Vietnam and Cambodia have shaken off their past and are now emerging as two of the hot holiday destinations of the East. Apart from bustling cities, genial people and delicious food, there are many temples that give you an insight into the history and culture of these two countries. Here is a list of the best!
Tran Quoc Pagoda, Vietnam
This is the oldest in Hanoi and is a perfect example of Buddhism in Vietnam. The temple has eleven levels, and a beautiful courtyard where you can burn incense. There is also a museum of relics related to the temple. Tran Quoc is also one of the temples of Vietnam that displays stunning carved statues. These are from the 17th century and each one is unique. The river surrounding the temple is also incredibly peaceful. This temple is one of the most famous temples in Vietnam for it’s status among the elite and show it shows it’s royal privilege.
Cao Dai, Vietnam
This temple is located outside of Ho Chi Minh and boasts vibrant colors and festivity. It is slightly more modern than it’s counterparts, being built in the 1930’s. This temple is also not one of the Buddhist temples, most commonly found in Vietnam. It is Cao Dai, which is a combination of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism. If this leaves you a little confused, you can always watch a ceremony, taking in the traditional dress. To become a little more familiar with the ways of Vietnamese culture, this temple is a must.
Temple of Literature
This is one of the most famous temples in Vietnam, located in Hanoi. The temple is also from the 11th century and features a much more typical style of architecture. The gardens, pavilions, passageways and lake all combine to make this temple a place of tranquility. It is most commonly associated with university graduates from Hanoi and symbolises their path of academic achievement. The temple itself was built in honor of Confucius, and it is a monument to Vietnamese architecture and religion.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
As well as being one of the most picturesque temples in Vietnam, this is also one of the most important. Located in Ho Chi Minh City, and built in the 20th century, it features heavy influence from China. This is due to the fact that the temple was built by Cantonese immigrants, who decided to construct a site for their worship. You can smell burning incense, as well perfumed flowers which have been made in offering. Interestingly, the main hall of the pagoda has a very realistic portrayal of the God of Hell. There are also carvings of purgatory and the ten different levels of hell. Visitors also come here to make offerings to the fertility goddess Kim Hua, where you can see delightful representations of dancing children. Before leaving, make sure to feed the turtles who live in a large pond in front of the temple.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
It makes perfect sense that Angkor Wat features on a list of the most beautiful temples in the world, let alone in Cambodia. This is actually the largest religious monument in the world and was originally a Hindu place of worship before it’s conversion to Buddhism. What makes the temple so incredibly unique is that you are guaranteed not to see the same thing twice. Each carving is individual and equally impressive. There are several smaller temples that are in Siem Reap, although Angkor Wat is the most famous. However, all feature excellent examples of religious life in Cambodia.
This temple is notoriously difficult to access, and requires a fully day of travelling from Siem Reap. The road to Koh Ker is brand new however and extremely safe. The temple actually marks the spot of the Khmer capital during the 10th century. However, after being abandoned, it has now been made open to the public. The most intriguing part of visiting Koh Ker is that the temple has been overrun by plants and wildlife. Some argue this only adds to it’s mystery and spirituality. Prasat Thom is the most famous of the temples there, as it is effectively a giant pyramid with a mythical bird-man at the top.
This is one of the most stunning temples in Cambodia for it’s location alone. It stands on a cliff close to a mountain range and the view is spectacular. The temples themselves all have their own courtyards and architecture. Again, all of these are entirely unique. The backdrop is marvellous as you are offered a view over the Cambodian landscape which is unparalleled anywhere else. The air of mystery in Preah Vihear is compounded by it’s isolation and it is well worth the effort to visit.
Have you visited any of these temples? Are there more you would add to the list? Please comment below!