Whether the beautiful and ancient complexes of Angkor Wat, the pagoda spattered plains of Bagan, or any of the multitudes of temples, shrines and pagodas in the cities or countryside; temples are synonymous with any adventure in Asia. Make the most of your temple tours in this dynamic and diverse region by reading this quick guide.
Don’t Over-Do it
There are so many beautiful temples in Asia. The continent is home to thousands of them, and hundreds in each destination. Wherever you’re headed, be sure to give yourself a break. Many people find they get ‘templed-out’ when they travel through Cambodia, or other destinations. If venturing to Angkor Wat, spend a day seeing the main complex, and take a break going to a village homestay to experience local life the next. You can see a different portion of the ancient empire the following day, and still appreciate their splendour.
Think Outside the Box
Take a moment when you plan your trip to see a holy site that may be less conventional. On a journey to Laos, you must see the pristine temples of Luang Parabang, but why not arrange a trip to the Buddha Park? Built by a monk who combined elements of Buddhism and Hinduism into his own mystic faith, the grounds are filled with demons, gods and other fantastical characters. If in Yangon, arrange a day tour to Da La where you can find a Burmese python filled temple, where these snakes lounge on and around the alter as you snap photos. Just because a temple is lesser known, doesn’t mean there isn’t something unique to discover!
Be Modest and Respectful
Always be prepared! You never know when there may be a temple or pagoda worth a gander until you tour a famous city or quaint countryside firsthand. Bring an extra shawl or light long sleeve shirt with you, to cover your shoulders, chest and thighs. It’s essential to demonstrate respect at these majestic sights (just as you would in the Vatican) so remember to bring some light, backup clothes in your bag. Showing respect is essential in making the most of these holy sites.
Timing is Everything
You may want to see sunrise at Angkor Wat, but if you wait until just afternoon, or at noon, the heat of the sun means less people will be crowding the holy site. This allows you to snap that perfect picture, and have more of a sense of peace with the temples all to yourself. Another idea, if you’re touring Bangkok or Chiang Mai, go temple hopping in the late afternoon. Not only is the evening light perfect for photos, you’ll see firsthand the gatherings for evening prayers and rituals. Timing is key, so if you don’t like crowds, keep this in mind.
Don’t feel like you have to go to specific parts of the temple. If it’s not roped off, you can probably check it out, and sometimes you’ll end up finding something special. The old wall that surrounds part of the Bagan complex has lots of room to walk along it and take in the sights of the plains. Some of the best food in Asia, often vegetarian, cheap and flavourful can be found on site or around the temple in local stalls. Last but not least, some lovely souvenirs can be found on site, and the local stalls are definitely worth a gander for that perfect something to bring home.