Kek Lok Si temple is one of the most iconic landmarks in Penang, Malaysia. It is also known as the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Hence, it is no surprise that this majestic temple is often frequented by locals and tourists.
The temple is divided into three main sections. Each section showcases interesting features of the temple such as prayer halls, temple, garden and statues. While some visitors prefer to start their tour in descending order, I decided to go in ascending order.
There is not much to see at the ground level apart from a car park bay, food stalls, several souvenir shops and the (sacred pond) Liberation Pond with hundreds of tortoises in murky water. It was quite a let down as the pond is not properly maintained. Fortunately on the way walking up to the mid-section of the temple, I was greeted by a beautiful courtyard with mini pagoda structure in Lotus Pond and neatly manicured trees.
Occasionally, you can hear the monks chanting prayers in harmony around the mid-level section of the temple. The main attractions here are temples, prayer halls, garden and the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddha.
Row of Buddha statues
Built on the hills of Ayer Itam from 1891 - 1905, the temple was founded over a hundred years ago by a devout Buddhist from China. Kek Lok Si is literally translated as The Temple of Supreme Bliss. Today the temple has an archive of invaluable heritage relics including Buddhist sutras, hand written script and calligraphy by emperors and empress.
At the prayer hall, devotees and visitors can make offerings through the purchase of wishing ribbons or tiles. The wishing ribbons are tied to a tree branch. I saw the ribbons were printed with different offerings such as successful career, good health and prosperity.
The seven stories Pagoda of the 10,000 Buddhas is a must-see. It has very fine and intricate exterior as well as interior, boasting 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha. Visitors can climb the pagoda using the spiral stairways and admire the beautiful views of Penang Island story by story.
There is also an amazing garden with the theme of 12 lunar animals in Chinese Calendar. If you are too tired from all the walking, just sit and relax at a nearby gazebo surrounded by fish pond with koi. It did feel very peaceful and calming to watch the koi swimming in the pond, admiring the impressive bronze statue of Kuan Yin and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Penang Island from higher ground. The hilltop is undoubtedly the highlight of my visit!
Red inscription on the rocks
The best time to visit the temple is during the Chinese New Year festival when the opening hours are extended to late evening and the entire place is lit up with beautiful lanterns. If you happened to visit during the day, the weather can be scorching hot so do prepare some water, sunglasses and hat.
Night view of Kek Lok Si Temple during Chinese New Year, Source: Penang Tourism website