Upon my departure from Thailand after a combined three glorious months, the familiar mixture of unease and excitement that accompanies landing in a new country came over me. I knew almost nothing about Malaysia, and wasn’t sure what to expect, especially after becoming so comfortable in Thailand.
So comfortable, in fact, that I am still converting Malaysian Ringgit to Thai Baht in my head rather than directly to US Dollars.
Imagine my excitement to find that, just like my first unfamiliar days in Bangkok, I’d have someone to guide me through – James Clark. I absolutely love it when I arrive in a town and find out that James happens to be around. This means several things: he will know where all the best food is, will be able to suggest a great coffee shop, will know where to find the best WiFi, and will already have local transportation figured out.
In short, I can be extremely lazy about doing research or planning of any kind, which is my favorite.
I asked him what the best thing to do in Penang was (other than stuffing my face with amazing food at every possible interval), and he suggested Kek Lok Si – the largest Buddhist temple in the whole of Southeast Asia. Given that I don’t seem to suffer the common traveler ailment of being “templed out”, even after the amazingness of Angkor Wat, Sukhothai, and the White Temple, I was excited to see what Kek Lok Si had on offer.
I was not disappointed:
*Photos are in order of how one would see these sights walking through the temple
James and I elected to pick out some prayer ribbons. He selected “continuous run of wealth luck,” and I went with “success in all things.” Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right?
Under construction since 1890, this temple is still growing. With main construction completed in 1905, the main pagoda that gives the temple its notoriety was completed in 1930.
The pagoda incorporates Chinese, Thai, and Burmese elements of design, giving it a unique look.
The next level up, accessible by lift, features the 100-foot tall statue of Kuan Yin – Goddess of mercy. This is where the new construction can be seen.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see her up-close, as the new construction prohibited tourists from climbing up the stairs to the statue. This resulted in me disliking all of my photos of her, but Wikipedia does a nice job.
Do it Yourself:
- The temple is located on Crane Hill in Georgetown. If staying in Georgetown in the common backpacker area, walk to the Komtar shopping complex and hop on the #201, #203, or #204 bus (make sure it is signed Air Itam). Fare should be around 2 Ringgit (about 60 cents) and will take around 45 minutes.
- The bus will drop off near enough to the temple for you to see it on the hill. Follow your eyes and you’ll easily find the way.
- Entrance is free (though some things within the temple grounds require a small donation to view). The temple is open from 9am to 6pm.
- When staying in Penang, I like Reggae Penang on Love Lane (update 2017: sadly, Peggae Penang has closed down permanently).