Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kek Lo Si Review

The Kek Lok Si Temple 极乐寺 or 極樂寺
(Penang Hokkien for "Temple of Supreme Bliss" )

Located at Air Itam in Penang and is one of the best known temples on the island. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia.

The temple is heavily commercialised with shops at every level and inside the main temple complexes.

Generous donations from the affluent Chinese community allow the construction of additional buildings. Today, there is a new goddess of mercy statue on the top of the hill and it is almost done and the whole construction is pretty impressive.

Getting up there.

Kek Lo si is accessible by car and bus and it can be easily summarized as 3 stages.

Stage 1:

There are a lot of businesses at the bottom of the temple, selling all sorts of local products ranging from shirts, to plants to food. The lower level is ALL shops and there is a flight of stairs from the base of the hill up.

Stage 2:

To get to stage 2, you can climb the stairs through the winy passages covered with shops. It is really an interesting experience and when you want to buy things, remember to haggle the price as it is part of the experience.

If you have people who cannot travel well, you can take a taxi or drive up to stage 2. This will bypass all the shops.

At Stage 2, there are many temples and spots for taking photos. The temple itself consists of several large halls for assembly and prayer, here, statues of Buddha, various Bodhisattvas as well as Chinese gods are being venerated. Intricate woodwork, often brightly painted and a plethora of lanterns add to the visual impression.

There is an inclined lift to carry pilgrims and visitors further uphill. On the elevated platform, you can find a pond filled with Koi and the towering statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, which can also be regarded as Avalokitheshvara, Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion.

Stage 3:

This is the top level of Kek Lo si. There is a tram service from the middle level to bring you to the top of the hill. Or you can drive up. Entry for the car is RM$2.

At the top of the hill, there is a HUGE statue of the Goddess of Mercy built since 2002 and the pagoda around her is near completion. There are also several other temples and a Koi Pond and many interesting statues. The temperature on top is lower than below and the top is constantly windy. You get to see a large part of Penang here and the view is very interesting.

The temple is a focal point of festivals of the Chinese community in Penang. The Chinese New Year celebrations are particularly impressive. For 30 days following Chinese New Year, the temple remains open until late at night whilst thousands of lights turn the scenery into a sea of light.

Since my last visit, there are many improvements made and there is constant donations and more buildings to come. If you visit Penang, this temple is probably a must to come.

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