Penang’s year-round tropical climate is surpassed only by the warmth of the people you will meet. Rain makes and appearance during the southwest monsoon between April and September. Breezy days are not uncommon either, especially along the coast. After all, it is an island.
Approximately 1.4 million people make their home of the island of Penang. Ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indians mingle easily with a sizeable expatriate community. Penang’s distinctive Peranakan community, also known as Straits Chinese or Baba and Nyonya, are descended from early Chinese immigrants who settled in the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore.
While Penangites (the colloquial term for locals) take immense pride in their ethnic dialects, English is widely spoken everywhere although Malay is the national language. In a population as diverse as Penang’s, one can experience a multitude of languages on its busy streets, from English and Malay to Mandarin, Penang Hokkien and Tamil.
Both religious and cultural festivals are an intrinsic part of Penang life. The Hindu Thaipusam Parade, the annual Taoist Nine Emperor Gods Festival as well as the Catholic St. Anne’s Feast in Bukit Mertajam provide a colourful counterpoint to more recent additions such as the Japanese community’s Bon Odori Festival held annually at the Esplanade.
Where there are festivals, there are also feasts. Penang is justifiably famous for its extraordinary array of cuisines, ranging from the fusion flavours of its Peranakan heritage to world-class fare from across the seven seas. But it is Penang’s street-hawker offerings drawn from its multi-cultural milieu that truly set the taste buds tingling.