Still in Pulau Tikus, where the Colonial Penang Museum is found, there are two significant Buddhist temples just across each other along Lorong Burma. There’s the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple and the Wat Chayamangkalaram Buddhist temple. Both vibrant and highly elaborate yet features unique characters due to their origins. The former being Burmese and the other is Thai. It shows the diversity of people who migrated in Penang during the colonial times. Still part of the KKDay Historical George Town tour, I went out of my service car to curiously explore both of these temples.
Dhammikarama Burmese Temple
I went to the Burmese temple first, probably because it’s been a long while since I last visited Burma. I terribly miss the country. The Dhammikarama Burmese Temple is quite unique as it is the only Burmese temple in Penang state. It was in August 1, 1803 when the small “Nandy Moloh Temple” was erected on a piece of land donated by a female devotee Nonya Betong. Eventually, the Burmese community grew and appealed to Queen Victoria that time for additional land. It was fortunately granted. The temple expanded and became what is known now as Dhammikarama Burmese Temple. Considered as the oldest Buddhist temple in Penang state.
Seeing the stupas jutting out over the walls from the street, it clearly is distinctive of Burmese design. From the archway, there’s an open hallway which leads to a shrine, a garden with mythical creatures, temples over a pool and apartment for monks. It looks pretty modern and sanitary. Dhammikarama Burmese Temple have gone through several renovations and improvements throughout the years. When it started, they even brought in Burmese architects to stay true to its culture and heritage. The oldest part of the temple is the enshrined stupa built in 1805. Then there’s this 200-year old community well in the garden that is no longer used since pipes were installed. But kept as a sentimental reminder of how it served the Burmese community.
Wat Chayamangkalaram Buddhist Temple
Literally just crossing the street, is Wat Chayamangkalaram Buddhist Temple. I love the colorful archway and the vast temple grounds with dragons and devas guarding the doorways of the main temple where the Sleeping Buddha slumbers. The Phra Chaiya Mongko, a 33 meter long reclining Buddha, is one of the main features of the temple. One of the longest in the world (3rd longest if I’m not mistaken), is a symbol of contentment and detachment from the world. Ayam Laksa is one of the favorite offerings in this temple as the first monk here from Siam, Phra Phorthan Kuad, considered a “powerful monk” is fond of laksa. Just behind the temple is nice looking Colombarium that resembles a large stupa.
Same as Dharmikarama, Queen Victoria donated this part of the land as a diplomatic gesture for the Siamese Rattanakosin Kingdom. Phra Phorthan kuad established the temple in 1845 and had undergone renovations and constructions through the years. It was only in 1948 when it was officially named “Wat Chayamangkalaram”. The reclining Buddha was then built in 1958 with a cost of M$ 100,000. The King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit visited the temple in 1962 as part of their state visit to Malaysia.
Both temple are quite popular areas especially during the annual Buddha Day, Songkran and Loi Krathong Festivals.
Dharmikarama Burmese Temple
24 Lorong Burma, 10250 Penang
Opening Hours: 5:00 AM – 6:00 PM
17 Lorong Burma 10250 Pulau Penang
Opening Hours: 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Main Hall 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM)
Visiting the Buddhist Temples at Pulau Tikus
These temples are close to each other and can be accessed by public transport. At Komtar or Lebuh Chulia, hop on board TransitLink bus #202, Minibus 26, 31 and 88 or Hin Bus #93.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.