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 ‘Notre Dame’ of Pagar Tras

Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, BM © Adrian Cheah

It is among the oldest and most remarkable buildings in Malaysia. Yet one can easily drive past the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus along the meandering Jalan Sungai Lembu near Bukit Mertajam without even noticing it. Built by French Catholic missionaries in 1882, its design was inspired by that of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Like the 800-year-old church in Paris acclaimed for its classical Gothic architecture, it had two bell towers and three decorated portals on its façade. 

Continue Reading

Sungai Lembu: a ‘new village’ from the Malayan Emergency

Sungai Lembu ©

At the height of the Malayan Emergency following the conclusion of World War II, the British colonial administration created special settlements where various rural Chinese communities were relocated so that they could be monitored and prevented from interacting with the dreaded communist insurgents.

Continue Reading

‘Forest bathing’ at wild Bukit To’ Kun

The pristine hill close to town is cherished by Bukit Mertajam folks like a secret haven of nature and adventure untainted by ravages of modernity and time

Bukit To’ Kun

The hugest, most commanding physical site in Bukit Mertajam is surely the very hill after which the town is named. Rising bulbously above an otherwise almost flat landscape, Bukit To’ Kun is easily seen from great distances away - even on Penang island and various remote corners of Seberang Perai.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Wat Rajaphohong - one of Malaysia’s oldest Siamese enclaves

Wat Rajaphohong © Adrian Cheah

Northern Malaysia has a small but culturally rich Siamese community whose enduring legacy includes a string  of historic Buddhist temples that are today vibrant landmarks in Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Penang.

Continue Reading

Cherok To’ Kun’s healing village air

The ancient village with forgotten intrigues of the past today embodies the rural and natural charm of Bukit Mertajam.

Cherok To’ Kun

More than a century ago, there lived at the end of a rural path south of Bukit Mertajam town a highly respected elderly Siamese healer named Kun. Known for his medicinal and shamanistic abilities, Dato’ Kun or To’ Kun as he was called, was sought by many who made their way to his quiet alcove near a foothill for treatment of various ailments.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

More Articles ...