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OVER A MILLION AND A HALF square miles, eleven countries, two territories, and one administrative division make up Southeast Asia. Though we typically associate Buddhism with the countries in this part of the world, it certainly isn’t the only faith to be practiced here — in the present or the past.
Thousands of temples of all varieties can be found within this populous sub-region of Asia. And while each is magnificent in its own right, these 17 examples of Southeast Asia’s famously picturesque temples are among the best.
Wat Pho (Bangkok, Thailand)
A Buddhist temple in the Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok, Wat Pho is home to the reclining Buddha (49.2 feet in height and 141 feet in length). The temple, additionally known as Thailand's first public university, is often considered the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (Bali, Indonesia)
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a water temple complex sitting on the shores of Bratan. The temple was built in 1663, and is used for ceremonies honoring Dewi Danu, the water goddess of the Balinese Hindus.
Ta Prohm (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
Widely known as the filming location for Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm was built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Trees can be found growing on, climbing over, and wrapping around the stone ruins, which were originally a Buddhist monastery and university.
Tanah Lot (Bali, Indonesia)
Tanah Lot, one of the seven Balinese sea temples, sits on a sizeable offshore rock formation in Tabanan. While considered a must-visit by many, it's worth noting that there's an entrance fee. Additionally, visitors are “forced” to walk through a souvenir market on the way to the temple.
Borobudur (Central Java, Indonesia)
Borobudur, built in the 9th century, is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It's composed of square platforms topped with circular platforms, and over 500 statues of Buddha can be found around Borobudur.
Pura Besakih (Bali, Indonesia)
Known in English as the Mother Temple of Besakih, Pura Besakih is a complex of 22 temples. In 1963, volcanic eruptions from Mount Agung nearly destroyed the complex, the lava flow skirting the temples by meters.
Cebu Taoist Temple (Cebu, Philippines)
Open to both devotees and non-devotees alike, the Cebu Taoist Temple sits 980 feet above sea level. The entrance pathway to the temple is a replica of the Great Wall of China. The Taoist place of worship was built by Cebu's Chinese community.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Located at the top of Doi Suthep, the temple provides for stunning views of Chiang Mai. Though it's often plagued by tourists (for good reason), Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is considered a must-see by most that visit the area.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum (Chinatown, Singapore)
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is rather self-explanatory, built between 2005 and 2007 to house the tooth relic of the Buddha. Vegetarian food is served in the basement of the temple.
Wat Arun (Bangkok, Thailand)
Shortened to Wat Arun, the temple's name is actually Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan. It sits on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, where passersby on boats can see the spires of the temple towering over the nearby surroundings.
Pha That Luang (Vientiane, Laos)
Pha That Luang, found in Vientiane (Laos' capital city), is a Buddhist stupa covered in gold. The stupa is often considered the most important national monument in Laos. Pha That Luang is 147.6 feet in total height.
Kek Lok Si (Penang, Malaysia)
Despite Kek Lok Si containing shops in every direction one may turn, the Buddhist temple remains a sight to see. The seven-story pagoda interestingly fuses Chinese, Thai, and Burmese architectural styles.
Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon, Myanmar)
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Myanmar, Shwedagon Pagoda contains relics of the four Buddhas inside. The gold on the stupa of the pagoda isn't a cheap paint job—gold plates cover its entirety.
Sri Mariamman Temple (Chinatown, Singapore)
Singapore's oldest Hindu temple is a national monument of the country and is adorned in six tiers of brightly colored plaster sculptures of Hindu deities. The temple is reconsecrated every 12 years.
Thean Hou Temple (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Found in Kuala Lumpur, the Thean Hou Temple is a Chinese temple dedicated to the goddess Mazu. The six-tiered structure, which took six years to build, cost roughly 7 million ringgit. It officially opened on September 3, 1989.
Wat Rong Khun (Chiang Rai, Thailand)
Known as the White Temple by foreigners, Wat Rong Khun is an atypical Buddhist temple designed in 1997 by Chalermchai Kositpipat. Though the temple was damaged by an earthquake in May of 2014, Charlermchai promised he would repair it to its original state within two years.
Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
Angkor Wat, situated near Siem Reap, is the largest religious monument in the world. The temple complex was originally a Hindu temple, later converted into a Buddhist temple. The name “Angkor Wat” is Khmer for “City of Temples.”
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