Kek Lok Si Temple Penang

Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam, Penang tops the list of things to do in Penang! The hilltop temple complex sees hundreds of visitors regularly!

Upon entering, visitors will see the turtle pond and souvenir, food and beverage stalls hoping to benefit from the crowds!

And within the expansive temple grounds, are several prayer halls and a garden.

But the most striking features of Kek Lok Si are the Kek Lok Si Pagoda and the large statue of the Goddess of Mercy!

Table of Contents:

Kek Lok Si Temple History

There’s 130+ years of history behind this temple:

  • Kek Lok Si is one of the biggest temples complexes in Southeast Asia.
  • Many images of Buddha, carvings, murals and sculptures decorate the interior and exterior of the temple buildings!
  • The temple is a center for Chinese culture and Buddhism
Kek Lok Si Penang From A Distance
Kek Lok Si From A Distance – photo credits to toutounepictures (Instagram)
  • A monk from Foochow, China (also the first abbot at this temple) proposed the location at Air Itam on the hill he named Huock-san (Crane Hill)
  • Construction began in 1891 after getting sponsorship from Hakka tycoons
  • The Hall of Bodhisattvas (main hall) with a shrine to Guan Yin and other goddesses, was completed in that same year (1891)
Must-do Penang Attraction - Kek Lok Si Temple
The Hall of Bodhisattvas At Kek Lok Si Temple In Penang – photo credits to cherkho (Instagram)
  • Next to be completed were the Hall of Devas in 1895, the Hall of Devawira in 1896 and the Tower of Sacred Books in 1899.
  • Royalty from the Ching Dynasty gifted valuable scripts to the temple in 1904. Made into plaques and on display at the Hall of Devawira and at the Kek Lok Si Pagoda
  • It took the continuing service of 6 different abbots to finally complete the temple’s marvels. Including Kek Lok Si Pagoda and large Guan Yin statue!
Guan Yin Statue Of Kek Lok Si Penang
Guan Yin Statue Of Kek Lok Si Penang – photo credits to kenarwong (Instagram)
  • The 30-meter tall, seven-storey Kek Lok Si Pagoda was completed in 1930. With Thai, Burmese and Chinese influence to symbolize unity among diverse religious groups
  • The original white plaster Guan Yin statue that was damaged from a fire, was replaced by a 30.2-meter tall bronze statue of the goddess in 2002.
The Colossal Pavilion Of The Guan Yin Statue At Kek Lok Si Temple
The Colossal Pavilion Of The Guan Yin Statue At Kek Lok Si Temple – photo credits to louislee6189 (Instagram)
  • This is the tallest Guan Yin statue in the world! The condition for the maximum allowable height was not to cast a shadow over the Penang State Mosque.

Kek Lok Si Temple Location

To enter the main temple hall within the sprawling temple grounds, there are almost 200 steps!

If you’re not up for the climb:

There is an inclined lift or cable car. And buggy cars that visitors can take from the temple base car park to the top of the temple complex. in 4 stages!

View Of The Inclined Lift Up Kek Lok Si Temple
View Of The Inclined Lift Up Kek Lok Si Temple – photo credits to jeremyjcycling (Instagram)

Address: Jalan Balik Pulau, Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang

Contact: +604-828 3317

Opening Hours: Daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm

Kek Lok Si Temple Opening Hours

Visitors can come to see Kek Lok Si Temple every day from around 8.30 am to 5.30 pm.

Once inside the temple complex, you can stay latest until 6 pm!

What is the peak time?

The tourists do begin to pour in around 10am.

So arrive before then if you wish to bask in the tranquil environment of the temple!

Temple Grounds Of Kek Lok Si
Temple Grounds Of Kek Lok Si – photo credits to koayhk7 (Instagram)

It can take you up to 2 hours to explore the temple complex at a leisurely pace!

Kek Lok Si Temple Entrance Fee

There is no entrance fee or admission fee.

However, do expect to pay to access certain areas:

  1. RM2 entrance fee for the pagoda (or RM1 for children under 13 years old)
  2. RM16 return trip for the inclined lift or cable car (Less or free for children depending on their age)

In addition, there will be the occasional donation runs that the temple may be holding to fund future construction projects or to upkeep the maintenance of the temple.

Kek Lok Si Temple Parking

Several car parks inside and outside the temple complex are available for public use for a fee:

  • Kek Lok Si Basement Car Park
  • Kek Lok Si Middle Car Park
  • Upper Section Car Park Near Kuan Yin Pavillion
  • New Car Park Opposite RHB Bank (~200 Slots)

There’s less climbing if you get to the higher car parks, naturally.

Which is a good thing if you have elderly or prams with you!

Kek Lok Si Temple Dress Code

There may be no signage or enforcement when it comes to the dress code:

But this is still a religious site and all visitors should dress modestly to show their respect. A general rule of thumb is to cover your shoulders and knees.

Do note that you will have to remove your shoes for most of the prayer halls.

Main Places To Visit In Kek Lok Si

This is the likely order that you will see these places of interests within the three different levels of the temple complex!

Getting around the temple on foot is not too difficult.

Just follow the signs!

Walkways And Stairs at Kek Lok Si
Walkways And Stairs at Kek Lok Si – photo credits to improntanomade (Instagram)

There is a lift (inclined lift) at the temple base car park that you can ride up to the Guan Yin statue.

Other stations include the Avalokiteshvara Hall and the third stop at the Main Prayer Hall.

Price Range (inclined lift): ~RM16 return trip

1. Kek Lok Si Temple Market

From the car park, keep walking to the left until you come to some souvenir stalls. These mark the start of the market!

Brace yourself for some very direct salesmanship as you make your way through the market before the temple!

It’s at uphill walk with stalls selling trinkets, souvenirs and local products on both sides.

2. Tortoise Liberation Pond

Tortoise Liberation Pond is a large pond (with hundreds of tortoises) next to the first inclined lift station at the temple base car park.

The Tortoise Liberation Pond At Kek Lok Si Temple
The Tortoise Liberation Pond At Kek Lok Si Temple – photo credits to johanes0ng (Instagram)

The pond is decorated with white Chinese-style bridges and a viewing platform where visitors can feed the tortoises with vegetables sold by a vendor close by!

3. The Hill Gateway – The Hall Of Bodhisattvas

Go past the Tortoise Liberation Pond to find the stairs that will lead up to the main hall, Avalokiteshvara Hall.

The first thing you’ll notice inside this hall are three seated Bodhisattva.

The Main Hall, Avalokiteshvara Hall At Kek Lok Si Temple
The Main Hall, Avalokiteshvara Hall At Kek Lok Si Temple – photo credits to nellieallsummer (Instagram)

And other smaller Buddhas all around the walls in niches! Visitors can see Kek Lok Si Pagoda from this hall too.

4. The Garden Pavilion Of Lord Buddha

From the main hall is a corridor that ends in a landscaped garden with another statue of Buddha but surrounded by deer.

Gorgeous Landscaping At The Garden Pavilion Of Lord Buddha, Kek Lok Si In Penang
Gorgeous Landscaping At The Garden Pavilion Of Lord Buddha, Kek Lok Si In Penang – photo credits to jaimedobarco (Instagram)

In the middle of this garden is a building with other prayer halls inside.

And across the garden is a terrace with lovely views of the valley and Penang in the distance!

5. The Amitabha Buddha Pagoda

As you wander through the garden, you’ll come across the striking red and white Amitabha Buddha Pagoda. Or the Hall of Devas, depending which one you find first!

The Amitabha Buddha Pagoda At Kek Lok Si
The Amitabha Buddha Pagoda At Kek Lok Si – photo credits to monkeykiddo (Instagram)

Amitābha or “The Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life” is the main Buddha in a branch of East Asian Buddhism (Pure Land Buddhism).

You will see many statues and murals of Amitābha here.

6. The Hall Of The Devas And The Hall Of Mahawira

In the Hall Of The Devas are statues of the Four Heavenly Kings:

  • Ch’i Kuo (Guardian of the East)
  • Tseg Chang (Guardian of the South)
  • Tou Wen (Guardian of the North)
  • Kwang Mu (Guardian of the West)
An Altar At Kek Lok Si Penang
An Altar At Kek Lok Si Penang – photo credits to anguranjitht (Instagram)

Both interconnected halls, Hall Of The Devas and the Hall Of Mahawira see frequent visits from worshippers!

7. Kek Lok Si Guan Yin Statue

Afterwards, visitors have a choice of visiting either the stunning Kek Lok Si Pagoda or the imposing statue of the Goddess of Mercy!

The Guan Yin Statue Of Kek Lok Si Lit Up During Chinese New Year
The Guan Yin Statue Of Kek Lok Si Lit Up During Chinese New Year – photo credits to derick_tan (Instagram)

Said to be the largest Guan Yin statue in the world:

It stands more than 30 meters high with its own towering pavilion (~80 meters with 16 massive granite pillars) over it at the peak of the temple complex!

8. The Hall Of Buddhas Of Five Regions

You will enter this hall first after paying the RM2 entrance fee to enter the compound of the seven-storey pagoda (Kek Lok Si Pagoda).

Five Dhyani Buddhas sit in this cavernous hall – Amoghasiddhi, Amitabha, Aksobhya, Vairochana, and Ratnasambhava.

The Hall Of Buddhas Of Five Regions at Kek Lok Si
The Hall Of Buddhas Of Five Regions at Kek Lok Si – photo credits to najshukor (Instagram)

Take time to admire the wonderful craftsmanship around this hall.

Especially the carved pillars with intricate detailing!

9. Kek Lok Si Pagoda

Along with the Guan Yin statue:

The 30-meter-high Kek Lok Si’s Pagoda is the main highlight for first-timers to Kek Lok Si. Its other name is Ban Pho Tar.

The octagonal base and structure as a whole, blends different elements of Chinese, Thai and Burmese influence!

Jade Buddhas in Thai and Burmese style occupy each of the 7 floors of the Pagoda.

Stairs Up To Kek Lok Si Temple In Penang
Stairs Up To Kek Lok Si Temple In Penang – photo credits to _ancher (Instagram)

It takes ~5 minutes to ascend to the highest floor via a winding staircase.

Don’t forget to look out at the scenery outside through the balconies!

Kek Lok Si Temple At Night

There is only one time of the year that the temple remains open after nightfall!

Because on most days, the temple will close at 5:30pm.

Hence, this is another reason why the beginning of the year is the best time to visit Penang!

Kek Lok Si Decked Out For Chinese New Year
Kek Lok Si Decked Out For Chinese New Year – photo credits to chiakokhow (Instagram)

But in Chinese New Year, this closing time is extended to after 10pm!

Kek Lok Si During Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the best time to visit Kek Lok Si Temple as the temple is decorated for the whole month a few days before the festival begins!

Kek Lok Si Temple At Night During Chinese New Year
Kek Lok Si Temple At Night During Chinese New Year – photo credits to kareen.lucas (Instagram)

Lanterns will be strung throughout the whole complex, giving it a very dreamy appearance!

The lanterns represent donations from temple devotees.

You can expect that there will be scores of people coming to see Kek Lok Si lit up!

Kek Lok Si Temple Opening Hours At Night

As mentioned:

During Chinese New Year, the temple will be open to the public until 10pm.

On busier days like the weekends, 12am!

Nighttime View Of Kek Lok Si During Chinese New Year
Nighttime View Of Kek Lok Si During Chinese New Year – photo credits to sdtan1229 (Instagram)
Note: The colorful lantern display will be on during Jan 24 and Feb 8 from 7.30pm to midnight! And from 7.30pm to 10pm during Feb 9 to Feb 21!

Read more: Penang Nightlife – 23 Best Things To Do In Penang At Night


Kek Lok Si Asam Laksa – Ayer Itam Assam Laksa

If you have not found your best asam laksa in Penang:

There happens to be a very reputable one close to Kek Lok Si!

Busy Atmosphere At Pasar Air Itam Laksa (亞依淡巴剎叻沙)
Busy Atmosphere At Pasar Air Itam Laksa (亞依淡巴剎叻沙) – photo credits to benlim247 (Instagram)

Especially if you like a stronger taste of ‘hae ko’ (thick sweet prawn paste) and mackerel in yours!

Location: Jalan Pasar, Paya Terubong, 11500 George Town, Penang Island

Opening Hours: Daily from 10:30am to 7pm

Notes:

  • This is a road-side stall with limited seating and car park spaces.
  • Portions of the dish run small

Further reading:


How To Get To Kek Lok Si Temple

Walking is not a recommended option to reach Kek Lok Si Temple. As it is almost 10km away from George Town!

Option 1: Bus From George Town To Kek Lok Si Temple (Via Air Itam)

You can take a bus numbers 201, 203, 204, 306 or 502 close to Penang Jetty or at the central bus station (KOMTAR).

KOMTAR Bus Terminal In Penang
KOMTAR Bus Terminal In Penang – photo credits to shophoward (Instagram)

The stop you want to look out for is along Jalan Pasar! Which is at the foot of the hill!

When you board the bus, let the driver know that you plan to get off at Air Itam or Kek Lok Si Temple!

It is usually the last stop on the line and you will have to do a bit of walking to reach the temple!

Duration: 30 minutes

Price Range: RM2 per person one-way

Bus Return Trip to George Town from Kek Lok Si Temple:

  1. Head for the temple base car park. Keeping to the main road with the parking lot on your right
  2. Follow the road as it turns left where there is a smaller car park
  3. Cross to Air Itam Market
  4. Keep walking (~30m) until the 7-Eleven shop (your left).
  5. Buses 203 and 204 will stop here and continue on to George Town
  6. You can get off at KOMTAR.

Option 2:  A Motorbike To Kek Lok Si Temple

For safety reasons, this shouldn’t be your first option:

Unless you’re really confident with driving a motorbike and the driving culture in Malaysia!

Hostels will know where to rent one if you ask.

And there are applicable parking fees for motorbikes at Kek Lok Si (RM1).

Duration: 30-40 minutes

Read more: Khoo Kongsi Temple Penang: See Exquisite Architecture At This Heritage Gem


Option 3: Take A Taxi Or Grab To Kek Lok Si Temple

With the Grab app, you can arrange for a driver to pick you up from pretty much anywhere in George Town. Or you can have your hotel call up a taxi for you!

Duration: 30-50 minutes

Price Range: >RM20 per car


Read more: 15 Best Hotels In Penang For An Unforgettable Stay


Option 4: Drive To Kek Lok Si Temple

If driving, take the road that goes to Paya Terubong which meets the market junction.

At that point, turn in!

Duration: 30-50 minutes (not including parking time)

Parking At The Base Of Kek Lok Si Temple:

  • Parking fee is RM3 for the first 3 hours and RM1 per hour after the first 3 hours
  • Large parking lot

Parking At Of Kek Lok Si Temple (up the hill):

  • Limited slots
  • Below the main hall of Kek Lok Si
  • Parking fee is RM3 per entry

When driving back, use the Air Itam road and turn into Datuk Keramat Aveneue. This will take you back to George Town!


Read more: 21 Fun Things To Do In Penang With Kids (Ultimate Guide) + Food & Hotels


Option 5: Tour Service

It’s possible to fit Kek Lok Si as a half-day activity. Combine it with a visit to Penang Hill or a tour around George Town with private tour service, RayTheTour!

Penang Tour - RayTheTour & Travelswithsun

We can pick you up straight from your hotel or the airport! Which is very convenient for families or anyone who’d prefer not to rely on public transport!

Our English-speaking and Chinese-speaking guides will show you around Penang. And if you want, we do have private day tour service in Ipoh, Taiping and Cameron Highlands too!

Book a tour with us on our WhatsApp or Facebook!


Further reading:


Conclusion

Kek Lok Si Temple’s undeniable grandeur and deep cultural roots makes it an agreeable item to add to your list of must-see Penang attractions!

But remember that this is the same thought other Penang visitors have too!

So if you can, avoid going on peak seasons like public holiday and weekends! And plan your visit early in the morning!

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