A South-East Asian Temple Run: 4 Countries in 8 Days

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I recently made a quick trip to South East Asia with a friend and decided to do some intense geek-trekking: 4 countries with 5 stops in a little shy of 8 days. The goal was to explore each country as much as possible with an itinerary jam-packed of visiting a series of famous religious sites in Thailand, Japan, Cambodia. The fourth country Singapore was purely convenient fun. Here- I provide a brief run down of how I did it all.

Day 1: Tokyo, Japan.

Senso-ji temple in the Akasuka region of Tokyo was complted in 645 and is the oldest shrine in Tokyo. Legend states that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Senso-ji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon.

A 40 minute train ride away yo Harajuku stop will place you at a major entrance into Yoyogi park, where you can find the Meiji Shrine. Located in Shibuya, Tokyo, Meiji is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

Day 2:  Bangkok, Thailand.

As a Buddhist country, Thailand boasts tens of thousands of temples. It is believed that Buddhism was introduced to Thailand about 2,200 years ago when the emperor of India, Ashoka the Great, sent monks to a great number of countries including Thailand to spread the faith. Nowadays, the vast majority of Thai people is Buddhist. The names of most of these temples include the term “Wat” aplty meaning temple complex. More than 200 temples have the status of a being a Royal Temple, which are divided by importance into first, second and third class. The most important and sacred temple in Thailand is the Wat Phra Kaew temple located on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. This temple holds the emerald Buddha, the most sacred and revered Buddha image in Thailand.

Wat Pho is a temple complex adjacent to Wat Phra Kaew. Also known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, it is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.

Day 3: Bangkok, Thailand.

A trip to one of the famous floating markets at was on the agenda. After a 1.5 hour cab ride outside of Bangkok, I arrived at the starting point for a ride down to the floating market at  Tanluang Pier toward Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Imagine boats piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. The popular floating markets are Taling Chan Market, Bang Ku Wiang Market, Tha Kha, and Damnoen Saduak.

Day 4: Siem Reap, Cambodia

A visit to Angkor Wat was regarded as the highlight of the trip. A former Hindu temple and now a Buddist temple, Angkor Wat retains the title as being the largest religious complex in the world.  On my visit, thousands of people gathered at 5 am at the complex to witness an incredible sunrise.

Day 5 & Day 6: Phuket, Thailand.

A retreat to the island of Phuket was in order after so much sigh-seeing. I took to speedboat to Phi Phi Leh and then to Phi Phi Don to enjoy the incredibly renowned scenery.

Day 7: Singapore.

A surprisingly modern and Western metropolis, skyscrapers, bright lights and large billboards dotted the city everywhere. The main highlight was visiting Marina Bay Sands, the world’s second most expensive building, at US$ 5.5 billion, including the cost of the prime land. The resort opened on 27 April 2010. The property has a hotel, convention and exhibition facilities, theaters, entertainment venues, retailers and restaurants.

Day 8:  Say goodbye.

The trip was immortalized with hundreds of eye-gawking photos but very little sleep. Be forewarned. Geektrekking is not for the faint of heart.