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Butterworth your time

The tropical port town of Butterworth is one the oldest urban settlements in Malaysia, having been established by the British colonial administration almost two centuries ago. The relatively idyllic and unchanged pace of life it is known for belies the town’s significance in the history of the region. For with its diverse cultures, streetscapes and landmarks, Butterworth has evolved to become a microcosm not just of life in the state of Penang but also of the multifarious essence of peninsular Malaysia itself.

It is timely then that Think City and Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (Seberang Perai Municipal Council or MPSP) are now collaborating on the Butterworth Baharu (New Butterworth) programme. The initiative aims to strengthen the local environment, and enhance the tangible and intangible urban assets of this important secondary city.

Butterworth is verily poised for a wave of rejuvenation and “reintroduction” of sorts - for its long-held secrets to be finally told and its colourful riches to be revealed anew to the rest of the world. Take a journey today and unlock the trove of surprises in the rich cultural landmarks, delicious fuss-free food and vibrant flea market. You may be pleasantly surprised that Butterworth is indeed worth your time to explore.

The mysterious relic of Cherok To’kun

Where a strange communique from a distant era in history lives on silently in the present through the remnant of an ancient writing on a rock.

Cherok To'kun

It is among the most ancient – if not the absolute oldest – written message from the past to still exist in Malaysia. 

Lying unassumingly on the grounds of the St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam, and screened from one’s sight along the main road by the grand new church building, is a boulder the  size of a small lorry that bears the remnant of a mysterious inscription from centuries ago.

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Church of St Anne: monument to faith and enduring legacy

The humble legacy of 19th century French missionaries that has become among the greatest pilgrimage centres of the region.

Church of St Anne

One of the most alluring landmarks of Bukit Mertajam is a little white church perched conspicuously on the side of a small hill, above a flight of stone steps seen afar from the road.

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Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest, Tasek Gelugor

Ecological haven within a fertile riverside mangrove swamp

Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest

Who would have thought that somewhere on mainland Penang lies a little world just the size of three football fields but has sheltered more than a hundred species of birds, and scores upon scores of reptiles, insects and mammals? Sited just twenty kilometres from the Penang Bridge nestles Air Hitam Dalam, a secret forest of surprises, a dense mangrove wetland that houses a rich ecological realm waiting to be explored.

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Bagan Ajam R&R

One of the newest and most picturesque outdoor recreation spots in Penang

Bagan Ajam R&R

Offering a panoramic view of the Penang Channel and the island, this coastal rest-and-recreation area lies along the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR), with a hawker centre built beside a rather pristine sandy beach. 

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The ironsmiths of Pekan Darat

Preserving an amazing apprenticeship culture of more than 150 years 

Somewhere off a quiet rural road in a secluded area known as Pekan Darat (literally translated, “the town on land”) is an unassuming little village unheard of by the outside world. Nothing much really seems to stand out as one enters Permatang Benuan among the small houses and huts that lie scattered around. One sees chickens scuttling about and children playing in the neighbourhood. 

Pekan Darat ironsmiths

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Tides of candlelight adoration at St. Anne's Feast 

One of the largest and most extraordinary religious mass gatherings in Southeast Asia is the St Anne Novena and Feast in the town of Bukit Mertajam in Penang.

St. Anne, Bukit Mertajam

What makes it remarkable is not just that it is among the biggest Catholic festivals in Southeast Asia, perhaps second only to the famous Santo Nino and Black Nazarene festivals celebrated in the Philippines. The event is unique for its brilliant cosmopolitanism and charming inclusivity.

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Kuala Muda’s old man and the sea

A native of Kuala Muda remembers the simple yet meaningful life amid the rigours and beauty of nature

Aman Din

The space farthest north in Penang, the absolute northernmost contour of the state, is defined by a river. This is the mighty yet gentle Sungai Muda. 

The undulating waterway is not just a geographical marvel – it snakes along some 180 kilometres of natural terrain upon springing from a source deep within the interior of peninsular Malaysia’s Ulu Muda rainforest – but is also a focal political landmark. Regarded as a convenient natural boundary Sungai Muda has for some centuries now been deemed as the official border between Penang and its northern neighbouring state of Kedah.

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Penang Bird Park

A living sanctuary that houses and protects more than 300 species of birds 

Penang Bird Park

When it opened in 1988, the Penang Bird Park was the first man-made bird sanctuary of its kind in Malaysia. Comfortably nestled in a sheltered corner in urban Seberang Jaya, it features some 3,000 birds, consisting of more than 300 local and foreign species.

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Traditional Malay homes of northern Seberang Perai

Appreciating the endangered beauty, charm and functionality of vernacular Malay architecture 

Seberang Perai Utara - rural and traditional architecture

When one thinks of a traditional Malay ‘kampung’ or village, the idyllic picture that usually comes to mind is something like that of carefree children playing around a charming wooden house, contented grandmother weaving mengkuang mats on the raised porch, friendly neighbours gossiping away, and rustic birds, hens and chicks scuttling freely about.

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Kuala Muda fishing village and whispering market

Where fisher folk keep alive a most quaint and unusual tradition of bidding

Pasar Bisik © Adrian Cheah

The political boundary between the states of Penang and Kedah is partly defined by a majestic age-old gift of nature. This is the magnificent Sungai Muda river which meanders quietly but imposingly from the Ulu Muda rainforests deep in the interior of peninsular Malaysia towards the Straits of Malacca. 

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Butterworth Guide

Butterworth Guide

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Butterworth Food Trail

Butterworth Food Trail

Click to download PDF 4,060KB