Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia
December 2014 through Mid-March 2015

Embrace Foundation Retreat Center
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Travel As An Interfaith Act
Embrace encourages all who can  
do so, to learn about other  
traditions and cultures by traveling  
as “Grassroots Diplomats.” We  
hope that people every where  
become life long students of our  
world-wide humanity.

“ In every man there is something  
wherein I may learn of him, and in  
that I am his pupil.”
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Virginia (Embrace), Dr.Anwar Barkat (World Council of Churches, UN) & Imam I.H. Kauser
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Anne-Stuart & Ajata (Hosts), with Rabbi Gelberman & Dr.Jayaraman
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Chinese Traditional Temple - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Embrace Founders traveled by land from Singapore, to Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and  
Cambodia. Over 7,000 photographs of sacred places and people were taken. After editing most will  
be categorized by tradition and country and entered into EMBRACE SACRED PLACES.ORG  
website and registry.
As always, the agenda for the trip was:

To meet with religious leaders, spiritual leaders and scholars throughout the  
areas we travel.

To encourage grassroots interest in organizing intercultural and interfaith events  
in their respective communities.

To photograph as a record, places considered sacred by the people living in  
these countries.

To photograph precious anthropological/ archaeological sites that are  
vulnerable to war and ecological damage.

The Embrace Founders visited  most of the religious shrines and sacred places of all religions in  
Singapore. - However, unique among them were the mix of Chinese Traditional, Taoist,  Confucian  
and Buddhist Temples. These temples are special because many old Chinese Temples and Shrines  
were destroyed in cosmopolitan areas of the Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution.  The  
Cultural Revolution left the urban “Han” Chinese people bereft of much of their history; including  
temples, shrines, religious leaders, philosophers and religious scholars.
For this reason, old urban Chinese Taoist, Confucian and Traditional Temples found in Singapore  
and Malaysia, like those in Taiwan and Hong Kong are a treasure. In addition, the Embrace  
Founders met people at these temples who explained a great deal about the Traditional Chinese  
belief systems and were generous in sharing their information.

Chinese Traditional & Hindu Interfaith

In  Singapore, there exists a large, very popular traditional Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho (Kwan Yin)  
Chinese Temple (org. 1884) -  next to a Hindu Sri Krishna Temple. Many Chinese honor both Kwan  
Yin and accompanying deities, as well as those at the Sri Krishna Hindu Temple.
Kwan Im Tong Hood Temple - Singapore
Neighboring Sri Krishna Hindu Temple
Wishing You A Happy Chinese New Year.
We Thank You for Your Support   - The Sri Krishna Temple
Chinese Women Paying Respects at The Sri Krishna Hindu Temple


The people of Malaysia, when introduced to foreigners will say; “You know we (Malaysians) are a  
multicultural  country.” They seem to revel in a “Celebration of Humanity” that they with conscious  
effort have created. Both Malaysia and Singapore are largely made up of Malaysians, Indian Tamils  
(or South Indians from other states)  and Chinese who long ago left the mainland to settle in this part  
of the world.
Young people working at a cafe the Founders frequented found out about Embrace and looked it up  
on the internet, the word spread across the street and through the shops so that young men from  
shops called out to  Ajata and Virginia while they  were passing, “Welcome to Malaysia.” “Welcome  
to Kuala Lumpur!”   In Singapore, on Orchard Street, when the Founders went to a cafe, a woman  
unknown to them insisted on buying them coffee and just said, “I like you.”

In fact, the Embrace  websites have  had a  very large readership from people all over Asia (as well  
as, Russia and the Ukraine!)

In Malacca, people of all religions climb up the grassy hill to the remains of St. Paul's Church where the body of St. Xavier was laid to rest for a period of eight months in 1553 before being shipped to Goa, India where it is still visibly intact in a glass coffin. His body to this day remains a  proud heritage of Catholic/ Orthodox Christians in India.
St Paul's Church - Malacca, Malaysia
Interior of St. Paul's Church
The unique and captivating Malay Masjid - Kampung Kling  
(1748) on Harmony Street in the midst of Malacca's teaming  
rivers of Asian tourists  is designed in a Sumatran, Hindu,  
Moorish and Chinese architectural style in the middle of   
historic China Town.  It has prominently displayed a quote  
about the Holy Prophet by Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu.

“I wanted to know the best one who
holds today undisputed  influence over
the hearts of millions of mankind.

I became more than convinced that it
was not the sword that won a place for
Islam in those days in the scheme of life.

It was the ridge simplicity, the absolute
self-effacement of the Prophet Mohammad
his intense devotion to his friends and
followers, his intrepidity as well as his
Absolute trust in God and in his own

                                                         Mahatma Gandhi
A Protestant Minister & A Confucian School Principal

In Kuala Lumpur one Sunday, the Founders spoke with a member of the Chinese Mandarin  
Congregation outside a Methodist Church. He told us that his  pastor was good friends with the  
principal of the Confucian School next door and  that the two religious/ philosophical leaders like to  
get together to enjoy each others company.
One of The Methodist Churches in Kuala Lumpur
Part of a Center with a Cafe and a Bookstore
Confucian School Next to the Methodist Church Center 
The Methodists,  known also as Wesleyan, have an established presence in Malaysia, (as they do in  
Ghana where the Embrace Founders traveled in 2013.) There are Mandarin, Cantonese and  
English services (and churches) in Kuala Lumpur. In Malacca, Malaysia we photographed a Tamil  
(Indian) Methodist Church built in 1908. Methodists laudably make education a strong point.  The  
center photographed above  is made up of a church, cafe and bookstore as well as offices for social  
welfare and administration.

Christmas For All - Interfaith Christmas in Malaysia

It was Christmas time in Kuala Lumpur and by the looks of all the malls and many shops, many would  
have thought they were in Europe, the U.S. or one of the British Commonwealth countries.   
Malaysians LOVE Christmas, especially Muslims and Hindus, right along with the Christians.  The  
Founders took a few photos at the Malls just to show the enthusiasm.
These photos show Muslim women enjoying the Christmas spirit, but the Founders saw just as  
many enchanted Hindu teenagers climbing on Santa's Throne and taking photos of their friends  
standing next to Holiday decorations. Mothers both Hindu and Muslim brought excited children to the  
malls to photograph them with giant toys and all the marvels that Christmas decorations bring.

All over Malaysia, especially Kuala Lumpur there are bookstores. Bookstores with books written in  
Chinese, bookstores with books written in Malay, bookstores with books written in English,  
bookstores with books written in Tamil and bookstores carrying books written in any combination or  
all the languages.  However, the best idea for a bookstore location we came across was a  
bookstore in the Kuala Lumpur Bus Terminal.  It was always busy!
Busy Bookstore in
Puduraya Bus Station - Kuala Lumpur
Popular Bookstore, chain - Chinese Religion Section
Sacred Hindu Bantu Caves & An Interfaith Ashram

The Bantu Caves are sacred caves of the Hindus with shrines inside the vast expanse. Below the  
caves is an ashram of Swami Sivananda, who was a medical doctor as well as a swami. Swamiji  
dedicated much of his life to promoting interfaith education and dialogue in India. We wrote about  
him (now deceased) and his ashram in Rishikish, India last year in CURRENT. Per his teachings,  
his devotees in Malaysia invited representatives of different religions to help them lay the corner  
stone for a new building and in their courtyard is a replica of the interfaith pillar that stands in the  
Rishikish Ashram quoting texts from the many world religions.
Sri Muruga in front of the Stairway to the Bantu Caves

In Penang, the Founders met with Sufi communities at two darghas. The work that Sufi orders have  
done internationally for centuries to promote interfaith dialogue and respect between different  
traditions is well known, so that it is always a  joyful occasion meeting with them where ever the  
Founders go.
Probably, the most important spiritual lesson that sufies throughout the ages have taught, (as have  
Hindu saints and Taoist masters) is not to judge the spiritual nature of a person based on their  
appearance. The sufies have little regard for status or material wealth, although they may have  
both; but they know too well, that many of their most “Divine” teachers have been poverty struck  
shopkeepers or even wandering (homeless) dervishes.

True Sufies lack a judgmental attitude towards their fellow humans. They are notably unpretentious,  
the poor and wealthy mixing without self-consciousness, so that they are very easy to be around.
Nagore Dargha Shariff - Sufi Shrine
One of the Sufi's Talking to Ajata at the Shrine

Families of the Dargha below welcomed the unexpected arrival of the Founders warmly in the dark  
of the evening, were open to answering questions as to aspects of the mystical tradition of the  
Hadith and insisted on loading Ajata and Virginia down with bags full of food when they had to  
Sufies of Penang

Ajata and Virginia met Mr. Poh and his son and daughter-in-law visiting the the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple of the Teochew Chinese clan where Mr. Poh's wife is interred. They met on the same date that Mrs. Poh had passed away some years back .  The family was, of course, paying their respects to her.  Despite their own spiritual obligations and the solemn nature of their visit, they put everything aside to reveal the sacredness of their traditions to the Embrace Founders.
Han Jiang Ancestral Temple - Penang, Malaysia
Mr. Poh, His Son & Daughter-in-law
Mr. Poh, his son and daughter-in-law made the  
Founders feel as if they were a part of their  
family. Mr. Poh kindly and most generously  
spent quite a bit of time patiently explaining  
some of the Teochew clan (Chinese) traditions  
to Ajata and Virginia.  The Han Jiang Temple  
is an enclosed court yard complex. In 2006 the  
temple won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific  
Heritage Award. It is something quite beautiful,  
deep and is remarkable to experience.

Thailand is known worldwide as a Theravada Buddhist country and to a great extent it is. However,  
as in much of Southeast Asia, Buddhism is often an intellectual veneer covering endearing, widely  
popular traditional beliefs (something very clearly seen in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism). Some of  
the traditional beliefs are evidenced in things such as strings attached to statues of Buddhas which  
extend out to people, other parts of a temple and so on.  The strings transmit energy and are used  
for various purposes. Amulets are also very popular. Some amulets  are Buddhist and some things  
such as tiger skin are worn by those with the (Chinese, South Asian) astrological sign of the Tiger -  
(This is absolutely not recommended by conservationists who wish to protect endangered wildlife.)

There are Theravada Monks throughout Southeast Asia, and perhaps more so in Laos and  
Cambodia, who act in the capacity of both Buddhist monks and traditional healers/ shaman.  In  
addition, Hinduism was once the royal religion of Thailand and there are remnants of it still visible.   
One Hindu Temple has been preserved by the Thai government in Bangkok where the Brahmin  
priests are Thai.
Wat Pho  - Buddhist Temple, Bangkok
Brahmin Priest, Hindu Temple - Bangkok
The Ayuthiya Temple ruins, North of Bangkok are a place that draws visiting monks from both  
Theravada and Mahayana traditions.  It is one of the reminders of the great Buddhist cities that  
once existed throughout Southeast Asia.
Monks with Virginia in Ayuthiya - Ancient Ruins, Thailand
Venerable Teera Khohasowan looking on Temple  Renovations,
while Virginia documents
Sukhathai Temple Preparations
for an Installation of a
New Buddha Statue

The children on field trips to ruins in Thailand are exuberant, joyful and in the following case  
undetered from their goals. In this case, they demanded to have photos of Virginia, so of course the  
Founders took an equal opportunity to photograph these jubilant young women and their teacher.
School Girls & One Boy with their Teacher on field trip in Sukhathai
Head of Buddha on Pillows -  Wat Phra Singh Woramaha Viharn - Chaing Mai
While visiting the enchanting town of Chiang Rai, some young monks called Ajata and Virginia over  
to join them in a temple gazebo.  They were curious about many things, but also wanted to learn  
how to speak English and wondered if we knew anyone who might teach them. As it happened we  
did. We recommended an affable retired Swiss engineer doing research on quantum physics. A  
person with a good sense of humor who just happened to be living in Chiang Rai and  spoke perfect  
Ajata with the the young monks and their Teacher Phra Khew at Wat Phra Singh
Young Monk & Virginia at the Buddha Park - A Lao Artists' Incredible
Interfaith Rendition of Buddhist, Hindu and even Sikh Spirituality
Lao people are very conscious of the importance of books and learning. Their appeals for book  
donations are widespread. They even have a Book Boat that takes books down the Mekong River  
to rural people.
Luang Prabang Public Library
Books for Food
Children's Painting of The Book Boat

From 1964 through 1973 a Secret War was waged against the Laos people by the United States  
government without the approval or knowledge of U.S. citizens. The U.S. defense industry and  
investment banks that made huge profits from this war had 250- 260 MILLION bombs unleashed on  
the people of this small country. It amounted to 1 B-52 plane load of bombs every 8 minutes 24  
hours a day for 9 years.  There were so many bombs that in 1975 villagers with the help of  Swiss  
NGO's began what is known as the Peace Bomb Project.  They began casting the metal from the  
bombs into spoons, jewelry and other metal items.
Spoons, Bottle Openers, Chop Sticks
made from U.S. Bombs
Peace Bomb Project Sales Lady
The irony is that while the defense contractors and investment banks got immensely rich, the United States lost the war.  However the issue is not about winning wars, the issue is about making profits for the corporations and banks that control the United States Congress, Senate and Presidents.

The same group control the politics in the Holy Land which has a primary industry of weapons manufacture, free lance arms dealers and a media that makes itself profitable by manufacturing stories and unrelentingly peddling fear, as it does in the United States.
Wat Manorom - Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang is the only city in Laos that has older temples, as all other parts of the country were  
bombed by the U.S. without any regard to the cultural heritage of the Laotian people.


When you think of visiting Cambodia, you think of Angkor Wat. One of the most famous places on the planet.  A beguiling once Hindu Temple, with later Buddhist inserts, it is magical. Luckily during the bombings, (again attempted in secret and again not endorsed by the American people)  and the later rise through the destablization of its' government, of the Khmer  Rouge, Ankgor Wat survived largely in tact.
Central West entrance of the Angkor Wat Complex -  the Temple is considerably wider then this photo
India -Cambodia Collaboration 
Non-Western nations have the ability to Change their World by Working Together
Part of the Ta Prohm Temple Complex -  Angkor Wat Historical Park
Not-so ancient, Wat Preham Prohm Rath with a Magical Buddha
Carved from a Miraculous Boat -Siem Reap
Children playing at Wat Preham Prohm Rath
Everywhere you go in Laos and Cambodia, every one signals you with a peace sign, even the  
tiniest children.

The Founders have been meeting Chinese people from the Republic of China for years on their  
trips to Africa and throughout Asia, especially in India.  On this trip,  Ajata and Virginia met many  
tourists from the Republic of China as can be seen in a photo of the tour group below.  It is a delight  
to witness their enthusiasm and eagerness to visit special places and photograph everything,  
including Virginia ! and Ajata who they refer to as “Father.”
Ajata and Ven. Charle Kym Bhikko from Preah Enkosa (Wat Kandal) Siem Reap, Cambodia

When we asked Austrailian monk, Ven. Charle Kym Bhikko why he came to Cambodia to be a monk, he told us he wanted to be some place where he could help people. 

And isn't that really what Religion, Spirituality, and being Human is all about?

Due to the misinformation, disinformation, fictional and distorted broadcast and print news  dominating the U.S., British and much of European markets, Embrace websites seek to give our readers a more accurate portrayal of grassroots people around the world and a more truthful account of what is happening in Non-Western nations than they normally have access to.
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