There are very few temples in Malaysia which command the degree of awe that the Kek Lok Si in Penang does. That wonder has much to do with its grand architecture, and the colossal size of the venue.
Perched atop sprawling hills, Kek Lok Si has been identified as one of the largest temple complexes in South-East Asia. Its altitude and enormity renders it visible from many parts of Penang. Some locals believe this ensures divine protection throughout the island.
And then there’s the huge bronze statue of the Goddess Guan Yin that is synonymous with the temple. Those from the older generation might tell you they have seen the Goddess Of Mercy’s statue shedding tears, an omen of calamity befalling the island.
Chances are, the younger ones would dismiss this as an old wives’ tale, but it certainly adds an element of mystique to the temple.
Why you should go
Kek Lok Si is extremely popular during Chinese New Year, with roads along Air Itam leading up to the temple clogged up with traffic. But this also happens to be one of the best times to visit.
The grounds of the temple are lit up with a display of LED and neon lights as well as thousands of Chinese lanterns. The yearly event has been going on for almost half a century and has grown bigger over the years. However, there has been talk that the tradition will cease in the future but thus far, there has been no official confirmation from the temple’s committee.
If you don’t want be bitten by the FOMO bug, we suggest you make a trip pronto this festive season.
What to do
The iconic temple is divided into three zones: ground, mid section and hilltop. The ground houses a maze-like souvenir section and a tortoise pond. The animal is traditionally associated with longevity.
Travel to the upper levels and you will be greeted by monasteries, prayer halls, temples and beautifully-landscaped gardens. A notable structure here is the striking Rama VI Pagoda.
Comprising seven levels, the pagoda boasts thousands of Buddha statues as well as an architecture that marries Chinese, Thai and Burmese elements. Climbing up the pagoda will reward visitors with a picturesque view of Penang.
The pagoda is one of the main draws at Kek Lok Si.
The hilltop is where the enormous 30.2m bronze statue of the Goddess Guan Yin is located. There are also statues of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, a great photo spot for travellers who seek out their own personal zodiac.
Driving or using a ride-hailing service is the most convenient and comfortable way to the temple. The area is also serviced by the Rapid Penang Bus. Here are a few buses to board: 201, 203, 204, 206, 306 and U502. Look out for the stop located along Jalan Pasar at the foothills of the temple.
Kek Lok Si
Ayer Itam, Penang
Tel: 04-828 3317