|This doesn't even begin to capture the scope of this place.|
Kek Lok Si (Temple of Supreme Bliss) is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia and one of the major sightseeing spots in Penang. Chinese New Year is an especially good time to visit it because it is lit up by thousands of lanterns at night. Imagine the biggest Christmas light display in your town. Now, imagine that it's the only light display in town. That's how magnificent the site is perched on a hill above the city.
I had heard that Kek Lok Si is extremely crowded this time of year with some people waiting in a traffic jam for hours to get in. So, I somewhat justified my lack of planning and total disregard for children's bedtimes when we drove right up at 9:45 p.m. and immediately found a parking spot. The boys were reluctant participants (to put it mildly) but my little girl thought the lights were beautiful.
|Prayer lamps hung in remembrance of those who have passed on.|
This temple complex is huge. There are several large halls, prayer rooms and courtyards with a dizzying array of Buddhas, Chinese gods and Bodhisattvas. Steps lead us up higher and higher through the terraced levels.
I even learned something when I went home and Googled the swastikas that were painted on the ends of support beams for one hall. The swastika symbol represents eternity and has been used by Buddhists since centuries before Jesus walked the Earth. In East Asia, counterclockwise swastikas often mark the location of Buddhist temples on maps. At least, that's what the collective minds at Wikipedia tell me.
At one point, I reached a man semi-guarding a partially closed door. "Can lah?" I asked which is perfectly acceptable Manglish (a mix of English and Malay languages) to find out if we could go through. He shook his head no but proceeded to permit pushier people to enter. So, I just barged ahead through the door, too.
|These joss sticks filled the air with incense.|
We made our way up into a hall filled with joss sticks and pineapple-shaped jars holding oil candles. The kids were particularly attracted to the wishing tree. For a small donation, you could select a ribbon pre-printed with a wish. Each of the kids selected one to hang on the tree. My sweet, little girl picked out "World Peace." My younger boy picked out "Everything as You Wish."
Well, he must have some mighty strong wishing power because the lights in the temple started going off. At first, I thought it was some fluke since there were still plenty of tourists around and that they'd turn them on again. Or maybe they'd flash them on and off a few times to let us know it was time to leave. Nope, they were being turned off for good. My boy who had been asking "When are we leaving?" ever since we arrived 15 minutes earlier was getting his wish. Perhaps I should have listend to that guard.
We started making our way down through the many terraces and stairs. At first, the remaining lanterns lit our way, but after a while, even those were off. Luckily, some well-prepared tourist had brought along a strong flashlight and was kind enough to shine it on the stone steps for everyone.
On the drive home, we listened to Whitney Houston singing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on the radio, not realizing that she'd be gone the next day.
I tucked in the kids hours past bedtime and asked my oldest if there was any teeny-tiny redeeming part about our excursion. He thought about it for a second then replied, "Well, if my wish for 'Success in Everything' comes true, I guess it was okay."
May all your wishes come true, too.