South East Asia has many prominent pagodas, temples and monuments which are the major attraction to the region, for history buffs, pilgrims, and general travellers alike. One of the common issues for new travellers is fatigue from seeing too many places at one time and trying to absorb huge amounts of information. Here are a few tips on how to avoid temple overload when travelling…
Less is more
Places like Bagan have thousands of temples to visit and cramming everything into a day does not do justice to the area. Instead, focus on a few temples and spend more time looking around. Each has its own characteristics and features such as ornate teak carving, gold leaf being pressed onto Buddha, artwork, and shrines dedicated to birth days.
See things differently
There are many ways of exploring huge temple complexes other than a tour bus. Outside the monsoon season a hot air balloon ride at dawn is a spectacular way of seeing the landscape and taking in the sunrise over the pagodas.
Cycling around temple complexes is another way to see the landscape and encounter a few locals.
When the sun sets the changing light on the temples is unforgettable, and a beautiful time to see the architecture.
Life in the Temple
When visiting a pagoda do look around at other aspects of daily life in the area as many are run like small communities. Walking around these structures often reveals locals going about their business.
Builders working on bamboo scaffolding in bare feet, young monks in class, and lotus sellers are just a few of the local scenes observed in Buddhist temples.
Be sensitive to taking photographs and respect the privacy of others, but do take time to watch what else is happening in the complex.
Escape the heat
Pagodas can get really hot during the day so visit when the day is cooler. Early morning is ideal for avoiding the crowds and the heat of the day, and a slow walk round a pagoda is the perfect way to start the day. By visiting some of the larger pagodas early in the day it is easy to take your time and learn about the architecture and history.
Carrying a small notebook is a great idea when visiting temples. By taking the name of the pagoda or stupa you will find it easier to recall when looking at photos later or writing postcards to friends.
You can also note down a few facts that you learned or something observed. This will help with remembering the various sights seen on the tour and avoid the feeling that one temple looks like all the others.
Reading about the places beforehand also helps with understanding the area being visited and will also point out highlights to observe.
Whether on holiday in Burma, Laos or Cambodia, the opportunities to experience some of the most famous Buddhist architectural gems are must see places on any visit. Taking time to enjoy them is really important and slowing down to appreciate more is essential.