Several months ago, I spontaneously signed up for a 10 km run for Penang Bridge Marathon after knowing that a few high school friends had registered. I have never been to the city and thought that this would be worth a trip. It was. How I went to joining a run when I sighed if I needed to walk more than half a kilometre will be a story for another time.
A funny story, actually. This was my first time using Air Asia since the opening of KLIA2. After the move, it was more convenient to travel to the second airport via the KLIA Express train. The airport was huge, but I managed to find my way to the departure hall, thanks to the kind samaritan who pointed me in the right way. With no check-in luggage, I speed walk to the departure gate. It was such a long way! My heart skipped a beat when I arrived before the schedule departure time, the gate read in bold capital red letters “CLOSED”. I took my chances and walked straight in, as though I didn’t see the sign, and showed my boarding pass to the lady at the counter. Thankfully, they let me through. The flight was delayed for 20 minutes – probably the reason they let me through in the first place), and by nine thirty in the morning, I was in Penang!
Note: While writing this post, I researched and realized that the boarding gate for domestic flights (flight numbers beginning with AK) closes 30 minutes instead of 10 minutes (just like domestic MAS flights) before schedule departure. Oops, lesson learnt!
Penang Day 1 – 15 November 2014
I met up with J and Ig at the airport, who arrived an hour earlier. We had a mutual friend who was kind enough to offer us accommodation – thank you Ida. 🙂 I wasn’t close to them in high school and it seemed nice to see their group dynamic and the fruits of 10 years friendship. Her flatmate, T, offered us a ride to our first destination, breakfast! After getting lost (many roads were closed due to constructions), we finally found a nice dimsum place at Red Tea House Dim Sum. Penang dubbed the city with best street food in Asia and my first meal here certainly validated this expectations. Best of all, it was cheap; RM88 for these!
My next stop was meeting a former teacher at Queensbay mall, Y. She was still the same warm self. We had a nice chat as we reminisce about the past and talked about the present. As I was staying for just a night, I piroritise what I wanted to see first; the Kek Lok Si temple. I had planned to explore this side of Penang by myself, contemplating between a bus or a taxi, but it was a warm surprise when Y was not only kind enough to offer me a ride, but accompany me up to the temple. Thank you!
Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si temple is the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia. This place of worship is famous for its 30.2-metre (99 ft) bronze statue of the Kuan Yin statue and a seven-tier pagoda. The temple is beautiful, rustic with a sense of calmness. Although I hardly frequent the temple, this visit was a perfect place to be at ease.
Before the visit, I read many personal blogs and articles about the temple; most mentioned quite a number of flight of stairs before reaching the temple. I was a bit worried ascending the stairs will take up most of my energy for the run. However, the steps were wide and steep so it wasn’t as energy consuming as I expected. Perhaps it was the anticipation at the top that gave me all the adrenaline to push one steps forward at the time.
At the temple, you can choose to visit the Kuan Yin statue or the pagoda first. To get to both places, we had to take the funicular, which cost about RM3 per person.
Kuan Yin statue
I opted for the Kuan Yin statue first and after a short wait, I saw the magnificent statue with my own eyes. There were other statues such as the twelve zodiac animals and cute monkeys. Since I was there, I prayed to the Kuan Yin statue, as many others do.
I’m not sure what this statue is, but it sure seemed like a protector to the Goddess of Mercy.
For a ringgit, you
This side of the temple was a lot quieter, people taking their time embracing the stillness of the air. I climbed the seven tiers pagoda and the view of Penang at the top was beautiful. A little fun fact about the pagoda:
In 1930, the seven storey main pagoda of the temple or the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, was completed. This pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base with a middle tier of Thai design, and a Burmese crown; reflecting the temple’s embrace of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.
That evening, we went to Komtar to meet up with the rest of them. I met two of Id friends, G and C. G drove us around and upon my special request, Tesco to get bananas for the run tomorrow. We feasted at a nearby open air restaurant and head back to Ida’s place soon, excited about the run the following day…
Update (21/12): That evening, Id brought us to a cafe that sells cronuts, a combination of croissants and donuts! Here’s to cronuts and hot chocolate and an evening well spent!