The largest Buddhist temple in Penang houses the awe-inspiring 10,000 Buddha pagoda, the giant bronze statue of Kuan Yin, and a delightful souvenir and food market.
As you ascend the stairway to the bright and elaborate Kek Lok Si Temple, you will find yourself amidst a bustling market filled with craft and souvenir stalls and the unmistakeably delicious scent of laksa noodles enveloping the air. Once within temple grounds, the cacophony of sounds fade away as serene gardens and sacred ponds greet your sight. Stop to feed a turtle or release one into the famous Liberation Pond, a Buddhist act of spiritual liberation believed to bring about good luck. Above you stands the lavish Ban Po Thar, a seven-tier, 30-metre high pagoda, on which 10,000 Buddhas are carved. An imposing giant bronze statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, presides over the pinnacle of the steep mountainside. Walk or take the small inclined lift up to get a close-up view, and be doubly rewarded with arresting views of the city.
Kek Lok Si, or Temple of the Supreme Bliss in Penang Hokkien, is the largest and best known Buddhist temple on the island, located just a short 3 kilometres from Penang Hill. Perched atop and partially carved into the hills of Ayer Itam, this sprawling complex of worship is the Buddhist centrepiece of Penang.
The temple grounds are split into three areas, with the first being the marketplace and entrance. The most popular of these three is undeniably the main grounds, where visitors can see the giant pagoda and the statues of the four heavenly kings in the main prayer hall.
From here, the temple grounds unfurl up the mountainside. You can climb up the hill or pay a nominal fee to ride the inclined lift up to see the 30-metre tall statue of Guan Yin. While at the top, take a break to enjoy the large pond filled with koi and take in the breathtaking views of the city.
As the most significant Buddhist temple in Penang, Kek Lok Si is a focal point of Chinese festivals throughout the year. Particularly impressive is the annual Chinese New Year celebrations, running for 33 days with the temple opening until late, bathed in a glittering sea of lanterns and lights symbolising peace, luck and prosperity.
Situated in Georgetown, Kek Lok Si is accessible by a number of buses on the Rapid Penang Route. The temple is open daily and there’s a small charge for entry.