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.
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.
No rain. I guess the afternoon squall has finally decided to halt. I just got out of Wat Pho and noticed I still have enough time to explore another temple that afternoon. The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun is just across Chao Phraya river. Just a short walk from Wat Pho is the ferry terminal to cross the river. Only 3.50 baht and I’m across the river in less than 10 minutes.
I realized I was already encircling around the perimeter walls of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. I was walking under heavy rain and squeezing my way through the crowd of black-garbed Thai mourners of the recently passed King at the roadsides. Thai people adore King Bhumibol Adulyadej and it shows. As I got into the Grand Palace, I saw bus loads of tourist waiting to get in. I only have less than two hours left and paying 500 THB along with this crowd didn’t appeal to me. So I left. Then there’s Wat Pho I remember passing by earlier. I retraced my route to the back of the palace. Drenched and tired, I just wanted a nice place to sit. I was thrilled that there were less people here at Wat Pho. I paid my 50 THB entrance fee which comes with a free bottle of mineral water and went on to explore the temple grounds.
Our eyes were drawn to this bright orange complex amidst a vast field of agricultural land. For a nonsecular destination like Tomohon in North Sulawesi, whose majority of population flocks to their Cristian Churches, seeing a pagoda, a stupa and a distinct Buddhist temple in this area was almost an oddity in itself. The Vihara Buddhayana Tomohon is one of the rare place of worship for the Buddhist minority in North Sulawesi that has become an attraction by the roadside in Desa Kakaskasen III in Tomohon.
I squint my eyes as I look towards the afternoon sun. A large imposing silhouette loomed before me hiding a visage of one of the worlds sacred and impressive monuments, the Borobudur Temple (Candi Borobudur). This huge Buddhist monument, which is also listed in UNESCO’s world heritage list, almost had the same awe-factor I had when I saw Angkor Wat for the first time. I walk towards this colossal stupa with excitement to discover closely this place which name has already enchanted me for some time.
The great glory of travel, to me, is not just what I see that’s new to me in countries visited, but that in almost every one of them I change from an outsider looking in to an insider looking out.
The gentle early morning chill accompanied us as we climbed the ancient stairs of this 8th century monument. Flash lights beam on our path as we made our way on the top of the largest single Buddhist monument in the world, the Borobudur. Like the other great monuments in Southeast Asia like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Luang Prabang in Laos or Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur has also been one of my dream destinations. And here I am standing on its upper levels, marvelling at Borobudur under the dawn sky, waiting for the light to reveal your magnificence.
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