Category Archives: Travel in Southeast Asia

“A Journey Into the Heart of Java” – tour details from Remote Lands Tours

The Remote Lands tour company provides exclusive extra information on one of their most popular Indonesia tours: “A Journey into the Heart of Java”…

The Borobudur Temple is one of the most famous attractions in Indonesia. [Photo copyright]

What are the highlights of this tour, and who is it for?

The main theme of this tour is to help travellers learn about history of Buddhism and Hinduism with their rich history of ceremonies, monuments, temples and arts. This is a favourite tour for those who love historical travel and want to find out about the centuries of Indonesian history before Muslim and Christian religions arrived.

Aside from history and architecture, action highlights include white water rafting and hiking to Merapi Volcano sites.

Another highlight of Java is the Prambanan Temple. [Photo copyright]

The tour starts from Yogyakarta: is this the base for day visits?

Not for everything. In order to avoid spending long hours driving, we do 2 nights in Yogyakarta and 3 nights in Borobudur and we visit sites on the drive from Jogja to Borobudur or vice versa.

Borobudur Temple. [Photo copyright]

What should we see and do in Yogyakarta?

In the city we visit the Sultan’s Palace and a Batik processing factory. Close by, Prambanan Temple is a “Must See” with its rich store of Hindu history and beautiful reliefs. Our visits are carefully timed to avoid crowds.

Traditional dance show at Prambanan. [Photo copyright]
The Sultan’s Palace is a top place to visit in Yogyakarta. [Photo copyright]

How long does it take to get to the Prambanan Temple Complex and what’s in store there for us?

It takes about 15 minutes to drive from the major hotels’ location. Prambanan is a Hindu Temple which is of course completely different to Borobudur in its architectural concept and history, but good to see both and contrast them.

The Prambanan Temple is a must-see. [Photo copyright]
… with beautiful Hindu reliefs.

The tour takes in a sunrise visit to Borobudur: where do we stay to achieve that early start?

There are two resorts that we recommend: Amanjiwo which is 5 stars and Plataran Borobudur which is 4 stars. Both resorts are only 10 minutes drive from the temple.

Borobudur Temple. [Photo copyright]

Can we freely walk around Borobudur, is there a museum, and are there guided tours for those wishing to know about the history and interpretation?

You can freely walk around Borobudur after visiting the monument at sunrise (which is at about 8 am) and at this time the museum is quite quiet. In any case, most of locals and Chinese tourists (who make up the majority of the crowds) don’t visit the museum anyway so it’s rarely too crowded. We have a special knowledgeable tour guide to conduct this Borobudur tour including the museum.

Which of the sites will we visit on the Dieng Plateau?

We visit an active volcano on Dieng Mountain, an easy walk where we park, and also visit a 7th century Hindu Temple nearby. The colourful volcanic lakes are popular for scenic photography.

Volcanic lake near the Dieng Mountain. [Photo copyright]
The Dieng Temple is also a fascinating religious site. [Photo copyright]

How are meals arranged during the trip?

To avoid wasting time for lunch or dinner during the tour, we pre-book set lunch or dinner during the touring times. However, we will make sure the food is suitable based on travellers’ personal dietary needs.

What kind of spending money should we take for this kind of tour and what kind of gifts do people bring back?

Silver, Keris (Javanese style of swords), Batik Shirts or Sarong are the most popular.  Prices depend on quality: a good quality ones art/craft item could cost between USD 50-100 or even more. But there are plenty of choices for less expensive gifts everywhere you go.

Tour information

See the main itinerary page on for a map and day by day details
See the main itinerary page on for a map and day by day details

The main summary about this Java tour is available on the Remote Lands site here:

From $540 per person per day

Remote Lands company/contact detail

Remote Lands –

Contact: New York office on +1 (646) 415 8092. Email – [email protected]

Remote Lands, Inc.
120 East 56th Street, Suite 930, New York,
NY 10022 USA

Phone: +1.646.415.8092
Fax: +1.212.759.7207, +1.877.848.2026

Remote Lands Thailand Office:

Remote Lands (Thailand) Co., Ltd
25/12 Soi Sukhumvit 16, Klong Toey,
Bangkok 10110 Thailand

Phone: +66.2260.7584

Botataung Pagoda – One of Yangon’s Most Distinctive Landmarks

The story of the Botataung Pagoda (also spelled Bo Ta Htaung or Botahtaung) began at least 1500 ago: King Sihadipa (of the Thaton Kingdom, a Mon state) and his queen held an assembly of one thousand armed generals at the bank of Yangon river, called Dagon Jetty at the time, now known as Bo Ta Htaung Jetty meaning 1000 generals Jetty. The assembly was to welcome the landing of Buddha Hair Relics and enshrine the sacred hair at the place for 6 months. This king constructed the Pagoda to hold the relics and other artifacts

Botataung Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
Botataung Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

The original pagoda was destroyed during World War II from bombing raids. When the new pagoda was constructed, a new mirrored maze-like walkway in was added in the interior with glass showcases for the ancient Buddha relic and other artifacts. The height and other architectural aspects retain the original structure’s designs. According to the terracotta plaques founded when the casket was opened, the script date from the ancient Mon kingdom. 

This 40 meter high golden pagoda is located on the banks of Yangon River and is now one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. Full moon days are the busiest with thousands of worshippers bringing flowers and candles. The pagoda hosts the Hta Ma Ne food festival – famous for sticky rice with coconut and sesame seeds.

Originally enclosed in the center of the stupa, the important relics at Botataung are now visible to worshippers entering the interior
Originally enclosed in the center of the stupa, the important relics at Botataung are now visible to worshippers entering the interior

At the side of the pagoda, there is Nat (spirit) pavilion, and a monument to Bo Bo Gyi, believed to be the guard of the pagoda. These pavilions are busy with worshippers every day, offering a coconuts and bananas. There is also a bridge over a pond with fish and turtles – which get fed too!

The pagoda opens daily from 6 o’clock in the morning until around 9 o’clock at night. Some occasions, the pagoda open until 11 pm.

Entrance fee for foreign visitors is USD 3 per person while all local visitors are free of charge. Before entering the compound, shoes must be taken off, and there is shoe keeper service nearby.

Hiring a taxi to Bo Ta Htaung Pagoda is quite easy and costs between 2500 kyats to 4000 kyats within the city. For public transportation buses 35, 48 and 216 will bring you there. If you are already in the downtown area, you just need to walk till the Strand Road, then you see the Yangon River and proceed East.

Since the pagoda watched over the charming water front of Yangon River, most families come to visit the Pagoda in the evening then to get the fresh air with a few walk nearby Jetty beside the pagoda. This is also the hub for the people who will across the river with the small ferries in the dark. It is definitely pleasurable moment to see the sunset over the River and golden pagoda, worth to visit while in Yangon.
The pagoda overlooks the charming waterfront of the Yangon River: many families come to visit the Pagoda in the evening and walk along the nearby jetty. You can also cross the river in a small ferry including at night: a good choice particularly at sunset, watching the light on the golden pagodas of Yangon.

Article and photos by: Grace

Editor’s note: not much information seems available online about  Sihadipa, King of Thaton, but readers are directed to an interesting set of lists on Wikipedia: Early and Legendary Monarchs of Burma

Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, The Great Chedi of Lanna

Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is  located in the heat of Lamphun city, about 28 kms southeast of Chiang Mai. The temple has long been regarded as an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists especially for those who were born in the Year of the Rooster. The main chedi houses a hair, crown of a skull, chest and finger bones of Buddha.

Wat Pratat Hariphunchai
Wat Pratat Hariphunchai

Legend and architectural background

According to a legend, the Buddha once visited the town nearby and one local villager offered him a myrobalan [a cherry plum]. The Buddha ate the myrobalan, placed its seed in the earth and predicted that in the future a man would build a town and a great golden chedi on that spot. Later on, the town was really built there and was named Harinphunchai Nakhon and the chedi was named Pratat Hariphunchai. (Literally, Hari means myrobalan, Phunchai means Eating and Nakhon means City.)

Golden Tree in front of the main viharn
Golden Tree in front of the main viharn

The temple was built during the reign of King Athittayarat, a descendent of Princess Chamma Devi, around 1440 BE. He had a strong faith in Buddhism and supported the religion by introducing Buddhist practice to his city.

Main chedi inside
Main chedi inside the precincts

The temple has been passed through many restoration and amendment. Originally, the top of chedi was built in a rectangular structure, but then during the reign of Phraya Mengrai, it was changed to a Lanka bell-shaped structure. The form seen today is the masterpiece of King Tilokkarat of Chiang Mai city. He combined the Burmese-Phukam style and the Lankan Bell-shaped architecture together and created a unique Lanna style. Later on, this special architecture was adopted as the principal model for other chedis throughout the Northern region under Lanna Kingdom. If you have been to Wat Pratat Doi Suthep in Chaing Mai, you will recognize the pattern.

Viharn Phra Chao Thunjai
Viharn Phra Chao Thunjai


According to Thai history and archaeology, Phratat Hariphunchai is one of the Eight Great Grand Chedis (Jom Chedi). The title is given to those chedis that have prominent and outstanding features. In addition to the main chedi, there are other fine design and well preserved Buddhist architectural examples located in the complex.

Phra Chao Thunjai Buddha image
Phra Chao Thunjai Buddha image

Ho Trai, which houses the sacred Tripitaka scriptures, is a large base two-story building located next to the moon shape bell tower. The ground floor of the building is made of bricks painted in red, while the top floor is made of woodwork with fine detailed carving. This Ho Trai resembles the inside of Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai. It is believed to be a popular model of the Lanna Kingdom.

Ho Trai
Elegant Ho trai building from rear and front view
Elegant Ho trai building from rear and front view

On the right side of Pratat Hariphunchai is a five-tiered, square-based chedi made of laterite and brick called Pathumvadi Chedi or Phra Suvarn Chedi. The chedi was built by Princess Pathumvadi, wife of King Athittayarat. It is believed that Princess Pathumvadi replicated the construction style of Chedi Kukut inside Wat Chama Devi. Each tier of the chedi is lined with standing Buddha images, which nowadays, is only left a few. The top tier is covered with golden brass. Inside the chedi houses an important Buddha image called “Phra Pem”.

Of interest in this temple is this square-based chedi revealing connections with The Mahabodhi Temple, in Bodh Gaya, India and the standing Buddha image style resembles those found at Ananda Chedi, Bagan, Burma. It points to the influx and combination of Buddhist arts in this region.

Pathumvadi Chedi
Pathumvadi Chedi

How to get there and best time to visit

Phratat Hariphunchai is located in the heart of the city close to Methi Wuttikorn School on Inthayongyot Road. You can go there by private taxi, motorbike or bicycle.

The temple opens daily during daylight hours. Every year on the full moon of the 6th Lunar month (Visakha Bucha Day), there is a ceremony for worshipers to sprinkle water onto Phrathat Hariphunchai.

Opening Hrs. : 07.00 – 18.00

Wat Prathat Haripunchai in an evening
Wat Prathat Haripunchai in an evening

Writer’s Note:

If you walk around, you will see a lot of rooster statues or figurines around Phratat. Of numerous temples found in Thailand, this is unusual for consistently displaying a single animal symbol. Some of these statues belong to the temple but most of them are from the worshippers as a symbol of faith and commitment towards Phratat.

Rooster statues around the temple
Rooster statues around the temple

Inside the Wat Phratat Hariphunchai area, there is a booth selling tram tickets for the city round-trip tour. Apart from visiting Phratat Haripunchai, you will also be able to visit other important temples and historical sites around the city. The tram operation time is 9am and 1pm but tourists should check the tram running schedule in advance. Sometimes it can be fully booked from reserved tour groups. There is no English-speaking guide, only a local speaking tram driver does the talking.

Tourist tram
Tourist tram

Located not far from Chiangmai, Lamphun is very easy to access and normally on list as the side trip itinerary for those visited the North either for the pilgrimage or leisure trip. There is a regular air-conditioned coach leaving on the opposite side of Warorot Market or locally known as Kad Luang in Chiang Mai. It takes approximately less than hour to arrive the center area of Lamphun. If you have time, spend the night out here to slowly absorb the ancient city atmosphere, if not, a one day trip is definitely worth adding to your itinerary.

Story and photo by Wanweena Tangsathianraphap

Wat Okat Si Bua Ban, Holy Icon of Nakhon Phanom City

Located by the Mekong River not far from the Indochine market in the municipality, Wat Okat Si Bua Ban or locally known as Wat Okat, is one the most important temples in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. The sacred temple has been honored since ancient times and is regarded today as the iconic temple of Nakhon Phanom.

The temple houses two ancient Buddha statues ‘Phra Tio’ and ‘Phra Thiam’, which are situated together. Phra Tio, 60 cm. high, was carved from ‘Tio’ wood and later covered with gold plate.

Front Gate of Wat Okat Si Bua Ban
Front Gate of Wat Okat Si Bua Ban

Legend and Architectural Background

The Buddha image was built by the King of Si Kotrabun in the year 785. First there was only Phra Tio, but later Phra Thiam was built as an imitation. (Thiam means imitation in Thai; the current is itself a copy of this first copy, see below). Legend said that Phra Thiam was built to replace Phra Tio that had been understood to have been accidentally lost to fire during the reign of King Kattiyawong in the 15th Century. However, a few years later, local fishermen miraculously found Phra Tio floating in the Mekong River, so they brought it back to the city. Knowing that the Buddha statue was returned, the King was very glad and wishing to venerate the statue, he donated 30 kg of gold to cover the body of Phra Tio and placed it inside the chapel.

Phra Tio and Phra Thiam
Phra Tio and Phra Thiam

Phra Tio is always on the right hand of Phra Tiam. So if you turn your face toward the chapel, Phra Tio is on your left hand. You can also differentiate the two statues by noticing carefully the material building them. Phra Tio is made of Tio wood covered with gold plate, while Phra Tiam is lacquered with gold leaf.

Inside the chapel you will see small stone carving the two Buddha image. It is used together with the fortune sticks as a tool to confirm that the fortune prediction belongs to those who seek for it. Instead of the stone, sometimes it comes in a form of small golden elephant sits next to the fortune sticks
Inside the chapel you will see small stone carving the two Buddha image. It is used together with the fortune sticks as a tool to confirm that the fortune prediction belongs to those who seek for it. Instead of the stone, sometimes it comes in a form of small golden elephant sitting next to the fortune sticks


Apart from the ancient Buddha statues, the murals and painted pillars inside the chapel are richly decorated and very attractive. Each corner was painted with colorful pictures of angels watching over the Buddha statues. Each wall was depicted the story of the lord Buddha’s former births tales. The ceiling was painted in red with golden start glittering around. Another interesting spot are those several carved wooden window shutters featuring nareepon or fruit maiden.

Nareepol carving on wooden window shutter
Nareepol carving on wooden window shutter
Mural paintings inside the chapel.
Mural paintings inside the chapel.
Mural paintings inside the chapel.
Mural paintings inside the chapel.

How to get there

The temple is within walking distance from the city center. You can either walk there from the hotel or rent a bike to travel around. It is the first temple next to the Indochine market.

Architectures around the temple.
Architectures around the temple.
Architectures around the temple.

Best time to visit

The temple is open all year round. However, those who expect to participate the grand worship festival can visit during the full moon of the 6th lunar month. Both Buddha images are brought out of the chapel and flocked around the town.

Opening Hrs. : 08.30 – 16.30

Chapel Gate
Chapel Gate

Writer’s Note

The current Phra Tiam is a replica because the original was stolen in 2010. The real statue has not yet been discovered. However, local people today still pay homage to the new Phra Tiam like they did in the past.

Looking up to the temple ‘s pediment, you will see one outstanding symbolic decoration. It is the symbol of The Royal Crest Commemorating the Sixth-Cycle (72nd) Birthday Anniversary Of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The symbol has been in place since the year 1999 to honor the King and the temple.

The Royal Crest Commemorating the Sixth-Cycle (72nd) Birthday Anniversary Of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the temple’s pediment.
The Royal Crest Commemorating the Sixth-Cycle (72nd) Birthday Anniversary Of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the temple’s pediment.

After visiting Wat Okat, you can also visit other temples nearby. Rent a bike for a day and you can cover many historical sites and temples. The main temples can be found next to the River, giving a view you cannot find in other provinces. One of the main chedis, Pratat Nakhon, is also located in the municipality area not far from Wat Okat. Although it is not as grand as Pratat Phanom, its shape is a replica of the former. Various Buddha postures can be seen around the main chedi.

With many temples in the province, Nakhon Panom has been known by many Thai for as one of the top sites to pilgrimage. It is admired by many Thai folks as a destination for retirement and for living life with peace and mindfulness.

Story and photo by Wanweena Tangsathianraphap

Visiting Hue, Vietnam

Hue (Huế) is a bustling city located in Central Vietnam, well known as its former capital from 1802-1945 and home to the legendary Nguyen monarchs.

Citadel Gate, Huế 1968
Citadel Gate, Huế 1968 via Flickr by Khánh Hmoong

The city played an important role in Vietnamese history over the past centuries and –despite its troublesome years during the Vietnam War- managed to maintain and preserve a fantastic collection of architectural highlights such as royal building, tombs and temples.

In 1802, Gia Long –full name: Nguyen Phuc Anh – took reign over whole Vietnam and established Hue as its capital. He therefore became the first of the Nguyen lords ruling over the entire country. Prior to the Nguyens, Hue belonged to the Cham people, an ethnical group with origins in Khanh Hoa (South Vietnam) and a population of currently 160.000 in Vietnam and 400.000 in total, spread throughout Southeast Asia.

The last Nguyen emperor, Bao Dai, turned over his power in 1945 to the Viet Minh; however, soon troubles arose between the communist north and the capitalist south of Vietnam, resulting into the first Indochina War (1946-1954). Hue was heavily destroyed by the Americans during the ‘Battle of Hue’, a part of the Tet Offensive in 1968, one of the largest military campaigns during the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

Hue City
Hue City via Flickr by Hoang Giang Hai

Locals say that Hue is now once again back to its former charming days and turned into a magnificent city over the past decades. We have selected a number of fantastic highlights for a visit to Hue:

The Imperial Citadel

The massive complex features plenty of monuments, such as pagodas and temples, a flag tower, a library and a museum. It is however most notable for the Purple Forbidden City, modelled after the Forbidden City in Beijing. The citadel was constructed under Gia Long in 1804 and was home to the royal family until 1945. Though it was heavily damaged during the war, it was restored and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Below are a few of the highlights awaiting you there:

Ngo Mon Gate
Ngo Mon Gate via Flickr by Dennis Jarvis

The Ngo Mon Gate is now one of the main entrances for visitors. The largest gate in the middle was used as entrance for the emperor. It was als used as viewing platform during royal ceremonies.

Flag Tower, Imperial City
Flag Tower, Imperial City via Flickr by David McKelvey

Just on the opposite of the Ngo Mon Gate is the Flag Tower, flying the Vietnamese flag.

Thai Binh Lau via Wikimedia by Bui Thuy Đao Nguyen

Thai Binh Lau (the Royal Reading Room) was built between 1841 and 1847 and is the only building within the citadel which survived the Vietnam War largely intact.

Entrance Fee Citadel: 105.000 VND   Open:  07:30-17:00   Address: Thua Thien Hue

Thien Mu Pagoda

The pagoda was built in 1601 under Nguyen Hoang, considered as the founder of Southern Vietnam. According to the legend, an old lady known as Thien Mu prophesied that a lord will come to build a pagoda for the country’s wealth.

Overlooking the Huong River (Perfume River), the Thien Mu Pagoda with its seven-storey tower is one of Hue’s most photographed objects. It is Vietnam’s tallest religious building and many young monks can be found studying here.

Entrance Fee: Free   Open: 08:00-17:00   Address: Kim Long, Hue

Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda via Flickr by Mark Turner

The Seven Royal Tombs

Seven out of 13 Nguyen emperors are known have their tombs around Hue. The construction of each tomb began during the life of each emperor and completed after his passing by his successor. It is possible to spend nearly an entire day exploring all seven tombs. Below are two notable tombs in excellent shape to highlight:

Royal Tomb of Tu Duc – (Tomb of Modesty):

Tu Duc was the fourth emperor and reigned longest among the other Nguyens, however dying childless after 36 years of reign. It’s an opulent complex set around a lake, built between 1864 and 1867.

Entrance fee: 55.000 VND   Open: 08:00-18:00   Address: Thuy Xuan

Royal Tomb of Tu Duc
Royal Tomb of Tu Duc via Flickr by Emad Ghazipura

Royal Tomb of Minh Mang:

Minh Mang was the second son and successor of Gia Long, who was the first emperor of Vietnam. Built from 1841 to 1843, the tomb is well preserved, beautifully embedded into the nature, and known for its Chinese architecture.

Entrance fee: 55.000 VND   Open:  08:00-18:00   Address: Huong Tho Commune

Minh Mang Tomb
Minh Mang Tomb via Flickr by Dan Costin

The other tombs:

  • Khai Dinh – (Tomb of Obtainment);
  • Thieu Tri – (Tomb of Goodness);
  • Dong Khan – (Tomb of Memorization);
  • Gia Long (Tomb of Dispensation);
  • Duc Duc – (Tomb of Tranquillity)

Dong Ba Market

Indulge in the vibrant and colourful atmosphere of Hue’s largest and oldest market,  look out for local handicrafts and try culinary highlights such as Nom Hoa Chuoi, a tasty banana flower salad, mixed with chicken, papaya and crunchy peanuts.

Dong Ba Markey
Dong Ba Market via Flickr by Grant Lindsay

Open:  05:00-20:00     Address: Chuong Duong, Phu Hoa