A Tapestry of Colours
For all her advancements, exotic natural beauty and historical relevance, Penang's greatest pride is her people. The many communities - especially the Chinese, Malays and Indians, each boast of their own unique religious and cultural festivals but it is a Penang tradition for everyone (yes, tourists too!) to join in the fun.
However, it is important to note that not all Indians observe Thaipusam and not every Chinese celebrates the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. There are many Chinese and Indians here who are Christians and Catholics although these races are commonly associated with being Buddhist, Taoist or Hindu.
Regardless of personal beliefs and cultural practices, Penangites, like all Malaysians, are united in their diversity. While the country's official religion is Islam (all Malays are Muslims), religious freedom is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. For centuries, mutual respect and tolerance have been the bastions of harmony between the many communities here.
The locals love having tourists participate and take an interest in the festivals and religious events but it is important to know about the dos and don'ts and to be respectful and mindful of each community's sensitivities especially when visiting places of worships. For instance, when going inside a Hindu temple, one is expected to leave the shoes outside and when visiting mosques, only those properly attired are allowed in (sleeves tops, skimpy skirts and shorts for women are a no-no!)
Photography is allowed in most places but please ask for permission when in doubt. Locals generally do not mind posing for a picture but when in places of worship, common courtesy should be observed.