A Tale of Two Islands


Although lying 3,000 kilometres apart, Penang and Taiwan share much in common.

What comes to mind when one thinks about Penang and Taiwan? Perhaps it’s the Hokkien dialect they both share, or the ubiquitous scenic hills and sea views. It could be the street food culture so prominent in both places, or the fact that they are both (mainly) islands.

In fact, the connections run deeper – and are far older – than perceived. To be sure, the origins and connections of the two places deserve some elaboration.

The emergence of the two islands as global players came through Western maritime expansion into the East – Taiwan was first known as “Formosa” to the Portuguese in the mid-sixteenth century, while Penang was settled two centuries later by the British East India Company trader, Captain Francis Light.

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