Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Penang 2005: A Glimpse of the Pearl of the Orient

When I landed my first job in a state which was supposedly my hometown; or rather, motherland, I was quite excited and anxious in anticipation as to what awaits me in the new place.

Penang is no stranger to me, as one who was born here (but raised in the capital) and have traveled here during school holidays since I was young.
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In fact, the name Penang is no stranger to most of the travelers and enthusiasts around the world either, as the state is one which is well-known for its natural beauty and colorful culture, not to mention the myriad of unique cuisines locally produced by the natives here.
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Penang is a land of many attractions; from sand, sun and sea, to wind, hills and breeze, and even rich in culture and history.
It is no wonder then that this little island is famed as the Pearl of the Orient.
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A glimpse of the wonderful places offered by this island during my first years working here; about five years ago, as I visited a few places of interest while playing tour guide with my colleagues to host a foreign colleague.


The famous Kek Lok Si Temple(极乐寺) located in Air Itam is a must visit for tourists and even devout Buddhists due to the colorful lights (usually lit at night and even more spectacular during Chinese New Year when it is particularly crowded then).
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The beautifully crafted pillars and structure provide a picturesque background and wallpaper for photos and an enjoyable view
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As the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia, Kek Lok Si is translated to mean "Temple of Supreme Bliss" (in Buddhism terms, it is also known as the Temple of Sukhavati).
This place of worship, centralized on Buddhism worship is a harmonious blend of the Mahayana Buddhism and the local Chinese culture all in one.

Being a place focused on Buddhism beliefs, the temple is home to most of the iconic deities featured in the Buddhism context.
One of such prominent figures is the great Buddha himself
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Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) are also found in various forms and depictions around the temple; with one bronze statue at a towering height.
(This statue has since been replaced with another staggering statue with a shelter above and has been inaugurated in the year 2009).
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The temple is beautiful with its natural landscape and structure carefully maintained, retaining her fame as one of the most beautiful and visited temples in the region.
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Landscape
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If you continue to travel/drive towards the hill, you will arrive at the Air Itam DamImage Hosted by PicturePush - Photo Sharing
This is a reservoir and also the dam which generates and reserves part of the water for the usage of the Penang residents in specific regions.
It is also a popular spot for cycling, jogging and family gatherings or even photography.
The serenity of the area makes it a good place for a quiet afternoon with your family, friends and loved ones.
Despite the recreational value here, do observe that as this is a dam, there will be certain restrictions and rules to be followed while you are here as well.

Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera - translated as Flagstaff Hill) was another place I went to; as I had never been there despite all the years during my childhood I have been to Penang.
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It was a good thing as well, that I managed to ride on the unique funicular train which ferries passengers all the way to the top of the hill.
This train can only be found in two places in the whole world; Penang and the other would be in Hong Kong.

Now, this train is no longer in service in Penang and the only place you can spot or take a photo with it is probably in the Penang State Museum.
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The view atop the hill overlooks the state of Penang, and you could see the houses on the island, along with the buildings and trees as well.
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Besides the spectacular view, the breeze was light and the cool and crisp air blowing is just relaxing and soothing to the nerves.
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There will be more posts with more details as I share on my adventures in Penang which I am sure will be a lot more during my stay (permanent?)here =)

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