Penang: Heritage in Hues Part 3 – End

PROLOGUE

Nothing religious about the next story of my journey. Not even if religious buildings are the centre stage of my post. My only belief is that “Heritage in Hues” will be lack of hues without showing enchanting temples worth to see on this island. I purposely created a separate post from part 1 and 2 to show ornamented details of each temple I managed to visit. Having nearly zero knowledge about Buddhism, religious events and all the carvings couldn’t stop me from appreciating and admiring the beauty of craftsmanship and vibrant colours in these sacred places of worship. It didn’t take a genius to enjoy them wholeheartedly. Especially in limited time.

GODDESS OF MERCY TEMPLE

Goddess of Mercy Temple (Kong Hock Keong) is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy, and Ma Chor Po, the patron saint of sea voyagers.

I’m not the only one who accidentally snapped the green shirt grandpa with his walking stick. I recognize the same grandpa appearing in other images of this temple on internet.

These birds are not meant for pets. They will be released from their cage as part of a religious event.

The sacred temple was crowded with worshippers burning and raising incense sticks to seek answers for their prayers. The strong smell from the incense sticks forced us to hold our breath several times and the thick smoke lead our eyes in tears. I squeezed among the crowds to be in the corner part of the temple to capture this moment without disturbing the religious activity. Thank God the pilgrims didn’t care much of their surroundings. Perhaps they are used to with bunch of curious tourists visiting the oldest temple in Penang, which is still actively in use.

KHOO KONGSI CLAN HOUSE

As we got off the bus, we were skeptical with the surroundings. We only saw regular shophouses, some were closed and untreated, middle class residential areas and a soccer field. No sign of a majestic edifice, proudly called “The Heritage Jewel of Penang” on its postcard, has ever existed. We finally found a shophouse lookalike entrance door at Cannon Street, the oldest part of George Town, after asking the locals about the road direction to the temple.

The temple façade is as stunning as what people said, and that’s not it. Go upstairs to see the peak of its beauty.

Khoo Kongsi is the clan house of Khoo family who migrated to Penang from Sin Kang clan village in Hokkien province of China. Khoo family was one of the richest Straits Chinese traders in early Penang and Malacca back in 17th century. Initially, the Khoo ancestors built a clan house in 1851, which was burnt down in 1894 by lightning strikes. However, some believed that the angry Gods were the cause of destruction triggered by the clan house’s resemblance to the emperor’s palace.

One of the rooftop details of the clan house

In 1902, the less grandiose version of the clan house was re-erected and finished in 1906. The temple is a family temple to respect the passing predecessors and a place to keep ancestral tablets. Wait a second – less grandiose a.k.a simpler?? I can’t imagine how magnificent the old clan house was. If I were the God of Jealousy, I would burn it down once more because it beauty exceeds my present palace. ;p

Passing through the red door is the starting point to be up, close and personal to the history and family tree of the wealthy Khoo family

Rickshaws are part of tourist attractions, but the rate is way too touristic for me. Compared to these rickshaws, taxis without meter are cheaper. Some shophouses situated around the clan house surroundings are being renovated. Those days, its neighbourhood was like a clan’s village where governmental activities including finance, welfare and education were held. These activities contributed a strong influence for civilization in Penang.

KEK LOK SIE 

We only had an hour to visit the largest Buddhist complex in Southeast Asia before its closing time at 6 pm. It could be enough although we had to sacrifice a bit of enjoyment of the visit. It was our last day in Penang, so we had no choice.

Kek Lok Sie, meaning “Temple of Supreme Bliss” in Hokkien, is the only Buddhist temple we visited outside the Heritage City George Town. It is situated on the hill of Air Itam town. Built in 1890, it took more than 20 years to complete the execution and it is still in ongoing process to expand, funded by the affluent Chinese community.

The Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas with its seven tier was completed in 1930. Its architecture is a combination of a Chinese octagonal base, a Thai middle tier and a Burmese crown.

Colourful ribbons represent wishes. Each ribbon, which has different Chinese inscriptions, is put on the table with the following English translations in front of it, for instance wisdom, health, wealth, success, prosperity etc. Visitors can write their name(s) and wish(es) on their chosen ribbon. Then, the temple officials hang them on the twigs that makes it look like a “tree of wishes”.

The other option is to write it on a roof tile. I preferred writing it on a ribbon as it is more colourful and I loved seeing my handwriting hanging on a “tree”. Moreover, the markers they provided to write on a roof tile were non-permanent ink. Since they really place the written roof tiles on rooftops, it won’t be a good news if one day the pouring rain washes away the marker ink.

I’ve made myself clear: I was there!

The Kuan Yin Goddess statue and its pavilion was completed in 2009.

Turtles on a turtle pond located inside the temple complex

After the turtle pond, we passed through the hallway with lots of souvenir shops on both right and left side. At the same time, the cab driver who drove us to the temple waited for us outside.

This vintage optical ad was seen on the hallway, marking the last thing I photographed before I left Penang

EPILOGUE

I could have selected only the best to share up to 10 images max, but I decided not to. I’d rather show several particular details I loved while visiting these wonderful places. It’s hard to tell that the carvings on the left wing room is better than the right one, for instance. Each element should be embraced as a whole, depicting harmony and unity of the architecture, as well as the interior.

En gros, Penang is all about showing off its Southeast Asian heritage to the world, from historical buildings (Straits Chinese shophouses, mansions, places of worship, town hall), delicious street food until peaceful environment and friendly people. Apart from that, many Indonesians come to Penang to get more affordable medical check-up in a hospital. Of course I wish you all are in great health, therefore you can put the hospital thing aside.

The heritage presented with full colour of life, art and culture – that’s what I love best.  I just don’t see any other reasons not to call it “Heritage in Hues”.

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