Recently I took a trip with friends to visit the Kek Lok Si temple (The Temple of Bliss) in the Air Itam section of Penang. I had last visited the temple over 4 years ago before I moved to Penang. Kek Lok Si temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Malaysia. Construction of the temple began in 1890 and is still going on to some degree or other. The temple is constructed with Chinese, Thai and Burmese design influences. As you drive up the hill, you can park and walk up to the to entrance to the temple complex. A visitor has the choice of walking up stairs to the top of the temple or taking the tram. At the entrance there is are souvenir shops and a restaurant. There is also a staircase you can transcend to the inner depths of the temple where you find hundreds of small shops.
The purpose of my recent visit was not tourism, but to buy special souvenirs to bring back to my nieces on my upcoming visit to the US. I wanted to get my niece's 3 little girls some traditional Chinese clothing and dolls dressed in traditional Malaysian dress. These dolls are very difficult to find in Penang and my best bet was to look here. As we began our trek downward into what seemed to be the bowels of the temple we passed the koi pond and the "Liberation Pond", which contains hundreds of turtles, which the Chinese consider symbols of longevity. The farther we walked down into the depths, the hotter and more humid it became. After visiting about 20 or so souvenir stalls we found the clothing and the dolls. Apparently the dolls are not being made any more, as they are hand made and labor intensive and do not fetch a good enough price.
I highly recommend a visit to Kek Lok Si temple for anyone visiting Penang or anyone who lives here. You can also visit the nearby Penang Hill and take the tram to its top. If you go in the middle of the week you can avoid the crowds. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.