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Discover the Seven Wonders of Asia

7 Wonders of the Asian World

As India’s first Prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, once said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open”. We couldn’t agree more!

More than the 7 wonders of the world, there are countless wonders to be discovered in the Asia, all one needs to do is to seek them out. In this week’s newsletter, we take a look at 7 Wonders of Asia that we feel represent some of the most iconic innovations or achievements of mankind from across the continent. These wonders are a combination of man-made and natural marvels. From the highest mountain in the world to the natural wonders of Halong Bay and the majestic Angkor Wat in Cambodia, they are a must for everyone’s bucket list for a visit to Asia.  Read…Enjoy…Dream…Plan and Book with Secret Retreats!

Bagan – Myanmar

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, formerly known as Pagan, this ancient city was once the capital of the first kingdom of Myanmar, the Pagan Kingdom. Over the course of 250 years, between the 11th and 13th centuries CE, the Pagan Empire constructed over 1,000 stupas, 10,000 small temples, and 3,000 monasteries over an area of 40 square miles (104 sq. km) on the Bagan Plains. Today, more than 2,000 of these astonishing and beautiful religious structures still stand today protected within the area known as the Bagan Archaeological Zone, which spreads over 41 square kilometers.

Bagan’s local Pali name, ‘Arimaddana-pura’, translates as the City that Tramples on Enemies.

One of the most famous temples in Bagan is the Ananda Temple. This is a Buddhist Temple that is built in a unique fusion of Mon and Indian styles. The Dhammayangyi Temple, the largest religious structure in Bagan, is visible from all corners of the city and is famous for its mysterious bricked up interior.

For the most famous sunset-viewing spot in town, head to the white Shwesandaw Paya Pagoda where you can enjoy incredible 360-degree views over the plain of pagodas to see the 1,000s of gilded spires, that have been sending the hopes and dreams of people to the heavens for 100s of years, glinting in the evening light. It truly must be one of the most timelessly divine scenes still visible in the world today. For the ultimate bucket list views though, book a dawn champagne flight in a hot-air balloon flight over the Bagan Plain with Secret Retreats and watch from above as the sun rises on another day over this ageless and enchanting scene.

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Taj Mahal – India

We will not be able to forgive ourselves if we forget to add the Taj Mahal in our list of The Seven Wonders of the Asia. A significant member of the official modern wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal epitomizes ‘seeing is believing’. This incredible example of Mughal architecture is one of the greatest landmarks of India. The story behind the building is almost as dramatic as the structure itself. The English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold described it as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones”.

Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is a physical portrayal of everlasting love. The best time to visit the palace is at sunrise to avoid the crowds and see the pink and golden hues of dawn reflected on its glowing, alabaster surfaces.

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Great Wall – China

The Great Wall of China is an ancient series of walls and fortifications, totaling more than 13,000 miles in length, located in northern China. It is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of China and as legend has it, one of the only man-made creations that is visible from space. This Great Wall is one of the greatest sights in the world, as one of the world’s seven wonders it is the longest wall in the world, and an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. It winds its way along ancient China’s northern borders, over rugged open country and crossing steep mountains cutting across some breathtakingly beautiful natural scenery along its length.

The building of The Great Wall of China began in some sections as early as the 7th century BC. It was originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang as a means of preventing incursions from the surrounding nomadic tribes and was most famously penetrated by Genghis Khan and his formidable army in the 12th century – Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes were the only army to breach the wall in its 2,700-year history. Still today, its remains (many parts of the wall have been ‘renovated’ rather than resotored) represent as much of a psychological reminder of China’s strength, as a physical one.

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Everest and the Himalayas – Nepal

Where Europe has the Alps, Asia has the roof of the world, the Himalayas. Whilst the latter is not quite as popular a ski destination as the Alps might be, it is however undisputedly more epic. Home to our planet’s highest peaks, including the formidable Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth. The Himalayas has witnessed many a man try and fail to climb its many peaks. Spanning Bhutan, India, Nepal, Tibet, China and Pakistan, the Himalayan range itself is the apogee of an awe-inspiring landscape. Mountain lakes and raging glacial rivers, boulder strewn valleys and crevasse riven glaciers, and lowland forests over verdant foothills contrasting to neck achingly tall, majestic peaks dominating the horizon.

It is not only professional climbers heading to the mountains of the Himalayas. While the challenges of the world’s highest peaks are beyond many of us, there are treks, hikes and walks to suit every age and ability in this mountain wonderland, all the while with the majesty of the Himalayas as the backdrop to your trip. The Himalayas are a must visit, a must see, for every traveller. The ultimate metaphor for all of life’s greatest challenges and long used as a symbol of mankind’s greatest achievements, there can be no scenery more moving or life affirming than that of the Himalayas.

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Angkor Wat – Cambodia

Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and one of the world’s most enigmatic heritage sites. Located less than six kilometres north of Siem Reap, the expansive ruins of this 12th-century temple complex cover an area that spans more than 162 hectares, with hundreds of structures deep within the jungle still largely unresearched.

Angkor Wat has been attracting travellers to marvel at its beauty and complexity for 100s of years. Perhaps the earliest recorded visitor was Zhou Daguan who went to Angkor on a diplomatic mission in 1296. He left us with a fascinating account of life at Angkor from the perspective of a visitor that is a must read for any visitor. Be sure to search out a copy of his account of life at Angkor to add a living dimension to your visit, his book is sold today, translated into a variety of modern languages, as The Customs of Cambodia by Zhou Daguan and beautifully brings the ruins to life. The temples of Angkor were built to represent the mythical Mount Meru, which according to Hindu mythology is the dwelling place of the gods. The mountain is said to be surrounded by an ocean that is why most temples are surrounded by moats, built in a mountain-like pyramidal shape and topped by precisely five towers that represent the five peaks of Mount Meru.

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Ha Long bay – Vietnam

Who doesn’t love the picture postcard perfect views of Asia’s karst limestone scenery? Ha Long Bay consists of a group of islands and limestone karsts that have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An almost otherworldly sight, many of the islands are tall monolithic cliffs covered in beautiful green, lush jungle. Some of them are hollow and house beautiful caves with the Dau Go Cave (Wooden Stake Cave) a beautiful example. This massive cave has three main chambers adorned with multicolored stalagmites, and ancient rock paintings. Many of the islands also have their own enclosed lakes.

Ha Long Bay’s largest island, Cat Ba, is the most common overnight stop for tourists coming to Ha Long Bay for cruises and tours. Kayaking the turquoise-green waters of the bay is a popular activity here too, as well as cruising the bay lounging aboard traditional junk boats drinking in the stunning marine scenery. Of the almost 2,000 islands here, less than 40 have permanent residents, often in the form of small communities that live in fishing villages of floating and overwater houses.

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Borobudur – Indonesia

Located on the island of Java, the magnificent Borobudur temple, is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument. The temple sits majestically on a hilltop overlooking lush green fields and distant hills. Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Shailendra or ‘Lord of the Mountain’ dynasty, the temple’s Gupta architecture reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian.

The temple is located in Magelang 53 miles (86 km) west of Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia and is one of the country’s leading tourist attractions. The temple’s construction comprises 72,000 cubic yards (55,000 cu m) of andesite stones built into nine stacked platforms and topped by a central dome. This man-made mountain is covered with 2,672 relief panels and 504 statues of the Buddha with each Buddha image seated within a stupa, and with 72 of these statues surrounding the dome at the temple’s peak.

The monument’s three divisions serve as references to the three realms of Buddhist cosmology. The first of these is known as Kamadhatu in Sanskrit, or the world of desires in English, the second level is called Rupadhatu which represents the world of forms, and the third level is Arupadhatu which represents formless space or the highest level of existence, which is the goal of every practising Buddhist.

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Travel is all about experiences, comfort and luxury is important but without a sincere sense of place, you could be anywhere in the world. The beauty of travel is in the experiences, the people you meet, the stories you hear, the flavours of the regions you visit, the art and culture of the destination, the history and of course the hospitality. This is the sense of place Secret Retreats boutique hotels and luxury resorts strive to provide you with.

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