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Cruise to the Exotic Temples of the Far East

One any cruise to Asia, it’s possible to visit dozens of temples. These beautiful, mysterious and exotic structures have been around for centuries and are still used as a place of worship.

On cruises like ms Volendam’s 42-day Far East, Asian Adventure & Japan Collectors’ Voyage and ms Rotterdam’s 90-day Passage to the Far East in 2015, guests can visit many of these impressive temples on one exciting voyage. They also can be explored on shorter itineraries like Volendam’s 14-day Far East Discovery cruise.

On the Splendid China Overland Adventure shore excursion from Hong Kong (that includes flights to Guilin and Beijing), in addition to highlights like the Great Wall of China and Terra Cotta Warriors Museum, guests visit the Temple of Heaven. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to heaven for good harvest. The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of Emperor Yongle, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The temple was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of Emperor Jiajing in the 16th century.

On their roundtrip Singapore cruise, Cees and Yvon Kloppenburg visited the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda at Myanmar. It is considered the country’s landmark and is one of the most famous stupas in the world. Located on the top of Singuttara Hill, and visible from all over town, the gleaming golden stupa (spire), topped with more than 6,500 diamonds, rubies and other precious stones, soars 326 feet into the air. In the tradition of Buddhist faith, visitors walk around the pagoda clockwise and, if they know the day of the week on which they were born, they can pray, light a candle, place some flowers, or pour water over the shrine corresponding to that day. On the Shwedagon Pagoda by Night shore excursion, guests visit the temple in the evening.

Photos of the Shwedagon Pagoda from guests Cees and Yvon Cloppenburg.

Photos of the Shwedagon Pagoda from guests Cees and Yvon Cloppenburg.

In Yangon, a short distance from the Shwedagon Pagoda, lies the Reclining Buddha of Yangon. Cees and Yvon visited this monument as well. The Buddha’s feet are printed with the description of the lives of Buddha.


At Phuket, Thailand, the couple visited another beautiful temple.

We stopped at a large temple complex. One of the temples had the unique opportunity to climb to the third floor which gave a marvelous view over the complex. — Cees Cloppenburg

Phuket temple complex, by Cees and Yvon Cloppenburg.

Phuket temple complex, by Cees and Yvon Cloppenburg.

One of the most famous sites in the world is Borobudur in Java, Indonesia. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On a recent cruise, Holland America Line’s Jerrol Golden, manager of international public relations, visited the temple.

Jerrol showing the scale of Borobudur.

Jerrol showing the scale of Borobudur.

To say I was amazed and in awe is an understatement. It was a magical and mysterious experience that is still top of mind weeks after visiting. In terms of worldwide religious structures, it was built 300 years before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat was constructed and 400 years before work began on the great European cathedrals. You have to see it to believe it. — Jerrol Golden

Like Borobudur, Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the most imposing and spectacular temples in the world. Visited on the Angkor Wat Overland Adventure tour from Nha Trang, Vietnam, guests fly to Siem Reap and visit the Temple of Thommanon, the Angkor Temples at Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple and Pre Rup Temple. On the third day of the overland tour, guests visit Angkor Wat — the largest temple in the world with a volume of stone equaling that of the great Cheops pyramid in Egypt. It is unlike all other Khmer temples in that it faces west and was inspired by 12th-century Hinduism. Its symmetrical towers are stylized on the modern Cambodian flag. Commissioned by Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat took an estimated 30 years to build.

Angkor Wat in Vietnam.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

On the Nara & the Horyuji Temple tour at Kobe, Japan, guests visit the world’s largest statue of Buddha in the city of Nara — a center of the arts, literature and religion. Nara is home to a number of very impressive buildings and landmarks, as guests discover. The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) in the Todaji Temple is cast in bronze and set in an enormous wooden building. After seeing this star attraction, continue to the Kasuga Shrine, then take the coach to the Horyuji Temple, the oldest in Japan, which contains some of the nation’s rarest treasures.

What famous temples would you like to visit on a cruise to the Far East? Do you prefer the majestic sites like Borobudur or ornate ones like Shwedagon Pagoda? Tell us in the comments below.

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