Photo: Man-eater.

Snake Temple (Hock Kin Keong)

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The concept of a “snake temple” may conjure up all sorts of Raiders of the Lost Ark type scenarios with pits of writhing serpents, and if that’s your idea of fun, prepare for disappointment at Penang’s heritage Snake Temple.





We’re not saying it’s devoid of the oft-feared reptiles, it just takes a moment before you will spot your first pit viper, its skin a zesty lime green with yellow striped undertones, wrapped snugly around a rattan frame on the altar, prostrate beneath a Chinese vase or slunk over the plump dragonfruit, offerings to the gods.

Do not disturb. Photo taken in or around Snake Temple (Hock Kin Keong), Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Do not disturb. Photo: Sally Arnold

Until recently it was believed that a heady dose of incense smoke kept the snakes in a hypnotic stupor, but in fact is not only false, it’s harmful and shortens their life. For the welfare of the animals, the burning of joss sticks is banned within the prayer hall. Regardless, they (thankfully) seem entirely soporific, but even so, strategically placed signs remind would-be Cleopatras that the snakes are indeed poisonous, poke them at your own risk!

The temple is built to honour the deified Chor Soo Kong, a Buddhist monk and famous healer. Legend has it that a devoted acolyte arriving from China in the mid-19th century bought with him a statue of the deity, and Scottish plantation owner, David Brown, cured of a deadly tropical disease after praying to Chor Soo Kong, apparently donated the land for the temple so that other miraculous recoveries could be made.

Really, do not disturb. Photo taken in or around Snake Temple (Hock Kin Keong), Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Really, do not disturb. Photo: Sally Arnold

The tale has it that snakes, shared as a symbol of Western medicine, were drawn to his shrine, they moved in and refused to budge, daringly setting up a breeding ground in the shady fruit trees. Sadly, despite the best efforts of the temple caretakers, the population is now in decline, no doubt a consequence of the heavy industrialisation in this area, which has led to the destruction of their ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Snake Temple (Hock Kin Keong)
Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Bayan Lepas
Mo–Su: 06:00–19:00
Admission: Free

Location map for Snake Temple (Hock Kin Keong)

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