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.
|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.
|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, 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.
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|
|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.
|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.
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.
|beautiful pagoda of Kek Lok Si|
|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