Travel Guide: Top Things to do in Betong – Attractions, Famous Food, and more

Think Thailand, think popular spots like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi… you get the drift.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that those places, as vibrant as they are, make up only a small fraction of a country that is half a million square kilometres in size, with a population of 69 million. There are many other less traveled spots with hidden gems, and I discovered one of these on a weekend trip – to the border town of Betong. It is about five hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, accessible via the North-South highway heading to Grik and Pengkalan Hulu.

Sitting between the Malaysian state of Perak and southern Thailand, Betong (from Malay ‘betung‘, which means bamboo) is home to an estimated 20-30,000 residents, mainly Thais, Chinese and Malays. This also means that most people speak a mix of Thai, Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin or other Chinese dialects.

For a small town, Betong has good facilities: there is a post office, hospital, school, market, municipal council, places of worship and many stores offering different services and goods. Due to its close proximity to Malaysia, many Malaysian tourists visit over the weekend, and there is a flourishing tourist trade, with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. If you’re here on a 3D2N stay, there’s more than enough to see (and eat!), with time to spare for chillin’ in a relaxing, small-town-like setting, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

BETONG ATTRACTIONS 

1 ) Explore a (former) communist hideout @ the Piyamit Tunnels 

High up in the hills, about half an hour’s drive away from Betong town is the Piyamit Tunnels, once used by members of the Communist Party to evade the Malayan-Thai authorities. The 1960s was a time of unrest for both Malaya (now Malaysia) and Thailand due to the communist insurgency, and Betong was where many Malayan communists fled to and made base camp. Life was difficult in the jungle for the 50-60 people living here. They couldn’t have open fires for cooking or to dry their clothes. Sanitation was a problem. To act as bomb shelters, they dug tunnels (which stretch 1km long and have 9 exit points) out of the earth, sometimes with their bare hands. Be prepared to hike a little as the museum/attraction sites are far in. You’ll pass by quaint little streams and lush vegetation during your journey.

2 ) Stroll through the Winter Flower Garden

Located just a few kilometres away from the Piyamit Tunnels, the Winter Flower Garden is a well kept attraction that offers great opportunities for pretty pictures. The spacious garden is home to temperate-climate flowers and trees, such as roses and pines. The place is quiet and relaxing, with a pond stocked with fat koi fish. If you’re looking for a pure getaway from all the city distractions, there are also chalets to rent for stay, a cafe and restaurant.

3) Let the minerals heal your body at the Betong Hot Springs 

On your way to the Piyamit Tunnels/Winter Flower Garden, you’ll pass by the Betong Hot Springs, a natural lake rich with minerals. The pools are surrounded by nicely landscaped gardens, eateries and shops. Entrance is free. However as it was a really hot day, we opted to just soak our legs instead.

4) Pay homage to Buddha at Wat Phuttathiwat

Back in town, stop by at the golden Wat Phuttathiwat and admire the building’s unique architecture. Situated on a hilltop, the Thai Buddhist temple has sharp spires typical of Thai architecture. Step inside to cool marble floors, beautiful traditional motifs and tapestries depicting scenes from Buddha’s life, and oddly enough, stained glass windows similar to those you find in a church. The balcony on the shrine’s third floor is the highest vantage point in town, where you’ll be able to see the whole of Betong.

5) Explore the town – Clocktower

Explore the streets and go shopping! 🙂 During the day there are shops selling cheap cookware (pots, pans, etc.), clothing, Chinese herbs, groceries and more, while at night, street stalls make their presence known in alleyways. Nightlife is not as vibrant as it is in Bangkok or Phuket, but there are still bars you can frequent (they look seedy as hell though). Massage parlours offer cheap promos. Not sure if there would be happy endings; heard that there is prostitution here.

The town has a neat block-by-block layout, so navigating the place is easy.  If you’re lost, just remember the main landmark which is the roundabout/clocktower

6) Take a selfie with the largest mailbox in the world

Well, what do you know – Betong is home to the largest mailbox in the world! Measuring 9 metres tall, the structure sits in front of the City Convention Hall. I’m not actually sure if this is for show or if people actually put letters in it, haha. There is also another smaller 3m mailbox at the town’s clocktower, which was built in 1924.

6) People watch

One of my favourite activities to do (not creepy at all): Watch the locals go about their daily lives. The pace is much slower here than it is in a major city, so you’ll often find people just hanging around doing nothing, or enjoying a smoke (and a hot bun) by the road. (Above) A soft toy peddler rearranges his wares on a motorized cart.

7) Buy fresh and cheap produce at the Central Market

Betong’s Market is surprisingly large for such a small town. Spanning several floors, there are wet and dry sections, which is further divided into category (ie vegetables, meat, seafood, etc.). The Thai /Chinese sellers have separate stalls from the Muslim ones. Petai is particularly popular in Betong; you can get peeled ones for 200baht (RM26) per kg.

8) Bonus: Blue Mosque

img credit: Betong Immigration Checkpoint blog

For Muslim visitors, Betong is home to the Ahmadi Mosque, or the ‘blue mosque’ owing to the blue colour on its dome. We didn’t stop by but the building looks pretty at night as it is lit up with different coloured lights.

FAMOUS FOOD IN BETONG 

Attractions aren’t the only thing you can experience in Betong – there’s also an array of mouthwatering dishes to try! Since it’s so close to Malaysia, textures and tastes are not too different so I don’t think it’ll be a problem for even the more delicate palates.

1 ) Bird’s nest

Where to get it: Inter Bird’s Nest Soup (Waze) 

Birds nest is a Betong specialty, and you can get huge warm bowls of it cooked either in ginseng or rock sugar at Inter Birds Nest, near the centre of town for 200baht per bowl. If you’re thinking of taking some home, they also sell them in dried form.

2 ) Betong Chicken

Where to get it: Ta Yern Chinese Restaurant

Betong’s chickens are said to be more tender, with a smoother texture. To bring out the best flavours, the chicken is usually prepared poached, drizzled over with soy sauce.

3 ) Cheapo dimsum

Where to get it: Seng Dimsum

Located just across the road near the clocktower, Seng Dimsum does brisk business with its super affordable dimsum plates at 20baht each. Granted the portions are small, but they stack up really fast! Aside from your typical siewmai/fishball varieties, they also have some not-so-traditional ones too.

4 ) Braised fish maw soup

Where to get it: unnamed shop, across the road from the market

This is something I rarely see in Malaysia except at banquets, because fish maw is so expensive. You can find the ‘stall’ in front of a bak kut teh shop across the road from the market (you can sit inside, but remember to order something from the bak kut teh or they’ll give you the stinkface…since the space belongs to them).

The fish maw sellers scoop up bowls of the warm broth from two giant vats. Each bowl costs 80baht and comes chock full of ingredients – at least four to five largish pieces of fish maw which were soft and spongy like tofu, quail’s egg, pork blood cubes (done well, no overwhelming iron smell) and mushrooms.

5) Thai dishes – fried soft shell crab, shrimp cakes

Where to get it: Krua Samui

We are in Thailand after all! Popular among locals and tourists alike, Krua Samui has a selection of local dishes such as fish/shrimp cakes, tomyum, fried omelette, pad thai, and more. The setting is nice and cosy with an indoor and outdoor dining area, patio and ‘huts’ for more privacy.

Stay tuned for more detailed updates of each of these places! 🙂

 

 

 

Travel Blog: Attractions in Jenjarom, Selangor – Fo Guang Shan Dong Zhen Temple, Jenjarom

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t been updating much – been trying to finish up work before I go off for the long weekend. 🙂

Speaking of weekends, what do you usually do? Most days I just want to lie in and sleep/read a book at a cafe, but the parents are always raring to go on day trips so occasionally,  I join them for sightseeing (and for blog material lol).

Last Sunday was one of those days. Our destination: Jenjarom, a small town located in the Kuala Langat district, on the fringes of Selangor. From where I live, it takes just 40 minutes by highway.

Sorry didn’t manage to take pic of the town gateway 😦 but here’s one from (Image credit): Buddha’s Light International Association @myblia.wordpress.com

Jenjarom started as a Chinese New Village (the British wanted to prevent the Malayan-Chinese populace from helping the communists, so they lumped everyone into these settlements and imposed curfews to monitor their movements)  in the 1950s,  so it’s not surprising that the town has a large Chinese-Buddhist population. In recent years, the place has become known for its tourism, mostly to the Fo Guang Shan Dong Zhen Buddhist Temple. Built in 1994 and spread over 16 acres of land, the Taiwan-style temple has several prayer halls and nicely landscaped gardens. It is especially popular during festival days, such as Wesak and Chinese New Year.

Ahem. So here’s a video that I put together for your viewing pleasure ! It was a good chance for me to test out my new phone (a Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro, also recorded the voiceover on it). 

I’m aware that it isn’t professional, but I tried my best (my best being four hours T-T) . Would be great if anyone has tips on what I could improve on + software to use for easy editing (currently using Adobe Premiere Pro CC). 

Entrance to the temple. There is a helpful map on the right, displaying the different sections within the temple grounds.

Well maintained front garden, featuring stone statues of Arahats and their respective descriptions.

On the right from the entrance is Lumbini Garden, a tranquil green space with more statues and decorations, flowers, small streams and ponds full of fish.

The centrepiece of the area are two Buddha statues – one of Buddha sitting cross legged on a lotus under a shady Bodhi tree, the other with his warms spread open in a welcoming gesture.

It was under a Bodhi tree that the Buddha achieved enlightenment. The tree has beautiful heart-shaped leaves.

  

Gazebos sat next to small ponds stocked full of fish, while weeping willows bowed their branches over the water and swayed gently in the wind. A picturesque mix of Buddhist Zen and Chinese architecture and landscaping.

A bit of history: Fo Guang Shan is a large Buddhist monastic order and new movement based in Taiwan; one of the country’s four major Buddhist institutions. Founded in 1967 by Hsing Yun, it promotes Humanistic Buddhism and a modern approach to religion. The branch in Jenjarom, for example, has many youth-centric activities such as Sunday dharma classes and charity events in order to attract more young devotees. In Taiwan, they have over 300 branches all over the country, as well as centres around the world.

The garden not only has religious fixtures but also cultural stuff like this kampung style hut.

Next to the main prayer hall is a three storey building which houses the Buddhist Cultural Centre and art gallery. During our visit, there was an art and photography exhibition.

We paid respects to 9 pieces of Buddha’s relics on the top floor (no photos allowed), before moving back down to the second floor, which had a huge classroom like setting. All the windows were open and it was bright and airy, with neatly arranged wooden tables and stools facing a Buddha statuette. Visitors can stop by for sutra writing, which helps to calm the mind whilst spreading the teachings of Buddha.

The pops in action

My piece of sutra, which essentially tells me to be humble. Sorry for the bad calligraphy, family of bananas.

Moo was on about it being so relevant to me because I have a problem with taking a step back/saying sorry when I think I am in the right. Heh. Gotta work on that I guess.

Spacious and opulent main prayer hall.

The sides of the hall were decorated with scenes of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, expertly done by hammering and shaping sheets of metal. (Above) Buddha and his disciples in the forest, surrounded by various animals.

Buddha achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

A brief stop to the souvenir shop which sells prayer beads, sutras, dharma books, deity statues and other items.

GETTING TO FO GUANG SHAN TEMPLE JENJAROM

Address: PT 2297, Jalan Sungai Buaya, Kampung Jenjarom, 42600 Kuala Langat, Selangor, Malaysia

For those driving, it’s pretty easy to get there as the location is on Waze. Just head straight from the arch at the town entrance and you will see the temple on your right.

Opening hours: 10AM – 6PM

Phone: +60 3-3191 1533 

Admission: Free

 

 

 

Woolley Food City & Wat Siribunya Buddhist Temple, Ipoh

Happy Chinese New Year, guys! Most of you are probably back at work already, but since CNY lasts for 15 days, I think this doesn’t come too late. Heh. 🙂

Spent the holidays in my parents’ hometown of Ipoh, Perak. Long ride aside, it was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of KL for a couple of days.

20170127_123233-tile

Set off early on Friday morning and got to Ipoh four hours later, no thanks to traffic. After dropping our stuff off at my aunt’s house, we went in search of food. Ipoh has a large Chinese population, so it was no wonder that many restaurants and shops were closed to prepare for the reunion dinner that night. We ended up at Woolley Food City, a food court that has been around for ages (I think since my dad was a kid – and he’s in his late 50s). You can tell the structure is old, judging by its architecture and the missing letters.

20170127_123440-tile

The inside, though, is clean and neat, with a dozen stalls selling typical hawker fare such as noodles and rice. Most of the waiters are from the older generation – something you rarely see in KL, where employers prefer hiring foreigners.

20170127_123815-tile

Pi’s fishball noodle soup.

20170127_124238-tile

I had Hakka noodles with a side of fishballs, meatballs and tofupok (stuffed beancurd). The noodles were cheap (RM3.50 for a medium portion, which was quite sizable), but the taste was beyond meh. I didn’t like that they added beansprouts in it because it’s my least favourite vegetable after eggplant… didn’t know about it because conventional Hakka Noodles doesn’t have beansprouts; or I would have asked them not to add it in. Soup was full of MSG and the balls didn’t taste good (ha…..)

20170127_125448-tile

Mi’s bitter gourd pork noodle soup was RM7.50 (!) but the portion was big enough for two.

WOOLLEY FOOD CITY 

48-50, Lengkok Canning, Taman Canning, 31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.

*Next to Woolley is another food court where there are more stalls (imo serves tastier stuff too), but that’s only fully opened at night.

20170127_132245-tile

Next, we headed to Wat Siribunya Maggarama, a Thai-Buddhist temple along Jalan Tambun.

Back in the days, the ‘temple’ was just a small shrine with a lot of land. My dad’s fam was poor (grandpa was a cook for an old folks home and he had to support 10 children) and they couldn’t afford a home, so the temple abbot at that time allowed them and a few other families to build temporary homes there until they could find a better place. My dad grew up in a ramshackle wooden house with no plumbing or electricity, sleeping on elevated floorboards in a tiny room shared with my uncles and studying by the light of oil lamps. They eventually moved to a proper house, but the temple still holds a special place in their hearts. In fact, many of my relatives’ ashes, including those of my great grandfather, my grandparents, and my eldest aunt and uncle are kept in the columbarium here.

20170127_132301-tile

20170127_132432-tile

Offering a prayer candle.

20170127_132532-tile

Prayer hall, lined with paintings of the life of Buddha. Being a Thai temple, there was also a small shrine next to the Buddha statue, dedicated to Thai King Bhumibol who passed away last year.

20170127_132940-tile

Another prayer area dedicated to the Four-Faced Buddha, Phra Phrom. Elephant figurines featured prominently on the altar.

20170127_133011-tile

A separate shrine or ‘Ubosot’, with elaborate gold-coloured carvings decorating the maroon-coloured building.

20170127_133023-tile

20170127_133042-tile

WAT SIRIBUNYA MAGGARAM TEMPLE 

88 & 89, Jalan Tambun, 30350 Ipoh, Perak., 30350 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur

 

20160510_121036-tile

One of the most popular (and most beautiful!) Chinese temples in Kuala Lumpur is Thean Hou Temple, dedicated to the Heavenly Mother or Thean Hou Mo. Built in the 1980s, the sprawling complex is still well kept – with arching orange roofs topped with dragons and phoenixes, whitewashed walls and quaint side gardens.

20160510_121030-tile

I’ve been here a couple of times, and the place is especially festive during Chinese New Year or religious festivities. At other times, it’s a great place to meditate in the prayer chambers or sit and admire the architecture, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The editor and I were around the area for an assignment so I brought her for a quick visit.

13131314_222916088100119_5605628563146070233_o-tile

13147380_222916098100118_7182975537076110870_o-tile

13217553_222913984766996_126916779806722887_o-tile

The ground floor is used for functions; the main shrine is accessed by stairs. Once up, visitors are greeted by a spacious courtyard that commands a scenic view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. Pillars written with auspicious words and blessings line one side of the compound, accentuated by vividly coloured ceilings of blue, green and gold. Clouds, phoenixes, patterns, water and dragons are common decorative motifs.

20160510_121705-tile

13198634_222913991433662_1555702047581176636_o-tile

A sea of yellow lanterns.

13217607_222916101433451_4635771280411225888_o-tile

13131769_222913988100329_3163011555933846097_o-tile

13147734_222914028100325_6824188710214635692_o-tile

Prayer urn where devotees can place their joss sticks.

13116025_222914084766986_11772631402842349_o-tile

20160510_121932-tile

Inside the hall, photography is allowed but visitors are required to be respectful when taking pictures. The prayer area houses three deities; namely the Heavenly Mother, Goddess of Mercy (Gwanyin) and Waterfront Goddess (Swei Mei) . Smaller deities sit at the bottom of the large golden statues, which are surrounded by prayer light towers. The walls are lined with pictures of small Bodhisattvas, donated by devotees to accumulate merits (or karma).

13131724_222914064766988_5095901527740998019_o-tile

What I really like about the space is the ceiling. Right in the middle is this beautiful dome inlaid with blue, red and gold patterns on top of each other, with a dragon on clouds in the middle. The craftsmanship is superb – rivalling those of European churches.

13147380_222914078100320_4129206182222304724_o-tile

Thean Hou Temple is definitely worth the visit if you’re ever in KL –  for the culture, architecture and beautiful sights. Entrance is free.

THEAN HOU TEMPLE 

65, Persiaran Endah, Taman Persiaran Desa, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Opening hours: 9am – 6pm

Getting There

Since the place is on top of a hill and at a dead end, buses or trains do not service the area. Best to take a taxi or Uber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sau Seng Lum Exhibition Hall, Putra Perdana

My mum was really excited to show me a ‘spot’ she found recently: a temple/exhibition hall called Sau Seng Lum in Putra Perdana, Puchong. The place been around for years, but we never got down to visiting it because we didn’t know there are actually lots of things to see there!

*SSL is a non-profit Buddhist organisation, well known for providing cheap dialysis services and doing charitable work, with branches all over Malaysia.

20160220_112319-tile

We went there on a weekend. There were a few tour buses parked. It was still decked out in Chinese New Year decorations, with loads of lanterns hanging at the entrance.

Divided into two storeys, the building has seven exhibition halls and an outdoor garden. It is perhaps most well known for having 500 Arhats statues in two halls (Arhats are Buddhist deities, who have achieved Enlightenment).

20160220_112338-tile

20160220_112352-tile

20160220_112403-tile

20160220_112547-tile

The main hall had a large tapestry spanning two floors, with statues of the Buddha flanked by smaller Bodhisattvas (also deities.) You’re probably wondering what the difference is between Arhats and Bodhisattvas. They are both entities that have achieved enlightenment, but in different ways. A good explanation here

20160220_112906-tile

Detailing on the statues was exquisite. Must have been done by master crafstmen.

20160220_113023-tile

More deities, each representing an animal sign.

20160220_113134-tile

20160220_113151-tile

A separate, smaller hall was dedicated to the Medicine Buddha, who sat amidst a circle of smaller glass Buddha statues. The light effect with glass made it look very serene and pretty.

20160220_113510-tile

Devotees can make a donation to have a glass Buddha placed in the temple – as a way of gaining merits and helping the temple for charity.

20160220_113543-tile 20160220_113645-tile 20160220_113943-tile

There were hundreds of glass Buddhas lining the walls, which had nooks for them to be placed. Because they were carved into a piece of glass-like material, whenever the visitor moved while staring at the Buddhas, it gave off the illusion that the figure was rotating to look at you!

20160220_114750-tile 20160220_115837-tile

Writing well wishes on colourful pieces of paper.

20160220_120920-tile

The 500 Arhats exhibition halls are upstairs. Photography wasn’t allowed but I sneaked a few in… >-<

(Above) carved from a single piece of wood! Again, amazing craftsmanship.

20160220_121729-tile

The pitfalls of being a ‘banana’ (I can’t read Chinese) is that you get left out of a lot of things.. the mantras written here were all in Chinese – you’re supposed to roll the golden bells from one end to the other while chanting verses at the top of each bell. I rolled them anyway, just without the verses.

20160220_121933-tile

For a donation of RM10, they give you a lotus flower to float in the water, and you walk around a pond surrounding some deities to symbolize the path of purification. There was also a big glass bowl with folded papers. I fished out a pink slip and it told me what my Arhat for the day was. (No.67). I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures in the hall, so I’ll just describe it.

The first hall had three towering mountain models in the middle, and clusters of Arhats divided into groups. LED screens with moving animations of the universe, the desert, forests, or just light in general provided a backdrop, while tranquil music and Buddhist chanting played in the background. My Arhat was in the middle – it wasn’t indicated what he was called, but he had bushy white eyebrows and was riding an orange Koi. I liked his smile, because it wasn’t a big, booming smile; rather a quiet and furtive one, like the Mona Lisa. A volunteer told me to state my name, age and address (???why that last one though?) and pray for whatever.

The Arhats vary in expression, demeanour and physical appearance – some might even appear angry, others laughing.

20160220_124829-tile

Outdoor cafeteria where you can grab a vegetarian meal.

20160220_125006-tile 20160220_125110-tile

Pond with blessed water.

SSL Puchong is a nice place to understand more on Buddhist teachings, the volunteers are very helpful and it’s just a nice, cooling place to chill and meditate.

Pusat Pameran, Jalan Putra Perdana 10
Taman Putra Perdana,
47100 Puchong,
Selangor Darul Ehsan,
Malaysia.

Tel: 603- 7782 7546, 7782 4092
Fax: 603- 7783 7842
Homepage: www.sausenglum.org
Email: customercare@sausenglum.org

Opening hours:
Every Sunday and public holidays
10.00 am to 4.00 pm (subject to change, place runs on volunteers)

Jui Tui Temple & Put Jaw Shrine, Phuket Old Town

While looking up places to visit in Phuket’s Old Town, one of the recommended spots was the Jui Tui Shrine. We still had a bit of time left, so off we went!

The shrine started off as a simple, single storey structure – but has since moved from its original location along Soi Romanee to Ranong Road. The new shrine is bigger, more elaborately decorated and apparently quite a sight during the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival! It is dedicated to the deity Tean Hu Huan Soy, patron god to performing artists and dancers.

SAM_1048-tile

SAM_1050-tile

Now that you mention it, the temple decorations do have that ‘Chinese opera’ feel to it –  bright, colourful flags and lanterns lining the entrance, as well as intricate tapestries hanging from the ceiling.

20151107_153706-tile

Tapestry with colourful tassels and golden dragons,  surrounded by flower motifs.

SAM_1049-tile

SAM_1053-tile

Tean Hu Huan Soy sits on the highest position, surrounded by other Chinese and Taoist deities.

20151107_153810-tile

20151107_153648-tile

20151107_153817-tile

SAM_1047-tile

One of the interesting structures here is the ‘firecracker house’ – a thin, fiery red building next to the temple’s entrance. It’s four pillars are ornately carved with figures of golden dragons on blue clouds and green waves, while lion dogs (kei lun) guard a ‘door’. The building is actually used during festivals to throw firecrackers in, to reduce noise and air pollution. 🙂

20151107_152819-tile

Just next to Jui Tui is the smaller Put Jaw Shrine, the oldest Chinese temple in Phuket dating 200 years old. Dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy or Guan Yin, there is a statue of her along with her two side deities, Little Red (Hung Ha Yee) and Nazha. The architecture and temple decorations are purely Chinese, with little Thai influence. Wooden red doors inlaid with gold carvings, red and yellow lanterns, red cloth and dragons adorned the place.

SAM_1043-tile

SAM_1042-tile

SAM_1044-tile

The inside was fork shaped, with a main altar and two side areas. Each housed dozens of deity statues. Visitors can try their hand at fortune sticks – you have to shake a container filled with wooden sticks until one falls out, then read the fortune on it.

SAM_1045-tile

Guan Gong, or Lord Guan, is a Chinese deity with a red face, armed with a signature curved spear-blade. Said to be a real-life army general, he is considered a God of War and stands for brotherhood and rightneousness, being the patron deity for many Chinese businesses. Due to his strong and intimidating presence, it is said to ward away evil and bad luck. This table seemed to be dedicated to Guang Gong and other similar gods.

20151107_153322-tile

On another table stood many statues of goddesses like Tian Mu (the Heavenly Mother) and the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin.

It was a quick trip as the temples were not big, but it has nice architecture and is worth a visit. Devotees can also pray for blessings. Who knows if they’ll come true? (But in that case, you’ll need to make a return trip here to ‘repay’ the favour! :))

Temple opening times: 8am – 10pm.

Soi Phuthorn, Ranong Road

 

 

Visiting the Big Buddha in Phuket, Thailand

SAM_0934-tile

One of the must-see attractions while in Phuket is the Big Buddha – a 45-m tall white marble statue perched on the hillside of southern Phuket. The figure is so large that it can be seen from miles around the island. This was our next stop on our day tour ! 🙂

It had been raining earlier, but thankfully the weather cleared when we arrived. Since it is a religious place, we brought our own scarves to cover up our shoulders. You can also borrow some from the counter. They weren’t very strict though – there were many Western tourists walking around in sleeveless tank tops. .

SAM_0936-tile

On display near the entrance was one of Phuket’s famous open-air blue ‘buses’ – which is basically a truck converted to accommodate benches and seats – much like the jeepneys in the Philippines.

SAM_0938-tile

Before anything else… a quick thirst quencher for 50B.

20151107_115537-tile

We popped into one of the shrines, which looked distinctly Chinese with Thai influences. The walls were painted a deep red, reminiscent of Chinese temples, but there were also statues such as the four-faced Buddha (Phra Phrom), elephant God and various figures/paintings of Thai  royalty, monks, etc which were more Thai.

SAM_0943-tile

SAM_0940-tile

Resident doggy.

SAM_0941-tile  SAM_0945-tile

The accumulation of many, many candles melted into a strangely beautiful mess, resembling stalactites in a limestone cave.

SAM_0946-tile

The place is still under construction, even though the project started more than 10 years ago. This is because the project is almost entirely funded by public donations. Workers were constructing some sort of front hall, so the place was muddy after the rain.

SAM_0948-tile SAM_0950-tile

View from below. Visitors can continue climbing up to the base of the Buddha.

12036557_10154489745669152_6254334249747648582_n-tile

The temple area is a simple structure with zinc roofing. On one side sat a row of Golden Buddhas, each with a bowl for donations and blessings.

SAM_0954-tile

H and I offered a token of donation at one of the boxes, then knelt down in front of a big altar filled with many different Buddha statues. A monk blessed us tied our wrists with a blessed string, then sprinkled us with holy water and tapped our heads with a bunch of thin wooden sticks (Idk why though.. I guess it’s for blessing?).

SAM_0960-tile

We saw this warm, furry fat cat lying on a stack of newspapers and had to pet it.

SAM_0966-tile

A short climb later and we were at the base of the Big Buddha or to call it by it’s full name, the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha. Made from jade marble, the statue was impressive, and the views from the hilltop were equally magnificent.

SAM_0992-tile

View of the Andaman Sea beyond.

SAM_1000-tile

A large bronze bell and wooden ringer.

SAM_0970-tile

Nagas are a serpent like mythical creature. Depictions of this being is prevalently found in Thai temples.

SAM_0972

Before entering, some temple volunteers asked if we would like to donate by buying a marble piece for 300B (RM36). You can write messages, prayers or whatever you want onto the tile, which will eventually be used to complete the entire Big Buddha structure. We chose not to because it just seemed too touristy and some of the tiles inside had been around for so long that the writings had faded away.

SAM_0977-tile

The bottom part of the Buddha, which I presume will be turned into a prayer area, was still under construction. They have a few statues placed inside, so devotees and visitors can walk in and explore the half-completed structure. The parts not covered in plastic sheets were dusty and rough, while scaffolding was everywhere – overhung with silk mantras with prayers in gold ink.

SAM_0975-tile  20151107_122933-tile

It was dark under the shadow of the Buddha, and quiet. We performed some prayers, then wandered around for awhile. The entire thing had an odd effect: like I was walking in a half-abandoned place, where lost people still came to have conversations with God.

SAM_0980-tile

Outside, golden bells written over with messages by visitors hung on a line. They made beautiful wind chime-like sounds when the wind blew, and when my itchy fingers trailed across them.

SAM_0985-tile

SAM_0984-tile

There was also a smaller golden Buddha measuring 12ms high, next to the Big Buddha. Made from brass, the Buddha sits on a platform coiled with two Nagas.

SAM_0994-tile

The area around the Big Buddha statue consists of small gazebos and viewing platforms. Some visitors had also placed love locks onto the trees and cables.

SAM_0998-tile

Views from another observation deck. Beautiful!

SAM_1003-tile

We found a different fat cat. What is it with fat cats at Thai temples??

This guy was a bit unfriendly though – hissed at us even before we got near. D:

The Big Buddha is definitely worth a visit when you’re in Phuket, so make sure to include it in your travel itinerary! 🙂 Opens from 6am to 7pm daily, free entry (donations always welcome). While we weren’t stopped at the gate for wearing sleeveless shirts, I suggest dressing decently (at least knee length skirt or pants) to avoid any discomfort. Or bring a scarf. 🙂

 

Yot Sane 1 Chaofa Road ( West ) Chalong Phuket
E-mail: info@phuket-big-buddha.com

Kek Lok Tong Cave Temples, Ipoh

Ipoh is famous for its beautiful limestone hills – and people in the past must have thought so too! Otherwise, they wouldn’t have set up so many temples within the large, chamber-like caves snuggled in the quiet calm of Gunung Rapat.  Of particular note is Kek Lok Toong, a Chinese temple that has been used as a place of worship since the early 1920s.

SAM_6818-tile

Today, it is a popular spot among tourists and devotees alike. Chinese New Year is often a busy time for the temple as people flock to offer prayers and wish for blessings for the upcoming year ahead.

Tiny, ornate deity statues line the cave’s mouth, depicting mythical settings of gods riding on dragons, phoenixes and heavenly lions.

SAM_6816-tile

SAM_6822-tile

The inside is cavernous, with a natural, high-vaulted ceiling. I like how the architects have built the temple around the contours of the cave. Despite the intense heat outside, the interior was cool with an occasional breeze passing through.

SAM_6823-tile

SAM_6827-tile

Stalactite and stalagmite formations dating back to millions of years, beautifully crafted by water and time. Lots and lots of time.

Nature is a patient craftsman.

SAM_6835-tile

The main prayer hall features three golden deities on marble altars, their skin reflecting the sun’s rays.

SAM_6837-tile SAM_6841-tile

The cave connects through to a hidden garden of sorts, which is nicely landscaped with recreational facilities, a lake and jogging tracks. The mountains remind me of the beautiful green hills of Tam Coc, Vietnam.

SAM_6846-tile

Sweet,friendly resident canine 🙂

Kek Lok Tong Temple 

Open Daily, 7am – 6pm
Kek Lok Tong
Gunung Rapat,
Ipoh,Perak