1. Wat Rong Khun, ThailandA contemporary temple, Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai is better known as the White Temple. A Buddhist place of worship, it has made it to our list of funky temples because of its unconventional exterior. It is completely white, and each form it highlighted with mosaic glass and mirrors, making it sparkle in the sunlight. Privately owned; it is a work in progress, not expected to be completed for many years to come. Thailand’s very own Sagrada Familia!
2. Haeinsa , South KoreaOne of South Korea’s most important Buddhist temples, Haiensa in South Gyeongsang Province was initially built in 802. It was rebuilt in 1818 after a fire gutted it the year before. The most amazing bit about this temple is the fact that it is home to a complete copy of Buddhist Scriptures which have been written on 81,350 printing blocks made of wood – all of which survived the devastating fire!
3. Po Lin Monastery , Hong KongThis Buddhist monastery on Lantau Island was started in 1906, but continuous additions and extensions have been made to it over the years. A very notable extension - and the one that resulted in putting this monastery on our list – was the construction of the Tian Tan Buddha, in 1993. This statue, made of 202 bronze pieces, is 112 feet tall. On a clear day, the statue is visible across the bay from as far as Macau. It also holds the record of being the world’s tallest, outdoor, seated Buddha.
4. Borobudur Temple, IndonesiaBorobudur in Java is the largest and one of the most famous Buddhist temples around the world. Built in the 9th century, it was abandoned in the 14th for not so clear reasons. Made of over 2 million blocks of stone, this huge monument lay hidden for centuries under volcanic ash and jungle growth only to be rediscovered in the 19th century. Since then several restorations have given it back some of its past glory.
5. Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple, MalaysiaOne of Malaysia’s oldest and now a major Hindu temple, this sparkler started off as an ordinary little hut. That is, till the chairman of the temple decided it was time the humble place of worship got a make over fit for a disco. So now Malaysia has its first and only glass temple in Tebrau. Light from crystal chandeliers bounces off every surface, from doors and walls to pillars and ceilings which are decorated with 300,000 tiny mosaic pieces of coloured glass. It is quite a bright blaze in there!
6. Hanging Temple, ChinaHanging precariously on a cliff side in the mountains near Datong, is the Hanging Temple. Built about 1,500 years ago, this monastery is the only existing place of worship which is a combination of three traditional Chinese religions – Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Another claim to fame is that it has made the list of the world’s top ten most odd dangerous buildings!
7. Chion-in Temple, JapanKyoto’s Chion-in temple is the headquarters of the Jodo sect, the most popular form of Buddhism in Japan. A 17th century structure, it has a huge two storey tall gate which is the largest existing structure of its type in Japan. Another completely bizarre feature is the floor – the wooden boards have these metal ends that are attached to metal joints – giving off a piercing squeaky sound when someone walks over them. The purpose of this musical floor was to keep a track on intruders. Chion-in also has a giant bell in the main hall – it weighs some 70 tonnes and needs 17 strapping monks to ring it!
8. Jetavanaramaya, Sri LankaJetavanaramaya is a 4th century stupa in the sacred city Anuradhapura. It makes our list for the incredible number of firsts in figures – it is 400 feet tall, placing it on top of the tallest stupa in the ancient world list. It is also the largest structure in the ancient world with a base area of 2,508,000 square feet. Another funky figure is an unbelievable 93.3 million baked bricks that were used as construction material for this colossal structure.
9. The Golden Rock, MyanmarThe Golden Rock on Mt Kyaiktiyo in Mon State is probably the most dramatic mounument on our list. A popular destination for Buddhist pilgrimage, it is a visual delight – imagine a small pagoda built on top of a granite boulder which defies all known laws of gravity and is strangely perched on a mountain side. If that is not cool enough, add to it gold leaves pasted on the boulder by the faithful. A beautiful sight, especially in the evening; when the rays of the setting sun seem to set the gold leaf on fire.
10. Ta Prohm, CambodiaOne of the very few temples in the Angkor region of Siem Reap that has been left in its original form, Ta Prohm is as dramatic as they come. A simple structure, its beauty is in the fact that large roots of various trees have grown over and above the temple structure, binding it in a sort of an unearthly and pretty scary looking grip. Made famous by the Tomb Raider movie that was filmed here, it is one of Cambodia’s most visited sites.