Top 10 temples from my Asian Adventure

It appears I’ve not blogged for a very long time – apologies for that…!

I found myself reminiscing (again…) about my travelling, and found myself (as I do) thinking about all of the different religious sites I saw, and how different they were to each other – even within the same country and religion. So in my head I found myself asking which my favourite was.

Of course, this list is very subjective and some of it really down to my experiences there, rather than the temple itself. So it really is, MY top 10. Feel free to let me know yours 🙂

10. Vinh Nghiem Pagoda – Saigon, Vietnam

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About:

A Buddhist temple built in 1964, the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda was the first pagoda in Vietnam to be built in concrete in traditional Vietnamese pagoda architecture style. Read more here

For Me:

After having been travelling alone for a few months, I was so happy to meet up with some friends from back home, and this was our first activity together. Also – this was the only Buddhist temple I came across which was holding a mass service/ceremony. Lots of chanting going on, it felt really inclusive and had an air of real community to it.

9. The Ayutthaya temple ruins – Ayutthaya, Thailand

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About:

An ancient Thai city founded in the 14th Century, Ayutthaya was huge – with trade from all over the world coming to its gates. Only the ruins of Buddhist temples and palaces remain now; as at that time, stone buildings were reserved purely for the Gods, not for humans – who lived in perishable buildings which have not survived today. Read more here

For Me:

This photo shows only one of the temple sites I visited within Ayutthaya – there are dozens more, and I couldn’t choose any one temple ruin in particular. They were fascinating as each one looked so vastly different from others near it – some (like those in the photo) in the Sri Lankan style of architecture, some in the Cambodian style, and they really gave you a sense of diversity of the time.

8. Wat Phra Kaew – Bangkok, Thailand

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About:

Lying within the walls of the Grand Palace,the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is considered the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, with the statue itself having history taking you back to India in 43 BC, before working its way through Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and finally, Thailand. A fascinating story – worth a read 🙂 Read more here.

For Me:

Again – it has to be the diversity of the styles of architecture – plus that enormous golden spire (Sri Lankan architecture – I was told) which really takes your breath away when you’re up close to it. Some serious opulence here, folks.

7. Angkor Wat – Angkor/Siem Reap, Cambodia

7

About:

The. Largest. Religious. Monument. In. The. World.

Angkor Wat was a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu, built in the early 12th century, when the city of Angkor was a force to be reckoned with at that time (it was the largest pre-industrial city in the world). This temple was said to be ‘grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome’ (Henri Mouhot – French naturalist and explorer). Read more here.

For Me:

Well it’s enormous. So that helps. The sheer scale of this place is fantastic, allowing you to really get lost in its corridors and central areas. Controversial that the largest religious monument in the world made it to number 7 in my list, this was largely due to the shame of the preservation work being carried out when I was there (as you can see from the photo), and also due to the volume of PEOPLE everywhere – making it very difficult to actually linger – for fear of getting in the way of people’s photos.

6. The Jade Emperor Pagoda – Saigon, Vietnam

6

About:

This temple is a mix of the Chinese Tao religion and Buddhism – built in 1909 by the Chinese population in Saigon, it houses various rooms of worship, with several colourful statues and scenes depicted. Outside the temple there is a small pool with dozens of turtles hanging out – giving the temple its colloquial name of ‘Turtle Temple. Read more here.

For Me:

Vastly different – both inside and out – from any other temple I had seen to this point, the turtle temple was dark pink, for a start, and did not house the familiar golden buddha inside, as I was perhaps expecting. Instead, there was intricately carved statues of divinities and heroes – telling some pretty epic stories. Also there was a room full of small female statues – apparently this room will help you have children if you want…Oh yeah, and I can’t forget all the cool turtles chilling outside the temples as well :).

5. The Bayon. Angkor Thom – Angkor/Siem Reap, Cambodia

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About:

This temple sits at the centre of Angkor Thom, Jayavarman VII’s capital of Angkor in the late 12th or early 13th century. 216 distinctive faces are carved into the stone towers all over this temple – showing (what is widely believed to be) king Jayavarman himself. Read more here.

For Me:

This temple just looked so cool as we were approaching it on our tuk tuk – and it didn’t disappoint up-close. Nowhere near as busy with tourists as Angkor Wat, you were able to wander around a little more freely here, and for me, the architecture felt as though it had more character to it (and no – just because of the huge stone faces staring down at me). I love this photo – even though it’s really poor quality – as it shows what I like to think of as the ‘acid melting’ quality of this temple – it looks as though it was carved out beautifully and built so neatly, and then someone threw a bucket of acid over it. yes – that sounds horrible, but I think it really adds to the charm of this temple.

4. Hanuman Temple – Hampi, Karnataka, India

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About:

Believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu God Hanuman, this modest, whitewashed Hindu temple sits at the top of Anjanaya hill in the Hampi region of India. A 570 step climb gets visitors and worshippers (who see this climb as a pilgrimage of sorts) to the top of this hill – where dozens of monkeys wander around the hilltop and the temple itself. Read more here. 

For Me:

The temple itself is full of friendly, welcoming people who are happy to nod and smile at you (I even had what I believe is called Kumkuma – red ash drawn on my forehead – by a local boy in the temple). But for me it wasn’t just the temple itself which is the reason why this is at Number 4 on my list. At the top of this relatively flat hill – you can wander all over, getting an astounding 360-degree view of this beautiful countryside displayed below you. It’s well worth a visit – even clambering up those stairs!

3. Wat Phuak Hong – Chiang Mai, Thailand

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About:

Built in either the 16th or 17 century (sources are unsure), this unassuming, local Buddhist temple located in the old city of Chiang Mai showcases the ‘Lanna style’ of architecture – that of buildings with 3-tired roofs, common across Chiang Mai and indeed most of Thailand. Read more here.

For Me:

Although this temple’s main attraction is a circular chedi with an unusual design, the reason this temple makes it to Number 3 on my list is due to the amazing hospitality of the lovely monks inside. I wandered in to have a look one evening, and there were 2 monks inside, an elder gentlemen who told me of his many travels around the world, and a younger monk in his 20’s who was from Bangladesh, and hadn’t been in Thailand long. These two gave me a carton of milk and chatted to me for e good hour on the floor of this temple – in front of a large Buddha. A hugely interesting evening well-spent.

2. Ta Prohm – Angkor/Siem Reap, Cambodia

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About:

Capturing the imaginations of many visitors, the overgrown temple – swallowed by the jungle around it, is situated near Angkor Thom (mentioned earlier) and was built in the late 12th century – and is very much left to nature’s elements. Famously featured within a Lara Croft movie, this temple is the favourite of many travellers to the Angkor region due to its unique ruined looks. Read more here

For Me:

Banyon trees growing inside, throughout and on top of this temple, make for a stunning wander around this temple – this is a cooler experience that the Bayon or Angkor, due to the trees keeping the sunlight at bay, and there is just so much to look at all over this site. It’s such a beautiful mixture of the man-made and the natural that it really took my breath away.

1. Swayambhunath – Kathmandhu, Nepal

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About:

Situated on top of a hill in the Kathmandhu Valley and originally built in the 5th century, this temple is devoted to both Hinduism and to Buddhism. One of the oldest religious sites in Kathmandhu, and arguably the most sacred, this is the second monkey temple on this list – the temple is home to hundreds of monkeys who happily clamber around the structure and the small stupas surrounding it. Read more here.

For Me:

This is a personal one – this was the second day of my travelling, and it was the first time I had stepped out on my own (my friend had decided to go off and do something else that day) – and so off I went, camera in town and expectations set at fevered excitement. I must confess, I was too lazy to climb the 350 – odd steps up to the temple, instead asking my taxi driver to take me up to the top (which many others did as well) – but I don’t feel I missed out.

This temple is positively bustling with locals and tourists alike, all wandering around and looking at all the different aspects this temple has to offer; be it laughing at the monkeys chilling in a shrine, watching a small Hindu ceremony, talking to locals, pushing the cylinders around the outside of the dome or ringing all of the bells – it was great.

Unlike some of the temples I saw, which looked magnificent, but there were rules, rules rules (which is entirely fair and I never once had a problem with any of it) – this place was a bit of a free-for-all, and just left like somewhere I could hang out all day. Which I didn’t – but I wish I had!

So – that’s my list – but what’s yours?

Are there any you feel I’ve perhaps missed out? Do you think my order if strange? I’d love to hear from other Asia travellers!

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3 thoughts on “Top 10 temples from my Asian Adventure

  1. Wow! That’s a great list. Glad to know that you like these temples.

    My list of Top 10 temples-are
    10. Meenakshi Amman temple, Tamilnadu
    9.Prambanan temple, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
    8.Virupaksha temple, Hampi
    7.Ranganatha swamy temple, Tamilnadu.
    6.
    5.puri Jaganath temple, Orissa
    4. Tirumala tirupati, Andhrapradesh
    3.Konark sun temple
    2. Brihadeeswara temple, Tanjavur
    1. Pashupathi nath temple, Nepal & khajuraho temple..

    Also must see temples are kedarnath, kasi visheswara temple, pura Besakih, Bali, Akshardham temple,Padmanabha swami temple, Kerala,annamaliar temple, Tamilnadu etc., I might’ve missed some.. 😉

    Hope you get a chance to pay your visit to all these temples..

      1. You are welcome dear! You can find few temples in my blog! Infact I love exploring historical temples! Those historical temple architecture never ceases to amuse me.. 😉

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