Asia is home to many of the world’s historical wonders. Many of them are part of the prestigious list of UNESCO’s world heritage site. Some, like Angkor Wat are world famous, while the temples in Burma are more off the beaten track.
If you want to visit the most amazing sites in the world, head to Southeast Asia. Once there, here is a list of the most beautiful man-made landmarks you just can’t miss on.
1. Angkor Temples – Siem Reap, Cambodia
The temple complexes of Angkor are by far Cambodia’s and South East Asia’s biggest historical claim to fame. Stretching for over 400 square kilometers, the park contains over 1000 temples. These are ruins of several capitals of the Khmer Empire and date back between the 9th and the 15th centuries. The most famous has to be the temple complex of Angkor Wat. It is the largest religious structure in the world and the most visited in this archeological park.
There is a lot to explore here. While most people try to see the most they can in a day, culture buffs should go for the three-day ticket. A tour by motorcycle tuk-tuk is the easiest way to see the ruins and you can stop at some of the less visited temples.
Stay at Siem Reap which is just a few miles away from the park. It has grown over the years to become a complex of excellent restaurants, bars and boutique shops.
2. Bagan – Burma
Nowhere else in Asia will you see a sight quite like Bagan, Burma’s main attraction. It is temples after temples, almost like Angkor without the crowd. For the best views, visit this temple town along the banks of the Irrawaddy River in a hot air balloon. The best time for this is at dawn when the shapes of the temples draw through the haze. Adventurers will choose the pony ride between the ancient stupas for an up-close visit. There are over 3,000 of those stupas so be sure there are lots to see.
Bagan is now a rising tourist attraction but still a historic site worth visiting in Southeast Asia.
3. Borobudur and Prambanan – Java, Indonesia
On the magical isle of Java, lie the incredible Buddhist and Hindu temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The temple complex of Borobudur is the largest -and among the oldest- Buddhist structure in the world. Devout Buddhists circle each layer of Borobudur, following the path to enlightenment.
Nearby, Prambanan is a collection of massive Hindu temples built by the Mataram Kingdom during the 9th Century. Like Borobudur, it is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both sites are linked but different in style and design.
Forgotten for centuries, it took reconstruction in 30s to bring them back to their former glory. These amazing temples showcase incredible Hindu arts that the world must see.
4. Ayuthaya Kingdom – Thailand
The Ayuthaya Kingdom is accessible from Bangkok by road or on-board a traditional rice barge. Once the ancient capital of Siam, these elegant ruins offer a glimpse into the region’s glorious past when it extended into Burma, Cambodia and Laos. Traders from all corners of the globe marveled at its majesty and cited it as being “the Paris of the East”.
The ruins are within a quaint Thai town that adds a little modern culture into your exploration of the past. Ayuthaya’s ruins became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 1990’s. The listing states that these temples ‘represent a master class of genius’. The site is unique and worth exploring, with its statues and temples, gently decaying in the tropical heat.
5. Wat Phu – Laos
Few people visit Laos, though, this tiny landlocked country in Southeast Asia has lots to offer. Some come for the delights of Luang Prabang, the southern emerald rice plains, stunning jungle forests, and villages.
Close to the towns of Pakse and Champasak in southern Laos, you can visit the ancient Khmer temple ruins of Wat Phu. The site is picture perfect, located on a hill top overlooking the might Mekong River. These pre-Angkorian ruins date back to the 5th century, with the majority of the temple ruins from the 11th century.
A bike will get you far in the Champasak region and allow you to see some of the other local attractions. Be sure not to miss on the Wat Phu Khmer ruins and the Si Phan Don, also known as the 4,000 islands. There you could have a chance at seeing the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins or the even rarer railway line at Ban Khone.
Marc writes here on behalf of asiaodyssey.com