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About this book

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Seberang Perai: Stories from Across the Sea is about the hinterland across the sea from Penang Island. The narrative on Penang has been predominantly on the island, and this book seeks to present the lesser-known half of this northwestern state in Peninsular Malaysia.

The colloquial Hokkien term for the mainland, koay kang, means to cross the river. In the old days, people from Penang Island would land at Perai and cross the Perai River to get to Butterworth and the mainland beyond that.

Thus the mainland was seen as the land across the Perai River, which is what Seberang Perai also means in Malay.

We are telling the Seberang Perai story through its people, the everyman and everywoman whose lives are anchored to this land. Through individual accounts and images, we portray the people’s journeys, experiences and aspirations.

Their lives may be different from each other’s, and may even be remote to some, but the themes are universal – making a living, transcending the mundane, seeking meaning, strengthening communities, hoping for a brighter future. Though localised in Seberang Perai, these are stories that will resonate with Malaysians everywhere.

Change is perennial and threads through the narratives. Collectively, the stories depict Seberang Perai’s history and heritage, developments and progress, and its future direction and aspirations.

Word has it that Seberang Perai is on the brink of transformation, that its days on the margins are numbered. The second bridge link – the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge which opened in 2014 – is set to accelerate growth on the mainland and lead to more synergy between the state’s two halves.

There are exciting days ahead, which will mark the continuation of the Penang story. It is the people that have laid Seberang Perai’s solid foundation of infrastructure and industry, of resourcefulness and resilience. They are rooted in tradition but not unyielding to change … they are primed to forge ahead.

This book is a tribute to the people of Seberang Perai.