Southeast Asia is a region of the world that has no shortage of incredible and beautiful temples. The stunning architecture, sculptures and air of tranquillity within well-tended, peaceful temple grounds appeal to visitors as well as devotees alike. Here are just a few of the top temples to see in Southeast Asia.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha – Bangkok, Thailand
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew as its known in Thai, is a magnificent temple that served as the private temple attached to the Grand Palace. It’s still used for important state occasions, but otherwise is open to the public. The tall towers and pagodas are majestic, and there are many ornate temple pavilions and sculptures. One of the buildings is home to Thailand’s most revered religious icon, the Emerald Buddha.
Wat Chedi Luang – Chiang Mai, Thailand
This important and ancient Buddhist temple is well worth visiting. The huge towering ‘chedi’ was partially destroyed by an earthquake around 500 years ago but still dominates the temple grounds. Not only is Wat Chedi Luang completely free to enter. but there are also some small seating areas in the gardens where monks in residence offer free and informal chats about Buddhism.
Sri Mariamman Temple – Chinatown, Singapore
Founded in 1827, Sri Mariamman Temple, is a famous Hindu Temple, and the oldest in Singapore. It is located in Singapore’s Chinatown district and gets very busy at times, especially during Hindu festivals. The temple’s gopuram, or tower, is extremely ornate and consists of intricately carved figures from Hindu legend. It’s a sight to behold.
Angkor Wat – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Dating from the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the most important temple in Cambodia, and the largest religious structure in the world. It was originally a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu before being converted centuries later to serve as a Buddhist temple. The many ancient structures and moat that comprise Angkor Wat are a magnet for photographers, especially at sunset. Visit more than once if possible because the site is so vast that it needs more than a full day to do it justice.
Borobudor – Java, Indonesia
Dating from the 9th century, this Buddhist Temple is huge and consists of nine massive stacked platforms adorned with countless Buddha figures. The temple fell into disuse for years following Islam’s spread into Indonesia, but has been restored to its former glory. It is Indonesia’s most popular tourist site and is also an important site of pilgrimage for the country’s minority Buddhist population.
There are many thousands of temples throughout Southeast Asia. Although most are not nearly as famous as those listed, each has its own charm and serene atmosphere, and many are worth visiting. Keep in mind, though, that many remote temples are located on steep hillsides and you may need to walk up endless steps in tropical heat to get to them. That may explain why over 65 travel insurance is so popular among older tourists going on temple treks.