George Town, Penang

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George Town
Skyline of George Town
Flag of George Town
Official logo of George Town
Motto: Memimpin Sambil Berkhidmat
("Leading We Serve")
George Town is located in Peninsular Malaysia
George Town
George Town
Location in Peninsular Malaysia
George Town is located in Malaysia
George Town
George Town
Location in Malaysia
Coordinates: 5°25′00″N 100°19′00″E / 5.41667°N 100.31667°E / 5.41667; 100.31667
Country Malaysia
State Penang
District North-East Penang Island
Founded 1786
Municipality established 1857
Granted city status 1957
Merged with neighbouring district 1974
 • Mayor (Datuk Bandar) Patahiyah Ismail
 • City 305.773 km2 (118.060 sq mi)
 • Metro 2,748.000 km2 (1,061.009 sq mi)
Elevation 4 m (13.1 ft)
Population (2010)
 • City 510,996
 • Density 4,299/km2 (11,130/sq mi)
 • Metro 2.25 million
Time zone MST (UTC+8)
 • Summer (DST) Not observed (UTC)

George Town[1] (also less commonly spelt as Georgetown[2]) is the capital of the state of Penang in Malaysia. It is also the second largest metropolitan area for Malaysia. Named after Britain's King George III, George Town is located on the north-east corner of Penang Island. The inner city has a population of 510,996 and the metropolitan area known as George Town Conurbation which consists of Penang Island, Seberang Prai, Kulim and Sungai Petani has a combined population of 2,251,792, making it the second largest city in Malaysia.[3]

The settlement was declared a city in 1957 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.[4] In 2015, Penang island, on which George Town is located, was also awarded city status.

George Town is also known as Tanjung ("The Cape") in Malay, Qiáozhì Shì (乔治市) in Chinese and ஜோர்ஜ் டவுன் (Georgetown) in Tamil. Its Malay name is derived from the older name of the town, Tanjung Penaga ("Cape Penaigre").

The inner city of George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


1811 print of early George Town
1884 map of early George Town and the hills to the west
The coat of arms of the City Council of George Town

George Town was founded on 11 August 1786 by Captain Francis Light, a trader for the British East India Company, as base for the company in the Malay States. He obtained the island of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah and built Fort Cornwallis on the north-eastern corner of the island.[5] The fort became the nexus of a growing trading post and the island's population reached 12,000 by 1804.Monographs on Malay Subjects, Volume III. MBRAS. 1925. Psge 42.[6][7][8][citation needed]

The town was built on swampy land that had to be cleared of vegetation, levelled and filled. The original commercial town was laid out between Light Street, Beach Street (then running close to the seashore), Malabar Street (subsequently called Chulia Street) and Pitt Street (now called Masjid Kapitan Keling Street).

The warehouses and godowns extended from Beach Street to the sea. By the 1880s, there were ghauts leading from Beach Street to the wharf and jetties as Beach Street receded inland due to land reclamation. A new waterfront was created at Weld Quay, where commercial buildings sprang up.

The historic commercial centre was segmented into the banking and trading areas related to port activities which included shipping companies, the import and export trade, and the wholesalers who dominate the southern section of Beach Street until now. It has been listed as a World Heritage site since July 2008.[9]

At the turn of the 19th century, the northern section of Beach Street and the adjacent Bishop Street were the 'high street' where the 'modern' European emporium and stores selling imported merchandise were situated.

Among the early foreign companies that located their offices on Beach Street were the Netherlands Trading Society, the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), the Chartered Bank, Boustead & Co., Guthne & Co., Caldbeck & Macgregor, Behn Meyer, Sandilands & Buttery, G.H. Slot and the stores of Pritchard & Co., Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co., and others. Among the local businesses that were established here during this period were H.M. Nooradin, Tiang Lee & Co., Guan Lee Hin Steamship, Tye Sin Tat, Pinang Sales Room, Koe Guan and others. Penang's first petroleum lamps were installed on this section of Beach Street by Huttenbach & Co..

On 1 January 1957, George Town was declared a city by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. [10]

George Town's recent fortunes have seen its fair share of ups and downs. The loss of its free port status, coupled with the federal government's preference to develop Kuala Lumpur, meant that George Town began to stagnate in the later half of the 20th. century. George Town has been compared to Singapore in the 1960s and 70s. Only since George Town was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage site that George Town began to witness more developments.

In 2015, Penang island as a whole, was awarded city status by the Malaysian government. [11] Thus, George Town is the only city in Malaysia to have been conferred city status twice, firstly by the British monarch, and later, by the Malaysian government.


The City Hall housing the City Council of Penang Island

A Committee of Assessors was established in George Town in 1801, and was the first local council established in Malaya. In 1857, a board of partly elected Municipal Commissioners was established, but elections were abolished in 1913, before being reintroduced in the run-up to Independence in 1951. In 1956, George Town became the first municipality in the Federation of Malaya to have a fully elected council, and on 1 January 1957, the municipality became a city by a royal charter granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, becoming the first (and until 1972, the only) city in the Federation. In 1965, the federal Government suspended local elections as a result of the Indonesian Confrontation, and in 1966 the functions of the City Council were transferred to the Chief Minister of Penang.

In 1974, a Local Government Management Board (Lembaga Pengurus Kerajaan Tempatan) was established for the whole of Penang Island. This led to the ambiguity of whether George Town is still a city. Most locals contend that, as George Town's city status was never revoked, it remains a city to this day.

The management board went on to become the Municipal Council of Penang Island (Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang) in 1976.

In 2015, the entire Penang island (on which George Town is located) was granted city status, thus upgrading the municipal council into the Penang Island City Council (Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang).[12]

Parliament And State Assembly[edit]

The State Assembly Building

List of George Town representatives in the Federal Parliament (Dewan Rakyat)

Parliament Seat name Member of parliament Party
P.048 Bukit Bendera Zairil Khir Johari PR DAP
P.049 Tanjong Ng Wei Aik PR DAP
P.050 Jelutong Ooi Chuan Aun PR DAP
P.051 Bukit Gelugor Ramkarpal Singh A/L Karpal Singh PR DAP

List of George Town representatives in State Legislative Assembly

Parliament State Seat name State assemblyman Party
P.048 N.22 Tanjong Bunga Teh Yee Cheu PR DAP
P.048 N.23 Air Puteh Lim Guan Eng PR DAP
P.048 N24 Kebun Bunga Cheah Kah Peng PR PKR
P.048 N.25 Pulau Tikus Yap Soo Huey PR DAP
P.049 N.26 Padang Kota Chow Kon Yeow PR DAP
P.049 N.27 Pengkalan Kota Lau Keng Ee PR DAP
P.049 N.28 Komtar Teh Lai Heng PR DAP
P.050 N.29 Dato Keramat Jagdeep Singh Deo PR DAP
P.050 N.30 Sungai Pinang Lim Siew Khim PR DAP
P.050 N.31 Batu Lanchang Law Heng Kiang PR DAP
P.051 N.32 Seri Delima Nethaji Rayer PR DAP
P.051 N.33 Air Itam Wong Hon Wai PR DAP
P.051 N.34 Paya Terubong Yeoh Soon Hin PR DAP

Unesco World Heritage Site[edit]

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv
Reference 1223
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2008 (32nd Session)

On 7 July 2008, George Town was, together with Malacca, formally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is officially recognised as having a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.[13]

ECA International[edit]

George Town has been ranked as the most liveable city in Malaysia, eighth most liveable in Asia and the 62nd in the world in 2010 by ECA International, an improvement in ranking from recent years.[16]


State of Penang map with the George Town capital labelled
The 13.5 km (8.4 mi) long Penang Bridge
Penang Port
Rapid Penang in Jetty Bus Terminal
Tanjung City Marina (foreground), with a cruise liner docking at the Swettenham Pier, George Town
Komtar, as seen along Penang Road, near the junction of Argyll Road.

In the past, George Town boasted of having the best public transportation system in Malaysia, with Electric Trams, Trolleybuses and also Double-decker buses. George Town Municipal Transport operated both trams and trolleybuses, the tramways system being steadily replaced in the mid-Twentieth Century by trolleybuses, that were first introduced in 1925. GTMT is famous for having operated the smallest public service trolleybus as well as buying ex-London Transport trolleybuses purchased in the 1950s. Despite having purchased new Sunbeam British trolleybuses in 1956/7, the system was abandoned in 1961.[14] The use of double-decker buses ceased in the 1970s when George Town Transport ceased to trade, the network being operated by privately owned buses.

George Town is well connected by roads, buses, etc. The Jelutong Expressway connects the city to Bayan Lepas and the Penang International Airport. With this highway, trips to the airport were cut short to 30 minutes instead of almost an hour in the past. The Penang International Airport serves as the main airport of the northern part of Malaysia.

To get over to Butterworth in the mainland, the Penang Ferry Service at Weld Quay operates every day since 1920. Passengers, cars and motorcycles can all travel in the ferry. Other than that, commuters can drive to the Penang Bridge, located in Gelugor, to cross over to the mainland. To travel elsewhere around Malaysia, through the Penang Bridge, commuters can take the North-South Expressway to reach their destinations.

Contemporary Public transportation in George Town is operated mainly by Rapid Penang, the main bus company in Penang now. Almost every bus connects George Town to their respective destinations, with Weld Quay being the main terminal of Rapid Penang in Penang Island and Komtar being the main hub. There is also a free bus service operated by Rapid Penang. This bus service is only located within George Town, and it also operates every day, taking commuters a drive along George Town's famous heritage sites.

Express buses used to stop at Komtar but has since been relocated to the Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal, which is not that far away. There are many express bus companies operating 24-hours there, and main destinations are usually Genting Highlands and Kuala Lumpur. There are also some buses travelling out of Malaysia mainly to Singapore and Southern Thailand.

Other than that, George Town is famous for having trishaws plying the city. The Port of Penang has four ports, with three on the mainland and one terminal here, Swettenham Pier. There is also a cruise ship situated here and it has become an attraction here.

Due to strict rent controls, George Town retains many of its colonial-era shophouses to this day and is often considered an architectural gem. Since the repeal of the rent controls in 2000, many pre-war buildings have given way to new high rises. Partly for this reason, the city was listed in the 2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund (WMF). Heritage guidelines are still in its infancy and much needs to be done to conserve architectural treasures for the benefit of future generations. In 2005 WMF helped restore an 1870s structure within the George Town Historic Enclave, with support from American Express. The structure is used by the Penang Heritage Trust as a model to further its mission to protect the most significant buildings in the community.[15]

On 2 August 2006, the federal government announced a plan to build a monorail urban transit system connecting George Town to Tanjung Tokong in the north and Bayan Lepas in the south. However, the proposed development project was called-off after the mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan which was tabled in Parliament on 26 June 2008.[citation needed]


The iconic 65-storey KOMTAR tower in the heart of George Town is Penang's tallest building
  • Gurney Plaza
  • Gurney Paragon
  • Queensbay Mall 7 km (4 mi) from City Centre
  • Island Plaza
  • Komtar Tower
  • Prangin Mall
  • 1st Avenue Georgetown
  • Parkson Grand
  • Penang Times Square
  • Midlands Park Centre
  • Tesco Jelutong
  • Tesco Tanjung Pinang
  • Kamdar
  • Mydin
  • Sunshine Square
  • Gama
  • All Seasons Place
  • Penang Plaza
  • Econsave
  • Times Square



  • Penang General Hospital
  • Island Hospital
  • Gleneagles Medical Centre
  • Pantai Mutiara Hospital
  • Loh Guan Lye Specialist Centre
  • Lam Wah Ee Hospital
  • Penang Adventist Hospital
  • Tanjung Medical Centre
  • Mt Miriam Hospital
  • Tropicana Medical Centre Penang

George Town's city suburbs[edit]

Night scene of Jelutong Penang.
Gurney Drive in Nov 2008
Tanjung Bungah view at night
Seh Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi at Armenian Road.
  • City Centre
  • Gurney Drive
  • Tanjung Bungah
  • Tanjung Tokong
  • Tanjong Pinang
  • Seri Tanjong
  • Pulau Tikus
  • Desa Baiduri
  • Batu Lanchang
  • Belachan Village
  • Dodol Village
  • Hijau Village
  • Makam Village
  • Masjid Village
  • Masjid Bagan Village
  • Rawa Village
  • Raya Baharu Village
  • Syed Village
  • Port Weld
  • Jelutong
  • Abidin Garden
  • Ara Garden
  • Air Itam
  • Farlim
  • West Garden
  • Cemerlang Garden
  • Cheeseman Garden
  • Continental Garden
  • Desa Green Garden
  • Dhoby Ghaut
  • Free School Garden
  • Green Lane Garden
  • Greenview
  • Guan Joo Seng
  • Islands Glades
  • Jeliemas Garden
  • Jelutong Garden
  • Jesselton Height
  • Kampar Garden
  • Kennedy Garden
  • Taman Lita
  • P. Ramlee Garden
  • Penang Garden
  • Perak Garden
  • Rampas Garden
  • Scotland Garden
  • Selamat Garden
  • Sri Husin Garden
  • Windmill Garden
  • Minden Heights
  • Karpal Singh Drive
  • Gelugor
  • Sungai Dua
  • Sungai Nibong
  • Batu Uban

Ethnic Enclaves[edit]

The view of Little India
Main article: Little India, Penang

Georgetown is the most diverse city in Malaysia. There are many ethnic enclaves in the city, mainly focused in the center of the city, in the UNESCO heritage zone. Little India is the most famous ethnic enclave as it serves as the main financial centre of the city. Below are the some of the ethnic enclaves found throughout the city and Penang Island itself:

  • Little India
    • An area situated around Lebuh Queen, Lebuh Chulia and Market Street. It is a notable shopping spot in Penang for both locals and tourists. Little India is also famous for Malaysian Indian cuisine. It also serves as the main centre of commercial and cultural activities of the Indian population of Penang.
  • Chinatown
    • Penang's Chinatown is bordered by Lebuh King, Lebuh Stewart, Lebuh Muntri, and Lebuh Campbell. Although it is not as famous as its counterpart, Little India, Chinatown is one of the interesting places in Penang to visit.
  • Kampung Siam
    • Kampung Siam is among the few colonial-era villages that are still found in Penang. Documents indicate the land was originally bequeathed by the East India Company on behalf of Queen Victoria to the Siamese and Burmese communities in 1845.[16]
  • Kampung Buah Pala
    • Kampung Buah Pala is a small village in Penang, Malaysia inhabited mostly by Indians at Gelugor. It was famous as a "cowboy village" or High Chaparral (inspired a well-known American drama series of the same name in the 1960s) among locals due to the common practice of cattle breeding. Currently, the village has been demolished to give way for new development.

George Town metropolitan satellite towns[edit]

  • Bayan Lepas Bayan Baru Balik Pulau Kepala Batas Butterworth Permatang Pauh Bukit Mertajam Perai Nibong Tebal in Penang
  • Sungai Petani Kulim Yan Serdang Baling Sik in Kedah
  • Parit Buntar Bagan Serai Selama Taiping Kuala Kangsar Gerik in Perak

[5] The George Town Conurbation Plan


George Town features a tropical rainforest climate, under the Köppen climate classification. As is the norm for many cities with this climate, George Town experiences relatively consistent temperatures throughout the course of the year, with an average high temperature of about 31 degrees Celsius and an average low of 24 degrees Celsius. While George Town does not have a true dry season, its driest months are from December through February. The city sees on average around 2,550 mm (100.4 in) of precipitation annually.

Climate data for George Town
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 32
Average low °C (°F) 24
Average precipitation mm (inches) 70


The city is one of main education centres in Malaysia, especially for the Tertiary education. There are several colleges in Georgetown. IPG College, now known as PTPL Penang is the first college in Penang, established by Malaysia's first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and his friend Mr K L Goon in 1981.

Penang is known as a regional education hub which attracts students from foreign countries due to its quality education and affordable tuition fees. Although it has been an important centre of education, Penang is one of the states in Malaysia that suffers from brain drain. The Malaysian New Economic Plan has been criticised by many people to be one of the key contributors to this social effect. However, this is not the only factor. University graduates do not have much opportunity to experience cutting-edge technologies in many areas of industry, from hard sciences (e.g. nanotechnology, grid computing, algorithmic research etc.) to high finance (e.g. risk management etc.) to global corporate management.

English Schools[edit]

Chinese schools[edit]

Tamil Schools[edit]

International schools[edit]

  • Tenby International School, Penang
  • Dalat International School
  • St. Christopher's International Primary School
  • Prince of Wales Island International School
  • Fairview International School
  • Sri Pelita International School
  • International School of Penang (Uplands)


Miscellaneous education[edit]

The Penang Japanese (Supplementary) Saturday School (ペナン補習校 Penan Hoshūkō?, PJSS), a supplementary Japanese school, holds its classes in the Moral Uplifting Society of Penang. It opened in January 2012 and had six preschool and 25 primary students as of September 2013.[21]

In additional to national holidays, George Town celebrates the birthday of its mayor annually on 11 August

Image gallery[edit]

International partnerships[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History of Penang". Retrieved 17 May 2009. 
  2. ^ "Penang Info > History". Retrieved 17 May 2009. 
  3. ^ "Population Distribution and Basic Demographic Characteristics, 2010" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Malaysia. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "Where is George Town?". The Malay Mail. 4 April 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  5. ^ 'Some Account of Poolo Penang, or Prince of Wales's Island,' The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and Its Dependencies. Vol. II, From June to December. London: Black, Parbury, & Allen. 1816. Pages 474-478
  6. ^ L. A. Mills. British Malaya 1824-67. MBRAS. 1960. Page 38.
  7. ^ Collier's Encyclopedia: With Bibliography and Index, Volume 15. 1958. Pages 515-516
  8. ^ Gorton Carruth. The Encyclopedia of World Facts and Dates. HarperCollins. 1993. Page 354
  9. ^ "Eight new sites, from the Straits of Malacca, to Papua New Guinea and San Marino, added to UNESCO's World Heritage List". 7 July 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "Where is George Town?". The Malay Mail. 4 April 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  11. ^ Looi Sue-Chern (24 March 2015). "George Town a city again". The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Cabinet approves city status for Penang Island
  13. ^ "Eight new sites, from the Straits of Malacca, to Papua New Guinea and San Marino, added to UNESCO's World Heritage List". UNESCO. 7 July 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  14. ^ Penang Trams, Trolleybuses and Railways:Ric Francis and Colin Ganley:2006. Areca Books:ISBN 978-983-42834-0-7
  15. ^ World Monuments Fund – George Town Historic Enclave
  16. ^
  17. ^ SJKT Ramakrishna. Facebook. Retrieved on 27 September 2013.
  18. ^ Tamil school data – Penang |. Retrieved on 27 September 2013.
  19. ^ KDU College Malaysia, Penang Campus. (5 June 2013). Retrieved on 27 September 2013.
  20. ^ SEGi College Penang | SEGi University. Retrieved on 27 September 2013.
  21. ^ "English" (Archive). Penang Japanese (Supplementary) Saturday School. Retrieved on 22 June 2014.
  22. ^ Georgetown. Retrieved on 11 August 2011.
  23. ^ Penang Bridge International Marathon official visit to Xiamen Marathon | Penang – Hotels, Resorts, Entertainment & Events. . Retrieved on 11 August 2011.
  24. ^ [1]. The Star Online. Retrieved on 19 August 2012.
  25. ^ Xiamen, Penang and Adelaide as Sister cities – What's On Xiamen. (9 May 2007). Retrieved on 11 August 2011.
  26. ^ Malaysia: Taipei, Georgetown ink friendship memorandum – Taiwan News (29 March 2011). Retrieved on 11 August 2011.
  27. ^ [2].CM Lim Guan Eng official Facebook page (4 April 2012). Retrieved on 6 April 2012.
  28. ^ [3]. About Changwon (20 November 2012). Retrieved on 11 April 2014.
  29. ^ [4].Phuket Gazette (18 September 2014). Retrieved on 28 September 204.

Further readings[edit]

  • Francis, Ric; Ganley, Colin. Penang Trams, Trolleybuses & Railways: Municipal Transport History 1880s–1963. Penang: Areca Books. (2006, 2nd ed. 2012) ISBN 9834283407.
  • Khoo Salma Nasution. More Than Merchants: A History of the German-speaking Community in Penang, 1800s–1940s. Areca Books. (2006). ISBN 978-983-42834-1-4
  • Ooi Cheng Ghee. Portraits of Penang: Little India. Areca Books. (2011). ISBN 978-967-57190-5-9

External links[edit]

Media related to George Town, Penang at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 05°25′N 100°19′E / 5.417°N 100.317°E / 5.417; 100.317