This was our first Lunar New Year during our travels and we got to celebrate it at the magnificent Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang, Malaysia. It was 2018, Year of the Dog.
The light show certainly reminded us of Disneyland’s Electric Light Parade, or something like you’d see in Las Vegas.
Buddhists are definitely not afraid to use sparkly lights in their presentations and celebrations (see our short Electric Buddha https://bit.ly/3fty6J5 for additional use of sparkly lights).
I can’t say we ever found the “big party” we were expecting for Lunar New Year in Penang, but visiting this large, lighted up, decked out temple was awesome.
Be aware that if you get a Grab car to the temple, it’s almost impossible to get one to take you out. We got here in the late afternoon but after dark, when everyone showed up for the light show, it was so crowded that no Grab driver could reach us.
We had to walk down the hillside to get past the traffic to a reasonable spot to get a Grab ride. If you don’t have your own transport, be ready to do some street hiking.
If you’re in the area, Penang is fun, but we’re going to be contrarians and say that we think Ipoh is better. It’s less touristy and has at least as much stuff to do, if not more, and we just enjoyed the atmosphere better.
However, if you’re looking for a touristy, nightlife party vibe, you’ll want to party in Penang. It’s definitely better for that.
If you want to enjoy white coffee and wander the streets looking at interesting shops and checking out some really interesting temples in the area, spend more time in Ipoh.
Both cities have top quality wall murals to hunt down, by the way.
To be honest, Ipoh was our favorite city in Malaysia. We didn’t ultimately spend a lot of time in Malaysia, but Ipoh still won our hearts.
All the pretty lights at this temple were cool, though. If you’re in Penang during Lunar New Year, definitely visit Kek Lok Si Temple.