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.
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.
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.
After exploring adventure-filled destinations in the outskirts of the main capital, we’re excited to wander finally through Taipei, Taiwan’s metropolitan city. And what better place to start than Dadaocheng, where some of the country’s oldest streets are found. There are more than a 100 year old culture and businesses that still thrive until this day. We had a full afternoon to experience the dazzling array of sights, sounds and even taste as we walk through the lively and charming Dihua street.
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.
I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Six years is quite a long time to return to a place. Hanoi was such a favorite destination of mine back then. Yes I’ve treaded the streets of the Old Quarter before, went to an overnight cruise at Ha Long Bay and even enjoyed the misty coolness of Sapa Valley during my first visit in Northern Vietnam. But I don’t mind going back to see what has changed that’s why I didn’t think twice when an invite for a familiarization tour of Hanoi, organized by Cebu Pacific Air and Stratworks came in the email. There’s the certain comfort of stepping back into the familiar and also a certain anxiety to see how things have transitioned from now to then.