Category Archives: Travel in Southeast Asia

Wat Pongsanuk, UNESCO Award-Winning Heritage Temple

Opposite the Wang River in the municipality of Lampang province, Thailand, is Wat Pongsanuk (also spelled Pong Sanuk or Pong Sanook), a 500-year-old temple site with buildings in a mix of Lanna, Burmese and Chinese architectural and decorative styles.

Similar to Wat Phratat Lampang Luang, Wat Pong Sanuk is surrounded with a white wall built on a man-made mound of earth.

A two-year historically informed restoration project of the viharn (Viharn Phra Chao Pun Ong) was given an Award of Merit in 2008 by UNESCO.

Wat Pong Sanuk,
Wat Pong Sanuk,

 

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Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, Temple of Great Buddha Relic

Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is one of the most exquisite temples of Thailand. It is located in Ko Kah district, approximately 20 kilometres Southwest of Lampang in the Northern part of Thailand.

Literally, Wat Phra That Lampang Luang means Temple of Lampang’s Great Buddha Relic. According to legend, the Buddha once visited the site some 2,500 years ago and donated a hair, which is now kept in the temple’s large chedi together with the right forehead and neck bones.

It is also the temple of those who were born in the Ox year because the construction of the temple is held to have begun and finished in years of the Ox.

Main Chedi of Prata Lampang Luang
Main Chedi of Prata Lampang Luang

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Wat Phra That Phanom, Sacred Gem of Thailand’s Northeast

The sacred chedi of Phra That Phanom (also spelled Pratat Phanom) is famous as the oldest in the Northeastern part of Thailand. It is located in the compound of Wat Phratat Phanom Waramahawihan, 52 kilometers south of Nakhon Phanom Province.

This small city was once  the center of the glorious Sri Kotrabun Kingdom (5th-10th Century) encompassing territories  on  both  sides  of  the  Mekong river.  According to the Pratat Phanom legend, the name Sri Kotrabun (ศรีโคตม์บูร) means “The land of the Lord Buddha Kotama” to honor the pilgrimage visit of Lord Buddha Kotama in this area. It was also known by villager as Sri Kotrabong city (ศรีโคตรตะบอง) because the ruler of the Kingdom had a powerful staff as his weapon.

Pratat Phanom Chedi with its golden replica
Pratat Phanom Chedi with its golden replica

Decoration around the chedi
Decoration around the chedi

 

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Visiting Wat Pho, Bangkok

Wat Pho (pronounced Wat-Poor) is one of the most famous temples in Bangkok. Located in the Phar Nakhon district, Wat Pho is walking distance to Kaho San Road and the Chayo Phraya River.

The wat is world famous for the huge image of the reclining Buddha inside the temple. The statue is 15 meters high and 43 meters long, with the foot of the Buddha scribed with pearls. The underside of the foot is split up into 108 unique sections, displaying lucky symbols.

Bangkok Wat Pho reclining Buddha” by Phillip Maiwald (Nikopol) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Next to the statue lie 108 bronze bowls that reflect each of the symbols on the Buddha’s foot. It is believed that you will bring luck upon yourselves if you place money into these bowls. The money collected is used to help maintain the temple. Continue reading Visiting Wat Pho, Bangkok

Visiting Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Bagan is one of the world’s greatest Buddhist sites, comparable in size only with Angkor Wat.

Even though Myanmar already nominated Bagan for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, it still remains only on the “tentative list”.

After years of unrest, the government is slowly but steadily working towards UNESCO’s suggested plans for conservation and preservation of Bagan’s more than 3000 temples, stupas and monasteries.

The Bagan Archaelogical Zone stretches across an area of 42 km2.

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Balloons over Bagan via Flickr by Paul Arps : http://bit.ly/1on2v8o

When discussing the historical kingdom, Bagan is commonly spelled “Pagan”: the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to the 13th century and covered a large part of present-day Burma. Often considered as the glory days, much of the Burmese culture and known traditions were established during that time. Continue reading Visiting Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Wat Yansangwararam – A Modern Thai Temple close to Pattaya

Wat Yansangwararam (pronounced Wat Yana-sang-wara-ram) is located approximately 20km south of the seaside town of Pattaya. Enclosed in a huge 145 acre complex, Wat Yansangwararam is surrounded by clean gardens, massive lakes, and several different architectural styles of buildings, making it the perfect place to spend a day seeing the quieter side of Thailand.

The entrance of the monastic complex, and Wat Yansangwararam towering above it.
The entrance of the monastic complex, and Wat Yansangwararam towering above it. Photographer: Jason Gong

The temple was built in 1976 to celebrate the Supreme Patriarch Somdej Phra Yanasangworn, who at the time was the current leader of the Thai Monastic Order.

Wat Yansangwararam is now dedicated in honour of the current Thai King, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). Continue reading Wat Yansangwararam – A Modern Thai Temple close to Pattaya

Visiting Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya – Thailand

Wat Mahathat (pronounced Wat Ma-har-rarrt), also known as the Monastery of the Great Relic, is a temple ruin located in central Ayutthaya, Thailand.

The temple is believed to have been built around the 14th century and was once residence to the Supreme Patriarch leader of the Thai Buddhist monks. Today it sits in the Ayutthaya Historical Park along with several of temples, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.

Wat Mahathat, within the Ayutthaya Historical Park; the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991
Wat Mahathat, within the Ayutthaya Historical Park; the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991

History of Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat first fell into ruin in the early 16th century when the main prang was said to have collapsed.

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Visiting Sukhothai

When talking about Sukhothai, people usually refer to the Sukhothai Historical Park, also known as Old Sukhothai City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located 300km south of Chiang Mai in the central plains region and one of Thailand’s most visited ancient sites.

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Sukhothai Historical Park via Wikimedia by Paulrudd

According to legend, Sukhothai was founded in the 13th century, when two brothers, known as Pho Khun Bangklanhao and Pho Khun Phameung, took over the kingdom from the Khmer, a then major frontier post of the Angkor Empire.  Over the following years, Sukhothai was drastically expanded until Muang Sua (Luang Prabang), parts of southern Burma and South Thailand and established even political ties with China during its Yuan Dynasty. The name Sukhothai means ‘Dawn of Happiness’.

The Sukhothai-era however only lasted a brief 140 years, until armies of the Ayutthaya kingdom took tributary over Sukhothai.

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Wat Mahathat via Flickr by Brian Hoffman : http://bit.ly/1wnznrv

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Visiting Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is a very popular destination for tourists and Thais alike, located just one hour’s drive (80km) from Bangkok, hence making it a perfect day trip from the capital.

After taking over from Sukhothai as the pre-eminent kingdom, Ayutthaya was the second capital of Siam, for about 400 years, from about 1350. After nearly 200 years of tension and several failed attempts by the Burmese army to invade the kingdom, the Ayutthaya dynasty eventually came to an end in 1767, defeated in an invasion led by King Hsinbyushin of Burma.

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Wat Yai Chai Mongkol via Flickr by仁仔 何 http://bit.ly/1psRuYf

It is said that the gold of Burma’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is originally from Ayutthaya. King Hsinbyushin was also responsible for raising Shwedagon to its current height. Continue reading Visiting Ayutthaya

Visiting Luang Prabang

When was the last time you came across a city which was entirely considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? That’s right, the beautiful blend of well-preserved French colonial style buildings with Lao traditional architecture in Luang Prabang makes it one of Indochina’s most beautiful cities and an  official heritage site since 1995.

Luang Prabang & the Mekong
Luang Prabang & the Mekong by *saipal via Flickr http://bit.ly/1pGxOQ9

Luang Prabang is located in the highlands of northern Laos at the confluence of the Nam Khan River and the infamous Mekong. A legend says that “Buddha smiled and rested here during his travels, prophesying that it would one day be the site of a rich and powerful city [1 ].

The city became very influential due to its strategic location near the Silk-Road and the Mekong. It was the capital of Laos under a few different reigns, most notable under the kingdom of Lane Xang until 1560 and from 1707 under the independent kingdom of Luang Prabang.

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Visiting Pha That Luang in Vientiane

Pha That Luang in its current state consists of a lot of restorations as recently as the 1930s, but the original site dates back to the 3rd Century
Pha That Luang in its current state consists of a lot of restorations as recently as the 1930s, but the original site dates back to the 3rd Century

Pha That Luang is a Buddhist stupa located just 5km from the centre of Vientiane in Laos.

It is believed that the current principal stupa of Pha That Luang was built in the 1566 century and to this day is the national symbol of Laos. Pha That Luang was built when King Setthathirat decided to move the capital of Laos from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, and ordered the construction of a magnificent stupa. He believed that creating Pha That Luang would help to achieve his own enlightenment.

Architecture

The main stupa was designed to resemble a pyramid and is protected by 30 more smaller stupas at the base. The stupa is around 69 meters long and approximately 45 meters high: builders were said to have used a thousand pounds of gold leaf in weight to decorate it.

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Visiting Bangkok’s Wat That Thong

Wat That Thong is a Thai Buddhist temple located in the heart of Bangkok that is not on most travellers itinerary, instead opting to see the more famous temples in Bangkok such as Wat Arun or Wat Pho (temple of the reclining Buddha).

Wat That Thong was built in 1937, and sits where two previous Buddhist temples were once standing. The biggest attraction of Wat That Thong is the beautifully crafted statue of the golden Buddha, sitting in the lotus position.

Wat That Thong is a beautiful modern Buddhist temple in Bangkok well worth adding to your itinerary
Wat That Thong is a beautiful modern Buddhist temple in Bangkok well worth adding to your itinerary

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Visiting the 100-year-old Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

Close up view of Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha Image - photo by Grace
Close up view of Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha Image – photo by Grace

Of the thousands of pagodas and temples in Myanmar,  Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda (also spelled Chauk Htet Gyi) stands out because of its famous huge reclining Buddha. The pagoda is located on Shwe Gone Dine Road, Bahan Township, in the North of Yangon.

The site is probably the second most popular tourist site in Yangon after the Shwedagon Pagoda. Chauk Htat Gyi means “great six layers” in Burmese  – so the pagoda in name and size surpasses the nearby Ngar Htat Gyi Pagoda which is the five layers pagoda! Continue reading Visiting the 100-year-old Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar