Geography of Penang

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As previously mentioned, the geography of Penang State comprises Penang Island and Seberang Perai (also called Province Wellesley) on the mainland. The central part of Penang Island is hilly. Like a concrete carpet, the urban sprawl of George Town rolls out from the northeast tip of Penang Island and spreads across the lowlying areas. Much of the northern side of Penang Island is hilly, so only a ribbon of development skirts around the north, characterized by the tourist belt of Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah.

The central hills halt the city, forcing much of the development south through Gelugor and reaching Batu Maung to the south. Most of the people live on the east coast of the island, as the central hills make access to the western part difficult. Nevertheless, the pressure for housing has resulted in new development reaching 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 hollow until recently. With increasing demand for housing on the island, Balik Pulau finally sees some development. Nevertheless, the town is still popular among Penangites for its orchards, particularly of durians and nutmeg.

Click here to learn more about the places on Penang Island and their location.

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.

A network of highways and expressways link these two halves, as seen on the map below:

Penang State Map - Highways

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.

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Penang Island

Here's the map of Penang Island in more detail. I label all the towns and villages as well as the major roads. George Town is shaded a lighter green. Route 6 is the main road that goes around the island. - you can take the bus to go round the island, changing buses in Balik Pulau. The Penang International Airport is located in Bayan Lepas, about 12 miles from George Town.

Click here for more details about the main roads in George Town.

Penang Island Map

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Seberang Perai (Province Wellesley)

Here's the map of Seberang Perai showing the major towns. The North-South Expressway, E1, runs through Seberang Perai from north to south. In addition, the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway, E15, runs east-west into Kedah while the Butterworth Outer Ring Road, E17, makes a loop around Butterworth.

Seberang Perai Map

Now, please select a topic within the Table of Contents above or go to the next chapter, and let me tell you about the Weather of Penang, or when it's the best time to visit.

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