Pulau Pinang – Day 3
26 July 2009
As I am writing this now, we are currently resting ourselves here on our cozy guesthouse in Love Lane. It isn’t too bad after all if you have the luxury of time to just lounge around in the guest area here as it is very comfortable and breezy, the exact opposite of how it feels outside right now – scorching hot!
We started late as we woke up at around 9 AM and was taking a leisure breakfast as if there was nothing else to do in the world. We left at almost 12 noon already as we were also packing up our stuffs so that we can check out already and just leave our bags at the storage area.
As we were already running low on cash, we decided to try taking a bus going to Kek Lok Si. I was already too lazy to research the net so we just resorted to asking the guesthouse staff for direction – basically it was just as simple as taking any bus going to Komtar and take bus 201 to Air Itam. In all farness, the bus that took us to Komtar mall was very clean; it was not as immaculate as the buses plying around Singapore but it was definitely better than what I have taken elsewhere.
We were dropped off in Komtar and I decided to stop by Prangin Mall to check out the mugs from Starbucks. I just had a chat yesterday with my little sister and told her my whereabouts (irresponsible me did not text anyone where I will be for the weekend); in turn she reminded me about getting a Starbucks Country Mug if there are any available to add into our growing collection. There were indeed some mugs so I immediately bought it; one was a mini mug set and the other was a 10-oz sized Penang Mug. Total damage was MYR 84; totally well worth it as it will be added into our priceless collection.
We took a smaller bus going to Air Itam – it was still a good ride and comfy enough for me to catch up on my sleep. I was awaken half an hour later upon reaching our destination. I found out that the destination was not too far from the city but the way going there was very traffic congested.
As it was already past lunchtime – we decided to eat first before going up the temple. There was a small hawker area along the road; after checking that it was not so dirty, we decided to rest a bit there and have our lunch. I ordered my usual Hokkien Mee (which I also ate last night) and an ice cold Coke.
A good 20 minutes, we were ready to start our last day of sight seeing. The road going up to the Kek Lok Si complex was something totally different; we passed by a market place wherein all kinds of tourist items, souvenirs and trinkets were peddled.
The souvenir passage way leads to what they call the Liberation Pond; a murky body of water filled with more than a hundred tortoises – really amazing as I haven’t seen that plenty of tortoises in my entire life.
We spent more than an hour inside the temple complex exploring the various praying halls. This famous landmark was established in the 19th century as a simple monastery, which eventually has grown in size and grandeur. Today it is considered as one of the most important temple in South East Asia.
One hall that is worth noting is the Hall of Devas where one can see huge statues of heavenly kings who controls the universe. In the center lies a huge laughing Buddha; they say this represents prosperity and happiness.
Another area in the temple complex that we found interesting is the 30 meter bronze statue of the Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy. We used an inclined lift (MYR 4, return ticket) in order to reach a spacious deck with a great view of Georgetown. In the center there is another beautiful prayer hall, in the right is a tranquil fishpond filled with huge Kois, and finally on the left is statue of the Kuan Yin holding a bottle of holy water. When we visited the goddess of mercy though, construction was still ongoing for a giant shelter to protect her from the elements.
Our last stop in the temple complex was the Pagoda of Rama VI. The design of the pagoda is quite interesting as the octagonal base is of Chinese design, the middle part is of Thai architectural design and the crown is Burmese inspired. We went all the way up (total of 7 storey) the spiral staircase in order to get a good view of the entire complex as well as that of the surrounding hill and Ayer Itam.
After finishing our tour of the temple, we went back to the same route as where we entered. We got ourselves a taxi to take us back into Georgetown, Khoo Kongsi, which will be our final tourist stop for this trip. Located in 18 Cannon Square, this is supposedly one of the most magnificent of the various clan houses in Georgetown. They charge MYR 10 as an entrance fee to the compound owned by one of the richest Chinese clan in the region – the Khoos. This was built in 1851 however in was burnt down in 1894, allegedly struck by lightning. The superstitious Chinese believed that it was due to its resemblance to the Emperor’s palace, which provoked the gods. A more modest but still well ornamented replacement was built in 1902 and was finished 4 years later. Truly amazing, the carvings were very intricate and one could just imagine they were really made by the finest craftsmen in its time.
It was almost 4 PM when we finished exploring Khoo Kongsi. We hailed a trishaw outside the complex and asked the driver to take us to Love Lane. There we shall wait for a bit before a taxi will pick us up at 5:30 PM to take us into the airport for our flight back to Singapore. This trip has been very memorable, one of my best cultural experience so far. Someday, in one of my travels, I shall find myself back in Penang once more. It has been a great experience and it is definitely worth repeating.