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Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia forum

Wats and mosques

Posted by somtam2000 on 8/5/2022 at 23:33 admin

Hey all,

So have been tossing a question over in my head, and I thought I’d run it by the Travelfish hive-mind.

Pick up any paper travel guide (or Travelfish) and flip to some second-tier Thai town, and more often than not a Buddhist temple will be listed. Do the same for Indonesia or Malaysia and you’re far less likely to see a mosque listed.

I went through our listings, and for Southeast Asia, we list 418 wats individually and 17 mosques... There will be a few more in combined listings and whatnot, but still, that is a vast difference.

So my question to you, dear traveller, is do you find a Buddhist way or pagoda inherently more interesting than a mosque? Would you say you’re more likely to visit one over the other (as a tourist, not as a person of faith)? Why?

In the case of Travelfish, mosques are often listed on the basis of an unusual history or architecture or whatever, take Menara Mosque in Jepara for example. With Buddhist temples, we’re far less demanding. Sure we cover the crowd-pleasers, like say Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai, but others, well, I’m not quite sure why we listed it! The same goes for pagodas, for example, Vinh Trang in My Tho—if I’m being generous it is a minor site, worth a look if you have the time...

So yeah, let me know what you think!


#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

Posted by exacto on 9/5/2022 at 15:30

When I lived in Istanbul I visited the Blue Mosque, as back then it was still open to the public. I only visited the one time and never thought to enter again.  It wasn't that the Blue Mosque didn't impress; it did. In fact, it is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen, particularly the inside. Usually, when I visited mosques in Turkey, however, it was to appreciate the impressive architecture from the outside.

In contrast, I routinely visit Buddhist or Hindu temples when in Southeast Asia (or anywhere else I stumble across one, including in North America). But I usually won't enter the central shrine area (wihan), unless accompanied by a Buddhist friend.

The difference seems to be how I feel while visiting. Buddhist temples have a "drop by whenever you wish" vibe. I feel welcome visiting mosques too, but my sense is that their nature is much more dedicated to the faithful, and as such, I often feel like I am intruding with a casual visit. So, out of respect, I tend to appreciate them from afar.

For completeness, Christian churches fall somewhere in the middle. I am happy to respectfully walk through the larger cathedrals of Europe and North America, light a candle, and enjoy a quiet moment. But I won't typically go inside smaller churches, preferring a quick peek inside and a lingering stroll outside.

These are religious places and I try to treat them as such. I appreciate the opportunity to experience them, while at the same time being careful to show my respect. When I was young I learned that reverence for sacred things is important, whether the thing is sacred to me or to others; you know, like a 700-year-old tree. Cheers.

#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,833

Posted by gecktrek on 12/5/2022 at 08:05

hey, i will visit any monasteries, wats, pagodas, temples, mosques, churches and synagogues, if they are interesting and/or noteworthy...

#3 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 178

Posted by somtam2000 on 16/5/2022 at 00:52 admin

Thanks, both for your thoughts—a common response elsewhere has been that Buddhist temples (and churches for that matter) are “richer” in decor and styling, and so are prettier/more interesting to people regardless of faith. It is an interesting issue, that’s for sure. Thanks again

#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,090

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