In my almost 2 years of being an expat in this part of Malaysia, I haven’t explored the entire Pulau Pinang (Penang Island), much more its neighboring states (with the exception of Kota Bharu in Kelantan that we visited last May 2011 and Kuala Lumpur of course). There are lots of tourist spots or must-visit places that my family and I have yet to experience. But of all areas that we’ve been to within the island, one of my favorites is Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple.
Kek Lok Si is the Temple of Supreme Bliss.
Despite its distance from where we live and inspite of the fact that we need to spend at least half of our day whenever we go there to explore and enjoy the scenic spots, not to disregard the travel period and remarkable fatigue we need to endure in walking and reaching its uphill shrines, every visit seems so meaningful when we’re inside the temple.
No, we’re not Buddhists; neither we know much of their religion other than reading the book Siddharta back in my High School days. Nonetheless, the atmosphere inside Buddhist temples like Kek Lok Si which was dubbed as the biggest in Southeast Asia never fails to bring tranquility, serenity and peace similar whenever we savor the solemnity of a Catholic mass or whenever we have a chance to commune with Mother Nature.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~Buddha
To the few but loyal and valued followers of this humble site, you probably are familiar that my family and I only commute to take our feet to work and whatnot. We usually take Rapid Penang bus from our place in Butterworth for about 5 to 10 minute ride to Penang Sentral and Jetty. There’s a waiting period for buses to pass by of about 30-45 minute-interval but we have learned to go by. From Jetty in Butterworth, we take 12-minute ferry ride that takes us to George Town, the heart of Pulau Pinang.
We haven’t tried yet RO-RO (roll-on-roll out?) transportation back home but here in Penang, ferry rides are frequent part of our trips, mostly on weekends when we go to the island. This is how Penang ferries look like – the upper deck is usually alotted for commuter-passengers and the lower deck is for those traveling with vehicles (although some ferries accomodate people and cars at its upper deck too).
A stroll from getting off the ferry brings us immediately to the Rapid Penang Bus station in George Town. Buses are numbered depending on its route. Tina and I use an all-month-pass cards which are definitely cheaper than without particularly for those working people like us. Bus rates here are still affordable compared to other countries; discounts are provided to senior citizens (like my mom who’s here and my dad who came last year), children (like Gabby’s age pay half) and students.
After bus-ferry-bus-rides, I found myself at the foot of Kek Lok Si Temple again. It was my third time to be there but as mentioned, every visit gives a different experience. Tina was left home because she was nursing her bowel (oops!) This trip to Kek Lok Si, I brought my mom who’s visiting from UAE and Gabby of course who was so excited to enjoy her Mamita.
First things first -we had to eat. I took them to the hawker restaurant (their version of our local carinderia or turo-turo) which I’ve tried before located just where we hopped off from the bus. Our tummy fillers that mid morning were Chinese-Non-Halal toppings : Roasted Pork Rice for me, Barbecued Pork Rice for Mamy, Soyed steamed dumplings and Chicken Rice for Gabby which he liked the most! We washed down everything with Pure Lemon Iced Tea and Milo-iced for Gabby (yes, they call it here Meelo-ais).
Entrance to Kek Lok Si is absolutely FREE! After our hearty meals, I led them to its walk way where Mamy and Gabby’s eyes rolled onto the assorted souvenir items being sold by shops left and right. Literally, these stores line up the path en route to the shrines (Kek Lok Si has various temples not just one); they also make the uphill walk less tiring, haha! Tip : when shopping, haggling should always be observed; make sure you ask for the half of the original price.
The pond filled with turtles greeted us once more. It’s Gabby’s second time here, my third and Mamy’s first. Like his first visit, Gabby asked us to buy him kangkong to feed the turtles. No other feeds are allowed except kangkong sold by the vendor there. Our little-big boy had fun as usual!
There are short bridges to get to the central gazebo where they fed these tons of amphibian-reptiles with one bunch of kangkong. More bunches come from other tourists and visitors.
“Chinese tradition believes that a turtle is a symbol of longevity, strength and endurance. It is an act of spiritual liberation when a turtle is captured and set free in this pond.” ~sourced via penangvacation.com
Few minutes after, I was mesmerized again. I brought them first to the main temple where the ceilings are such a visual treat. I spent several minutes of silence as the interiors left me in awe.
Must have that detail shot….beautiful, is it not?
Not that we’re superstititious but we believe there’s no harm in doing few practices of other religions. To each his own. When I told my mom that there’s a Wishing Ribbon Tree inside the main temple, she went there first and chose her ribbons; Gabby and I followed to do the same.
Payment is done with honesty. You just drop the fees at the steel boxes where ribbons are selected.
Without a help from me, Gabby chose these ribbons and well, the kid has global concern this early as he included World Peace!
He followed his Mamita in writing the names of the love ones at the back of each ribbons. Gabby did this to 10 of his wishing ribbons.
Then, Mamy and Gabby hung the ribbons to the tree like what Buddhists do.
There are 3 huge altars inside the main temple at Kek Lok Si; here’s the center most. I find it so grand yet exudes humility.
Offerings at the altar…
Outside the main temple at Kek Lok Si, the colors and architecture are so inspiring! Can you blame me not to be tired of being here?
Every corner is picturesque!
Here’s the pagoda of the ten thousand Buddhas.
The view from the lateral of the main temple. The covered cat walk lined by red and yellow lanterns takes you to the other temples at Kek Lok Si.
Mamy and her apo enjoyed photo-ops at almost every spot.
They had wacky ones at considered “safe” places…
and observed decent poses inside the shrines… :
When my son asked me about those golden Buddhist statues, the clueless me simply replied, “I don’t know, Anak, just keep quiet, and smile for the pictures!” haha! After browsing the net just before posting this entry, I found out that those 4 (yes, they come in 2 pairs in glass cases) are Buddhists’ Heavenly Kings that bring hope and prosperity.
Amazing how these kyat-kyat (or what do you call these tiny sweet citrus?) were grown (or put) into almost perfect bunches! They’re reall fruits actually! Funny how some chinky-eyed-perhaps-Korean-or-maybe-Taiwanese tried to test if they’re reall by pinching them several times.
The bursts of colors are incredibly fantastic!
Bottles of water and chilled cans of soda bought from stores in between shrines kept us going.
My mom wanted to see everything of Kek Lok Si or at least most of it; she was in the mood to try even the inclined lift with roundtrip ticket of RM 4 (PhP 56) each….
just to witness the shrine of the Goddess of Mercy overlooking the hill…
the bronze statue of Kuan Yin or the Goddess of Mercy is magnanimous!
The view from the top…
Everything in Kek Lok Si seems to be so fascinating. I chuckled when I saw these creatures at the grounds. Can anyone confirm if Minnie Mouse is a Buddhist? *just kidding!*
Obviously, my 7-year old boy loved them.
Gabby and his Mamita had photo-ops galore!
If you must know, the temple has these voluminous red and yellow Chinese lanterns not only because of the upcoming Lunar Year of the Dragon but they’re there whole year through. Wonderful, aren’t they?
Then the moment came when I extremely wished I had a professional lessions in basic photography or at least has no mediocre skills in capturing such beauty…
The entire temple is such a visual feast!
Everything on it enhances its grandeur. From the magnificent architecture to the very impressive interiors, to the little details such as these greens. It’s a money plant, isn’t it?
Flowers are adored and least likely to be overlooked when we are with my mom. She so loves colorful and various blooms!
And if you must know, Hibiscus or our local gumamela is one of Malaysia’s National Symbols.
I guess my mom was happy with her first-time visit to Kek Lok Si. I know we’re all tired and fatigued after, but those are nothing when we think of the little fun memories we had at the temple. Indeed, the Temple of Supreme Bliss is aptly called!
A day spent at Kek Lok Si will never be dull and boring for me. It will always be glorious!
Happy Chinese New Year!
*Kek Lok Si is majestically located on the hills of Air Itam; you can reach it by car or cabs from George Town or by taking Rapid Penang Bus 201, 203, 204.