1. Pha That Luang: Vientiane, Laos
Believed to date back to the third century, this Buddhist temple (That Luang Village, Xaysettha District) is recognised by its 45m-tall, three-tiered golden stupa, which is reportedly decorated with some 454kg of gold leaf and surrounded by 30 smaller stupas. The palace and small temple in the immediate vicinity are just as awe-inspiring, with hand-painted murals depicting Buddhist teachings.
Experience it: Visit during the three-day-long Boun That Luang Festival (November 14 to 16), when pilgrims partake in colourful processions and religious ceremonies.
2. Crystal Mosque: Terengganu, Malaysia
A fusion of steel and glass, Crystal Mosque, so named for its shimmering appearance, opened in 2008 as the centrepiece of the Islamic Heritage Park. While the façade is modern, the mosque retains elements of traditional Islamic architecture in its design, such as graceful minarets and elaborate latticework. At night, a light display illuminates the domes and minarets in multicoloured hues.
Experience it: Take a walk around Islamic Heritage Park, which features replicas of famous mosques around the world, including Masjid al-Haram in Saudi Arabia.
3. Church of Saints Peter & Paul: Singapore
Built in the tropical Neo-Gothic style popular during the colonial era, the Church of Saints Peter & Paul reopened last year after an extensive restoration. Step into the 147-year-old Roman Catholic Church, and admire the sunlight-drenched space, high, vaulted ceiling propped up by beams with trimming, and kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows. The lotus detail on the plasterwork adorning the exterior columns hints at its Chinese roots.
Experience it: Open to all, regardless of religion, the church’s adoration room is a serene spot for a moment of contemplation.
4. Wat Rong Khun: Chiang Rai, Thailand
Commonly known as the White Temple, this alabaster head-turner captures the imagination with ornate sculptures and carvings. Conceived and built by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the surreal Buddhist temple has an exterior crafted in plaster embedded with pieces of glass that glitter in the sun. In the main building are vivid-hued murals depicting traditional Buddhist imagery as well as familiar figures in pop culture, such as Harry Potter and Michael Jackson.
Experience it: Drop by the workshop to watch artisans carve and assemble the sculptures and decorations.
5. Prambanan: Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Built in the mid-9th century, the Hindu temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage site is home to more than 500 temples, many of which are still standing – a testament to the sophisticated stonework of their builders. Incorporating the towering spires typical of Hindu temples, the complex was designed to mimic the holy mountain Meru. Many of the temples here are decorated with reliefs depicting scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana.
Experience it: Stay for the evening ballet performance of Ramayana on an open-air stage with the temples as a backdrop.