20 October 2015

The Enchanted Heart - Ipoh's Hidden Tibetan Temple.

Tambun, the suburb of Ipoh in which we live, is famous for two things:  Juicy and sweet pomelos and the Lost World of Tambun theme park. 

This large Temple complex is hidden in the hills behind our home.
Driving to the Pomelo farm a few weeks ago we found a sign for a Tibetan Temple.  We were intrigued, the limestone hills of Malaysia were the last place we ever expected to encounter a Tibetan temple (although there are quite a few in the country).  We enjoyed our visits to some of the other temples in Ipoh.  The children are on half term this week and so a small amount of haze notwithstanding (you can see how it blows out the photographs) we decided to drive over and investigate.  We are so pleased that we did, the temple is an absolute gem, a genuine piece of Shangri-La 10km from the city.

The Temple Entrance
Coming into the temple we passed prayer wheels.  The caretaker kindly took the time to explain their use and meaning to the children before giving us a little bit of background on the origins of the temple.
Walkway to the original temple
It was founded in 1976 by a local man, Ge Li Rinpoche.  The caretaker showed us photographs of the original temple under construction.  The main pagoda, which has 11 floors and stands over 72 meters tall was only completed in 2007. It houses a standing Buddha statue on the 9th floor.   Behind that, on the hillside, is the tallest Buddha statue in Perak.  The founder died in 2013, the temple seems to have been funded almost completely by his fortune and one wonders how long it will be able to continue if it does not find another wealthy supporter.

A dragon in the temple...
The original temple is accessed through a walkway of prayer wheels that pass by ponds filled with very large catfish.  It was extremely peaceful and beautifully designed and maintained.

Viewing the pool
These colourful prayer flags are everywhere.  They are sold on the site.
Returning to the main building we walked past flags and prayer wheels into the base of the pagoda.  From there it was possible to look up all the way to the roof.  Platforms holding statues project into the central open space at all levels.

These dragons guard the statues at the base of the main tower.
The dragons are intricately carved and decorated.

The next floor holds statues representing the years of the zodiac and the next floor up has a giant carousel sized prayer wheel filled with hundreds of miniature Buddha statues.  From a quick look they all seemed unique but there might have been some level of duplication. 

The view to the roof is breathtaking
At this level it was possible to walk around the outside and enjoy some stunning views of the local countryside to the front of the temple and see the pomelo and fruit farms nestled in the hills. 
The view to the back of the temple showed the tall Buddha statue built into the hill above the monastery, the building festooned with multi-coloured prayer flags. 

This may look like a carousel but it is full of tiny Buddhas and topped by a lotus
A small selection of the Buddhas seen through the glare of the covering
A thigh burning hike up to the ninth floor brought us to the 11m gold statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha who, stood under his tree, gazes benevolently over the countryside.  We did not go any higher and the view down was enough to give us vertigo.

Prayer wheels around the outer wall of the tower
We are not Buddhists (CofE for our sins) but found the temple a very special place permeated with a true sense of spirituality that is not necessarily present in all places of worship.  Talking to the caretaker it was obvious that there are still strong feelings of affection and love towards the founder.  We were invited back to the ‘Sunning of the Medicinal Buddha’ celebration in a few weeks’ time when devout worshipers will make their way to the temple to roll out a huge painted banner.  This is, we were told, only the fourth year the ceremony has taken place.

The temple in the surrounding countryside.
We got the impression that the temple is not visited by many tourists (this may account for the spiritual air) and that it is not well known even in Ipoh.  The temple is certainly well hidden, identified only by a few ramshackle signs on the roadside.  From there a single track road winds up to the temple which remains hidden behind the orchards until almost the last minute. 

The tallest Buddha in Perak, nestled in the hill
On the 9th floor of the tower the Buddha stands under his tree
and gazes benevolently at the countryside.
The view down through the centre of the tower.
We are so pleased that we found this hidden gem of a temple.  It certainly deserves to be better known and more visited but I do hope that it does not change as a result.  

There are many statues in the central void
If you are ever in Ipoh this must rank as one of the must see sights.  Drive from Tambun past the police station in the direction of Ampang Baru.  You will see the signs for the temple on your left hand side.  

An unprepossessing sign for a wonderful place.
Incidentally any tips on haze photography gratefully received.  I have experimented with various exposure compensations but I cannot stop the photographs looking washed out and rather flat.  

I have added this to the monthly Expat Life Link Up hosted by Amanda Mulligan from Life with a Double Buggy.  Click on the link to read some of the most interesting expat posts on the web!

Expat Life Linky

Click the picture below for more posts on life in Ipoh

Ersatz Expat


  1. It's always a dilemma when you discover a "hidden gem" that still maintains authenticity owing to not being on the tourist map, but needing to be to get more funding....This place looks very special so I hope they manage to keep it going without selling out to mass tourism. #expatlifelinky

  2. Thank you for the beautiful photos. It's interesting to see that Buddhism is still alive and developing, not static as I would have expected. I love the draping on the indoor Buddha's robe. He looks very modern, almost like a western saint. Only the head gives it away.

    1. Thanks! There are a few different types of Buddhism practised here. I love visiting the temples and wish I knew more about it.

  3. The best part of travel is discovering hidden gems - in my view! Thanks for sharing with us. #ExpatLifeLinky

    1. Thanks - it is amazing what can be found when you get to know a place!