Places to see in Penang

Places to see-

1.Fort Cornwallis

Penang Island, as of today, is synonymous with its delectable hawker fare and its trails of heritage buildings and walkway. Among the many infamous historical landmarks of Penang Island -the Fort Cornwallis, which has a rich history of more than two centuries, stands out in the forefront. It is today, the largest and most intact fort that can be found in Malaysia.

Fort Cornwallis history dated back to the starting point when Sir Captain Francis Light from the British East India Company, first landed on the island with his crew in the year 1786. He was to take possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah back then, to serve as a base or stop-over for the British company's spice and silk trading route.

In order to protect the base from any foreign military forces, pirates and even Kedah itself, Francis Light decided to build a fort on the cape of the island's north eastern coast, overlooking the sea-where he first set foot. The initial simple fort was made out of only 'nibong' palm trunks as stockades, without any concrete structures. Francis Light named the fort after the Governor General in Bengal at that time-Charles Cornwallis. The fort was only reinforced with bricks years later again by Francis Light but under a different Governor, designing it as a star-shape, covering approximately 418 square feet.

And though, the intention of the fort was built to withhold and defend attacks from enemy invasions, apparently no battles ever occurred throughout the headship of the British company at the fort. In the end, it is used more for administrative and storage base rather than a combat ground.

When visiting the fort, the five major must-see artefacts are, first and foremost, the statue of the legendary Sir Captain Francis Light. In fact, no visitors would be able to miss the statue of Francis Light as its positioned overlooking the fort entrance, greeting visitors. The bronze statue was sculpted by F.J. Wilcoxson in the year 1936 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Francis Light's historic landing. Today, this statue, even though was sculptured based on his son, William Light's picture, it is undeniably one of the famous icons associated with the history of the colonial era of Penang Island.

2.Kek Lok Si Temple

The Kek Lok Si Temple is a Buddhist temple situated in Air Itam in Penang and is one of the best known temples on the island.

Mahayana Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals blend into a harmonious whole, both in the temple architecture and artwork as well as in the daily activities of worshippers.

The construction of the temple began in 1890 and was inspired by the chief monk of the Goddess of Mercy Temple at Pitt Street. With the support of the consular representative of China in Penang, the project received the sanction of the Manchu Emperor Guangxu, who bestowed a tablet and gift of 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras.

The primary benefector of the Kek Lok Si Temple in 1906 was none other than Kapitan Chung Keng Quee.

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.

In 2002, a 30.2m bronze statue of the Kuan Yin was completed and opened to public. The statue is located on the hillside above the pagoda.
A temple in the making

As the fairly recent date mentioned above may suggest, the temple is still growing. Generous donations from the affluent Chinese community allow the construction of additional buildings. The current focus is to create an ornate shelter for the Kuan Yin statue. 16 carved dragon pillars are being built, the concentric roof will be inspired by classical Ming architecture, reminiscent of the roof of Prayer Hall for Good Harvest in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
Visiting the Temple

Most visitors approach the temple as they ascend a stairway, roofs of which provide shelter to a multitude of shops selling souvenirs and other-mostly secular -commodities. They pass by a so-called Liberation Pond, following the buddhist tradition of merit-making, turtles may be released into freedom, albeit a limited one.

The temple itself consists of several large hall for assembly and prayer, here, statues of Buddha, various Bodhisattvas as well as Chinese gods are being venerated. Intricate woodwork, often brightly painted and a plethora of laterns add to the visual impression.

There is an inclined lift to carry pilgrims and visitors further uphill. On the elevated platform, you can find a pond filled with Koi and the towering statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, which can also be regarded as Avalokitheshvara, Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion.

The Temple brightly illuminated during the 33 nights following Chinese New Year

3Khoo Kongsi

Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, or Khoo Kongsi for short, is one of the most distinctive Chinese clan associations in Malaysia. It is well known worldwide for its extensive lineage that can be traced back 650 years, as well as its closely-knit and defensive congregation of buildings and a magnificent clanhouse.

Surprisingly, famous as it is, its location appears to be unknown to many Penangites. It is situated at the southwest of Georgetown, and its pivotal building, Leong San Tong, is hidden amidst the crowded gridiron of terrace houses and shophouses. To make it to Leong San Tong, which is perhaps the most majestic clanhouse in South East Asia, you will need to tread through an alley between two rows of 19th century terrace houses and bypass the opera stage, before you see it stand majestically on the granite square.

Khoo Kongsi, together with Cheah, Yeoh, Lim and Tan Kongsi, were known as the Five Big Clans (Goh Tai Seh) that formed the backbone of the Hokkien community in early Penang. Since mid-19th century, having identified their respective bases, these kongsi rooted themselves in an area stretching from Chulia Street Ghaut in Georgetown to the lower part of Beach Street in the south. With the respective clanhouses as the nuclei, these kongsi demarcated their territories with their own terrace houses on three or four sides of the perimeters. This adjoining, closely-knit and defensive model settlement, like a clan village in the colonial city, is a rare form of congregation practised among migrant communities.

4.Snake Temple

The origins of snake temples and snake worship go back thousands of years. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the snake represented many things to different religions -he was Apollo (the moon god) to the Grecians or Ra (the sun god) to the Egyptians.

The snake has also been variously described as a phallic deity, as a solar deity and as a god of death. The ancient Toltec and Aztec peoples worshipped a colourful feathered serpent called Quetzalcoatl, a half-divine, half-human being who was the great teacher of mankind.

In the field of medicine, the staff of Aesculapius with a coiled serpent became the traditional symbol of medicine and healing. It is told in Genesis that Moses held up a bronze serpent on a staff to cure the Jews of snakebite.

Closer to home, the Hindus, Burmese and Siamese people worshiped the snake as a demon who also had good aspects. The present-day worship of Krishna and Vishnu includes elements borrowed from primitive Hindu snake cults. The shedding of the snake's skin is interpreted by Buddhists as a form of regenerative power.

In China the serpent assumes the form of a dragon, a mythical being which is both fierce yet protective. In Penang, the so-called snake temple was actually built to honour a human deity -the snakes appeared soon after completion of the building.
Snake temple in honour of a famous healer

The fame of Penang's snake temple goes back a long way. Two postcards which are believed to date back to the 40s show the temple's altar replete with coiled snakes.

During its heyday, the temple reputedly drew hundreds of local and foreign visitors daily.

The scene inside the temple and outside was one of festivity, what with the many stalls selling souvenirs and other items, and the temple hall jam packed with devotees and visitors.

Even today, thousands of devotees make a trip to this "Temple of the Azure Cloud" or "Pure Cloud Temple" (as it is called) during the birthday celebrations of the resident deity, Chor Soo Kong which occurs thrice yearly, on the 6th days of the first, sixth and eleventh months of the lunar calendar respectively.

Local devotees as well as those from as far away as Europe and neighbouring countries in Asia bring offerings of candles, incense and eggs (for the snakes).

Holding aloft sticks of burning incense like bouquets of flowers, devotees turn their gaze heavenward and utter silent yet fervent prayers and making personal wishes. If faith can move mountains, then the large turnout during the deity's anniversary must surely be testament to his powers in working miracles.

A monk journeying to Penang from China in the 1800s had in his possession the statue of a famous deity called Cheng-Swee Chor-Soo or Chor Soo Kong, whose name means "an eminent historic figure who is continuously revered by a community generation after generation".

The monk also brought with him myths and legends of this particular deity's power in healing sickness and granting favours to believers. Thus when British resident David Brown (owner of Glugor Estate) heard of this deity and was subsequently cured of an illness in 1873 after praying to him, he donated a tract of land so a temple may be built in homage of the deity who healed him. It is on this land which the Snake Temple has stood for over a century.

The architecture of the temple is a design commonly found in Southern China. Three dimensional sculptures constructed using a technique knows as Chien Nien (cut and paste) from shards of coloured porcelain decorate the roof.

Legend has it that after the temple was built, snakes from the surrounding forest mysteriously appeared in the building. Sensing this phenomenon as a good omen, the monk immediately gave shelter to the snakes and allowed them to take up residence in the sacred halls. They were even allowed to breed.

A 600 pound bell made in China during the Manchurian Dynasty (1886) still hangs in the main hall.

It is rung on the 1st and 15th days of every month of the Chinese calendar to invite the denizens of heaven and hell to pray.

5.Penang Ferry -

Penang Ferry began its operations in 1920, making it the oldest ferry service in Malaysia. These iconic ferries ply between the Seberang Perai mainland and Penang island, ferrying both passengers and vehicles to and from the island.

The 15 minute ferry ride allows visitors to enjoy the spectacular view of Penang island and serves as a reliable mode of transportation to and from the island.

Originally painted in a ubiquitous betel nut orange colour,with the government's initiative, the ferries have been beautifully and brightly painted as a project to beautify the ferries.

A fleet of eight ferries, named after the many beautiful islands in Malaysia, the ferries are named Pulau Pinang, Pulau Payar, Pulau Angsa, Pulau Kapas, Pulau Rimau, Pulau Undan, Pulau Rawa and Pulau Talang-Talang ply the waters. Penang Port is unique, in that it is the only port in Malaysia that runs a ferry service, linking Georgetown on Penang Island (Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda) and Butterworth on the mainland (Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim)

Today, Penang Port Sdn. Bhd. (PPSB) manages the ferry service.

PPSB operates a fleet of eight ferries, with the first ferry departure from Butterworth at 0600 hours, with the last at 0030 hours; and the first departure from Penang Island at 0530 hour, with the last at 0100 hour.

6.St. George's Church-

St. George's Church can be found nested under the shade of majestic mahogany trees on the corner of Farquhar Street and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. Founded by Reverend Robert Hutchings and built between 1817 and 1818 with funds from the East India Company, St. George's Church is the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia. With its Grecian columns, louvred doors and pitched roof, which was added in 1864 to withstand the tropical climate, St. George's architecture reflects Anglo-Indian and Georgian Palladian influences.

Though its white paint has worn off a little, the exterior of St. George's Curch remains the same as it was before WWII. Most of the walls, porch, columns and pillars survived bombing by the Japanese, and in fact, more damage was done by looters. For seven years from 1941, the church had no roof and suffered at the hands of pillagers. Today, only the baptismal font and bishop's chair remain of the church's original fixtures. Prior to 1941, St. George's held at least 24 memorials commemorating important persons who died in the 19th century, each with it's own impressive monument and wordy inscription. One of the more interesting memorials that remains today is that of Governor Fullerton's wife, Harriet, who was known to be an exacting mistress. Fearing his servants would make good on their threat to violate Harriet's grave, the governor staged a mock funeral in a cemetery and secretly interred his wife's body in the church after dark.

St. George's lawn also hosts a rather special memorial to Captain Francis Light in a structure reminiscent of a circular Greek temple. In the inscription which was supposedly dedicated by the natives and settlers says that the good captain is hailed as a governor who "watched over their cares and interests as a father".

7-Tow Boo Kong Temple Butterworth

Tow Boo Kong Temple Butterworth began as an attap shed on a rented plot of land in 1970. In 1974, a piece of land was purchased to build a small temple. It was completed on the same year and was officially used as a place of worship. Due to future development plans, a second plot of land was purchased in 1986.

In 1994, the temple committee decided to rebuild a new Tow Boo KongTemple. On 26 April 2000, the temple with a total land area 40,000 square feet, was officially completed at a cost of RM7 million.
And in year 2008, an entrance arch which cost about RM1.5 million was completed

There are also two idols of the door generals (Mui Sin). This spectacular door piece with intricate carving is crafted from a single tree trunk and they have gold leaves pasted on it.
Dou Mu, the mother in the Taoist Pantheon, sat in the centre of the hall altar while the Nine Emperor Gods is seated below the goddess on the same altar.

The most respectful place in the temple. This sanctuary houses the Urn of the Nine Emperor Gods
and only certain members of the temple, who is
specially selected by the God, are allowed to enter.
During the Nine Emperor God's festival, this Urn is taken to the sea to welcome the Gods back to the temple.

Inner CourtyardThe inner courtyard, with a dragon spewing water from its mouth, stood majestically in this part of the temple. This stone curve is huge, stunning and has 9 magnificent dragons craved on it.
There is also a large painting of a 100 children on the wall opposite the fountain. It is believed that the painting signifies the continuity of generation.

Dou Mu Niang Niang or Tow Boo Neo Neo sits in the deepest and most revered place of the temple. Two other deities are also placed in this prayer hall; the are Deity Lam Sin and Deity Pak Tao.

Write your comment now