Visiting India, Thailand and other places in Asia needn’t just be about getting the best cheap flights and spending two weeks sunning yourself in an exotic location. Consider exploring some of the area’s heritage too, and just as the huge St Peter’s Basilica in Moscow and Notre Dame de Paris have become huge tourist attractions, the religious buildings here are something special too. We’ve picked out five of the best to tempt you.
Mahabodhi Temple, India
by Victor SCY
This temple in Bodh Gaya in Northern India has long been a site of pilgrimage as it’s the founding spot for Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama, now better known as the Buddha, attained enlightenment here, sitting under the Bodhi tree, a distant relative of which still grows on the site today. The temple dates back to 250BC and has been restored several times throughout its life, most recently in 2007. Look out for the jewel walk, which runs between one of the stupas and the Bodhi tree.
Wat Pho Temple, Thailand
Image by edwin.11
Also known as the Temple of The Reclining Buddha, this temple in Bangkok is best known for its huge gold namesake. At 46 metres long and 15 metres high, the statue is sure to make an impression! The temple is also the birthplace of Thai massage, as it had its roots in medicinal practise, and you can see statues of this all around the site. There is also a Bodhi tree here, which was taken from a cutting from the Mahabodhi Temple.
Elephanta Caves, India
by Urban Icon
Leaving from the Gateway of India in Mumbai, the island is a small boat ride away from Mumbai Harbour. There are two sets of caves here, one Hindu and one Buddhist, reflecting the diverse religions of the nation. The temples are hewn out of the rocks inside the caves and they boast all manner of exquisite and complex carvings. The larger caves, set around the Shiva temple, are known for their Hindu sculptures and small shrines, whilst the smaller set of caves have Buddhist stupas.
Found just outside Kathmandu, this is one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, and it’s surrounded by Tibetan monasteries built by refugees over the years and is a centre for Tibetan culture. A major pilgrimage site, people walk around and around this large circular building, offering prayers and meditating as the huge eyes of Buddha look on. Look out for the rotating prayer wheels, a part of the Tibetan branch of Buddhism.
Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
This unconventional temple in Chiang Rai is more modern than the others, but it’s no less remarkable. Both a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple, the outside is decked out completely in white and mirrors, giving it an almost snowy appearance. Inside, golden images include not only symbolic animals and sacred ideas but more modern images too. You can see Keanu Reeves in the Matrix and Spiderman too alongside the opulence! This temple is actually still under construction and will expand to nine buildings in the future.
Top image by Victor SCY