Kek Lok Si Penang is said to be the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It was the highlight of our trip to Penang and is one of the most important Chinese Buddhist Temples in Southeast Asia.

Location

Kek Lok Si Temple is located in Penang on a hill in Ayer Itam which is about a 45-minute drive from Batu Ferringhi. We hired a driver but you can also get the 203 or 204 bus from Georgetown.

view of kek lok si temple from air itam village of temple pagoda statue
View from Air Itam Village

History

In 1885, Venerable Beow Lean was appointed as the chief monk of the Kuan Yin Teng Temple in Pitt Street, the oldest temple in Penang. Later he found a big hill, in Air Itam village, had the right Feng-Sui to build a Buddhist monastery on. Work commenced in the late 19th Century, after donations from local wealthy benefactors, and is still being added to now.

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Kek Lok Si Penang Grounds

Our driver dropped us at the top of the hill so we could walk down to the bottom. As a result, we didn’t have to walk uphill in the heat.

The view from the top put Penang and Georgetown into perspective.

Kek Lok Si Penang - A Stunning Temple

On the top level was a pretty garden with a fish pond and water gazebo. There were also lots of animal statues around, which kept our daughters occupied while we took in the beauty of our surroundings.

a chinese gazebo on a large goldfish pond with a waterfall cascading into it

Also on this level stands the 30.2m bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, which was built in 2002. The Pavilion surrounding the Yin statue was added on later. This attracts the most visitors and is pretty incredible to see.

tall statue of goddess of mercy kuan yin

From here we made our way down to the middle section via the incline lift which you have to pay a small fee for.

incline lift with views of builfings at kek lok si penang
Incline Lift

The middle section has temples, gardens, stunning Pagoda, and Pavilion. This was by far my favourite part.

temple and a 7 tier pagoda in a beautiful garden

The highlight of the temple is the Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which stands at 30m high. Also known as Pagoda of Rama VI, after the Siamese king who laid the foundation stone, this pagoda was completed in 1930.

It combines the architectural styles of Chinese, Thai, and Burmese. The lower tier is a Chinese style temple in an octagonal shape. The middle tier is said to be in a Thai style. The top tier and crown was added later and in a Burmese style.

It holds 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha.

This stunning pagoda is open to visitors at a small fee.

Kek Lok Si Penang - A Stunning Temple

Finally, the bottom section has the turtle liberation pond and then a dark walkway with souvenir and food stalls. The turtle pond is pretty sad if you’re an animal lover because there are way too many in such a small space. I didn’t even want to take this photo, it was horrible to see.

lots of turtles in a dirty pond

Dress Code

Unlike a lot of places of worship, there doesn’t appear to be any type of dress code here. Despite this, I wore a long dress that covered my shoulders. Also, wear comfortable shoes that you can take on and off easily as you will need to remove them to enter parts of the temple.

When To Visit

The best time to visit Kek Lok Si is during Chinese New Year. During this time, the temple is covered with thousands of hanging lanterns.

Try and time it with a visit to Penang Hill.

Tours

If you prefer to do a tour then consider this Penang Hill and Temple Tour. If you are visiting Penang from a cruise ship, then this shore excursion is good.

We also like Get Your Guide tours like their Iconic Temples and Penang Hills Half-Day Tour.

Where To Eat

While you are inAir Itam , why not try one of the two legendary hawker stalls here?

Air Itam Asam Laksa has been serving up the best asam laksa for decades. There’s normally a queue as it’s such a popular place to eat.

Sister Curry Mee is a Penang icon. These two sisters have been serving delicious curry mee since 1946! This is street food at its best.

beautiful 7 tier pagoda

 

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4 Comments

  1. So much to see in this area! Absolutely beautiful. I like the idea of being driven to the top of the temple complex and being able to walk down rather than up in the heat. Good tip!

    1. Thank you. It was very hot and humid that day so we were very thankful to our driver for suggesting it.

  2. So sad for those turtles! Otherwise what a beautiful temple complex and interesting mix of architectural styles. Enjoyed learning about the history of the site.

    1. Thank you so much Cynthia. I hate seeing animals like that but it seems to be quite common in Asia unfortunately.

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