Penang Goes Forward to the Past

Penang's snake temple has a problem. The deadly pit vipers that have made this Chinese Taoist temple their refuge since the 1850s have, according to a tourist brochure, "mysteriously" disappeared. "One day they just stopped coming," says the temple's custodian. We are standing at the back of the shrine where the view, which once stretched over the vipers' nesting grounds to the mountains beyond, is now blocked by a semiconductor plant. "Yes, it's a mystery," he says, with a wink and a nod toward the factory.

Development is a sensitive topic in Penang these days. In recent years...

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