Suspended along Asia's cultural confluence, Penang is one of the most exciting and progressive realisations of multiculturalisms in Asia, if not the world. This bite-sized island in the Strait of Malacca is a delicious melange of its multi-ethnic heritage: Chinese, Indian, Malay and a buffet of flavours from much of the rest of Asia. I spent just over a week exploring it all in Penang, Malaysia and can't wait to go back.
Indians in Penang, Malaysia
Authentic Indian street food, sari shops, Hindu temples, mosques, marigold garlands and A.R Rahman; a walk through Little India can seem quite reminiscent. Indians first arrived in Penang in the late 19th century, as migrants and merchants. Many returned to their home-country, while others stayed behind. Today, Indians are one of the largest minorities on the island and lend to the diversity of Penang in all aspects of contemporary life.
Especially when it comes to food, which is one of the biggest draws of Penang, diversity reins. Halal, "pure-veg", Chinese businesses – all co-exist, often side-by-side. If there is any dietary censorship in Penang, I definitely couldn't find it.
Tamil is the most widely spoken Indian language in Malaysia, although Hindi and Telugu are also understood by a fair number of Indians. Like in much of Southeast Asia, Bollywood is quite popular and is a common conversation starter with locals.
As an Indian, it's always great to see strong Indian communities in foreign countries. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that I had some of the best Indian food I've ever had in Penang, Malaysia. Was the Indian food in Penang better than the food in India? You'd have to visit to find out, and you definitely should.
Following is a detailed guide with everything you need to know about visiting Penang. I have listed prices in both the local currency (Malaysian Ringitt, RM) and also in Indian Rupees.
The exchange rate as of 6th Feb 2016 was 1RM=Rs.15.