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Kek Lok Si and Penang Hill

July 16, 2012

During our second day in Penang, we decided to head outside Georgetown and checkout two of the island’s most-visited sights: Kek Lok Si and Penang Hill.

Getting there: Public transportation around the island is extremely easy and much cheaper than taking a taxi to and from these tourist spots.  Rapid Penang, the main bus company, connects Georgetown to both Kek Lok Si and Penang Hill, as well as the further afield beaches of Batu Ferringhi and Penang’s Taman Negara National Park.  The bus rates vary depending on the distance to your destination, but most of our trips outside Georgetown cost 3-4RM/per person (~ $1 USD).  There was a bus stop for most of the main routes just a block from our hotel.

Kek Lok Si, or the Temple of Supreme Bliss, is a turn-of-the-century Chinese Buddhist Temple that is continuously expanding thanks to the large Chinese community in Penang.

You approach the temple through a covered stairway littered with souvenir stalls on either side. When you emerge, you are rewarded with this view.  I couldn’t believe how lush the landscape of Malaysia was; even Kuala Lumpur had a tropical feel–giving “urban jungle” a more positive mental image.

Pagoda of 1000 Buddhas at Kek Lok Si

The two most distinct architectural details of the complex (reportedly the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia) are the seven-story Pagoda of 1000 Buddhas and the more recent (2002-2009) Pavilion of Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy).

An inclined lift (4RM/person, two-way) takes visitors up to the pavilion with the bronze statue of Guanyin.  This area was partially under construction when we went in June, but it seems that visitors will eventually be able to walk within the base of the pavilion and up to the statue itself.

Pavilion of Guanyin at Kek Lok Si

Entering the mid-level section of the complex with the pagoda and a small garden also costs a small fee (2RM/person).  Despite paying to enter, WWW and I somehow managed to visit without walking inside or going up the seven stories of the pagoda.  I blame exhaustion, my camera-happy distractions (I was so excited that blue skies and puffy clouds had come out), and WWW’s chronic “temple fatigue.”  Regardless, my post-travel self says “epic fail.”

After visiting the temple, we stopped in the small town that surrounds the base of the sight to grab some refreshment and prepare for destination #2: Penang Hill.

View of the island from the top of Penang Hill

Penang Hill was definitely the most crowded attraction we visited in Penang.  We had to wait in line for about an hour to buy tickets for and board the funicular train (30RM or $10 USD/person, roundtrip) that takes visitors from the base of the hill at Air Itam to the top.

There are several temples and a mosque just a short walk from the station, but we skipped these in favor of getting away from the crowds and exploring some of the trails.  You can do this either by foot or pay a driver to whisk you around on a golf cart.  We chose the former, and our first stop was the Monkey Cup Garden.

Different “monkey cups” to be seen here

Monkey cups are colorful and bizarre looking carnivorous plants.  Unfortunately, we only found relatively few of their beautiful “blooms” inside the garden.

While searching out these little guys, it started to rain.  Since the weather had been so sporadic during our stay, we were worried about going down one of the more secluded walking paths if a strong storm was coming in.  We decided to turn back and take shelter at the hill’s version of a food court.  I was glad for this on our walk back when mist started surrounding the hill worsening visibility by the minute.  On the bright side, we had all the time in the world to gorge on delicious Malay dishes we had been meaning to try.  The picture below shows what we were in for over the next two hours.

Mist descending on the hill and a shield of rain obscuring the city

Somehow I managed not to take pictures of a single thing we ate.  It is amazing how the camera gets in the way of life (forgetting to go into the pagoda at Kek Lok Si), and life prevails over photo documentation (my rumbling tummy at the food court that day).  I promise I’ll try to be better about food photos in the future!

After we got safely down the hill several hours later, we made a beeline for the hotel, where air conditioning, a shower, and a well-deserved nap awaited.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2012 4:30 pm

    Gorgeous photos! Enjoy your photo-documentation-free meals now — once you start, you can’t stop…

    • Ashley Bruckbauer permalink*
      July 16, 2012 9:30 pm

      Thanks, Edna! I love your and others’ posts about food, but I never seem to think about the camera when the food is in front of me. Meals are typically a welcome break from lugging my digital SLR, but I really do want to start incorporating all of the yummy food into the blog!


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