Saturday February 26, 2011
Penang rightfully takes spot in Yahoo!’s top 10 island ranking

PENANG, Yahoo!’s 10 top islands to explore? Really?

WHEN my good friend Haida Daud told me about this article and Penang’s ranking, I thought she was joking. And because she now lives in Zurich, I thought she was either too homesick or (bless her!) a tad delusional.

And then I went to catch the opening of the musical Terima Kasih Cinta in Istana Budaya and some new friends I met during the show’s intermission told me about this ranking as well.

Automatically, all these questions started running in my head:
Colourful celebration: Fireworks explode over Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple in Penang during the recent Chinese New Year celebrations
 Why on earth would Yahoo! Travel name Penang as the world’s top 10 islands to explore before you die? No offence to other Penangites, but were there other islands around the world to feature?

My eyes quickly scanned the article and through the rankings. The islands whom the author Gary McKechnie listed are as follows, listed from the top spot: Bali in Indonesia, Vieques in Puerto Rico, Easter Island in Chile, Ischia in Italy, Chiloé in Chile again, Bora Bora in French Polynesia, Key West in Conch Republic.

Then there it was at number eight, Penang in Malaysia, followed by Galápagos in Ecuador and the Palm Islands in Dubai.

Never mind scenic beauty and luxury of The Bahamas, Hawaii, St. Kitts, Fiji, Boracay or even Sipadan Island!

Penang has emerged ahead of them all! How on earth did Penang beat these tourism giants? And then I saw the factor that set these 10 islands apart from everywhere else.

“Each of these places offers something that you can’t find anywhere else, from the largest man-made archipelago to hot springs so therapeutic they’ve been popular since Roman times. Here are 10 one-of-a-kind islands where you’ll discover every item on your wish list, from overwater bungalows and pristine wildlife to sublime street food and mysterious cultural monuments,” stated the article.

Ah. One-of-a-kind. Every item on your wish list. Now that sounds quite like Penang.

This statement alone reminded me of the question I was asked by Sham (Hisham Hamzah), then a DJ with MixFM during the grand finals of Miss Malaysia World back in 2007.

He asked me “Among all the tourist destinations in Malaysia, which would you recommend most to tourists and why?”.

The answer was so simple. Of course I would say Penang! And no, it’s not only because it’s where I’m from, but more so because of a major keyword: variety.

Penang can have everything and anything to make everyone and anyone happy.

I forgot the exact answer which I gave on stage, but this is the gist of it: If you want a city, you’ll get a city. If you want the beach, you’ll get a beach. If you want to explore the jungles and forests, there’s plenty to choose from. If you want the hustle and bustle or quiet time being one with nature, you have it all in this idlyllic little Pearl of the Orient.

Not forgetting the fact that it’s the food capital of Malaysia, with choices that range from hawker centres to fine dining.

Heck, even my Convent Green Lane Secondary School canteen has better food than most shops by my office! Penangites are very protective and defensive about their cuisine (more about that another day!).

And since we’re on the subject of rankings, just thought I’d mention that my favourite fine dining restaurant in the island, The Feringghi Grill in Rasa Sayang Resort Hotel in Batu Ferringhi has been named as the top 5 restaurants in Malaysia by the 2010/2011 Miele Guide.

Anyway, McKechnie pointed out Penang boasts a fusion of cultures. I know this is more than any other state, and something we Penangites tend to take for granted.

He commended the local architecture, which include modern high-rise buildings to schools and banks built by 19th-century British colonialists.

We also tend to forget the existence of fishing villages, fruit orchards, vegetable farms, as well as temples, mosques, churches and synagoges which co-exist in harmony, as it has done so for the past hundreds of years.

So let’s be reminded of Penang’s beauty and old world charm. After all, we really can’t find anything quiet like this island, anywhere else around the world.

Dawn Jeremiah is back in Penang this weekend and she plans to finally visit the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion for the first time! Armed with a passion for television and journalism, she handles regional marketing at a high definition lifestyle channel. An actress part-time, she also tweets at

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