Ling Sen Tong is the least cave-like of the three temples in the area, but the vibrant paint job on everything makes for the best pictures.
Any visitor to Ipoh will be advised to visit at least one of the three temples southeast of central Ipoh: Sam Poh Tong Temple, Nam Thean Tong Temple, and Ling Sen Tong Temple.
This cluster of temples is an ideal place to experience the Taoist religion. Not only are they within walking distance of each other, but these cave temples each have their distinct style so you don’t get bored of seeing the exact same thing three times. Since these are functional temples, admission is completely free for all three.
Closest to the highway is Ling Sen Tong Temple. This temple looks to be the cleanest and most modern of the three temples. Ling Sen Tong is a feast for the eyes, set against a backdrop of lush green cliffs.
Getting Here & Parking
Getting here is quite simple as these temples are just off the highway. Though the area looks far from Ipoh Oldtown, it was not an issue for us finding Grab drivers that were willing to drop us off or pick us up.
I believe parking at Ling Sen Tong Temple is free on normal days, but expect a fee on special holidays such as Chinese New Year. There is a lot just across from the temple, but you could also park at Nam Thean Tong next door if you prefer something more enclosed. You might want to think about visiting the temples in reverse order as we did so that Ling Sen Tong is last. That way, the highway is right there when you’re ready to leave this area, and a Grab driver doesn’t have to drive deep down the winding road to pick you up.
Watch out for a very aggressive old beggar lady hanging out at the gate of this temple. We’re not usually unnerved by beggars, but this one spotted us as we were walking up from Nam Thean Tong and hobbled toward us. She began shouting something at us in Chinese while thrusting her outstretched hand. Even though we had politely declined her panhandling, this beggar granny followed us, yelling all the while, until we had passed through the entrance gate of the temple.
What To See
Ling Sen Tong hits you with a dazzling array of hues. Everything is covered in bright paint with contrasting colours. It looks more like a theme park than a temple – like the Haw Par Villa in Singapore.
The statues in the garden are much more cartoony looking than the ones at the other temples, and it felt sacrilegious to giggle at how silly some of them looked. To their credit, they do appear well-maintained without a hint of chipped or weathered paint. If you need a break, there is a resting area with benches in the shade located to the right of the Tao deity in the white robe.
Inside the main structure is where you might find the locals praying and making their offerings. The altar is a busy spot with lots of lotus candles, flowers and mini statues, while conical joss sticks hang from the low ceiling. Years of candle and incense burning within this cave have turned the rock ceiling completely black.
Just past these vibrant arches is a little courtyard with more Taoist figures, each with their own donation boxes. Inside the building with the two entrances is a prayer shrine to this many-armed “thousand eyes” god behind protective glass.
In this courtyard, you will find stairs leading up to the second level of the main temple. On the exposed roof are golden statues, including a reclining Buddha.
From up here is a great view of the cliffs, the Ling Sen Tong courtyard and Nam Thean Tong Temple next door. There’s also a washroom up here if you need it. If you walk further, there is an open-air room meant for more religious offerings. There will be a set of stairs at the very end that will lead you back down to just outside the main shrine room.
Ling Sen Tong cave temple makes for the best pictures with its colourful deity statues and architecture. The interior of the cave shrines look pretty cool with the blackened ceiling with flecks of gold on it, but otherwise, the shrines are very functional and not too interesting. I estimate that it would take roughly 20 minutes to explore Ling Sen Tong at a leisurely pace.
Ling Sen Tong Temple Info
Admission: Free (donations appreciated)
Parking: Free (fee applies on special occasions)
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Washroom On-Site: Yes