One of the main attractions of travelling in South East Asia is sure to be the religious buildings. From ancient Buddhist temples, to glimmering brand new Mosques, to religious monuments you may have never heard of, South East Asia’s religious buildings will dazzle you, and teach you a few lessons. Here Are some one the most unique and notable religious buildings in South East Asia.
The Temples of Angkor are actually a collection of ancient buildings rather than being one temple as it’s name suggests. ‘Wat’ means temple. As the undeniably most famous religious building(s) in South East Asia, Angkor Wat is a must-see when travelling in Cambodia. Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious building and the massive stone faces overgrown with vines are indeed a mystical sight to behold.
This colossal Buddhist temple lies just outside Indonesia’s Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta in Bahasa Indonesia). The initial draw of Borobudur is it’s sheer size, but upon climbing it’s steep staircases and walking through it’s ancient stone walkways you’ll be amazed by the detail of the designs upon every wall. The stone panels each tell a story of the Buddha’s life or of Javanese lifestyle 1000 years ago. When you ascend to the top you’ll be dazzled with views of a beautiful green misty landscape. Like with many temples, sunrise is the time to go.
: Bangkok’s flashiest temple boasts a 3 meter tall, 5.5 tonne, gold reclining Buddha statue. But that’s not all, you can spend hours walking through different courtyards filled with statues and mosaics. Every surface in this massive compound is covered in gold, gems, pieces of glass and intricate designs. You’ll leave rubbing your eyes from over stimulation.
This brand new place of worship in the heart of Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s National Mosque, and can accommodate 15,000 worshipers. It’s pristine, white, wide open spaces and blue stained glass make for a very calming and expansive environment. The locals who pray here are welcoming to visitors, but are only admitted at certain times of day between prayer sessions. Robes and niqabs (head covering worn by some Muslim women) are available for those who are not dressed appropriately.
Accessible via Kuala Lumpur’s KTM Komuter Train system, the Batu Caves are three naturally occurring caves turned Hindu place of worship. The largest of the three, the ‘Temple Cave’ is reached only by climbing a daunting staircase of 272 steps and is guarded by a staggering 43 meter high ‘Murga’ statue, reputed to be the largest in the world. The cave itself is quite beautiful with streams of glistening water falling through small holes in the ceiling and at the far end of the temple cave there is a large open channel lined with trees that will make you feel like you’re at the bottom of a well. Watch out for monkeys, they’ll steal your shit and give you rabies. There’s also the ‘Dark Cave’ where you can witness various interesting and creepy life forms for a fee.
(Shwedagon Paya): Now here’s a religious monument you may not have heard of; a Pagoda is a Buddhist shrine used primarily for walking meditation. It is a large bell-shaped structure, sometimes adorned with gold, and rumor has it some even contain relics of the Buddha himself. Just north of downtown Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)’s capital there is a massive Pagoda called ‘Shwedagon’ that can be seen towering over the city from across town. Shwedagon boasts a massive golden orb covered in precious gems at the very top of the Pagoda, and is said to contain the Buddha’s hair. Among many other reasons to visit Myanmar, the unique Buddhist temples and shrines, namely Shwedagon Pagoda, are a good reason to go.
Bagan Archaeological Site:
Yet another notable Buddhist place of worship in Myanmar, and my personal favourite, are the temples of Bagan. These thousand-year-old brick structures of all shapes and sizes will take you back in time and send shivers up your spine. There are four thousand temples in the Bagan Archaeological Site so you won’t be able to see them all. My advice to anyone visiting Bagan is to spend more time at the smaller temples than the larger ones.