Curry History and A Visit to Kek Lok Si Temple
When you are visiting Asia it is very easy to get temple fatigue. Similar to churches in Mexico or Italy, you find that after your third or fourth one you just can't summon up any enthusiasm for them no matter how spectacular they may be. We find the only antidote is to limit exposure, that way when you visit you can still feel the sense of wonder and beauty.
Built in 1891, one of the most beautiful and visited temple complexes in Penang is Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple. We first visited here 21 years ago when we stayed here for our wedding but our memories were a little rusty. This time we took the bus, well two buses actually, from our apartment in Tanjung Tokong. We switched up at Komtar bus station to the 203, which took us to Air Itam wet market at the base of the temple.
From the market you have to walk up quite a few stairs to get to the actual entrance of the temple. The whole area is kind of dirty, with litter strewn everywhere. It amazes me wherever you go in the world, places of amazing beauty can be surrounded by such squalor. The steps are flanked with stalls selling the usual touristy crap. Power on through to get to the top where there is a Tortoise Liberation Pond that is teeming with turtles. Hundreds and hundreds of them.
Once you get into the temple complex itself it is very beautiful. The pagoda looks stunning against the deep blue sky and the statues are intricately created. There are hundreds of Buddha statues and amazing carvings and art. For a few ringgit you can get crammed into a funicular train that takes you up to the large statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. At almost 100 feet high it's an impressive sight. They are currently constructing a large pavilion over the statue presumable to protect it. It's actually quite fascinating to see something as it is being constructed. Similar to how I felt visiting the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona but on a smaller scale.
The temple is definitely worth visiting and is one of my favorite sights on the island. After trekking back down the stairs we decided to take part in another piece of history. We had heard about the Sisters Curry Mee from our favorite Malaysia cooking You Tube channel Nyonya Cooking. She visited here and we knew we had to follow in her footsteps.
These two sisters Kooi Heang and Kooi Lye, have been cooking the traditional Hokkein chinese dish of Curry Mee at Air Itam market since 1946. 70 years! We found their stall half way down the main street (turn where the small stream passes under the bridge) and got there just in time before they stopped serving at 1pm. We were greeted with big smiles and generosity as the two sisters sit and stir the pots and serve up the steaming bowl of noodles. Apparently they get up at 4.30am every day to prepare the food. We had a bowl each and it was delicious. As the guy next to me said - these are antiques, the food and the ladies.
Enough history for one day, culturally and nutritionally fed it was time to catch the bus and take our sweaty selves back into an air conditioned environment. For more photos of the temple, see our Facebook Album