Taktshang Monastery // (c) 2011 Sohan Pablo
A recent survey by Hotels.com revealed that American tourists are flocking to Asia in greater numbers. Thanks to Asia Transpacific Journeys, Americans can transform their vacation into a spiritual journey or, at the very least, an eye-opening adventure. Asia Transpacific has released its top-10 list of sacred places, temples and shrines in Asia that devotees visit each year. The list covers a broad range of countries and cultural traditions from around the Asian continent.
1. The Taktshang Monastery is Bhutan’s most sacred and well-known Buddhist temple. It is perched on a cliff 3,000 feet above the valley floor. Tourists can hang prayer flags with locals after the monks have declared the day an auspicious one.
2. Varanasi in India is a key spot for Hindus, who journey there annually. It is claimed that its holy waters cleanse a believer of all sins and earn him a higher ranking in the next life.
3. Shwegadon Padoga is visited by Buddhist followers and monks in Burma daily. The padoga is plated with gold and its 322-foot dome is topped by a 76-carat diamond.
4. Dambulla is Sri Lanka’s most extraordinary cave temple. Dambulla has five caves with 6,000 square feet of space covered by paintings, making it the largest continuous painting series in the world. It is a UNESCO World Hertitage Site.
5. The ruins of Borobudur in Indonesia constitute the largest Buddhist monument on Earth. Dating back to the ninth century, Borobudur is one of the original seven world wonders.
6. Pashipatinah in Nepal is the largest temple devoted to the Hindu god Shiva in the world and draws devotees from all over the Indian subcontinent. Visitors are likely to witness a fascinating cremation ceremony on the holy Bagmati River.
7. Pak Ou, accessible only by boat, is a mystical pilgrimage site in Laos. The natural cave has collected 3,000 Buddha statues, left behind throughout the centuries.
8. Dharmsala is the capital of the Tibetan government and the residence of the Dalai Lama. Located in India, it is visited by many who wish to study Tibetan Buddhism.
9. Wat Phra Kaew is located in Bangkok’s Grand Palace in Thailand. Also known as the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha,” this pilgrimage site has been a place of worship for every Thai monarch since it was reclaimed from the Burmese in the 18th century.
10. Sarnath is a sacred site in India, near Varanasi, where Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon after achieving enlightenment.