Located in Air Ital, on the hill called He San either Crane Hill (In English, “Crane Hill”), is Kek Lok Si Temple or Temple of Supreme Happiness, which is said to be the largest Temple in Southeast Asia.
The place chosen for the construction of the Temple, they say that it was not accidental, because it seems that it has the “feng shui” suitable to house a temple. It is even a popular retreat destination for monks and Taoists seeking immortality.
The construction of the temple dates back to the year 1893 and was sponsored by the senior monk of the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Pitt Street. They say that emperors and kings were so impressed with Kek Lok Si that they sent gifts and prebends to the temple.
The opening hours It is from 7 am to 9 pm every day and admission is free, except for the cogwheel train that goes up to the last level, which costs 6 RM (go up and down, since the routes are purchased independent) for adults, 3 RM for children under 12 years and free for children under 5 years.
The buses to get to Kek Lok Si they are 201, 203, 204, 206, 306 and U502; and the stop to get off coincides with a small market and a concentration of shops from which you can see the Kuan Yin statue that crowns the Temple. But come on, as always, either you ask the driver, or you wait until people start pouring out, it’s sure to be the place.
To return to the Center of Georgetown, you must take any bus that indicates on its header that it goes to “Jetty”, the Port of Georgetown, very close to Chinatown and Chulia Street.
The Temple is accessed through a dark gallery of stalls, located on a small staircase, on one of the sidewalks of the hodgepodge of shops and “restaurants” where the bus stops. Actually, there is a sign that indicates it, but you have to be careful, because the sign is a bit shabby and, if you miss it, you will have to walk and retrace the path that you think is the one that takes you to the temple.
Kek Lok Si, more than a temple, is an architectural complex located in levels, through which one ascends towards the “top of Mount Meru”, a recurring place in Buddhism, symbolically and physically located near the sky, from the highest.
The Temple itself is accessed through a turtle pond that can be fed for a small fee. According to Buddhist tradition, feeding turtles brings happiness.
In reality, Kek Lok Si Temple scandalously unites a religious complex with “a shopping center”, because at all levels, under the pretext of obtaining benefits for the maintenance of the temple and the monks of the monastery it houses, it is full of shops of Chinese articles -religious or not- in each and every one of its levels.
In the first courtyard of Kek Lok Si Temple, there is a 30-meter, seven-story pagoda, on which 10,000 Buddha figures have been carved, and the statues of four heavenly kings, each pointing to a different cardinal point. From here, levels are ascended through flowery courtyards full of statues, chapels, prayer rooms and bell towers until reaching the level where you can ascend on foot or by cable car to the crown of the temple from contemplating all the skyline of Penang and the imposing kuan yin statue, 30 meters, known as the Goddess of Mercy. It is worth it and a lot to get to the last level since it is impressive that the roof of the complex can hold so much weight on its floor: ponds, waterfalls, sculptures, the gigantic statue,…
The Kek Lok Si Temple is the nerve center of Buddhist life in Penang as it brings together in perfect harmony the rites and representations of the beliefs of the Theravada Buddhism and the Mahayana Buddhismas well as the religions and beliefs imported from China by immigrants from this country who have made Penang their habitual residence.
Several festivals are held at Kek Lok Si Temple throughout the year, although the most spectacular celebration is the one that takes place during the Chinese New Year when, for 33 days, the Temple becomes a sea of colors and lights and thousands of people parade through it. of people dressed up, with lanterns, music and dances.
Penang Esplanade and Fort Cornwallis
It had gotten a little late, so we had a local snack in the market at the entrance of the Temple for only €5. We returned on the 502 bus, heading for Jetty, and decided to go to the Penang Esplanade (Padang Kota Lama) a green area that, they say, is the nerve center of Georgetown’s social life. In fact, there, in the late afternoon, there are many seafood and fish stalls and there is a food court near the Fort (which is only open during the day).
Although we had read that it is not worth accessing the Fort, the walled enclosure caught our attention and we went to see it.
Dating from the end of the 18th century, its walls are 3 meters high and its floor plan is star-shaped. Inside the fort there is still a chapel, prison cells, the ammunition store, a lighthouse and several old cannons. The problem is that the fort has been left, under concession, in the hands of a private company that has installed a café, an amphitheater, a historical gallery and a jewelry store inside it. souvenirswith which, the place has lost much of its charm.
We went back to stroll through the Fishermen’s Quarters and finally had dinner at the Chinatown stalls.
Returning to the Hotel, we find a shoot at its peak. They were recording scenes with cranes, cameras, unknown actors, all the sound equipment, director, vans, monitors… There was a huge display; so we approach to snoop; but, as curiosity killed the cat, they asked us for extras so that we would make a bundle at a street intersection. The clapperboard said “Foreign Bodies” and, apparently, it is an American series about a traveling backpacker in Southeast Asia. Remember it well because we will appear in the chapter that was shot in Penang and, perhaps, that appearance will become the beginning of our incipient film career.
You can also see our video about Kek Lok Si Temple on this blog.