Perai, a bustling urban settlement in the city of Seberang Perai, Penang, Malaysia, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Located at the southern bank of the Perai River and bordering Butterworth to the north, Perai is a town with a rich history and a vibrant present. The town gave its name to the city of Seberang Perai, the mainland half of the State of Penang. Let’s take a closer look at what Perai has to offer.

== History ==
Perai has a fascinating history that dates back to the early 19th century when it was formed following the acquisition of the area by the British East India Company. In its early years, agriculture formed the mainstay of Perai’s economy, with sugar plantations being established within the settlement. Perai was developed into an entrepôt towards the end of the 19th century. At the height of a tin-mining boom in the Malay Peninsula, a nascent rail line was built between Perai and the neighbouring state of Perak in the 1890s. Perai then became a transportation hub, where tin imported from Perak was loaded onto vessels to be shipped to George Town. The industrialisation of Perai only began in 1970, when the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) commenced the development of the Perai Industrial Estate and the nearby township of Seberang Jaya. In 1974, the Port of Penang was relocated from George Town to Seberang Perai. Cargo and container facilities were built in both Perai and neighbouring Butterworth, substantially boosting the economy of the area. In 1985, the Penang Bridge which links Perai and Penang Island was completed. The bridge was the longest in Southeast Asia until 2014, upon the opening of the Second Penang Bridge further south.

== Geography ==
Perai lies at the estuary of the Perai River, which empties into the Penang Strait. The town is located at the river’s southern bank, bordering the town of Butterworth to the north. The Perai Industrial Estate encompasses much of Perai’s seafront between the Perai River and the Penang Bridge, whilst the township of Seberang Jaya is situated to the east of Perai proper.

== Demographics ==
According to the 2010 Census conducted by Malaysia’s Department of Statistics, Perai had a population of 14,433. The proportions of Penang’s three major ethnicities – the Chinese, Malays and Indians – were more balanced in Perai, with each ethnic community making up more than a quarter of the town’s population. Due to the heavier level of industrialisation within Perai, there has been an influx of foreign workers into the Central Seberang Perai District. As of 2010, foreigners constituted more than 7% of Perai’s population.

== Economy ==
The Perai Industrial Estate is home to numerous multinational and local firms. The major local companies within the area include Malayan Sugar, Ann Joo Resources, Southern Steel, Harvik Rubber and Soon Soon Oilmills. Notably, Malaysia’s oldest steel mill and the country’s largest sugar refinery, owned by Ann Joo Resources and Malayan Sugar respectively, are situated within the industrial estate. The multinational companies within the area include Mattel, Pensonic, Hitachi, Mitsuoka, Chevron and Honeywell Aerospace. Meanwhile, the Port of Penang, which operates two facilities within Perai, provides logistical connectivity to these heavy industries. Perai’s industries are among the major contributors to the dry-bulk volume in the town’s port facilities, which also handle shipments of coal and scrap metal.

== Transportation ==
Perai is well-connected to the rest of Penang and Malaysia via land and sea. Jalan Perusahaan Perai is the main thoroughfare within the heart of Perai proper. The road is linked to the Prai River Bridge, which spans the width of the Perai River between Perai and Butterworth. Meanwhile, the North–South Expressway runs through the neighbourhood of Seberang Jaya. The Penang Bridge, opened in 1985, connects Perai with Gelugor on Penang Island. Rapid Penang buses 701, 703, 709 and 801 serve the residents of Perai, connecting the town with Butterworth, Bukit Mertajam and Nibong Tebal. In addition, Rapid Penang operates Bridge Express Shuttle Transit (BEST) bus services towards Bayan Lepas on Penang Island, catering mainly to industrial workers, as well as an interstate bus service to the town of Sungai Petani in the neighbouring state of Kedah. The Port of Penang has two facilities within Perai, namely the Perai Bulk Cargo Terminal and the Perai Wharves.

== Education ==
Perai has a good selection of primary and high schools, as well as an international school and a private tertiary institution. The Chinese Taipei School Penang is a notable primary school in the area, while the Seberang Jaya Hospital is a major public hospital that offers various specialist treatments and procedures, including general surgery, nephrology and obstetrics. The hospital is currently undergoing an upgrade that is expected to increase its capacity by 316 beds.

== Shopping ==
Perai is a shopper’s paradise, with several large shopping malls within the town and its vicinity. Megamal Pinang, built in the 1990s, is the main shopping mall in Perai proper. The mall contains four retail storeys and is anchored by Mega Lanes and Mega Cineplex. Sunway Carnival Mall at Seberang Jaya is the flagship shopping centre of Sunway Group within the State of Penang. Its main anchor tenants are Parkson, Giant Hypermarket and Golden Screen Cinemas. The mall also contains the Sunway Carnival Convention Centre, one of the major venues in Seberang Perai for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE). Mydin Mall, launched in 2015, is the largest Mydin outlet in Malaysia, with about 1,000,000 sq ft (93,000 m2) of net lettable area, comprising 81 retail lots and a wholesale hypermarket. Currently under construction, GEM Megamall at Jalan Baru is slated to be the largest shopping mall within northern Malaysia, spanning a built-up area of 11.32 acres (45,800 m2) and a net lettable area of 1,200,000 sq ft (110,000 m2). The mall will feature the first ice-skating rink in northern Malaysia, a 38-lane bowling alley and Golden Screen Cinemas’ largest cineplex.

Perai is a town that has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, a shopaholic or an industrialist, Perai is a destination that should be on your bucket list. Come and discover the many treasures of Perai today!

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