By Beh Yuen Hui
GEORGETOWN, Malaysia - A group of daring people took the opportunity to be part of a 'Hell Tour' in Penang.
The trip was organised by Master Kek Eng Seng of the Tze Bei Guan Yin Dhamma Centre, who claims that he can travel through the realms of Earth, Heaven and Hell.
For the first time in Malaysia, he offered people the opportunity to visit the 'Afterworld'.
Surprisingly, there was an overwhelming response. More than 200 people from all around the country registered for the extraordinary trip.
Some were taken off the list through a screening process, based on the birth dates that were unfavourable with the timing of the tour. Pregnant women and those having their period were also turned down.
Finally, the number of Hell travelers was brought down to slightly more than 50, including a dozen reporters from the Chinese dailies and yours truly from Daily Chilli.
It had been raining almost the whole day on Thursday and Friday but Saturday was sunny.
Master Kek claimed that he had appealed to Guan Yin deity to stop the rain for our trip to the afterworld.
As night fell, the group, all clad in white shirts symbolising purity and sincerity, gathered at Padang Brown in Georgetown for the "tour".
After some prayers and rituals, we were all set to start our journey at around 10.15pm.
My eyes were covered with a paper talisman wrapped in a yellow cloth. Then, the lights were switched off.
As I listened to the chants by Master Kek, my head became very hot, as though there was a stream of warm air trying to get out of my body through the top.
(Master Kek later explained this by saying that my soul was trying to get out of my body.)
The feeling came three to four times but was gone within minutes.
I tried hard to concentrate but my mind was distracted by the sounds from a Chinese opera show nearby and noises from the watching crowd.
But I refused to give up.
About 45 minutes after the "tour" began, I saw lights and followed their direction but I soon fell into darkness again with some circles flying towards me.
It was like watching a science fiction movie with a spacecraft traveling through a stream of meteoroids.
(Master Kek later explained that I was passing through a whirlpool while on my way to "Hell".)
But, I was again distracted by the noises and failed to enter "Hell".
Soon, Master Kek called for everyone to return. The process lasted about one hour and 15 minutes.
Unfortunately, only about a dozen people in the group claimed to have managed to break the barrier and enter the realm.
Chiang Kee Chuan from China Press was the only 'lucky' one from among the media participants.
"I saw a rainbow hanging on a beautiful sky, and a monk advised me to become a vegetarian," he said.
Another woman, who declined to be named, said she saw many 'people' at a pasar malam (night market).
Before she could tell more, Master Kek asked if the street's name is Ba Jiao Jie (Octogon Street) and she gave him a Yes.
"Why? Because I have been to the same place before," said the master.
Another female participant said she saw her departed mother from a distance, but she could not go near and speak to her.
The event ended after Master Kek led the group to recite prayers to get rid of bad luck.
On seeing the disappointed faces of the reporters later, the master promised to take us on a second trip on Monday.
Hopefully, I will have more stories to tell after that.