Kek Lok Si temple during Chinese New Year with kids is an incredible experience! All the information you need to plan your visit can be found in our Kek Lok Si temple with kids post.

This post is specifically related the Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations. If you’re in Penang over Chinese New Year an evening at the Buddhist temple is an absolute must. I’m here to tell you exactly why it’s a worth a visit and all the details you need to know before you go.


Chinese New Year, also referred to as Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival is a Chinese festival which celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. The first day of CNY begins on the new moon. This appears anywhere between the 21st of January and the 20th of Febuary. This means the date changes each year. In 2020 CNY is on Saturday the 25th of January, and will be the year of the Rat.

During CNY Kek Lok Si is lit up with tens of thousands of LED lights, neon lights and traditional Chinese lanterns. This year the lighting ceremony was on the 19th of January. The lights will continue to shine till the 21st of February. The Buddhist temple hosts a dinner in addition to the lighting ceremony on the opening evening. There are also special prayers and a chanting session. The lighting ceremony features a fireworks display, and there will be another, even more spectacular display on CNY eve.


Kek Lok Si is in Air Itam, about 9 kilometres/5.5 miles west of Georgetown, and incredibly easy to reach via the local bus, Rapid Penang. We use the app Moovit everywhere we go to give us the bus route and times and it’s been awesome. From Komtar Station in Georgetown there are many busses to Kek Lok Si the #201, #203, #204 as well as the #502. The bus ticket from Komtar to Kek Lok Si cost us 2RM ($0.73NZD/$.049USD) each adult. Kids under 7 years old are free.

If you want a quicker, albeit more expensive, trip try a Grab (the Uber of South East Asia). We took a Grab this time, as an hours bus ride each way with young kids in the evening was not ideal! Download the app, type in ‘Kek Lok Si’ as your destination and the app will find your family a ride. You have the option to pay by cash or card. According to my Grab app a trip from Georgetown to Kek Lok Si should cost you about 15RM ($5.46NZD/$3.62USD). Our trip to the temple from Tanjung Tokong at 6:30pm cost 22RM ($8.20NZD/$5.40USD) and 37RM ($13.80NZD/$9.10USD) 9:30pm on the way home.


Entry to Kek Lok Si in general is free. Usually there is a cost of 2RM ($0.73NZD/$.049USD) per person to visit the pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas, however during CNY it is free. A ride on the inclined lift to the Goddess of Mercy statue is normally 6RM ($2.18NZD/$1.45USD) return each adult. Kids under 12 are free. I have been told this is still payable during the CNY celebrations. By the time we made it to the inclined lift it had already closed for the evening, so I cannot say for sure!

Kek Lok Si’s regulary hours are 8:30am to 5:30pm daily. During CNY it is open much later, usually till midnight. The lights are switched on at 7pm and are turned off anywhere from 9pm to midnight.


The traditional New Year greeting in Chinese is ‘xin Nian kuai le’, the phrase literally meaning ‘Happy New Year’. Be sure to Google the pronunciation before you go so you can share the holiday greeting.

Kek Lok Si has statues of all the Chinese zodiac animals. It’s easy to find out what yours is using the Chinese New Year calendar. I have known mine and Matt’s since 2013 when I went to China. I had jade figurines of our zodiac animal carved with our names in Chinese. Matt is a horse, I am a sheep and so is Ella, and Jack is a dog.

Man and young boy at Kek Lok Si temple


Yes! Overall I would definitely suggest visiting Kek Lok Si temple during Chinese New Year with kids. They loved watching the temple light up, sharing the food, and looking at all the red and gold decorations. The fireworks display is absolutely spectacular, and the atmosphere is awesome. 

The negatives though, are the fireworks are crazy loud and it is extremely busy as there are heaps of people. Jack cried so much during the fireworks, I had to take him inside the temple. Ella kept asking if we could turn them off. Of course after the display was finished Jack kept saying ‘more fi-wok’ – typical toddler. We found it difficult to let Ella walk alone as we did last time, as it was all too easy to lose sight of her in the crowd. Jack did walk for a little while using the safety harness, but as he’s so small he kept getting bumped into. This meant we ended up carrying him most of the time.

I would recommend visiting Kek Lok Si on the first night of the celebrations as we did. Many people have said it only gets busier the closer it gets to CNY. I think if it were any busier it would have been too overwhelming for our kids, and much more stressful for us. That said, definitely don’t miss the experience if you’re in Penang over the festive season!

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