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9 Temples to Visit at Least Once in Your Life

9 Temples to Visit at Least Once in Your Life

Founded on the Indian Subcontinent by the Buddha around 500 BC, Buddhism is a widely followed religion across Southeast Asia, especially the Mainland. Temples and the Sangha, communities of monks, nuns, novices and laity, play a critical role in preserving good practice and his teachings to the present day. Here are 9 sacred places around the Region to visit on your long journeys through life.

/// ASEAN ///

Photo: Sam Garza
Photo: Radu Micu
Photo: Anandajoti

ANGKOR WAT

Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of the largest and most resplendent religious monuments in the world, Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II who ruled the Khmer Empire in the 12th century. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple around the turn of the century. The temple complex sits on 1.6 million square meters (about 400 acres) of land in Siem Reap, a province on the northern shore of Tonle Sap in central Cambodia. The enduring pride of Khmer architecture was constructed of sandstone adorned with a breathtaking richness of sculptures in bas-relief. It was inscribed on the List of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1992. The ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2012 made Angkor Wat and Borobudur (in Indonesia) sister sites as part of an effort at promoting cultural tourism in the Region.


 

Photo: Gunawan Kartapranata

Photo: Jorge Franganillo

BOROBUDUR

Magelang, Indonesia

Among the world’s largest religious sites, Borobudur in central Java is on a par with Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Built in the 9th Century, it was a center of Buddhism at the time the Srivijayan Empire became the first kingdom to dominate the islands of Sumatra and neighboring Java. Borobudur is representative of Javanese architecture that blends the concept of Nirvana, the final goal of Buddhism, with the native custom of venerating ancestors. Located on a highland 40 kilometers from Yogyakarta, the magnificent Borobudur temple overlooks rolling hills, lush forests and twin volcanoes. Its nine-tiered floor plan consists of six square platforms placed one above the other, three circular atriums at the top, and pagodas. They are decorated with beautiful reliefs and a total of 504 Buddha statues. Guinness World Records make in the world’s largest Buddhist temple, while UNESCO added it to the World Heritage Sites in 1991.


 

Photo: Charles Kimball
Photo: www.helpfulboytravels.com

THE ANANDA TEMPLE

Bagan, Myanmar

A sea of temples and pagodas in central Myanmar is a wonder to behold. The ancient city of Bagan was capital of the Pagan Kingdom from the 9th to 13th Centuries. During that time, thousands of Buddhist temples, dome-shaped shrines and monasteries were constructed. Among them, the Ananda Temple was built by King Kyanzittha in 1105 A.D. It’s very well preserved and accessible to visitors. Inside the most revered temple of Bagan, huge Buddha statues stand facing east, west, north and south in the corridors illuminated by natural light. The building is built of white sandstone that’s characteristic of ancient Mon architecture.


 

 

Photo: Trairat Songpao
Photo: Trairat Songpao

THE TEMPLE OF THE EMERALD BUDDHA (WAT PHRA KAEW)

Bangkok, Thailand

Located on the grounds of the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha was consecrated in 1784 during the reign of King Rama I, founding father of the Rattankosin Kingdom and the first monarch of the reigning Chakri Dynasty. Inside, the Emerald Buddha reposes on an elevated altar surrounded by gilded décor. The bright green stone statute of the Buddha is regarded as the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand. The royal temple stands embraced by dome-shaped shrines, pagodas, and religious halls. The corridors are adorned with mural paintings depicting episodes from Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic of ancient India. It’s now one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions.


 

Photo: www.bjornfree.com
Photo: Thomas Schoch

THE SHWEDAGON PAGODA

Yangon, Myanmar

The historic 99-meter-tall Shwedagon Pagoda stands surrounded by a sea of 68 smaller stupas. It’s also known as the Golden Pagoda for the gilded dome-shaped structure that dominates the Yangon skyline. Legend has it that the large religious monument was built some 2,500 years ago, but archeologists put its beginning between the 6th and 11th Centuries based on evidence of Mon temple architecture. Shwedagon is regarded as the most sacred pagoda for the people of Myanmar. As gestures of respect, visitors are required to remove their shoes on entering the temple compound. From past to present, people have donated gold and gemstones that go towards restoring the pagoda to its original splendor. “Shwe” is a local word for gold, while “Dagon” is the old name of Yangon.


 

Photo: www.baanlaesuan.com
Photo: www.baanlaesuan.com

THE TEMPLE OF DAWN (WAT ARUN)

Bangkok, Thailand

One of the most ancient temples in Thailand, the Temple of Dawn is located across the river from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. The Buddhist temple that existed on the site was originally called Wat Makok. As the Ayudhya Period ended and Thon Buri became a new capital, the temple was renamed Wat Chaeng. In the early Rattanakosin Period, the name was changed to Wat Arun as a symbol of the first light of a new day. The Buddhist temple is renowned for its colorfully decorated pyramidal structures. The tapering conical towers, known as Prangs, are adorned with a mosaic of ceramic tiles and glass that shimmers in the sunlight. The Prangs of Wat Arun are best viewed from across the river. They were on the logo of the Bangkok Art Biennale that just ended.


Lottery Recycling Ideas / Nothing Goes to Waste

Lottery Recycling Ideas / Nothing Goes to Waste

The Bangkok Design Week that ended February 3 was a confluence of many great ideas, among them products of a collaboration between two homegrown designer groups, Thinkk Studio, and Studio 150. Their waste recycling ideas shone with excitement at a show called “City Materials”.

/// Thailand ///

A variety of interlacing designs made from strips of lottery paper waste.
Thailand lottery tickets

The seat of government of Thailand, Bangkok is renowned for being a regional trade and economic hub, as well as home to many established and up-and-coming designers. Much of the large, densely populated city is not covered with forest. Nor does it have a wonderful richness of industrial materials. But, do you know this?

Every fifteen days, the number of lottery tickets and packaging material printed in Bangkok is enough to cover 173 football fields. Of that amount, a whopping 98.6% accounted for the tickets that didn’t win. Not only that, lottery tickets are printed on special grade, water-repellent paper that doesn’t break down easily. All things considered, that’s a whale of a job for paper recyclability.

A spinning toy for kids, the top, is made of a bundle of lottery paper strip.

Where most would see useless waste materials, the two designer groups see endless possibilities. Thinkk Studio creatives, in association with their design peers at Studio 150, have researched and experimented with lottery paper waste for some time. They succeeded in recycling it in ways that could answer specific design, art and craft and industrial needs in future.

 

“City Materials” showcased five materials the joint team has recycled from wood chips, plastic bags, incense sticks and ashes, coffee grounds, and discarded building supplies sold for scrap. For a glimpse into their design ideas.

A collection of papier-mache constructed out of QR Code sections of the lottery tickets. The malleable mixture, three-dimensional object becomes hard when dry.

 

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A Day Trip Through Yaowarat / Chinatown Bangkok

A Day Trip Through Yaowarat / Chinatown Bangkok

The historic business hub of Bangkok is on CNN’s List of “Best Districts for Street Food” and “Top Ten Chinatowns in the World”. Whether it be fine dining or quick one-dish dinners, you can find some of the best meals in Yaowarat. Combine your favorite pastimes into one-day adventure. Living ASEAN recommends stopping by these places.

/// THAILAND ///

9:00 Coffee at Ama Hostel

Start your day at Ama Hostel Bangkok, a recently renovated Chinese style building located at 191 Soi Sapanhan off Chakkrawat Road in Samphanthawong area. The café in the forward section of the hostel offers coffee that smells so good. There’s nothing like the warm aroma of a steaming cup of coffee to wake you up to a beautiful day in old Chinatown. Nearby, push cart vendors serve delicious Kuichai meals and Kuay Jub noodes.

 

10:00 Shop at Sampeng Market and Yaowarat

A stone’s throw away from Ama Hostel stands Sampeng Market, a shopper’s paradise for goods at bargain prices, both retail and wholesale. The area is well known for many gift shops and stores selling fabrics, clothing and accessories, toys and seasonal decorating materials. Follow Chakkrawat Road and you come to Yaowarat Road.

 

12:00 Lunch at the Canton House

Enjoy the pleasure of authentic Chinese food at the Canton House. Established in 1908, the restaurant has since been renovated to give it unique appeal characterized by raw construction materials. The Canton House is located at 530 Yaowarat Road, Samphanthawong area. You will love the bite-sized Dim Sum in steamer baskets, steamed pork rib with black bean sauce, and fried Mantou (buns) with condensed milk. Thai and Western meals are also on the menu.

 

13:00 Wat Leng Noei Yi

The historic Wat Leng Noei Yi is rooted deeply in this community of Thai citizens of Chinese descent. Founded in 1871, the temple has been involved in every facet of life of the followers of Buddhism. It sees the busiest time during the period leading to Chinese New Year celebrations. Slowly burning joss sticks are used in paying tribute to the Lord Buddha. It’s good idea to avoid getting smoke in your eyes.

 

14:00 Jay Noi’s Kuichai Meal

About 250 meters to the right of Wat Leng Noei Yi stands a famous push-cart business selling fried Kuichai meals. Jay Noi’s Kuichai is renowned for being one of the most delicious vegetable meals in Yaowarat. Located on Charoen Krung Road, the humble push cart vendor sells Kuichai at 10 Baht apiece. The menu also includes fried Taro and Jicama (a globe shaped root vegetable). They are equally delightful.

 

15:00 Cakes at Wallflowers Café

Beat the heat in the afternoon with yummy mouthwatering cakes served with frothy Thai tea with cheese. Located at 31-33 Soi Nana, Pom Prab area, Wallflowers Café sits on the upper floor of a florist’s shop, which provides inspiration for many beautiful items on its menu. The café is owned and operated by an architect who has great interest in the art of coffee making.

Thailand Has Widest Income Inequality in the ASEAN

Thailand Has Widest Income Inequality in the ASEAN

It’s an inconvenient truth that doesn’t bode well for the future. But let’s face reality in an honest way. The Global Wealth Report 2018 published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute showed Thailand scoring 90.2 on the Gini coefficient (also the Gini index), making it a country with the widest income inequality in the ASEAN, and one of four worst performers on the world chart, which include Ukraine (95.5), Kazakhstan (95.2), and Egypt (90.9).

/// ASEAN ///

The Gini coefficient, named after Italian demographer Corrado Gini, is a statistic measure of the degree of inequality represented by a set of values from zero to 1, or 100 depending, zero being perfect equality in either income or wealth. Hence, the higher the values, the greater the wealth is being more unevenly distributed.

The Credit Suisse report visualizes the global wealth distribution in the form of a wealth pyramid, which places adults in one of four wealth bands: under-10,000 USD, between 10,000 and 100,000 USD, between 100,000 and 1 million USD, and over-1 million USD.

In Thailand, the distribution of adults by wealth range is heavily concentrated at the bottom end of the wealth spectrum. Precisely, 91.7% of adults belong in the under-10,000 USD wealth band, 7.5% in the between 10,000 and 100,000 USD band, and 0.7% in the between 100,000 and 1 million USD band. Only 0.1% are members of the over-1 million USD wealth range. This translates into a high income inequality value of 90.2 on the Gini coefficient.

As for Asia, there is a substantial degree of polarization between high-income countries (Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore) and the low-income countries (including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam). On average the Asia-Pacific region (excluding India and China) has a high income inequality value of 90.1 on the Gini index.

North Jakarta, Indonesia / Photo: Chris Bentley

Across the ASEAN membership, Indonesia comes in second at 84.0, followed by the Philippines at 82.6 on the Gini index. Like in Thailand, only 0.1% of Indonesian and Philippine adult populations are members of the over-1 million USD wealth range.

Myanmar has a Gini index value of 58.2, making it a country with the narrowest income gap in the ASEAN. Interestingly, 98.9% of its adult population belongs in the low-income wealth band with 0% in the 100,000 USD range and beyond.

In Singapore, only 13.8% of its adult population are members of the under-10,000 USD wealth range, while 38.2% belong in the between 10,000 and 100,000 USD range, and the majority 44% in the between 100,000 and 1 million USD wealth band. Its income inequality value on the Gini index is 75.8.

The Gini coefficient shows the statistical dispersion of income or wealth among the citizens of a country. It’s the most common method of measuring inequality. The scale ranges from zero to 1, or 100 depending. A Gini coefficient of zero refers to perfect equality in the data being analyzed, while 1 (or 100) means there’s a maximum inequality. Gini values are key to understanding a wealth pattern that gives us an idea where to start to tackle the problem.

 

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10 Modern Tropical Homes for Inspiration

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ASEAN Paradise Islands Need Time to Recover

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Thailand // The Philippines // Myanmar

Maya Bay, the Phi Phi Islands Marine Park, Thailand

In Thailand, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation closed the popular tourist destination Maya Bay for four months effective June 1. Because recovery was progressing more slowly than had been anticipated earlier, the authorities announced on October 2 that Maya Bay would remain closed indefinitely. The ban was deemed necessary to let nature take its course with respect to the health and sustainability of the organisms that exist there.

Maya Bay was made famous by the 2000 drama thriller “The Beach,” starring Leonardo Di Caprio. It lies as part of the Phi Phi Islands marine park in the Andaman Sea. The day-tripper paradise gets an average 2 million visitors a year, thanks to its proximity to Phuket and Thailand’s western shore.

 

Boracay Island, the Philippines / Photo: www.travelmag.com
Boracay Island, the Philippines

In the Philippines, the popular tourist attraction Boracay Island, dubbed the “Best Island in the World” in 2012 by Travel+Leisure Magazine, was shuttered for six months effective April 26, 2018. The closure was part of a wider effort at assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been damaged by humans. The tropical paradise is scheduled to reopen on October 26.

 

Cock’s Comb Island
Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar / Photo: www.burmaboating.com

In Myanmar, from time to time the curtain falls on the islets of Mergui Archipelago in the far south of the country. The much sought-after destinations in the Andaman Sea are easily accessible from Thailand’s Ranong Province. For environmental reason, Nyaung Oo Phee Island was closed to visitors on occasions. The same applied to Cock’s Comb Island, also called Emerald Heart for its blue green water color, and Cockburn Island (Kawthoung). Check it out before you visit them.

Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar / Photo: www.waaleresort.com
We Ale Island Resort / Photo: www.waaleresort.com

There are other beautiful islets in Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago that have remained largely unspoiled. They include Lampi, which is part of the Lampi Marine National Park, and nearby We Ale Island.

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