Hoan Kiem Lake

One of the key features of Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake. A large body of water in the centre of the city with a small temple in the middle.

Meaning Lake of the Returned Sword or Lake of the Restored Sword, it’s a fresh water lake in the historic centre of Hanoi.

Near the northern shore of the lake lies Jade Island on which the Temple of the Jade Mountain (Ngoc Son Temple) stands.

The temple was erected in the 18th century. It was built in commemoration of Tran Hung Dao, a 13th century military leader

Centuries old rituals are played out in the temple every day, including the ritual sounding of bells.

Alters groan under the weight of offerings including fruit, cake and incense.

Colourful carved painted wood and sumptuous fabrics adorn the temple.

There’s intricate murals to the entrance of the temple, before you pay for a ticket, cross the bridge and head over the water.

Jade Island is connected to the shore by the wooden Thê Húc Bridge, painted vermillion red.

The bridge’s name translates as “Perch of the Morning Sunlight”.

Sri Mariamman Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple dates back to 1827 and is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore.

Beneath the imposing gopura are huge wooden doors. Their massive size is quite deliberate, designed to remind the worshippers of their insignificance in comparison to the divine.

Devotees believe that ringing the bells on the doors will bring good luck.

It’s located in Chinatown and is dedicated to the goddess Mariamman, known for her power to cure illnesses and diseases.

Two nearby streets got their names because of this temple: Temple Street (for obvious reasons) and Pagoda Street, because of the shape of the temple’s gopura.

Now a national monument, much of the present structure is believed to have been built in 1862-1863 by Indian craftsmen.

Highly ornate and colourful ceiling paints abound in the temple. Each one is an eye-catching delight.

Sri Veeramakaliamman

Singapore is home to endless architectural and cultural delights and the area known as Little India is no exception.

We’re heading to one of the most historic, colourful temples in the area – Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple.

The temple, found onSerangoon Road is one of the oldest temples in Singapore.

The incredibly ornate entrance is known as a Rajagopuram – a tall pyramidal tower built at the main entrance to a Hindu temple.

Built by Indian pioneers who came to work and live here the temple was the first in the serangoon area and became a focus of early Indian Social Cultural activities there.

From the incredibly ornate facade to the colourful interior, the temple is a riot of celebration and human interactions.

One of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is dedicated to the goddess and destroyer of evil, Kali – or Sri Veeramakaliamman.

Outside in the courtyard, a cornucopia of deities can be found in inglenooks, around the roofline and in every conceivable colour.

Each figure represents a particular deity, that offers a different blessing to their devotees.

Incredibly the images above are actually statues not paintings – the level of detail is incredible.

Glittering glorious temple

Next on our tourist hit list is the shimmering, glittering glory of The Temple of the Golden Pavillion.

This beautiful slice of golden glory is known as Kinkaku-ji meaning the “Temple of the Golden Pavilion” but it is officially named Rokuon-ji “Deer Garden Temple”

It is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto and is a glorious sight when the sunlight reflects off its gilded surfaces.


The present building dates from 1955, when it was rebuilt after the original was burnt to the ground.

It’s three stories high, approximately 12.5 meters in height and functions as a shariden, a building that houses important relics of the Buddha.

The use of lots of gold is important because of its underlying meaning.

The gold is used to mitigate and purify any pollution or negative thoughts and feelings towards death


The Pavilion is set in a beautiful garden which uses the idea of borrowing of scenery (“shakkei”)

Shakkei is a traditional East Asian garden design principle which incorporates background landscape into the composition of a garden.

The pavilion extends over Kyōko-chi, the Mirror Pond, that reflects the building giving you a double hit of its shiny wonderfulness.


The temple is a must see on the sightseeing itinerary, which means that it does get very busy with other temple baggers.

But if you like bling and if you like temples, then it’s definitely worth braving the hordes!

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a brightly coloured, busy temple in the heart of Kyoto’s tourist district. It’s one of the most visited temples in the city so prepare for crowds!


This orange and green beacon of worship is thronged with visitors who swarm up its steps from the neighbouring shopping streets.

Over 1200 years have passed since the foundation of Kiyomizu-dera Temple and it is sited halfway up Mt. Otowa, one of the peaks in Kyoto’s Higashiyama mountain range.

Visitors and locals alike come to pay their respects to Kannon, a deity of great mercy and compassion.

It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water.

As we arrive late in the day we don’t enter the actual main temple, we have a snoot around the exterior and enjoy the sun setting with hundreds of other folk.

We’ll return later on in the trip to enter the main complex and enjoy the main hall that juts out over a sheer drop with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.


Purification and Ema

Heading back in the Senso-ji temple grounds for one final snoot around we find more delightful details.

A Tori gate leads the way to Asakusa Shrine also known as Sanja-sama “Shrine of the Three gods”.

The shrine honours the three men who founded the Sensō-ji.

Another of my favourite new photo subjects are the multitude of wooden plaques found at temples.

Known as Ema (絵馬) Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes on them and leave them hanging up at the shrine. Here the kami (spirits or gods) are believed to receive them. They have various pictures – often animals or other Shinto imagery.


Fantastical glided beasts adorn and guard Asakusa shrine from the tourist hoards.

All shrines have a purification fountain usually found the entrance and visitors follow a strict ritual.

The purification ritual is usually as shown above – take one of the ladles provided, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer  water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain.

The man follows the rules to the letter!

Above are the vibrant flags at Zenizuka Jizo Hall, a part of Senso-ji Temple, often visited by those who want to pray for their business to prosper.

Next up we encounter the bizarre raccoon dog that plays an key role in Japanese culture and has an “interesting” physical attribute . .