Pardon me while I pop my eyes back into my head.
During the two week period of Chinese New Year – and sometimes a week or two afterward – the huge Kek Lok Si Temple complex in Air Hitam, Penang glitters with 10,000+ colorful lights and lanterns. It’s simply breathtaking and remarkably peaceful.
Chinese New Year came to a close a few days ago, and while the word was that the temple would be dark after the holiday ended, a friend who lives near there told me the lights are still up, so I raced there last night to check it out and had the place virtually to myself. The temple is aglow – literally – with beautiful red and yellow lanterns strung in corridors and beneath every ceiling. Pink, blue, white, and green lights cascade down plants, hillsides and rooftops like rainbow fireflies. Buddhas glow in soft pools of twinkling color. People hug and kids twirl in garden courtyards beneath illuminated lanterns swaying in the breeze. And from the top of the pagoda, you get to see the whole sparkling complex with the city lights beyond. Wait, why am I telling you this when I can just show you?
Pretty gorgeous, huh? I’ll post more photos below, but pictures don’t do it justice – there’s something magical about seeing it in person.
Heavy traffic on the narrow streets leading to the temple often discourages people from visiting – during the height of Chinese New Year, it took our friend Amit 1.5 hours to drive the last 1km up to the temple. But here’s a little secret for you: if you get there an hour before sunset, or visit right after Chinese New Year, you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the spectacular lights without any of those pesky homicidal thoughts brought on by traffic jams.
Don’t let traffic scare you off – it’s definitely worth a visit.
Where: Kek Lok Si Temple, Air Hitam, Penang
When: During Chinese New Year, and sometimes a week or two after. Note: The temple parking lots close around 10pm
Pro-tip: Arrive well before dusk to avoid traffic. Parking can be tight, so take a bus or Uber there.
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