Things To Do In Penang – Kek Lok Si Temple

Things To Do In Penang – Kek Lok Si Temple

When you visit Penang, one of the Things To Do in Penang that you must do is visit Kek Lok Si Temple. We did, and we are very glad. It was awesome!

After a good breakfast of Penang Fried Kway Teow, we headed for the famous temple. It was a short and pleasant drive.

In this post, you will get to see a video of the amazing place, learn the history of this famous Buddhist temple, see the halls filled with Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Divine Beings, and enjoy the breaktaking view from the top of Penang Hill where this temple resides.


Kek Lok Si Temple – The Video

We enjoyed filming the many sights seen at this wondrous temple. We started on the lower levels, on to the many halls on various levels, to the peak of the hill where the Giant Kuan Yin statue is, and also climbed up the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas to capture the magnificent view of Penang from above.


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Kek Lok Si Temple – About & History

This is one of the best known temples on the island. It can be said to be the largest  Buddhist temple in Malaysia. Actually, it is made up of a complex of temples and prayer halls that were built over a period from 1890 to 1930.

View of Circular Pavilion garden and Middle Prayer Hall
View of Circular Pavilion garden and Middle Prayer Hall, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

There are two main attractions here. One is the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas. And the other is the giant statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. There is more information about both below.

One of the unique features of this famous place is that it showcases architecture and artwork from Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. In doing so, they have displayed harmony in diversity.

Tip: There is a lot of ground to cover. Visit first thing in the morning.


Kek Lok Si Temple – Giant Bronze Statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy

This is the newer attraction at Kek Lok Si. It was completed in 2002. It is located high up on the hillside.

We were very excited to see this huge tribute to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. When we were driving towards Kek Lok Si, we could already see it from afar.

To get to the location, we took the inclined lift to get there. You need to buy a ticket to ride the inclined lift. Watch the video to see how.

Giant statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy
Giant statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

The statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy is made of bronze, and is 36.57 meters tall. That is about 120 feet.  Wow! This makes it the tallest Kuan Yin statue in the world!

side view of Giant statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy
Side view of Giant statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

When we were there, we could not resist the breathtaking, magnificent view of Penang. We just had to stop for a while, take a breath, and enjoy the scene before us.

Awesome view of Penang
Awesome view of Penang, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

Kek Lok Si Temple – Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas

The other attraction, the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas was no lightweight either. Completed in 1930, this towering structure has continued to capture much attention from visitors since then.

Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

Within, there were ten thousand alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha. The pagoda itself is 30 meters (98 feet) tall.

The architecture is a harmonious mix of Chinese, Thai and Burmese. The octagonal base is a Chinese design. The middle tier has Thai influence. And the crown at the top is surely Burmese in origin.

View of Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas from afar
View of Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas from afar, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

The mix represents harmony in religious diversity. It also reflects both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

On the ground level, there is a huge statue of Buddha donated by King Bhumibol of Thailand. That is why it is also known as Rama VI Pagoda. You can see an image of this statue in the video above.

Lotus Flower in the garden of the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Lotus Flower in the garden of the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

Before we explored the pagoda, we noticed a very beautiful garden next to it. There were lovely flowers such as the lotus shown above. Plus, the landscaping was a sight for sore eyes. Do watch the video above to see the garden.

From the top level of the pagoda, you will be able to enjoy a breathtaking and magnificent view of Penang Hill, and George Town.

Panorama view of George Town from top of Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Panorama view of George Town from top of Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved
Panorama view of Penang hill and huge Kuan Yin statue
Panorama view of Penang hill and huge Kuan Yin statue, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

Kek Lok Si Temple – Prayer Halls

There were many prayer halls at Kek Lok Si. All filled with statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Divine Beings.

Here are photos of some of them. To see them all, do watch the video above.

When we first arrived, we found this prayer hall. There were 3 large statues of Bodhisattvas, all beautifully decorated.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

We also found a pretty garden that had this serene Circular Pavilion with a Buddha image.

Buddha in Circular Pavilion
Buddha in Circular Pavilion, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

We roamed around. The place was like a maze. Then we found this small entrance with the sign that said in Chinese – Kek Lok Si.

I love the deep blue colors!

Small entrance to Kek Lok Si
Small entrance to Kek Lok Si, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

This was the entrance to one of the many prayer halls. I love how the many lanterns gave that extra touch, and made for such a nice photo.

One of the many Prayer Halls
One of the many Prayer Halls, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

This next altar was actually on the same location as the Giant Kuan Yin Statue. So beautiful!

Kuan Yin with many arms
Kuan Yin with many arms, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

The perimeter of one of the prayer halls featured statues of Buddha all along it. Simply astonishing!

Many statues of Buddhas adorn the perimeter of one of the prayer halls
Many statues of Buddhas adorn the perimeter of one of the prayer halls, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

As mentioned, there were prayer halls that were Theravada Buddhism.

Three Buddhas in Theravada Buddhism Prayer Hall
Three Buddhas in Theravada Buddhism Prayer Hall, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

* Tip: Look up! The ceilings are also filled with colorful and delicate artwork!

Beautiful Artwork on the ceilings of prayer halls
Beautiful Artwork on the ceilings of prayer halls, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

* Tip: Look around! The walls have intricate art that tells stories!

Beautiful Artwork on the walls of prayer halls
Beautiful Artwork on the walls of prayer halls, © 2018 Asia Travel Gems All Rights Reserved

Conclusion

As mentioned in other blog posts, we visited during the off peak season. We heard that Kek Lok Si is a magical wonderland of lights and colors during Chinese New Year. During this period, the temple stays open until late at night.

If you can time your visit, best to do so during Chinese New Year. For me, it is a little difficult to plan because Chinese New Year is a big festival where I am from. And I am obligated to stay at home with my family during this time.

Still, Chinese New Year or not, Kek Lok Si Temple is indeed a place you must visit when you are in Penang.

* Tip: Visit during Chinese New Year


Where is Kek Lok Si Temple?

Kek Lok Si Temple is located at Air Itam mountain in George Town on Penang island. It is near and faces the sea. As such, the heights at the temple can offer impressive views of Penang.

Operating Hours

9 am to 6 pm, Daily.

Entrance Fee

Free to enter temple grounds. You have to pay to visit the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and use the inclined lift to the Giant Kuan Yin Statue. Prices change over time. Best to find out when you are there.

Address

Kek Lok Si Temple, 11500 Ayer Itam, Penang

Contact

Email: email@kekloksitemple.com
Phone: +604-828 3317

How To Get There?

By Foot

Best to travel there by bus, car, taxi or Grab. See below.

By Train

This is a small town. There are no train services. And there are no trains to this place.

By Bus

There are local buses, but information on their routes and stops are not well provided. Also, the journey by bus is quite a convoluted one and takes up a lot of time. Better to go by car, taxi or Grab.

By Car

If you drove to Penang, you are at an advantage. Traffic is not as heavy as cities such as Kuala Lumpur. Navigating around is easy, especially if you have Waze app. There is ample car park lots in the temple.

By Taxi

They rarely go by meter. If you choose to go by taxi, sometimes it may be better to book them for the afternoon or day. This way, you can be assured of getting a ride back to the city, as and when you like it.

Tip: Negotiate and agree on a price before you take the taxi.

By Grab

This is my preferred option. One reason is that there is no need to negotiate. Another is that the price is usually reasonable and affordable. No hassles.

It is so easy to travel around in cities now because of Grab. Just download the app, state your destination, a driver is assigned to you, take the transport, and you arrive at your destination. Comfortable and easy.

I have switched to Grab for my travels within a city ever since this option became available.


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If you have ANY questions about this article, ANY at all, please submit your questions as comments below. I will be happy to help you out.

Thank you for reading this.

Wishing you and your loved ones safe and happy travels,
Timotheus

16 Replies to “Things To Do In Penang – Kek Lok Si Temple”

    1. You’re welcome Darren.

      Please do subscribe to the Best Places To Visit in Asia newsletter for updates. 🙂

  1. I have been there, to Kek Lok Si temple, and went up the pagoda for the magnificent views. But I have never explored the other parts of the temple grounds in as much detail as you! From the pictures you posted, it is a really beautiful place, worth a few hours to see everything it has to offer! Thank you for the interesting article.

    1. You’re welcome, Joo.
      Glad my post showed you more of Kek Lok Si Temple.
      Next time you visit, hope you spend more time to see all the other sights that Kek Lok Si Temple has to offer.
      Please subscribe to the Best Places To Visit In Asia newsletter for updates. 🙂

  2. Timotheus,

    What beautiful pictures! I like the Goddess of Mercy statue. All of this makes me really want to visit Penang. I bet the vibration in the places you mentioned is really high. Are the prayer halls where people meditate or can people meditate in the gardens too?
    Thank you for another great post!
    Nora

    1. You’re welcome Nora. Glad you enjoyed this article. And especially the photos and video.
      I like Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, too! You should really visit and see this giant statue. It’s the largest in the world!

      Most times, every where inside Kek Lok Si Temples is crowded with tourists and pilgrims. So, meditation can be a little challenging. Having said that, I am sure you can meditate anywhere in the place. And yes, being a spiritual place, the vibrations would be extremely high, and very conducive for meditation.

      Please subscribe to the Best Places To Visit in Asia newsletter for updates. 🙂

  3. Hello Timotheus,
    This was such a beautiful article. I have always wanted to visit Malaysia, and this certainly gave me a ‘snapshot’ of the possibility. Your descriptive style of writing did justice to the place. I felt like I was there, especially with your photos. Thank you also for the tips and information to get a plan of sorts in action.
    Actually, I was browsing your website, and wow, I thought Iw as the ‘only’ one with a ‘travel bug’…lol.
    Keep up the great job.
    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thank you for your kind compliments and praise. I am so happy you enjoyed this post about Kek Lok Si Temple. And ecstatic that you felt like you were there. That was one of the goals I have for all my readers. And achieved! Yay!!! 🙂

      Yes, thanks for noticing the tips. These are one of the many gems offered at Asia Travel Gems. Additional info to help people prepare better for their vacations.

      Thanks again, fellow traveler! 🙂

      Timotheus

  4. I must admit you are tempting me more and more with every post on Penang I read, you have done an exceptional job in providing the most interesting post as well as extremely informational.

    Your images are breath taking, I was wondering are the images on your post your own photographs? If so, you are a very talented photographer as well as a writer.

    I will be back
    Jeff

    1. Thanks for your kind compliments, Jeff! I am very happy to know that you enjoyed this article. 🙂

      And thank you for your kind praise of my photos and videos. Yes, all photos and videos on Asia Travel Gems are captured by me. Most of them are captured using my mobile phone. The ones here on Kek Lok Si Temple were taken with a GoPro camera that my friend brought along for this adventure.

      Timotheus

  5. I have always thought that the structures in Asia are beautifully built, just like the Kek Lok Si Temple and the Goddess of Mercy statue. There is so much history to be discovered here.
    Wow, the inside of these prayer halls are extravagant! The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is beautiful! This article makes me want to travel again. It has been a long time since I have travelled anywhere due to my work schedule, busy taking care of my kids, etc.
    I need to make it a point to travel more. Thanks for all the info, great post!

    1. You’re welcome Shwana! I am happy that my article inspired you to travel again. And I do hope you do soon. When you do, consider the places recommended here on Asia Travel Gems.

      For a start, consider Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang. It is so much better to see it all first hand. 🙂

      Please subscribe to the Best Places To Visit in Asia newsletter for updates. 🙂

  6. I have been to Kek Lok Si Temple decades ago before the giant statue of Kuan Yin was built. Reading your article and looking at the beautiful pictures, perhaps it is time to plan a family trip to Penang. The inclined lift you mentioned will be exciting for my kids.
    Thank you, Timotheus for all the information provided. Very helpful!
    Sharon

    1. You’re welcome, Sharon. Glad this article brought back memories for you. And inspire you to create new memories with your family. Yes, your kids will love the inclined lift. Also, the magnificent view from the top of the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

      Please subscribe to the Best Places to Visit in Asia newsletter for updates. 🙂

  7. Hello Timotheus,
    I have never been to Malaysia, but I have heard it must be beautiful and for me who lives in Europe it seems to be an exotic and exciting country. Your post about what to do in Penang is very inspiring and I’d love to go there sometime soon. The Kek Lok Si Temple looks magnificent and impressive with all the details and intense colours.

    I appreciate all the pictures you have presented. The map, the tips, and the information is a great and helpful service. I wonder, are there any special behaviours to be aware of when visiting Malaysia and especially the temples – clothing or something else? As I don’t know the culture very much I’d like to learn about these things before visiting foreign countries. I think it is very important to show respect and understanding.

    Kind regards,
    Pernilla

    1. Hi Pernilla,
      Glad to hear you found my post about Kek Lok Si Temple inspiring and helpful. So happy all the info, photos and video came in useful. When visiting Asia, do remember to come back to my website for more info.

      Thanks for asking about important points to note when visiting temples in Malaysia. Actually, the same applies for all temples anywhere. When visiting a temple, it is good to show respect by dressing appropriately. No attire that reveals too much skin. Best to wear t-shirt or blouse for tops. Bottoms – wear something that covers at least to the knees.

      At the same time, do not worry too much. Most temples are very understanding. They are aware that there are people who do not know the rules. So, they do provide some simple clothing for those who did not arrive in appropriate clothings. E.g. if your pants or shorts do not cover the knees, they do provide a type of wrap cloth that you can wrap around your lower body that will cover till the ankles.

      May all your travels be safe and filled with fun and joy.

      Timotheus

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