If you’re visiting Ipoh, it’s highly recommended to visit one of the three temples located southeast of central Ipoh: Sam Poh Tong Temple, Nam Thean Tong Temple, and Ling Sen Tong Temple.
This group of temples is an excellent way to explore the Taoist faith. They are conveniently situated close to each other, and each cave temple has its own unique style, so you won’t feel like you’re seeing the same thing repeatedly. Admission to all three temples is free, as they are still actively used as places of worship.
Nam Thean Tong, also known as Nam Tian Tong, has a more subtle appearance compared to its neighboring temples. Its construction allows it to blend in with the cliff-face, and the colors of the exterior are more subdued than those of Ling Sen Tong. However, the interior of Nam Thean Tong features eye-catching murals that have been painted directly onto the cave rock.
Directions & Parking Nam Thean Tong is situated in the middle of the three temples, accessible via a narrow unnamed road. The temple provides a dedicated parking lot located within its walls, which is usually free and unoccupied. However, during peak periods such as Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, a parking fee of approximately RM10 may be charged as the gods perceive an auspicious opportunity.
What To See
Upon passing through the main archway, you won’t find any elaborate statues or gardens in front of Nam Thean Tong temple. Rather, there are just a few external decorations located to the left of the temple building. These include a large golden deity surrounded by bushes and a colorful pagoda that sits atop a murky fish pond. A zigzag bridge connects the pagoda to a small shrine near the base of the cliff.
When visiting Nam Thean Tong, take a moment to appreciate the intricate carvings of dragons, deities, and fish on the temple roofs before entering. On the left side of the building, there are some beautiful paintings, and I believe there may be a restroom up a short flight of stairs in that area. I didn’t use the facilities myself, so I didn’t pay much attention, but I’m confident that there is a restroom at Nam Thean Tong.
Upon entering the temple, you will see a desk with people sitting around. These are temple staff and caretakers, not a ticket booth, so don’t worry about paying admission fees and proceed further into the temple.
Nam Thean Tong is the ideal temple to admire the architecture of cave temples. The main sanctuary is carved deep into the cliff and is well-lit, allowing you to appreciate the natural crevices and grooves in the rock. Out of the three temples in the area, Nam Thean Tong provides the best opportunity to observe and appreciate the beauty of cave temple architecture.
The focal point of Nam Thean Tong Temple is a table brimming with incense, situated before five seated deities that are modest in size. However, the true reverence for the gods lies in the wall paintings that adorn the cave walls. Adjacent to the main sanctum, a brief passage leads to a secondary room with a beautiful mural, a small altar, and a large window covered with a grate. This chamber also houses the first flight of stairs that leads upward.
Nam Thean Tong Cave Temple in Ipoh
What distinguishes Nam Thean Tong Temple from its counterparts is the opportunity to delve deep into the heart of the cave. Although visitors can climb up to the technically fourth floor, the real allure for first-timers is discovering how far the passageway extends. As you ascend, the number of fellow tourists gradually diminishes, and a sense of gloom sets in. The handrails and bridges may be shaky, and the upper floors lack illumination, making it pitch black and unnerving if you relish being frightened.
The address of Nam Thean Tong Temple is 951, Jalan Gopeng, 31350 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Admission: Free (donations appreciated)
Parking: Free (~RM10 fee applies on special occasions)
Hours: 9am – 5pm sharp (last admission at 4:30pm)