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In a nutshell A lovely excursion covering the nature and religion of the Malaysian island of Penang: we admire spectacular views over the capital from the top of Penang hill accessed via a funicular railway and visit the Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si with the famous pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas and its combination of architectural styles capturing the true essence of this part of Malaysia.

Main stops
  • Funicular railway ride to Penang Hill
  • Spectacular views over the island and Georgetown
  • Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple: Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, Sacred Turtle Pond

The programme
  • We start our tour on a comfortable coach headed to Penang Hill, locally known also as “Bukit Bendera” (in the Malay language, bukit means “hill”). It reaches a height of 833 metres, is made up of granite and is home to a thick jungle.
  • Once at the foothills of the hill, we get ready to board the funicular railway, opened to the public in 1923 after almost 20 years of construction. It is one of the oldest functioning funiculars in all of Asia. We reach the top of the hill in just a few minutes and enjoy spectacular panoramic views over most of the island, including the capital of Georgetown, the bridge connecting it to the mainland and the Strait of Malacca.
  • From a naturalistic point of view, Penang hill is home to a wide range of native trees and plants. In addition, most of the bird species that inhabit the island can be observed here.
  • After visiting the hill, we take the funicular railway back down and discover another Georgetown gem: the Chinese Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si, the largest still-functioning Buddhist temple in south-east Asia.
  • Its construction began in 1890 and the monastery complex and religious site has expanded ever since - the pagoda, whose construction ended in 1930, made the site famous up to the 21st century and is known as the pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas due to its countless alabaster and bronze Buddha statues.
  • The main buildings surround an artificial lake and garden called the “Liberation Pond” or Sacred Turtle Pond as it is inhabited by hundreds of turtles. According to Chinese tradition, in fact, turtles are a symbol of longevity, strength and patience. “Freeing” one in the artificial pond is supposed to bring good fortune.
  • A bronze statue depicting the Buddhist divinity Kuan Yin (the so-called “Buddha of Mercy”) was added in 2002. It is 30 metres tall and is located in the tallest part of Kek Lok Si. As can be observed, the temple and monastery complex feature architectural elements of different styles (Thai, Chinese and Burmese) as well as ornaments of various species and time periods made of a variety of materials.
  • After visiting the temple, we return to the port and our ship.

Good to know
  • The funicular railway has limited seating and long queues can be created
  • The Kek Lok Si Temple has a flight of 100 steps.
  • Entrance to Pagoda at Kek Lok Si is not included.