With funds drying up, Penang’s iconic snake temple hopes to see more visitors

Visitors are seen at the Snake Temple in Bayan Baru, Penang October 15, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Visitors are seen at the Snake Temple in Bayan Baru, Penang October 15, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Oct 15 — Penang’s iconic Snake Temple in Sungai Keluang, Bayan Lepas has suffered the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic, with fewer donations as visitors to the temple dropped drastically over the last two years.

The temple committee’s vice-president Datuk Tan Lai Hock said the temple relies fully on donations for its upkeep and feeding of snakes.

“The cost of maintaining the temple and the snakes come up to about RM6,000 each month but we are barely getting donations due to the pandemic,” he said during a joint press conference with Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin.

He hoped that the long weekend, coupled with interstate travel, will bring more visitors to the temple and also the 12 stalls outside its grounds that sell souvenirs.

The Penang Snake Temple, also known as Hock Hin Keong or Ban Ka Lan Snake Temple, is the only temple of its kind that has snakes, including poisonous vipers, within its grounds.

It is said that snakes had sought refuge at the temple back in the 1800s when it was first opened and jungles were cleared in the area and since then, the temple was known as the snake temple.

The temple is dedicated to a resident deity, Cheng Chooi Chor Soo Kong, who was also a Buddhist monk who had provided free medical treatment when he was alive.

Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin handles a snake during a visit to the Snake Temple in Bayan Baru, Penang October 15, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin handles a snake during a visit to the Snake Temple in Bayan Baru, Penang October 15, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Sim announced that he will be donating RM5,000 to the temple to help with maintenance costs.

He hoped that with the state borders reopened, more people will visit Penang’s tourist attractions and give the sector a much-needed financial boost.

Some visitors could be seen at the temple this morning. Most of the 12 stalls in front of the temple are open and waiting for visitors.

One of the visitors is Natasya Teoh, 25, who was at the temple with her brother and friend.

“We came from Selangor to escape the water rationing and arrived here on Wednesday,” she said.

She said since arriving in Penang, they have been going around in search of local fare, such as nasi kandar in Kampung Melayu, while also visiting the Batu Ferringhi beach front.

“We did Covid-19 self-tests last week before traveling,” she said.

She added that they were also very careful when visiting tourism sites in Penang and they avoided places that are crowded.

A woman is seen offering prayers at the Snake Temple in Bayan Baru, Penang October 15, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
A woman is seen offering prayers at the Snake Temple in Bayan Baru, Penang October 15, 2021. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Another visitor, Yat Kue Hong, 46, from Kuala Lumpur, came to Penang with her family on Wednesday for a work and holiday trip.

“I am here for work but since we are here, this trip doubled as a short holiday,” she said.

Her 19-year-old daughter came with her and they visited Penang Hill and today, the Snake Temple.

“We did the PCR tests first before traveling since it was for work too and we are very careful to avoid crowded places,” she said.

Meanwhile, one of the traders at the temple grounds, Sim Siang Chuan, 56, said he is glad to finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

“This whole year, we have only been open for two weeks, once during Chinese New Year and another time, during Raya,” he said.

He said they used to make at least RM1,000 in sales per week before the pandemic but now, he is not even sure if they can earn RM1,000 in a month.

He hoped that this long weekend would mean more visitors at the temple and that they could at least earn a living again.

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