For both savvy world travelers and those wanting to be.
In this issue – Temples & Shrines of Asia
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We present you with a themed trip focusing on some of the beautiful temples and shrines from Southern and Southeast Asia. We will touch down in Japan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. It’s not easy only selecting a few from a couple regions considering the world is full of these amazing architectural wonders. Those provided here are merely handfuls that can help sooth your soul and fulfill your temple desires once visited. To map out your own online custom trip go to our website airtreks.com and begin your next step in planning with the help of TripPlanner.
Temples & Shrines of Asia is your ticket to stepping into past centuries while sensing what used to be yet seeing what still is. Sometimes overshadowed by Tokyo’s sheer size Osaka is not to be underestimated. During the 16th century Toyotomi Hideyoshi spent several years expanding his Osaka Castle to be more formidable to its attackers with its five-story donjon main tower. And the Shinto Sanko Shrine in the Tamatsukuri area of Osaka is believed to have once linked a tunnel to Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle. Perhaps this tunnel symbolized a vessel for “The Way of the Gods”, a common Shinto translation. Ornate details of the Buddhist temple Shitenno-ji were constructed by Prince Shotoku over 1,400 years ago, known for its outstanding symmetrical arrangement of buildings in a straight north-south line, and these grounds also make for a major flea market on the 21st of every month.
Historical treasures await you in Japan’s first permanent capital, Nara, established in 710 AD, and less than one hour from Osaka and Kyoto. It is where powerful Buddhist monasteries became very influential to the populace, causing the government to feel threatened enough to move the capital to Nagaoka in 784 – (Buddhism a threat? Wow!). Todaiji (“Great Eastern Temple”) is one of the countries most historically significant temples, hosting Japan’s largest Buddha statue (Daibutsu) and the world’s largest wooden building. Countless other temples and shrines should not go unnoticed especially the orange flair from Fushimi Inari Shrine that covers incredible hiking trails of the wooded mountain of Inarisan.
After taking in Hong Kong’s beautiful city skyline go explore some of its most popular deities. Hong Kong has around fifty temples partially dedicated to Tin Hau (Goddess of the sea). There is a Tin Hau festival each year, the next being May 9th. With a few days you could take in Hong Kong’s outlying islands and other historical sites and temples. Appearing as a symbol on Cambodia’s national flag, Angkor Wat is the purest example of the great traditional style of Khmer Temple architecture.
Extensive bas-reliefs and the largest population of devatas (small guardian angels) beautify the surrounding walls. The temple complex is the world’s largest religious structure and was designed to symbolize Mount Meru, home of the gods in Hindu Mythology. In the mid-19th century French explorer Henri Mouhot wrote “It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.”
Perhaps the most important temple in Thailand, Wat Phra Kaew accommodates the Emerald Buddha and is one of the marvels on the grounds of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. Just behind the splendid temple of the Emerald Buddha is Wat Phra Chetuphon, the gold-plated 150ft. long Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Temples are everywhere here and in the many neighboring areas. Approximately fifty miles north of Bangkok, more of the Khmer Temple architecture can be found in the ruins of Ayutthaya’s historic park. One of the most beautiful and striking examples is Wat Chaiwatthanaram, with the main prang and pagodas still in good condition.
Yangon (formerly Rangoon) rests along the Gulf of Martaban and is the largest city in Myanmar (Burma). It is home to the 320ft. golden stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda with thousands of jewels set in its top. An 18-hour bus ride up north will place you in the ancient cities of Mandalay. A former AirTreks traveler dptlowe72 once wrote from his AirTreks TripJournal
“I caught a minibus out to the three ruined cities near Mandalay: Amarapura, Mingun and Ava. It was a beautiful trip, as we took a horse drawn cart around Ava. Rice fields rustled in the wind, and village children walked to school as we clopped along the rocky road…”
Kathmandu Valley is scattered with hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu temples and shrines, which hosts World Heritage Sites composed of seven monument zones. A few temples to see are Swayambhunath (one of the holiest Buddhist sites), Pashupatinath (the most sacred temple of Shiva-Pashupati) and Changu Narayan (dedicated to the ‘Supreme Being’ Vishnu).
We revisit ‘Incredible India’, bringing you back to its northern regions – Varanasi is a ‘city of temples’ with the Kashi Vishwanath (or Golden Temple) dedicated to Shiva, which rests on the western bank of Hinduism’s holiest river Ganges; Sarnath is only 8 miles north-east of Varanasi and has the Dhamekh Stupa and the ruins of Dharmajajika Stupa where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma; the Khajuraho village is fascinating with an old-world rural ambience and a rich cultural heritage where temples are considered ‘the high point of Indian architectural genius in the medieval period’; situated near the Red Fort in Old Delhi, Jama Masjid stands as one of India’s largest mosques; and in southern India near Chennai, Kanchipuram has many big Hindu temples located on the Palar River. For more amazing temples with elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Muslim see what lies in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bali. The powers that these old structures still contain can be felt once visited, and the beauty of experiencing important symbols from past centuries can allow our souls to nourish from former cultural and historical occurrences.
To continue mapping out and pricing a Multi-Stop International or Around-the-World adventure visit us at airtreks.com or by calling one of our Personal Travel Consultants at 1-877-AIRTREKS (+1.415.977.7100 outside North America).