As good as my cooking class was yesterday, I suspect the shrimp paste used in a few dishes gave me a hint of gout. Luckily though walking is good for gout and helps break down the crystals formed in the joints, so I headed out for today’s two must visit places when in Penang. The first stop for the day was Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple. I’ve seen my fair share of Buddhist temples and also hiked up hills to many. Kek Lok Si, fortunately, is perched on the side of the hill and my taxi dropped me off at the door.
The temple complex is a big maze of pleasantly cooled Buddhist gift shops, prayer halls and pagoda like temples. Near the entrance the pagoda of the thousand Buddhas dominates, but I’m unable to find a way up to the pagoda itself. The pagoda comprises of three architecture styles with the bottom being built in a Chinese style, the middle in a Thai style and the top is Burmese.
There is however something more dominant in this Buddhist temple complex. At first I just naturally assumed what I could see was a giant statue of Buddha underneath a giant roof. Fortunately, the local Buddhists are not forced to walk up the steep hill and can take buddhas elevator up to the statue. It was more like a funicular than an elevator, as it went up the hill at an angle, although each elevator functioned independently of the other, unlike funiculars.
It turns out the statue was a 30-metre bronze statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. It was originally built without its roof, which was finished about 10 years ago. Its the tallest statue of Guanyin in the world, but I personally can’t remember ever hearing of Guanyin or seeing another Guanyin statue, so that might have been an easy record to take.
I caught buddhas elevator back down and headed to the Penang Hill funicular. Now the funicular was a true funicular in that one carriage goes up while the other comes down. It was also a very steep and fast funicular, based on my broad funicular experiences (I rarely turn them down). The temperature drop at the top of the hill was refreshing and pleasant. I spent a lot of time just wandering around scouting out what there was to do up on the top of the hill. I already knew that the owl and camera museum were small and offensive in price thanks to the internet. There were a variety of other things, but nothing took my fancy and it was nice to just appreciate the cooler climate, although the views were not great due to the low cloud and high humidity in Georgetown below.
I headed back down and after a pitstop for some yummy lunch and to arrange tomorrows travel, I headed down to the clan docks of Georgetown. The clan docks are small villages built out along the docks that the Chinese clans used for trading back in the days that Georgetown was a major trading hub. Occasionally you get glimpses through gaps in the jetty of the sea below and as I got towards the end of the jetty, there were open areas where the boats were tied up. These days every second house is a shop of some kind and I had no issue resisting the durian ice cream.
So that brings an end to my adventures in Georgetown. I didn’t get to eat everything I wanted to try and I left out a visit to the National Park, due to the humidity and heat. I’m catching the ferry to the mainland tomorrow and then a train to Kuala Lumpur, for the rest of my week.