Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Three unforgettable temple experiences in the Mekong Sub-Region

Image courtesy of Mike Aquino

Fortune-telling in Shwedagon, Yangon, Myanmar

The Burmese are famously attached to their fortune tellers; humble factory workers and politicians alike may consult astrologers before making life-changing commitments or traveling abroad.

Tourists can also check in with a Burmese astrologer; the stairs leading up to the Shwedagon Pagoda stupa are lined with fortune-tellers who, for a fee, will predict your future and provide you with helpful advice. Based on your birthday and palm reading, the astrologer will advise you to buy a certain flower and place it at a specific planetary post adjacent to the Shwedagon stupa.

Following their advice will, quite possibly, grant you better luck and increased peace of mind – at the very least, you’ll have an interesting story to tell when you get home!

Even without seeing a fortune-teller, visiting Shwedagon Pagoda can change your life: you’ll marvel at the profusion of statues, temples, and the constant crowds that circumambulate around the massive golden stupa at the very top of the temple.

The group of Shaolin kungfu performs at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng of Henan Province, China. Image by sihasakprachum

Shaolin Temple, Kunming, China

While the martial art of Shaolin originated from its namesake temple in Henan Province, the Miaozhan Temple in Kunming serves as Shaolin’s home in Yunnan: tourists are welcome to explore the Shaolin disciplines of meditation, traditional medicine, and even martial arts!

At the Miaozhan Temple, visitors can train in small groups under Shaolin warrior monks, who can effectively demonstrate different Shaolin style forms. Students also get a fully immersive experience in Chinese culture, learning about its religious practices, its art and its cuisine.

Miaozhan Temple is a major center for “Yunnan Shaolin”, a showcase of “Shaolin culture” for tourists and interested foreigners that also include three other locations in Guandu district: Tuzhu Temple, Fading Temple and Guanyin Temple.

Allie Caulfield (CC BY 2.0)

Vipassana Meditation in Wat Mahathat, Bangkok, Thailand

In the old Rattanakosin district of Bangkok, north of the Grand Palace, you’ll find the large Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit Rajaworamahavihara temple (Wat Mahathat for short).

The temple enjoys royal patronage, being one of the six first-class royal temples in Thailand; it is also a centuries-old school for Buddhist monks, and the site of a popular class on Vipassana meditation for beginners.

On Section 5 of the Wat Mahathat temple, visitors can take a three-hour introduction to Vipassana, which in practice focuses on breathing and dispelling thought as one reflects on the temporary nature of things in the world. English language classes are available, held daily from 7-10am, 1-4pm and 6-9pm. Classes are free, but visitors are encouraged to leave a generous donation.

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