Kek Lok Si (AKA the Temple of Supreme Bliss) is one of the largest Malaysian Buddhist temples, referred to as the jewel in the crown of heritage temples in Malaysia. Construction started in the early 1890’s and still continues today. Located just outside of Georgetown, we had to go.
We caught the 201 bus from outside a 7/11 (can also take 202 / 203) in the middle of G-town (2MYR). Could also Uber for 20-30MYR or scooter up (wish we had). Upon reaching the last stop, the driver kicked us off into the sprawling busy street market packed with lots of tempting food – Ayer Itam. We found a recommended Ayer Itam Asam Laksa stall amongst a frenzy of people and huge pots of boiling unknown liquids.
The ordering system was simple. Find a seat (wherever) and almost immediately a bowl of freshly made Laksa was put in front of us and 5MYR demanded – fair enough to assume that’s why we were there.
Pretty delicious (although fish isn’t my thing, the flavours were fantastic). Hot and sweaty from the Laksa, we ventured toward the temple, which is easily in view.
From here we could already see the temples exquisitely designed rooftops and pillars perched amongst scenic rolling hills.
Initially we thought, great, a beautiful and sunny day. We came to wish this wasn’t so after about 5 minutes. The passage up to the temple meanders up the hill and is narrow with no shade cover, nor a breath of wind. Guzzling water, and soaking in sweat, we pressed on, trying not to trip over the odd beggar, who would spray a curse at you if you didn’t give them money.
At the base of the temple, we passed a few hundred turtles crammed into a pond – looked cool, but not too pleasant for the turtles.
Finally we started to reach a few of the huge worship / prayer halls. These were full of worship trees, and large shrines for the different gods, made from gold and bronze.
At this point we headed over towards “Pagoda”, RM2 gets you entry. In the middle of an amazingly colourful garden, full of lanterns and roosters, stands the seven story Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas.
An interesting building built in 1930 combining styles of architecture from around the world. A traditional Chinese octagon base supports the middle third Thai design, upon which a Burmese crown sits, representing an amalgam of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.
Admiring the different styles along the way, we walked up to the top and got some pretty amazing views of the temple and Penang.
Next, we walked over to the other side of the temple, taking an inclined lift (6MYR return) up to the huge 30.2m bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of mercy – largest of its kind in the world. Complemented with a 60.9m 3 tiered pavilion (supported by 16 columns of bronze), this is a really amazing structure to visit.
After this we made our way back down, enjoying a few Chinese treats along the way back to our bus. The only thing I would do differently, is to hire a scooter for the day (25MYR) and drive out there. This enables one to actually drive to each level of the temple, avoiding the tough uphill walk and stairs and drenching sweat. There are several parks at different levels of the hill along the way
I would highly recommend taking a day to visit Kek Lok Si to any travellers heading to Penang, stunning!