To access the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia, you must first traverse a mountain of shops. Kek Lok Si, or the Temple of Supreme Bliss, is literally built upon shop after shop of souvenirs and trinkets. It’s actually one of my favorite cultural experiences - in terms of sensory overload.
The temple dates to 1893, and is located in Penang, long known as the “Pearl of the Orient.” The journey to Kek Lok Si begins along a skinny, winding path that’s covered, so it’s much like entering a tunnel of shops.
Stalls and booths crowd either side of the stone path. Scents of herbs, traditional laksa soup and tobacco fill the air. Half way up, the path opens to bell towers, prayer halls and a pond where you can buy cabbage leaves to hand feed the turtles.
Larger shops stacked with Buddhas, big and small, spread out – just before a chance to board a small lift that ascends to the summit.
At the top: a 360 degree view of Penang
A towering statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, stands in a pagoda before a stunning view of Penang. Up further is the crowning jewel – the 7-story Pagoda of Rama VI, or the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas.
Built in 1930, the temple and statutes are created from bronze and alabaster. Topping the pagoda is a golden Burmese crown. At the very top there’s another great view of Penang – an optimal place to get your bearings in the city.
Admission to Kek Lok Si is free (except a small fee for the sky lift and pagoda entry.) The temple is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Malaysia Airlines offers direct flights from LAX to Kuala Lumpur. Also, consider visiting Malaysia as part of a multi-country stop. Flights into Kuala Lumpur are fairly inexpensive from the nearby countries of Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.
Getting into Kuala Lumpur from the international airport is easy with the high-speed rail, KLIA Ekspres. The trip to central Kuala Lumpur takes 28 minutes with trains leaving every 15 to 20 minutes. Tickets are about $12.
Kula Lumpur’s hop on and hop off buses are a great way to see the city. They run from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost: $12.50 for one day; $21 for two days.
Peruse Malaysia’s official tourism site for more information on the country.