The unmissable temples of South East Asia

The unmissable temples of South East Asia

There are holidays that get your pulse racing with the promise of rare wildlife spotting. There are holidays that revitalise your senses with awe-inspiring landscapes and natural wonders. And then there are holidays that make you stop in your tracks, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just soak in the aura of the site. A visit to the temples of South East Asia is just that. Built as far back as the 10th century, these spectacular temples have astounded travellers from all over the world over centuries, and here’s our pick of the best ones. 

Angkor Wat - Cambodia

A destination that is on the list of every intrepid traveller, the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat is a sight for sore eyes. It is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and one of the most spectacular temples in Cambodia, and yet somehow this massive over 400-acre temple complex managed to lay hidden for several hundred years, only to be rediscovered by a French explorer who described it as “grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome”.

Originally built as a temple for the Hindu god Vishnu, the temple was eventually converted to a Buddhist site a few centuries later. Today, the intricate 3000+ apsara carvings and other depictions of Hindu mythology on the sandstone walls astound nearly 500,000 visitors each year.

The 200-metre moat grows lotus flowers that dance in the reflection of the fortress the moat once protected, presenting the perfect photo opportunity even for a novice photographer. 
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda – Myanmar

Another jaw dropping religious site of South East Asia, the Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda will blind you both with its beauty as well as the brilliance of the 99-metre gold-plated stupa, a spire studded with diamonds, rubies and other precious gems, and a 75-carat diamond at the apex.

Believed to have been built over 2,600 years ago, the pagoda is the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world and houses the relics of four past Buddhas.

One of the most stunning temples of South East Asia, be sure to pencil it into your to-do list when you take a trip to this part of the world.
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

Temple of Literature - Vietnam

Home to the oldest university in Vietnam, the Temple of Literature is an ode to education. Dedicated to the Chinese philosopher Confucius, the temple was built in 1070 and serves as the ideal escape from the chaos of Hanoi.

Vietnamese history has been scripted by the brilliant minds that graduated from the university. Admission to the prestigious institute was reserved for noble families but was eventually opened to gifted minds from all classes.

The five courtyards of the temple with trees, animal sculptures and small ponds add to the charm of a bygone era. The stone turtles in the third courtyard bears the names of the scholars that have passed the royal examinations and until recently, it was considered good luck for students to rub their heads against the turtles. This practice is now banned to preserve the sculptures. 
Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

Wat Phou - Laos

Set amidst the pristine greenery of the Phou Kao Mountain, the 10th century temple ruins of Wat Phou predate even the renowned temples in South East Asia, the Angkor Wat.

The complex was originally built as a Khmer Hindu temple but, just like the temples in Cambodia, eventually transformed into a Buddhist one and is still an active Buddhist temple today.

The World Heritage Site boasts intricate carvings of Hindu mythology as well a serenity that you will miss at the more popular temples of South East Asia
Wat Phou, Laos