"This is the Tua Peh Kong temple at the foot of Penang Hill in Air Itam. Built in the 1900's, this temple has a cave inside it where thousands of bats dwell. They hang upside down and sleep during the day and fly out to feed on insects during the night. A giant statue of Tua Peh Kong, the God of Prosperity stands at the entrance."
The bats cave temple is one of those hidden pearls of the island. It's not worth a day trip, but you have to combine it,
when you're planning a trip to Penang Hill. It's located within walking distance from the departure station of the cable car, which takes you to the top of Penang Hill.
Another possibility is, to see the temple, when you're planning to visit the Kek Lok Si. The temple is not touristy, because the road to it is crooked, is steep and there is no parking for buses.
The temple is just for the local population. Many residents of Penang, which I spoke, did not know of the existence of the temple.
This small temple is built at the foot of Penang Hill, at Jalan Pokok Ceri. It's dedicated to the god of prosperity Tua Pek Kong.
The temple is famous and unique because a few thousand bats make their dwelling place in the cave situated inside the Temple. They fly out to find food which is mainly on insects at night and sleep by hanging themselves during the day.
The average worshipper might not be able to tell you who Tua Pek Kong is, other than he worships
the deity for well-being and prosperity. Upon entering the bats' cave temple they ring a bell. You can buy a candle (RM1 - RM5), plug it into fire and place it on the table next to the others.
You notice the candles are burning and you'll smell the incense.
Now you can then explore the temple and the other visitors will show you special points.
If you're inside, you see ar first the statue of Tua Pek Kong, made of granite measuring 2 meter high. At his feet are the gifts, which the devotees have given to the God: oranges, rice, soft drinks and much, much, much Guinness. Cans and bottles! Tua Peh Kong is regarded as the patron saint of prosperities and good luck.
Behind the statue of Tua Pek Kong is a small cave. You hear the bats sound. Your eyes need to get used to the dark. Then you perceive the shadows of bats. They hang down. Nobody's stopping you, if you need to photograph with a flash in the dark.
Deeper in the cave is a shrine to see. This are also gifts: incense, candles, rice, oranges, etc. There is here no Guinness! Beside the shrine there are two white cranes (see photo below).
It is not uncommon to see that the worship of a deity for material gains borders on gambling. In the case of the Bats' Cave Temple, while the average local Chinese might not know its whereabouts, a good many who do know where it is and turned up to offer prayers are those who came seeking wins, whether on the race track or elsewhere.
It is told, that the expansion of the temple was a result of thanksgiving funds from those who won big.
The temple is very old. A guidebook printed in the 1977, mentions that the temple was built a good sixty years ago, meaning it would have been built in 1917, if not earlier. The guidebook further stated that a hermit once used the bat cave for meditation, and that Buddhist monks guard the bats against human interference.
A different version of the legend tells of a feng shui master who reared a couple of white cranes. He chose to live in the cave with his two cranes. The feng shui master was the one who started the worship of Tua Pek Kong in the cave. Eventually, he passed away and subsequently so did his cranes. After he had died, bats began to take over the cave.
In the temple you will be alerted that there are two large fish housing inside the temple. They are Pirarucu's, in a small, shallow pool swimming in on the leftside of the temple. These are fish belong in the Amazon.
A few years ago they were plotted in Southeast Asia. Outside, on the other side of the road, is a pond with turtles. You cannot get close to the pond and you have to observe them from above.
How to get there by bus.
Take Rapid Penang Bus U204 from the Komtar. The bus goes to the Penang Hill Railway station. From the bus stop, walk a short distance down the road till you reach a lane to your left with a big arch. The arch is for the Jade Emperor's Pavilion. Take that lane. A short distance up that lane, there is a road at your right hand. It has a sign pointing the way to the Bat Cave Temple. Follow that branch and it takes you to the temple, which is about 50 meters from the sign.
How to get there by car.
About 100 meters before you reach Penang Hill Station, you must turn right.
That's just for two flats and you drive a beautiful Chinese arch underneath (an "arch"). Take that lane.
A short distance up that lane, there is a road at your right hand. It has a sign pointing the way to the Bat Cave Temple. Follow that branch and it takes you to the temple, which is about 50 meters from the sign.