A Hell Tour in Penang, Malaysia was something no one expected during the recent Hungry Ghost Festival which falls on the month of August 2011. This very strange and unique tour to the netherworld was initiated by the local Teong Guan Association and Penang State Government in conjunction with the festival which is celebrated country wide yearly. The reason for having this tour was for the believers of the spiritual world to interact with their loved ones or friends who have passed on while some may even be able to tour the streets of hell or witness how torture is conducted in hell. As tours like this are usually conducted in the premises of a temple, this time around, it was held in an open field called Padang Brown (Brown Field) in Penang Island.
Penang Hell Tour poster
Led by Master Kek Eng Seng, the Netherworld Tour was conducted on August 27th from 8.30pm to 10.30pm and attracted a total of over 200 people from around Malaysia. Finally after shortlisting through a screening process, many were excluded due to unfavorable birth dates while some women who were pregnant were not allowed to participate. Eventually, a total of 54 people including a dozen media reporters were selected for this one-of-a-kind tour here in Malaysia.
A briefing was conducted by Master Kek, who has 28 years of experience in dealing with spiritual matters and studied Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, fortune-telling and feng shui, advised the participants to relax and said he would do his best to bring them to the netherworld. The master also mentioned that participants may see their relatives, "you can talk to them but you cannot hear them as they do not have a body". “You might also see treasures, gold and silver, but you can’t take them." continued the master.
Passing through Hell's Gate - Picture from TheStar
The process started with all 54 'tourist' having to wear white tops and pass through 'Hell's Gate' before proceeding to burn a huge pile of Hell Bank Notes. Next everyone was lead to a tent in the filed where they were blindfolded with yellow and black cloth wrapped with amulets inside each of them which served as tickets to the netherworld. The 52-year-old Master then lighted several lotus candles and began to chant mantras. By the time the rituals were conducted, the actual tour started at about 10.15pm according to reporter Beh Yuen Hui. Her actual experience tells of how her head became heated after a while of hearing the masters chants. Following this, her next experience was traveling through a stream of meteorites but was eventually distracted by a distant sound of a Chinese Opera being performed.
Master Kek Eng Seng performing the Hell Tour ritual - Picture from TheStar
Apparently only a few of the participants managed to experience visiting hell where one China Press reporter saw a rainbow hanging in a beautiful sky and a monk appeared to him advising him to be a vegetarian. Another female participant claimed she saw her departed mother in a distance but could not go to her nor speak to her.
When the tour finally concluded, some of the 'tourist' excitedly shared their experiences while some claimed they were not able to enter hell as they were distracted by the Teochew Opera held nearby as well as the clicking of cameras in the distance. A follow up tour was also organized on the 29th August for three of the Chinese media who did not manage to experience this tour. However, the Second Hell Tour which was held at the Masters temple was also unsuccessful with no one reaching the netherworld.
As many of the Malaysian Chinese are generally spiritual, therefore if you want to witness the hungry ghost festival, it will usually fall on the month of August. Who knows that maybe next year, they may even have another Hell Tour in Penang, Malaysia.