.

Penang as it was.. today

Batu Feringghi

view of Batu Feringghi from Spice Garden

In fact Penang has a history that goes way back to the days of the Malaccan Sultanate in the 14 th century. Portuguese traders from India used Penang as their replenishment centre for water, food and traded with the villagers. The main stopover point was at Batu Feringghi or Feringghi's Rock. The word Feringghi is an Indian term for Europeans. Today, Batu Feringghi remains a lure to Europeans. Beach resorts and hotels gradually replaced Fishing and Malay Villages that used to line this beautiful beachfront. Today, a walk down Batu Feringhi and one familiarity pops to mind - Pattong, Phuket. well, minus the sleaze and women sliding down pole bars. (Still a great place to go for families).

Batu Feringghi has maintained quite a bit of its charm despite the sudden influx of restaurants ranging from steak houses and Indian cuisine to seafood outlets and even a large food court selling local food at reasonable prices. In the evenings, the walkway along the main street disappears as the night market vendors take over the area. Visitors can find all sorts of handicraft work, pirated movie and music VCDs/DVDs, Von Dutch handbags and t-shirts (fake!!) and some pretty kitsch items for sale.

The good side of this is that all though the hustle and bustle is there at Batu Feringghi, it's still only found mainly along the main street. For those looking for peace and quiet, one can retreat into the comforts of their hotels, the tranquillity of their pool areas or on the beach. Once within the sanctuary, sanity restores.

Pulau Kasatu | Prince of Wales Island | Penang | Pulau Pinang

Francis Light renamed Pulau Kasatu as Prince of Wales Island on 12th August 1786; to commemorate the birthday of the Prince of Wales, later, George IV, and the capital became George Town. However, naming the island Prince of Wales Island didn't really catch on with the inhabitants and later reverting to Penang Island. When Light landed at Cape Penaigre (now Georgetown), he found that the interior of the island was almost impenetrable, leaving no open land to establish a camp. In his diary, Light complained, 'the wood is so exceedingly hard that the tools double like a piece of lead'. Exasperated, he came up with an ingenious idea of filling a cannon with silver dollars and firing into the jungle. Then he hired onlooking natives, armed them with axes and had the jungle cleared of tough ironwood trees (Pegaga Laut) in no time!

more on Penang's history...

Cities in Penang

Highland in Penang

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