I wanted to end my last day in Penang with something breathtaking and worthwhile. I didn’t get my desired sunset at Kek Lok Si temple so I made sure to wake up early for the sunrise this time at Penang Hill. Hoping the odds for good light would be better. Also known as Bukit Bendera, the distinguishing peaks seen from the city of George Town is easily accessible. With only around 6km from the city center to its jump-off at Air Itam, it’s one of the favorite cool escapes for the locals and tourists alike.
I was looking for a place to take night photos in Penang when an image of a beautifully lit Kek Lok Si Temple popped up on my searches. The fantasy-land like lights of the temple would offer plenty of photo opportunities especially after sunset. Reading more, I learned that there’s a lot of superlatives going for this temple. Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and one of the largest in Southeast Asia. It has the tallest Buddhist pagoda, tallest granite pillars and the tallest statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. My interest deepened that I made sure to hop a bus at KOMTAR to Air Itam one afternoon in Penang.
The gorgeous colonial city of George Town consists of more than 12,000 old buildings and structures of varying Asian and European influences. From Charming shophouses, jetties and temples, colourful Indian temples, Muslim Mosque and British colonial government offices earning its place under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 2008. It’s a real delight to stroll around the city and feel being transported back in the old world of Penang. In 2012, Penang municipality decided to breath life into this old walls by incorporating street art into public spaces. While I love street art, done wrong can make the place messy. But seems like George Town found just the right artist for the job.
George Town’s Street of Harmony
For those who had been reading this blog for quiet a while now knows that I love to walk around when I’m new to a place. It’s my way of orienting myself with a destination. Getting a feel and really going up close to the locals. George Town is such a pleasantly walkable city. Charming old streets adorned with street art against the beautifully aged walls. I was able to rest that afternoon when I got back from my Historical George Town tour. Revitalized after a few hours rest for my walk at this city’s Street of Harmony. I’m glad to be accompanied this time by Cebuano travel blogger Brennan of Weekend Dispatch who is now based in George Town for work. After his office duties he was glad enough to show me around.
The Philippines is no stranger to water world communities or people living on stilt houses by the sea. Like the Badjao’s of Mindanao or the community of Rio Hondo in Tawi-tawi, the UNESCO-listed George Town interestingly have their own version in Clan Jetties. But unlike our communities here, these jetties are owned by different Chinese “clans” or families which often can-do merchants or rich families. There are currently seven Clan Jetties. I visited a couple including the tourist-friendly Chew Jetty. This was still part of the KKDay Historical George Town tour but I managed to return to the area for my own exploration of this intriguing seaside community.
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.
I had little sleep in transit from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. While waiting for my check-in time at my hotel, it was a good decision to go out for a cursory heritage tour of Penang with KKDay. It’s a good way to orient myself with the city of Goerge town being a first timer here. One of our early stops was the Colonial Penang Museum. It wasn’t listed on the itinerary so I wasn’t expecting much. But lo, my eyes were kept peeled from fascination with over a thousand pieces of items painting a rich history of Penang’s British colonial era. An ideal starting point that gives insight on Penang heritage.