Nov 9, 2017

The Traveller's guide to Buddhism

From temples to teachings, here’s what you need to know

There’s an estimated 488 million followers of Buddhism around the world, and it’s widely practised in Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.Travelling to a Buddhist country is a wonderful experience. Gleaming golden temples, robe-clad monks and striking Buddha statues are a photographer’s dream.

However, as a tourist, it’s easy to forget that these are sacred things.By arming yourself with a little knowledge and respect for the religion, you’re more likely to enrich your own experience and have better interactions with locals.

The basics of Buddhism

Buddhism was founded in the 5th century. The original Buddha was born a wealthy prince, but observed the poverty among his people and left all his wealth behind in search of truth. Buddhism has no gods instead, there are teachers, otherwise known as Siddhartha Gautama or Buddha.

Buddha’s teachings are based on four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the paththat leads to the end of suffering. Buddhists believe strongly in karma (the good or bad actions a person takes in their lifetime), reincarnation and meditation.

Essentially, the guiding principles of Buddhism are to lead a moral life; to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and to develop wisdom and understanding. Do these things, and you’ll be headed to nirvana – a place of perfect peace and happiness. Buddhist temples include structures such as a vihara (which means ‘a secluded place in which to walk’), pagoda, stupa and wat.

Flowers are an important part of Buddhism, they signify that life is fleeting, as a flower’s life span is relatively short. You’ll often see flowers in temples, along with incense and candles.


Buddhism is a modest religion. For men and women, knees, shoulders and chest should always be covered at sacred places – and generally, if you’re female, it’s respectful to keep your legs and shoulders covered at all times (loose cotton pants are a winner, as is a light scarf – perfect to drape around your shoulders or chest when entering spiritual places).

When you’re visiting a temple, you must not wear shoes or point your feet at the Buddha images.In general, use common sense. Ask before you photograph someone, be polite and courteous, and avoid public displays of affection. Different rules apply for different Buddhist countries, so do your research before you go.

Magic Myanmar

Almost 90% of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist. The Irrawaddy River is home to the greatest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins in the world.

Scenic is offering some magical Myanmar itineraries on board Scenic Aura, our 5-star boutique river cruise ship which caters to a maximum of 44 guests. Featuring one-bedroom balcony suites throughout, you'll also find all dining and top-shelf beverages are included.

You’ll be able to see a side of Myanmar that most tourists don’t, including attending morning alms for local monks in Bagan and interacting with novice monks and nuns at a monastic-supported school in Sagaing.