Saturday, July 27, 2013

What to see in Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang - Day 6 in Malaysia

After a very relaxed travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, we decided to do a little research on what to do in this city located north of Malaysia. Penang, a state in Malaysia located in the northwestern coast of Malaysia is very rich in multicultural history and highly diverse in ethnicity, culture and language.

For our first day, we had our host with us as it was his day off and he decided to tour us around Georgetown and be our guide to Kek Lok Si. Going up to the temple from the bus station was not a problem, we passed by a market aimed for tourists and good thing it was not crowded that day. After half an hour, we were able to reach the temple proper.

Kek Lok Si Temple
lovely old colorful building

Did you know that the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia can be found in Penang, Malaysia? Kek Lok Si Temple, which translates in English as "Temple of Supreme Bliss" is undoubtedly the biggest in Malaysia and also in SE Asia. This temple located in Air Itam, Penang started its construction during 1890s and until now, the staff are still adding new structures such as the famous seven-storey handcrafted "Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas' completed in 1930 and the 30.2 meter bronze statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy that was erected just last 2002.

Kek Lok Si Temple
Buddhists believe that setting a turtle free will bring good luck, thus the name of the area. You may also buy food for the turtles for 1 RM
The Liberation Pond filled with cute turtles

You can explore three sections of the temple, the Temple Ground, Mid Section and the Hilltop. The Temple Ground is where you'd be able to pass by souvenir/food and beverage stalls, the Liberation Pond, and the entrance to hill going up to the mid section of Kek Lok Si. Near the entrance, you will also see free handouts of pamphlets or books about Buddhism and its teachings. I took one as a souvenir, which was titled the 'Journeys to the Underworld' that features comic scripts about a man's journey to the different parts of hell. Reading the book surely made me learn something even though I am a Catholic.

Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si, Penang

Going upwards to the midsection, we have soon arrived to the prayer and assembly halls of Kek Lok Si. It was a large area where you would be able to see more information and details of Buddhist culture in Penang. There were also lots of Bodhissattva statues in this area and I was impressed by the art details inside the temple itself featuring bright wall paintings, lanterns and intricate handiwork on each off the different sections.

Kek Lok Si Temple penang
Black Buddha

We have also passed by some more shops that are mostly selling secular commodities and Penang souvenirs. I wouldn't really recommend buying here as there is a big market in Air Itam that sells tons of items that a tourist might be interested, but there were some products that were unique and catched our attention.

detailed floor paintings
this looked too real!

We took the lift going up to the top of Penang Hill to explore more. The ticket costs 4 RM round trip, I am not just sure if there are stairs that you can take for free as I did not inquire and opted to have the easy and hassle-free way of going uphill instead.

the convenient lift uphill Kek Lok Si

Arriving at the Hilltop, I first noticed the small zodiac animals that were scattered around the area. They were very cute and the design sort of reminded me of Mickey Mouse, not really sure why.

same "zodiac benches" that I saw before in Busan, Korea

Kek Lok Si Temple malaysia
Statue of Kuan Yin at the top

The magnanimous statue of Avalokiteshara or Kuan Yin that stands 36.5 meters high was under renovation though, so apparently we couldn't really go anywhere near it so we only appreciated the magnificent statue from afar. Kuan Yin is regarded as the Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion.

Kek Lok Si Temple ten thousand buddha
Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas

For some reason we may have forgotten to see Ban Po Thar pagoda or 'Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas' that has 7 tiers and is over 30 meters high. The architecture is said to be inspired by Burmese, Thai and Chinese designs.

colorful lanterns
wooden figurine

There was a Chinese temple on this section that you can see. I particularly liked the small pagodanear the koi fish pond where we rested for quite a bit. Kek Lok Si sits on the hills of Air Itam known as the Crane Hill and its arrangement is said to have a vital importantance with the feng shui.

Kek Lok Si Temple penang
beautiful pagoda of Kek Lok Si
air itam penang
Bird’s eye view of Air Itam and George Town from Kek Lok Si Temple

One could also enjoy the breathtaking views of Air Itam in the Hilltop. As my host said, no use on adding Penang Hill to your itinerary if you are already going to Kek Lok Si. It's like hitting two birds with one stone. ;) Seeing Kek Lok Si Temple sure was a refreshing way to start our first day in Penang!

How to go to Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang:
Take Rapid Penang Bus Route No U201 / U203 / U204 / U206 / U502
Alight at Kek Lok Si bus station and ask a local to direct you to the market pathway that leads to the main temple. The hike up to the Liberation Pond can take 10-15 minutes.
Operating hours: 9.00am - 6.00pm

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers

Day 2: Kuala Lumpur
Batu Caves

Merdeka Square

Day 3: Putrajaya / Shah Alam
Pink and Blue Mosque

City Tour

Day 4: Malacca/Melaka
City Tour

Food Tour

Day 5: Kuala Lumpur

Day 6: Penang
Kek Lok Si Temple

Day 7: Penang
George Town

Street Art

Day 8: Penang

Malaysia Travel Report
Itinerary and Tips


  1. Hi there!
    My husband and I are going to Kuala Lumpur this May and I'm so happy to see your blog! It's really helpful and informative and makes me wanna go there asap... :) Just one question please, we'll be staying there for two weeks so how much would be an ideal pocket money (per person) if we're just interested with sight-seeing and food-tripping? You could probably give me an idea and I'd be very grateful :)
    By the way, where in the Philippines are you from?
    Thank you so much and I hope to read more on your wonderful blog!


    1. Hmm depends what activity you'll do and where you'll be staying, but for a budget traveler, 25 USD (or less) per day budget will work :) You can also read more here :)
      Food is so diverse and cheap in Malysia wish we had uber cheap Indian food here! I'm from Manila/Iloilo btw, hope you have fun sa trip!

  2. Hi Mariane!

    Do you remember about how long you had to wait to catch a bus to Kek Lok Si temple? I heard that traffic on Penang island is really bad and the buses are not frequent and tend to be late (up to an hour?). I plan to go to Penang for only a day trip (taking a coach bus from Pudu Sentral) so at most I might have 5 hours to spend there. I would like to at least visit Kek Lok Si temple and walk around Georgetown to see the heritage sites. But is that nearly impossible?

    Also, I see online that the trip from Georgetown to the temple is 20 minutes; but with the traffic, about how much time did it actually take?


    1. Hmmm If my memory serves me right, it took me a long time to wait for the bus to Wat Chayamangkalaram & Dhammikarama Temple but to Kek Lok Si, we didn't have much problems because we stayed somewhere near the area. If you are to ride from Komtar, then please allot buffer time when waiting for the buses (around 10-20 minutes).

      I think your plan is doable but you have to arrive early as Georgetown is very interesting and can eat a lot of your time. I suggest spend half of your morning in Kek Lok Si and then go to Georgetown after. When we took the bus from Kek Lok Si > Georgetown I think it took us around 30 minutes tops. During morning, I noticed that buses pass by often so you won't have a problem about that.

    2. Thanks for the info!

      I have decided to stay in Penang for one night to have time to see Kek Lok Si temple, Georgetown, and Wat Chayamangkalaram and Dhammikarama Burmese Temples along with Gurney Drive Hawker Center.

      How early should I come to Pudu Sentral to buy tickets for two people for the coach buses to Butterworth? I plan to take the earliest bus at about 7 am.

      Thanks, again!

    3. Hmm I think it depend on what time you will be traveling. Though this is in Malacca, we went there during Malaysian holidays and we weren't able to buy bus tickets going back to KL. So I guess better to buy your bus tickets 4-6 hours before your planned travel time, if going during weekends/holidays

    4. Sorry for bothering you with so many questions. I heard about some police brutality stories in Malaysia such as my cousin's friend who was suddenly caught by the police even though she didn't do anything and was imprisoned for a day or so and had to be "bailed out" by her sister who lived in Malaysia (she was forced to bribe the police). Just a few days ago there was also an assault on a female Vietnamese tourist involving 3 Malaysian men, including one police officer. I was planning on visiting Malaysia with my mom, but now I'm having some doubts about not booking a tour instead... If you visited Malaysia with a female friend instead of a male friend, do you think it would have been safe enough to go or would it have been too dangerous? I honestly can't tell if these stories are just the anomaly or are these incidents common? My Malaysian friend who I will be visiting said that she's seen many foreign travelers in Malaysia and she assured me that the most I have to be worried about is pick pocketing but I'm not so sure anymore because residents surely have a different experience from tourists. I'm really worried now...

  3. Hi

    Will half a day suffice to explore kek lok si?


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