Kek Lok Si: Penang Island’s Must-See Temple

Known as one of Southeast Asia’s largest Chinese Buddhist temples, it is an atrocity not to get a glimpse of Kek Lok Si Temple when in the island of Penang. The temple is a pilgrimage site to some Buddhist followers in Southeast Asia and when I was in Penang I made it a point to visit.

Although I would have preferred to be adventurous and satisfy my palate with all the culinary treats Malaysia’s food capital had to offer, I couldn’t. I was sick during my trip and I could only pretty much eat porridge and drink water, thanks to acid reflux.

I have read somewhere that at the foot of the temple you can find some of the best asam laksa and curry mee but I did not even bother. Even just the smell of food wanted to make me puke.

How to get to Kek Lok Si

There are two main ways to get to Kek Lok Si. You can either get there by taxi, which will cost you about RM25 or take the public bus for about RM2. I took neither. Fortunately, my good friend and host had his own car so he took me to the temple.

We went to the temple in the afternoon and lo and behold for some reason the temple was only open until 5:30 in the afternoon so that meant we only had a few minutes left to explore the place. Normally the temple is open from 7am-9pm daily. So much for doing research when you’re sick leading to your flight date and all you want to do is lie down and rest.

kek lok si
Lanterns at the base of the temple

After going through the labyrinth of souvenir shops, we reached the top of the stairs and arrived at what was like a turtle pond. From the pond we continued walking through the start of the temple compound. You can either follow the path to the Kuan Yin statue or go right to the Kek Lok Si pagoda. As we were pressed for time, we went to the pagoda.

Officially known as Ban Po Thar, the base of the pagoda was built in Chinese style, the center is Thai and the top part is Burmese. I have never seen a pagoda made in three different designs although I couldn’t tell just by looking at it. The pagoda has seven levels and from what I have read getting to the top will take about 5 minutes. I have read that the view from the top is fantastic but then I really wouldn’t know as the temple was almost closing and we didn’t have time to really go there.

Although I only saw little of the temple, it looked splendid at night when we drove by. The lanterns were all lit up in preparation for the Chinese New Year celebration and they swayed in the air as the breeze moved them left to right.

kek lok si
Well decorated walkways leading to the temple base
joss sticks
Joss sticks left by visitors

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