Tadashi Ozawa/Toyo-Memory Technology Sdn. Bhd.
Penang Island, located in the north of Malaysia, has a reputation as one of wonderful longstanding beach resorts. Lines of resort hotels stretch over the northwest area of the island, the so-called "Pearls of the Orient." Honestly, however, the sea surrounding the island is not as clean as one may imagine, due to its proximity to industrial areas.
With a population of nearly 700,000, Penang is Malaysia's second biggest city after the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is a multiracial nation, and Penang's population includes Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races. Unlike other areas of the country, however, Chinese people account for more than 70% of the population of Penang, which makes the city more comfortable for Japanese visitors and inhabitants. Despite being the second biggest city, Penang has only a few high-rise buildings that stand contrast to the predominantly older buildings. Compared with the big city of Kuala Lumpur, Penang is a kampong, a Malayan word meaning a village or rural area. People are carefree, and in the city, the remains of the old days of Southeast Asia exist in harmony with the new lifestyles. The city is certainly a well-harmonized, new and old..
You may envy me for living in such an idyllic location. But actually the city is much less populated and urbanized than Japan, especially Tokyo, and the lack of entertainment and excitement may be one of the city's drawbacks.
With limited means of public transportation, the people of Penang usually depend on automobiles or motorcycles. Foreign residents like me sometimes drive a car. Penang is no exception among the cities of Southeast Asia when it comes to bad drivers manners. You have to be particularly careful when a motorcycle approaches, as it may travel an amazing distance in the blink of an eye.
If you come to Penang, you can't leave without searching for something exotic and delicious. My colleagues and I like to search for good restaurants and stalls that are reasonably priced. When one of us finds a good one, we all go there to see if the person who found it is reliable.
Currently, about 1,400 Japanese people live in Penang. The percentage of corporate residents has reduced, and instead, the city has recently accommodated more retired inhabitants who are increasingly attracted to a life by the sea, the warm climate, the relatively good safety and reasonable living prices. Retiring to the life of a "semi-gourmet" may be worth giving some thought to.
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.35 (September, 2006)