Snake Temple in Penang
A beautiful example of the Penang culture
The snake temple in Penang is a good example of the extensive cultural background of the Chinese population in Penang. The temple is located in the east part of Penang on the way to the airport, in Sungai Kluang, Bayan Lepas.
The temple is easy to be found, take the bus to airport and ask the driver to stop at the temple. Buses 301, 303 and 401 can be used. The temple stands next to the main road.
The Snake Temple before the renovation, photo is on display in the temple
The Snake Temple
The Snake temple in Bayan Lepas is a very old temple. The origins dates back to 1850 when the original temple was build.
It was build in the memory of Chor Soo Kong by a Buddhist monk who had immigrated to Penang. Chor Soo Kong had healing powers. According to legends Chor Soo Kong had given shelter to snakes when he lived in the jungle.
As the story goes, snakes entered the temple after completing and have never left to pay respect to Chor Soo Kong.
Chor Soo Kong was a monk who lived in the 9th century AD. His ash was brought here to Penang in the mid 19th century by one of his followers. With him he brought myths and legends of the deity's healing powers.
David Brown, a British resident heard of it and was subsequently cured of incurable illness. In homage of the deity, to whom Brown owned his life, he offered a piece of land on which the original temple was build. The Snake Temple original name was the "Temple of the Azure Cloud" in honor of the beauty of Penang's sky.
The temple is dedicated to a deity called Cheng Swee Chor Soo. Cheng Swee Chor Soo is known by the Hokkien as Chor Soo Kong and by the Cantonese as Chou-See Yeah. Both names basically mean the same: "The much honoured Chor-Soo"
The temple is one of the oldest in the world and attract many devotees world wide, especially from Taiwan and Singapore.
When you enter the temple you will find quite a few snakes. Some would say the snakes are de-venomed but it's still not advised to pick them up or touch them. Local devotees believe that the temple's snake population come on their own, nowadays to find shelter from the increasing urban civilization.
Before entering the temple, you will pass a big incense burner. Inside the temple, in the main prayer hall it can be filled with smoke, which supposedly paralyzes the snakes.
The main prayer hall
The statue of Chor Soo Kong is located in the main temple. He has a black face. the explanation is that he met some demons who tried to cook him. The demons did not succeed but Chor Soo Kong was left with a black face. Another explanation is that by accident he took some poisonous herbs. But whatever the truth is, the black face became a symbol of compassion and sacrifice for other people.
As you can expect, there is an active community of devotees. The chanting of the sutras start every morning at 5am. The temple opens for visitors at 6am and usually closes at 7pm. There is no admission fee, though you pay RM 30 if you want to have a picture made with a snake (python) around your neck.
The Snake Temple is roughly 10km south of Georgetown. It takes about 25 to 30 minutes by taxi. As said above, take the 301, 303 or the 401 bus from the jetty or Komtar to the airport and ask the driver to warn you when you arrive at the temple.
Hotels in Bayan Lepas
Bayan Lepas is for the most an urban area. There's little to keep you here except the only golf course in Penang: Bukit Jambul Golf And Country Club in the Equatorial Hotel.
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