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Five Architectural Awes of Asia

Asia is home to a rich tapestry of history and culture culminating in some of the world’s most inspirational architecture and construction. When spirituality and creativity combine, it can be the perfect recipe for the building of structures of wonder, surviving across many centuries and ultimately providing us with a glorious peek into the way life was in yesteryear.

With so many sites to choose from on such a vast continent, here is a small selection of our favourite recommendations.

Angkor Wat – Cambodia
Angkor Wat

Rising from the floodplains of the Mekong River and located minutes from the capital of Siem Reap in Cambodia, is situated the awe-inspiring “Seventh Wonder of the World,” Angkor Wat. The translation, “Temple City” is no surprise given it is considered to be the largest religious monument on the planet, covering an impressive 208 hectares (or 500 acres). Somewhat miraculously, although they appear to be just surrounded by water, the structures of Angkor Wat are actually floating on a swamp.

Constructed between 800AD and 1300AD, Angkor Wat is a living testimony to the wealth and power of the ancient Khmer Empire. In terms of the layout of the massive area, the constructions themselves symbolise a miniature reproduction of the universe. The central tower rises to twice the height of The Tower of London, representing the mythical mountain of Meru at the centre of the universe, and the surrounding towers its peaks. The outer walls illustrate the edge of the world and the water symbolises the ocean beyond the edge.

A miraculous feat of ingenuity which is unbelievably vast and intricate, its scope and beauty are truly hard to comprehend just from photography. To visit such a place is considered to be as enthralling and impressive as visiting the Pyramids of Egypt.

Where to stay : The Samar (8 room boutique hotel)
: Maison Polanka (5 room villa)
Where to eat : Cuisine Wat Damnak
: Mie Cafe

Mrauk U – Myanmar (Burma)
Mrauk U

Another of Asia’s finest examples of centuries old architecture is located in Mrauk U in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Incredibly beautiful, finely crafted temples are spread across a dreamy landscape, an especially wondrous vision from a high vantage point at dusk or dawn and even more impressive up close where their complexity and size can truly be appreciated.

A perfect example of such a vantage point in Mrauk U is a hill in close proximity to one of the most famous of the constructions, Ratana-Pon Pagoda. Ratana-Pon Pagoda consists of a central bell/dome shaped building (or “stupa”) and is known as Yadanabon and rises 61m high looming large over the numerous surrounding stupas. Ratana-Pon translates as “treasure” and local legend hints at the mystery contained within the central giant stupa. While other structures in the area show an Indian influence, the Ratana-Pon is somewhat special, being purely Arakanese in design. This is only one of so many other interesting structures to visit in this area making it well worth the effort for you to visit.

Where to stay: Mrauk U Princess (boutique hotel)

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai – Thailand

Locals believe you cannot truly know Chiang Mai without paying a visit to the majestic Wat Phra That Temple. Also referred to as Doi Suthep Temple (from the name of the mountain on which it is located), the 306 step climb up to the site is lovely, flanked by trees and watched over by Naga (snakes) figures. Once you reach the top, you can immerse yourself in the sweeping views and the incredible, glowing, golden architectural forms at a site that dates back as far as the 1300’s.

On a sunny day the golden light of the temple gleams against the blue sky, providing both a spiritually and literally truly elevated experience. Witness unbelievably ornate exteriors with intricate patterns of gold and spires reaching up toward the heavens. Overall, the huge amount of work involved in creating such complex beauty is clearly symbolic of the dedication of those who created this impressive architecture.

Where to stay: Rachamankha (boutique hotel)
Where to eat: David’s Kitchen

Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul – South Korea

At the northern end of Seoul’s main boulevard, is the Gyeongbok Palace, “The Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven.” Arguably Korea’s most famous palace, it was built in 1395 and was formerly the seat of power. It succumbed to destruction a number of times, most notably by fire during the Japanese Invasion of 1592. Despite such devastation, the magnificence of this palace continues on and remarkably, a number of the most important historical edifices have managed to survive intact. Fortunately, the rest of the complex was beautifully restored in the 19th century in an operation so vast and expensive that it nearly bankrupted the government of the time.

Gyeongbok Palace is not only an imposingly regal building, but its location is also inspirational. Watched over by two mountains: Mount Bugaksan in the rear and Mount Namsan in the foreground providing an air of solidarity, strength and natural beauty.

Where to stay: Rak Ko Jae (traditional Hanok)

City Palace of Jaipur – Rajasthan, India
Jaipur, City Palace, Mubarak Mahal

Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan, India famed for its soft pink walls which surround the gridded city constructed in 1727. Within these walls is the City Palace, a complex which comprises of several impressive buildings including the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces as well as beautiful gardens. Walls and gates to the City Palace are ornately decorated and architecturally the palace reflects an elegant mixture of European, Rajput and Mughal styles.

Apart from the lavish beauty of the buildings themselves, there is much to see here, including an Armoury with one of the most impressive collections of weapons in India, an Art Gallery housing incredible works, including an exquisitely hand written copy of the Bhagavad-Gita and a number of other sacred scriptures.

Also of interest is the private palace (the Chandra Mahal), which even though it is still home to some royal descendants, you are still able to take a selective tour of certain areas.

Where to stay : Anopura
: Talabgaon Castle (in the desert, outside the city)


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