Located about 3 km from Penang International Airport, the Penang Snake Temple was built to honor Chor Soo Kong, a Buddhist monk and healer who lived about a thousand years ago in Fujian, China. He was deified after his prayers succeeded in ending a terrible drought in Fujian.
Legend has it that during his life, the monk liked to give shelter to snakes, which were believed to be his disciples. After the Penang Snake Temple was completed in the 1800s, it was said that vipers had mysteriously appeared and made the temple their home.
How to Get There
Penang Snake Temple is easy to get to. You can take a Grab/taxi, catch the free shuttle bus, or rent a car. If you’re driving from Georgetown, follow the signs to Bayan Lepas and the airport. The temple is only about 10km (25 minutes) from Georgetown. When you get closer, you will see brown tourist signposts pointing the way. There is a free parking lot in front of the temple.
Do bear in mind that there is not much else to see or do near the temple, as it is mostly surrounded by factories and a highway. Considering its location that’s close to the airport, you might want to fit it in on your last day before flying out, or right after arrival, on your way from the airport to the city.
06:00 – 19:00
- Temple: Free
- Snake Farm: RM5 (Adult) / RM3 (Child)
What to Expect
For a place with a sinister-sounding name, the Penang Snake Temple is actually pretty tranquil. There are no serpents slithering around the floor waiting to attack the first gullible visitor who dares set foot inside the temple.
Instead, most of them are coiled around what looked like coat racks. The snakes apparently wander around the temple at night, eating offerings left by visitors, and by daytime they are too knackered to do anything other than sleep. On top of that, the temple is filled with sacred smoke from burning incense, which is purportedly used to lull the snakes to sleep.
As a safety precaution, there are warnings not to touch the sleeping snakes. But don’t worry — although they still have their fangs intact, they have all been de-venomed. You’re welcome to try your luck. Please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page if you have any doubt.
Off to one side, there is a small room where you can take pictures with pythons and vipers.
During my visit, there were two pythons kept in a glass case, but the owner kept having to take them out because they were very popular with the visitors. Even small kids were taking pictures with them.
The cost for one photo was RM30 (two for RM40). I haggled and managed to get 1 printed photo for RM20. Although they had their own photographer with a professional camera, they would also help you take pictures on your phone, so you would have digital copies.
Other attractions at the Snake Temple include a 600-lb bell brought from China during the Manchurian Dynasty, a hall dedicated to Guan Yin (The Goddess of Mercy), a couple of wells, and a snake farm said to contain 50 species of snakes.
I don’t like any kind of reptiles, but surprisingly this temple didn’t gross me out that much. I think I would have an issue if it had been a ‘lizard temple’ instead.
The highlight was putting the python around my neck. Earlier in the day, I had completed the world’s highest rope-course challenge at Komtar. So, since I had already challenged my fear of heights, I might as well go one step further and challenge my fear of snakes.
I could have also taken a viper along with the python, but the viper seemed very active and eager to explore new territories, I dared not put it anywhere on my body.
Holding the python wasn’t that bad. At least the skin was dry, not slimy, and it was not too heavy either, maybe 2 – 3kg tops. I could feel its pulse where I was holding it. Or maybe it was its heartbeat — I’m not sure where a snake’s heart is supposed to be.
But apart from that, it didn’t move at all.
Have you visited the Penang Snake Temple? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.