One year ago today I was on a plane heading to Southeast Asia for the first time. I had no idea what to expect but I was filled with excitement for a plethora of reasons. One of the things I was most looking forward to was temple-hopping. Having studied Eastern religion (especially Buddhism), I was so excited to finally get to see it in practice and attain a better understanding. What I didn’t expect was how much each and every one of these visits would continue to move me and to inspire me. 365 days later I miss it more than ever. So, I asked some fellow travel bloggers if they would share their favorite Asian temples with me in order to bring back amazing memories and add to the list of many more temples I need to experience.
The Golden Temple, India | Nita from Spilling the Beans
Amidst all the chaos in the town of Amritsar in Punjab, India, lies an oasis of peace and serenity. Surrounded by a large pool, Harmandir Sahib, meaning the house of God, is widely known as the Golden Temple. It is a famous Sikh temple and monumental center for Sikhism, a religion founded in the 16th century by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first of 10 gurus. The temple was constructed in 1604 by the 5th guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, in the center of a large water tank previously built by Guru Ram Das (the 4th guru). The Gurudwara (Sikh temple) had great significance and soon, the entire town was named Amritsar, which means sacred pool of nectar. Believers drink water from the pool and take a dip in it for blessings. Maharaja Ranjit Singh later had the upper floors of the Gurudwara covered with gold. The temple has four doors, signifying openness to people from all walks of life. The Langar (free kitchen) is a common area where visitors are welcome to enjoy free food while seated on the floor side by side, regardless of status. Witnessing the worshippers’ faith and devotion, and listening to hymns resound in the air, the Golden Temple truly feels like a sanctuary.
Borobudur, Indonesia |Noel of Travel Photo Discovery
Borobudur in central Java is one of the most magnificent Unesco World Heritage sites in Indonesia and is a treasured holy temple in the country. Started around the 9th century, this mostly intact compound of temples is noted as the largest Buddhist temple in the world housing 72 stone Buddhas each in a stupa that looks out into a tropical oasis. Visiting Borobudur is an amazing experience especially when you visit for a sunrise event to greet the morning and view the amazing landscape and grounds around the main temple.
Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar | Sonal & Sandro of Drifter Planet
Shwedagon Pagoda is called the pride of Myanmar and totally deserves that title. It is built on an elevated hill so you will notice it from a distance as you move around within Yangon. This 325ft stupa that’s plated with 8688 sheets of gold, shimmers in the day light and sparkles when it’s dark – is indeed a sight to behold! Oh and by the way, it is studded with more than 7000 diamonds and precious gems like rubies, sapphires, topaz along with a massive piece of emerald. It is said that the emerald bounces of the last rays of the sun as it sets. The crown is topped by a diamond bud called ‘sein bu’ which carries a 74-carat diamond. Legend has it that it was built more than 2600 years back and is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. The Pagoda stores significant holy relics such as hair of Gautama Buddha. The best time to visit this is 4 pm so that you can enjoy it in daylight, watch the sunset and see how it glitters when the darkness descends.
Mahabodhi Temple, India | Sandy & Vyjay of Voyager
Ha Pha Bang, Laos | Vicki of Make Time to See the World
Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, Myanmar | Valery of Experienced Traveler
Angkor Wat, Cambodia | Tamshuk of Tamz Explores
The Angkor Wat is among the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Located in the outskirts of Siem Reap in Cambodia, this historic temple is a symbol of pride and respect for the Cambodian people. I personally was in awe of the sheer magnificence and the intricate detailing on the walls of this gigantic structure. Each and every stone depicts a chapter from the history of the kingdom of Cambodia. Shades of cultures from Hinduism and Buddhism can be seen in every nook and corner of this beautiful temple. Look beyond the awe-inspiring sunrise/sunsets in the backdrop and you will find yourself immersed in the tales of the bygone eras from the history of Cambodia. This is definitely the most beautiful religious and architectural monument I have ever seen.
Kenchogsum Lhakhang, Bhutan | Swati of Lost in Maps
Erdene Zuu Monastery, Mongolia | Stefan & Sebastien of Nomadic Boys
Bich Dong Pagoda, Vietnam | Sarah of My Gipsy Soul
Golden Temple, India | Christabel & Shaine of Two Nomads One World
Just 53 miles from Mysore, Namdroling Monastery is located in the town of Bylakuppe in the southern state of Karnataka, India. Bylakuppe is a Tibetan refugee resettlement area provided by the Indian government to Tibetans fleeing instability. The monastery is home to over 5,000 monks and nuns, as well as a college and hospital. The largest temple on the monastery grounds is the Golden temple or Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara. As soon as you enter the grounds, you’re made aware of the need to be silent. If you’ve ever been to India, you know the hustle and bustle can get overwhelming. It takes a while to get used to the constant noise from traffic (never heard so many horns beep before in my life), street vendors, and dogs barking all the time. A couple of hours meditating in silence & serenity was pure bliss!
Wat Tham Ta Pan, Thailand | Chris of One Weird Globe
Tanah Lot, Indonesia | Carole of Travels with Carole
More than the temple history at Tanah Lot, which was vaguely relayed to me, I enjoyed the here and now. This seaside temple is spread out in a beautiful setting, making exploring pleasurable. Visitors were wild about taking selfies up on a bluff overlooking another temple area below, and two visitors were even busy getting married in full formal dress. But perhaps the experience I enjoyed most was watching the sunset while sipping fresh coconut water through a straw in a cliff-side cafe overlooking the temple.
Songzalin Monastery, China | Anita of The Sane Travel
Songzanlin Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan province, China. It is located near Shangri-La County, at the foot of Foping Mountain. Construction of the monastery began in 1679 and was completed two years later. The monastery looks like a group of ancient castles composed of two lamaseries: Zhacang and Jikang. The monastery is full of treasures including golden figures of Buddha josses, golden lamps, silver censers. It is also called the little Potala Palace, because of the traditional style. I love it because of very special feeling and mysterious atmosphere.
Wat Tham Pha Plong, Thailand | Andrea of Andi on Adventure
On a recent scooter trip on the Mae Hong Son loop, we stumbled upon a secret gem of a temple near Chiang Dao, Thailand, a small village famous for the Chiang Dao caves. We had extra time to explore, so we drove to the end of the road past the caves and stumbled upon Wat Tham Pha Plong temple. Buddhist meditations lined the pathway, so climbing the 500 steps to the temple turned into a walking meditation and eased the pain! When we finally arrived we found something amazing for Thailand temples – no tourists! We were alone except for a couple of monks, and the view was breathtaking! Our timing was perfect too, as we witnessed the 3pm ringing of the gong. Tranquil, peaceful, quiet, meditative, mesmerizing. A secret temple!
Ulu Watu, Indonesia | Claudia of My Adventures Across the World
I haven’t seen much of Asia yet, and Indonesia was the first country I have ever visited in this incredible continent. My favorite temple so far is Ulu Watu, in Bali. The temple itself is beautiful, spread over some incredible cliffs over the ocean. What I like the about it is the presence of monkeys who, although cheeky (they tried to steal my sunglasses!) make the overall experience funny, and the Ramayana ballet show which is – despite geared to tourists – incredibly interactive and a lot of fun to watch. Yet, what I truly enjoyed there has been the sunset over the sea. Simply spectacular!
Hagia Sophia, Turkey | Izzy of The Next Somewhere
The three masterminds behind the Hagia Sophia were no ordinary architects: they were scholars of their time — a scientist, a mathematician, and a physicist. The name of the church-turned-mosque comes from Greek, meaning “Holy Wisdom“. Upon entering this monument, you are given an education about human history. When the Turks turned this Christian house of worship into one of Islam’s holiest sites, they never torn down the beautiful Byzantine art that were etched on the cathedral’s domes. Instead, they erected their own Islamic artwork beside each existing decoration and today, this temple shows two faiths coexisting as one beautiful entity. Here, no one is denied entry. It is a temple that welcomes all, a lesson I believe the world-at-large needs a better understanding of.
What Arun, Thailand | Hannah & Adam of Getting Stamped
With so many temples in Asia it’s hard to pick just one, but if I had to it would be Wat Arun. Wat Arun is situated on the Chaio Phraya River bank, and the most stunning temple in Bangkok.I have been to Wat Arun at least 5 times, and I keep coming back as it is my favorite temple to visit while spending 3 days in Bangkok. I love going to Wat Arun for several reasons: it’s not nearly as busy as the Grand Palace, it’s only 100 Baht entrance which is 1/5th of the price of the Grand Palace (500 Baht). I definitely recommend coming down to the river to watch the sunset over Wat Arun. Wat Arun is directly across the river from Wat Pho, another Bangkok favorite of mine. Come right before they close as the temperatures will be in your favor and there won’t be nearly as many tourists. The temple is open 8:30-5:30 daily.
White Temple, Thailand | Jennifer of Moi, Mes Souliers
The White Temple in Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai is simply bizarre, yet unbelievably fascinating. I can’t remember how many times I said wow! Contrary to all the other South-East Asian temples, it’s all white and doesn’t respect any traditional architectural rules. Here, everything’s possible, even a Spider Man figure painted on the inside walls (and he’s not alone)! I can guarantee you’ll have your camera going on and on again while you stare puzzled at this thai icon.
Jokhang Temple, Tibet | Jenny of Jenny Far Away
The Jokhang Temple in Lhasa is the holiest place in all of Tibet, and people come from all over the country to worship here. The atmosphere is powerful; an assault on the senses and the soul like nowhere else. Inside is dark and shadowy, flickering candlelight illuminating the chapels lining the walls. The pilgrims enter all of these with hands clutching their prayer beads, dripping yak butter into the candles and bowing to the deities. A steady hum fills the room; the sound of hundreds of pilgrims reciting different mantras. The air is heavily scented with incense and yak butter, mixed with the unique smells of an ancient wooden building as well as those of the throngs of humans passing through. Visiting the Jokhang means experiencing a depth of spirituality and a dedication to faith that both far surpass anything I have a frame of reference for. I am slightly outside of my comfort zone, observing but not participating, but no one seems to mind or even acknowledge my presence. So I sit and watch quietly, soaking up the atmosphere and witnessing the incredible devotion of the pilgrims. It’s a place I wish I could visit over and over again.
Grand Palace, Thailand | Malerie of Getaway Mavens
Built in 1782, this former residence of the King (think King of Siam. Think Yule Brenner), and its collection of Royal Temples is what Disneyland would look like if Walt Disney had been Buddhist. I love it because it’s a fantasia of gilded, sparkling whimsical structures; each step and turn offers another breathtaking revelation. Exploring this Temple complex with college-age kids who love to travel is incredibly fun, as you might tell from this photo.
Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal | Lance of Travel Addicts
My favorite temple in Asia is the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. My time in Nepal was troubled – I lived there during the Maoist troubles and the early days of the civil war. Despite the problems, I would head the 2km to the stupa for my morning incantations. I would walk around the stupa and spin the prayer wheels. I’d occasionally be approached by tourists and asked to explain what was happening. Now, nearly two decades later, my thoughts often return to the Himalayas and the Boudhanath Stupa.
Forbidden Purple City, Vietnam | Katie of Feathery Travels
Surviving 200 years of termite and typhoon damage, before the majority of Huế was blasted to rubble in the America/Vietnam war, it’s somewhat of a miracle that there’s anything left standing of the Forbidden Purple City. Far from Thailand’s lustrous gold dragons and shiny new paintwork, I was attracted to the delicate decay that had crept over this abandoned palace complex. The remaining architecture is chipped and faded, leaving only glimpses of what once was the most prominent example of imperial Chinese influence in the region. Barely able to imagine the original splendour of the various buildings and temples, I enjoyed trying to decipher the fantastical imagery that adorns many of their most colourful walls. In the wake of decades in turmoil, I found the atmosphere calm and reflective. Compared to some of Vietnam’s more popular attractions, the Forbidden Purple City had an air of honesty. I was thankful for the chance to loose myself in the past and welcomed its sanctuary after the bustle of big cities and tourist traps elsewhere.
Kek Lok Si, Malaysia | Karolina & Patryk of KarolinaPatryk
Kek Lok Si is a temple complex in Penang. For us, it is not only the best temple in Malaysia but also in the whole South East Asia! Kek Lok Si is situated on the hill, so you have to climb up to get to the top. There is nothing special about this temple when you look at it from the outside. But when you get inside, you will suddenly feel relaxed and you’d never want to leave. You really can feel God’s power in Kek Lok Si temple. Being there was one of the best experiences we had in Malaysia. It was very mystical.
Wat Phnom, Cambodia | Paige of For the Love of Wanderlust
Wat Phnom wasn’t the biggest or grandest temple I saw throughout my time in Southeast Asia, but it made one of the biggest impacts on me. I stood in awe watching all of the worship going on around me. Musicians were playing music on drums & xylophones, devotees were lighting incense & praying and I watched as a wide array of offerings were placed ranging from flowers to food to birds. I remember everything in my body feeling electric as each sense was intrigued, yet within that electricity was a sense of calm. It felt, all at once, so foreign and so natural to me.
Holy Spring Temple, Indonesia | Rain of Words and Wanderlust
My favorite temple is Tirta Empul, or Holy Spring Temple in Bali. It debunks the stereotype I have had in mind about temples being dry, barren and boring. The place is a shrine unifying mankind and nature— Balinese architecture set amidst a lush landscape and a generous waterscape. The water sprouting to the pond to cleanse and bathe worshippers is a very apt representation of how hope springs eternal. When I first visited the temple, one of the locals, sensing my amusement, invited me to the pool. In broken English, she explained that the spring is holy and it will cleanse both my physical and spiritual selves. I believe in nature, and the Balinese faith in the healing powers of Tirta Empul is something that resonates with that belief.
Borobudur, Indonesia | Mihaela of World Travel Bug
Borobudur is one of the most special temples I have ever seen. It left such an impression on me that I went there twice within 24 hours: at sunset and sunrise. luckily I decide to spent the night at the only hotel on site, inside the Borobudur park. The sunset was in fact a stormy one which gave a completely surreal feel to the place and the sunrise….wow….the sunrise was simply magical! Borobudur is the largest buddhist temple in the world and it is both a shrine and a pilgrimage place. There is no room inside the temple so you cannot go inside. One can only watch from outside, by walking around on the many stories . At the top story of the temple there are 72 stupas, each of them containing a statue of Buddha. What is really interesting is that most of these statues have no head left. There are 2 open stupas with full body buddhas sitting in meditation somehow giving the impression that they are in fact contemplating the exquisite view surrounding the temple. And you want to to just the same!
Jade Buddha Temple, China | Maria of Maria Abroad
The Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai is one of my favorite temples in Asia. I love it’s bright yellow walls surrounding the temple that look like warm sunshine on a summer day. When you enter through the thick wooden gates, it feels like you step into another world. You leave behind the hustle and bustle of the modern city and the smell of incense hits you. You see large tables full of pink colored lotus candles under an airy roof of red lanterns. Tourists and worshipers mingle side by side, yet they are miles apart. When you step into the hall of the Buddha, you see the pale green statue sitting in a lotus pose. His face is pure, almost child like. While not the main attraction of the temple, I find the laying Buddha even more beautiful. His relaxed pose and genuine smile make him more approachable, yet you see the respect and love that is brought to him through plates of fruit and other offerings that surround him. The Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai is a beautiful temple and I am sure you will enjoy your visit.
Wat Umung, Thailand | Sarah of Please Don’t Die in Thailand
Wat Umong was the first temple I tried to visit upon arriving in my new home of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Did I make it there? No, not for six months. En route, I skidded on spilled oil and crashed my motorbike. My Thai friends reacted in horror – and not to my broken foot. According to superstition, for something bad happen on the way to temple means an evil spirit is keeping you from your destiny. Or so they told me. I laughed it off at the time, but it bothered me. I’d go one day, I said, what’s the hurry? I could use a little destiny. But not now. Six months later I was walking among the broken statuary stacked precariously, but not unlovingly, around the temple grounds. I stood for the first time in the tunnels underneath the chedi at Wat Umong, and it certainly was lovely. It’s different than other Thai temples you see. A forest temple, it favours plain stone to gilded eaves, but it is this very simplicity that appealed to me. You won’t see hordes of tourists; it is a place for quiet meditation. Still looking for that destiny though.
Golden Temple, India | Shivansh of Hyper Trypsy
Golden temple is the most sacred shrine in Sikhism. It is situated in the holy city of Amritsar, in India. Beautifully located in the middle of a large pool, the tranquility and solace around the temple deeply mesmerized me during my visit in 2015. As the name suggests, the dome of the temple is gilded with pure gold and it casts a shimmering shadow in the pool at night. The most moving experience for me was when all the devotees got together and cooked meals or each other. Later, we even served meals to each other and finally washed the utensils together. This place is open for anyone to visit, to sleep or to eat at, all day all night. Golden temple is truly a symbol of brotherhood and humanity. One of the disturbing facts to learn was that in 1984, the temple suffered huge damages due to attacks during a military operation. However, it is still considered to be one of the holiest grounds in India and people visit the temple year after year to get blessings from the creator.
Ho Quoc Pagoda, Vietnam | Lotte of Phenomenal Globe
Phu Quoc is a small island, 3km out of the Cambodian coast but belonging to Vietnam. It was the place where I ended my 1-month trip around Vietnam, which started in Hanoi and led me through Tam Coc, Hue, Hoi An, Dalat, Ho Chi Minh and finally: Phu Quoc! I drove around Phu Quoc on a scooter for three days, which was terrific because there is a lot to see on this beautiful island! One of the things you shouldn’t miss is the Ho Quoc Pagoda. The Ho Quoc Pagoda complex is actually very new, build only in late 2012. A peaceful place and a good-looking pagoda. But what makes it such an awesome pagoda is the location! The complex is beautifully situated: on a small hill overlooking the ocean. The view from the Ho Quoc Pagoda is stunning, a perfect place for contemplation …
Did your favorite Asian Temple make the list? If not, leave a comment in below so we can all hear more about your favorite temple experience during your travels in Asia.