Published/Last edited or updated: 4th October, 2017
Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Penang, the tiny fishing village of Batu Maung is believed to be a site that larger-then-legend 13th century Chinese Muslim Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) set foot upon Penang, and literally left a giant mark in the form of a king-sized footprint embedded in stone.
Cheng Ho is worshiped as the folk deity Sam Poh Kong, and this small pretty seaside temple honours his presence. The temple is not nearly as ancient as the footprint is believed to be and was constructed in 1993 on the site of a former small shrine. An impressive tiled entrance archway frames a large bronze statue of the distinguished looking caped Admiral standing by the colourful traditional harbour.
Here, a small ornamental garden with bubbling water feature and trees festooned with prayer ribbons is a pleasant serene spot to take a breather. The temple itself is a simple open-fronted structure covering the 85-centimetre “footprint” with a stature of Sam Poh Kong holding a Chinese gold ingot at the altar. A jetty leads from the temple garden directly to the small harbour, and local fishermen come to pray before setting off to sea.
Although the Chinese have commandeered the area, local Malays and Indians offer differing versions of the origins of the mark: Hindus believe that it was made by Hanuman, the monkey god from the Ramayana as he was leaping around the world and Malays call the area “Tapak Gedembai” and regard the footprint as one of four around Penang made by the giant Gedembai of local folklore.
Unless you are a Cheng Ho (or Bigfoot) aficionado, it’s probably not worth the long trip from Georgetown at just see this temple, but is well worth popping by as an add-on to a visit to nearby Penang’s War Museum.
If you are travelling around Malaysia and the archipelago, both Melaka in Malaysia and Semarang in Java, Indonesia harbour interesting Sam Poh Kong temples and sites.
To get to Batu Maung, Rapid Penang buses 302 and 307 (4 ringgit) leaves from the Jetty and Komtar and take around 1.5 hours. A Grab car from Georgetown will set you back 20—30 ringgit and takes about 30 minutes.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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