Snake Temple (Hock Hing Keong) may not be the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, but it’s certainly one of the strangest. True to its name, this small Chinese temple in Penang is filled with Wagler’s pit vipers and tree snakes perched on trees and wooden frames throughout. The smoke of the always-burning incense, combined with midday heat, renders the snakes largely immobile, but visitors are still advised to avoid handling the reptiles.
According to local legend, snakes began entering the temple on their own shortly after it was built in the mid nineteenth century, and the monks at the time allowed them to stay. The monks will tell you that the snakes are “blessed,” and that’s why they’ve never bitten anyone.
The temple itself is free to enter, but for a small fee, you can also tour the onsite snake farm where it’s possible to see several species of snakes and handle a few of them under expert supervision.