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A Traveller’s Field Report on Penang

Introduction

This is a field work report on Penang, whereby the author visited several tourism attractions such as Kek Lok Si, Penang Hill, Sleeping Buddha, Burmese Temple, Cheong Fatt Tze, Goddess of Mercy, Chew Jetty, Penang Peranakan Mansion, Little India and Snake Temple in Penang. This report is written as follow. First of all, the review of literature on Penang as a tourism destination will be provided. This will allow us to understand about how other researchers had found something about Penang. Then, the methodology on the field work will also be discussed. Next the results and findings from the field work will be presented. Conclusion from the field work will lastly be presented at the last part of this report.

Literature Review

Penang is a place of rich cultural heritage of long history and many attractions (Cheng, Li & Ma, 2014). It is also a place of multi-cultural – rich in its cultural diversity and different ways of races living harmoniously in the city (Zoraini, 2002). Penang is also one very important city in Northern economic zone in Malaysia (Cheah & Lee, 2008). It is very famous for its semiconductor or electronic related industry (Hutchinson, 2008; Holland, 2001). In fact, the growth of the Penang is largely because of the growth of electronic and electrical industry in the past. Then, for many of the Malaysian or the tourists or visitors, Penang is a place famous for food. This is true particularly for people staying in Penang, and they are very critical of what they eat (Lohmeyer, 2002).

Although Penang is a famous place or tourism destination for tourists, there are also some limitations or weakness. For example, Cheah & Lee (2008) says that Penang is still lacking in terms of a comprehensive and active ‘destination-branding’ scheme. It is also argued that effective marketing strategies are not in place to tap the huge market in segments that are ripe for exploitation. This make Penang lost out in the competition for visitors and tourism money, such as to places such as Thailand, the Philippines, and so on.

In the past, there are researchers studied about Penang. For example, Salmi & Ramli (2014) studied about factors influencing tourist visitation to FRI aquarium in Penang. The survey period was from August 2012 to September 2012. Total of 179 responses were collected during this period. From the study, it is found that destination awareness, motivation and words of mouth are factors that influence the tourist to visit the FRI Aquarium. Then, Meng (2012) got study about Trishaw’s riding decision at historical George Town, Penang, in order to understand how socio-demographic decisions affect the decision to ride a green transport in heritage site. The study was conducted in July 2011. A sample of 296 respondents has been administered with a pre-tested questionnaire through simple random sampling. From the study, it is found that variables such as age and income have significance impacts on the decision to ride a green transport in heritage site.

There is one very important study on Penang recently by Shirazi & Som (2013). The study is carried out to examine the level of international tourists ‘satisfaction with basic elements of destination (attraction, amenities, accessibility, image, price, people working in tourism)’, as well as the relationship between ‘overall satisfaction’ and destination loyalty in terms of revisit intention and recommendation. The results show a lot about Penang – from perceptions of visitors. Some of the results from this study will be presented below. Table 1 will show the ranking of different attributes on Penang by the visitors. The higher the score, the higher the satisfaction of visitors on the attributes. Then, Table 1 will show the overall perceptions of visitors on Penang.

 

Table 1: Ranking of Destination Attributes

Rank Items Mean
1 Variety of food 4.32
2 Friendliness of people 4.25
3 Reasonable price of food and beverages 4.23
4 Friendliness of people working in tourism 4.13
5 Attitude of people working in tourism 4.04
6 Services in restaurants and cafes 4.03
7 Diversity of accommodation 4.01
8 Variety of shops 3.98
9 Ease of access to Penang 3.98
10 Reasonable price of transport 3.92
11 Reasonable price of accommodations 3.90
12 Quality of service of people in tourism 3.90
13 Reasonable price of attractions 3.89
14 Diversity of transportation 3.87
15 Uniqueness of destination 3.84
16 Reasonable price of tour services 3.83
17 Communication skills of people in tourism 3.82
18 Distinctiveness of sight or scenes 3.80
19 Availability of financial services 3.74
20 Safety and security 3.71
21 Variety of cultural attractions 3.69
22 Variety of built attractions 3.66
23 Variety of natural attractions 3.66
24 Convenience of public transportation 3.59
25 Availability of visitor information 3.58
26 Availability of tour guides 3.57
27 Variety of recreation facilities 3.51
28 Helpfulness of welcome center 3.49
29 Quality of service in public utilities 3.47
30 Variety of entertainment 3.35
31 Availability of welcome center 3.31
32 Variety of special events or festivals 3.21
33 Cleanliness of environment 3.12
Note: Measurement Scale, 1=strongly dissatisfy and 5= strongly satisfy

 

 

Table 2: Overall Perception of Penang

Rank Items Mean
1 Friendliness of local communities 4.19
2 Value for money vacation 4.10
3 Overall quality of holiday experience 4.08
4 Safety at destination 4.02
5 Peaceful and restful atmosphere 4.00
6 Quality of service 3.88
7 Ease of communication 3.77
8 Quality of facilities 3.55
9 Cleanliness 3.16
Note: Measurement scale, 1= Strongly Dissatisfy and 5 = Strongly Satisfy

 

Methodology

In order to understand more about Penang, the researcher had visited to many places in Penang. Some of these places include: Kek Lok Si, Penang Hill, Sleeping Buddha, Burmese Temple, Cheong Fatt Tze, Goddess of Mercy, Chew Jetty, Penang Peranakan Mansion, Little India and Snake Temple. By visiting to the places, it is possible to learn a lot about the culture in the place – particularly when the researcher able to experience about the situations there when seeing and interacting with the local people. As such, the researcher able to conduct field work study on Penang as a tourism destination. Then, the study is also assisted by review of literature. There are some research by some researchers in the past. The findings from the previous research with personal visit to Penang will provide much useful information to this fieldwork study.

Results and Findings

From the study, it is found that Penang has many nice foods to eat. In fact, there are some foods which I heard before but have no chance to eat because of the short duration (during the short 3 days visit). There are Malay, Chinese and Indian foods; as well as many western foods around the places. More importantly, aside from that the foods are delicious and special, they are actually very affordable. This makes the place a heaven for nice local foods – and encourages visitors to keep trying different foods on the small island. Because of that, it is indeed a very memorable experience for visitor because that is a trip to seek out different varieties of nice food, and yet able to visit to many different places around Penang.

There are also many tourism attractions in Penang. The tourism attractions can be easily accessible – and they are located near to each other. Within the short trip, I had visited to Kek Lok Si, Penang Hill, Sleeping Buddha, Burmese Temple, Cheong Fatt Tze, Goddess of Mercy, Chew Jetty, Penang Peranakan Mansion, Little India and Snake Temple. Overall, I feel that Penang is a suitable place for short trip, such as a weekend trip. It is suitable for people working in office, which have only free time on weekend. This is so because someone can easily reach many different places in Penang. This ensures Penang has wonderful potential as compared to other places. For example, when compared to seaside or beaches such as Pulau Langkawi, Penang obviously can offer more different experiences to the visitors within short period of time. This will be more attractive for visitors that seek out variety of experiences within short period. In fact, I had also found that the different places have different uniqueness – and I put the different uniqueness of these places in Table 3 as shown below.

 

Table 3: Uniqueness of the Different Tourism Sites in Penang

Sites Attractions/ Uniqueness/ Attributes
Kek Lok Si This is a large temple that needs a lot of walking. It is anyway a very nice place for someone who loves about Buddha. There are also many places to take nice photo as well. In fact, there are small attractions aside from Buddha in the temple (example, small markets selling souvenirs, and so on).
Penang Hill This is a nice place for people to relax and enjoy fresh air. It is really nice to see the Penang city from the top. It would be really healthy also for people to do jogging. It is suitable for environment activist, which loves natural environment.
Sleeping Buddha It is a large Buddha. Although it is not as attractive as Kek Lok Si, it has long history. It can be shown that the Buddha religion has been in Malaysia since quite some time.
Burmese Temple This is yet another nice place to visit to. It is very surprising to even see some Burmese cultures and historical sites in Malaysia. It also shows that the region is really a place of very rich cultural heritage. Although it is a small place, it worth the visit because it is easy to reach there.
Cheong Fatt Tze Also known as the blue mansion, this is truly a site for Chinese to visit to – as to see how the early Chinese live their lives in the Peninsular of Malaysia in the early days. It is very surprising to see how the local Chinese protect and carry on with the cultural tradition, even in the building styles. It is also a nice cooling place – a very suitable place to take wedding photos (in my personal opinions).
Goddess of Mercy This is another Chinese cultural heritage for more than 200 years ago. It is rich in story and again showing clearly that how the local Chinese protect and carry on with the cultural tradition even when they came and migrate to Peninsular Malaysia.
Chew Jetty It is not only about visit to the city, but Chew Jetty also offers visitors to visit to the seaside areas – to experience how the fisherman lives their lives. The wooden houses around there are truly remarkable – particularly when there is also nicely drawn mural/ picture around them. Out of a sudden, visitors can travel from temples to the fisher village, which can be very memorable experiences.
Penang Peranakan Mansion The Peranakans, also known as the Babas and Nyonyas, was a prominent community of acculturated Chinese unique to the Straits Settlements. These offer very different perspectives to visitors on how the local Chinese in the past embrace the Malays culture. The building design is definitely different, but still with a Chinese style.
Little India This is a place for foreigners or visitors to experience the Indian culture. There are many Indian shops, and visitors can see how the Indian live their daily lives. The most interesting thing is about the Indian temple. It can be seen that there are very beautifully created Gods on the buildings. For visitors without Indian friends, they should visit to such places for a sense on the Indian culture.
Snake Temple It would be an exotic trip for visitors to this temple, especially for someone who dares to take photo near the snake. I would recommend someone who dares to play around with snake to take a very memorable photo on this temple.

 

Penang is a place rich with historical heritage. This can be easily observed as when someone travel around the different tourism attractions in Penang, many historical and age old buildings can be seen. There are many western styles, Malays styles, Chinese styles or Indian styles buildings or temples (in many corners around the streets). These building apparently have more than hundred years – and there are preserve very nicely in good condition. In fact, for such reason, it is a good place for photography. I can feel there is a sense of deep historical and cultural heritage from travelling in such a place.

Then, Penang is also a wonderful place for travelers because of the diversity of cultures. It is interesting to see different races of people living together in harmony in Penang, which can be a rare phenomenon in other countries (such as in countries such as China that is dominated by the Chinese Han). This will likely be a very different experience for other travelers that had never experiences multi-cultural in a particular place. In fact, it will open the mind of many people, and it will be a very memorable experiences. I would believe that people that visited to Penang would likely introduce Penang to other friends (and that will bring more people to the place).

However, there are also some weaknesses on Penang. It is true that the place can be dirty. For example, the main streets with many tourists can be quite dirty with bad smells, which make the tourist to may be feel a bit worry over the cleanliness on the places and foods. Then, there are still some language problems. For example, some of the local Chinese speak more in Hokkien, which many of the other Chinese may not know such dialects. This can be the disadvantages because when people cannot communicate, it is hard for them to learn about the local culture in Penang. Anyway, is it fortunate that many of them can speak quite good English, which will be advantageous for the western visitors.

Conclusion

Overall, the field work study found that Penang is actually a nice place to visit to. It has high potential to be a wonderful tourism destination. Sadly, there are no serious efforts on making the place more attractive places for the tourists. For example, it is really lack of branding and marketing of the place. It is a wonderful place for short trip and people can enjoy the multi-cultural lifestyle in the place – but it is less well known when compared to many places such as Bangkok in Thailand, or even Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. This is a waste and more effort to brand Penang is important to improve its image and publicity in the world. Aside from that, one important weakness of Penang is that it is a bit too dirty – as found by the literature and also from researcher’s personal experiences through a visit to Penang for field work study. It is important for local people in Penang to truly take care of the cleanliness to attract more tourists, which will be good for the community and the economy. After all, the tourism industry is a green industry – and the development of Penang as a world known tourism destination can increase the economic growth of the places.

Anyway, it is proper to conclude that Penang is actually a wonderful tourist attraction. It has high potential, particularly which the place has many varieties of nice food, rich in historical sites, many attractions that can be reached within few days (which is relevant for short trip), multi-cultural and the relatively cheaper prices on the foods, accommodation or transports (i.e., value for money). It has the foundation to become a better tourism destination.

References

Cheah, C. S., & Lee, L. (2008). Restoring Penang’s charm as a foreign homeland. Malaysian Business, 1-2.

Cheng, E. W., Li, A. H. F., & Ma, S. (2014). Resistance, engagement, and heritage conservation by voluntary sector: The case of Penang in Malaysia. Modern Asian Studies, 48(3), 617-644.

Holland, L. (2001). Penang sees the light. Far Eastern Economic Review, 164(14), 46-49.

Hutchinson, F. E. (2008). “Developmental” states and economic growth at the sub-national level: The case of Penang. Southeast Asian Affairs, 223-244.

Lohmeyer, L. (2002). On the menu: Penang. Nation’s Restaurant News, 36(45), 32.

Meng, N. K. (2012). Trishaw’s riding decision at historical George Town, Penang: An empirical study into the socio-demographic influences. GSTF Business Review (GBR), 1(4), 159-163.

Salmi, M. I., & Ramli, L. (2014). Factors influencing tourist visitation in marine tourism: Lessons learned from FRI aquarium Penang, Malaysia. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 8(1), 103-117.

Shirazi, F. M., & Som, A. P. M. (2013). Relationship marketing and destination loyalty: evidence from Penang, Malaysia. International Journal of Management and Marketing Research, 6(1), 95-106.

Zoraini, W. A. (2002). Discovering Penang the fun way. Computimes Malaysia, 1.

 

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