Penang’s Snake Temple has been given a complete ‘makeover’ with a new look that closely resembles the original heritage design dating back to the 1880s.
Completed late last year, the latest restoration amounting to about RM1.1mil saw the hiring of heritage consultants to rectify the mistakes of past restorations.
Now, the iconic temple of vipers that is a major tourist attraction is “looking as good as old”, according to trustee Tan Lye Hock.
“Two local heritage experts — Tan Yeow Wooi and Ooi Bok Kim — were involved in the restoration work based on research of old photographs,” he said when contacted.
He said previous renovations had failed to consider the heritage aspect of the building, notwithstanding the good intentions of the temple trustees.
The latest restoration focused on the roof,walls, main hall as well as paintings and carvings on the pillars. Modern fixtures were stripped away and replaced with heritage materials that resembled the original.
The refurbished temple in Bayan Lepas, also known as Hock Hin Keong, will be officially opened on May 29 by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. There will be lion dance and 24-drum performances followed by prayers.
The 2ha piece of land where the temple sits was donated by David Brown, one of Penang’s biggest landowners, in the 1820s.
The temple first started as an attap shrine and had undergone several major renovations throughout the years.
Temple honorary secretary Cheah Cheng Ean said there were currently about 100 snakes with some coming from the wild and the rest being the offsprings of “resident reptiles”.
The various species include the green vipers, also known as Temple Pit Vipers, Green Dragon Snakes and Ular Kapak Tokong.
“We have about 30 snakes on display in the temple on normal days and about 50 during major celebrations,” he said, adding there was also a snake farm nearby for breeding the reptiles.
Cheah said the snakes were bred for the temple and not for sale while a mini exhibition at the farm showcased about 40 varieties of snakes, including the python.
He said there used to be more snakes coming from the nearby jungle in the temple’s early years before the area became developed with the mushrooming of factories.
“The snakes are believed to be the protectors and servants of the resident deity, Cheng Chooi Chor Soo Kong,” he noted.
Cheah said the temple trustees were also in the process of reclaiming a piece of land in front of the temple from the state government which was partly used for the construction of a road.
“We will consider building a restaurant or several coffee shops after obtaining the property,” he said.
He added that they also planned to launch the second phase of the restoration project comprising the construction of a proper car park and landscaping.
The temple is open from 7am to 7pm daily. Entrance is free.