In 1786 Francis Light persuaded the Sultan of Kedah to cede Pulau Pinang - the "Isle of Betel nut" - to the English crown. Legend has it that Light persuaded his men to clear the overgrown island of Penang by firing a cannon filled with gold coins into the jungle as an incentive. The island was renamed Prince of Wales Island, and its major town was christened Georgetown after King George III. Whether the story is true or not, Penang quickly became a major trading port for tea, spices, china and cloth. Here European, Malaysian, Hindu, Arabic and Chinese cultures met, melded and flourished. Today George Town is a cosmopolitan city that has preserved its unique heritage and its exotic blend of cultures.
George Town is perhaps the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia. It boasts a European-style esplanade and a wealth of temples, mosques and Chinese clan houses. Listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008, this virgin paradise has no shortage of cultural sights and natural scenery.