Nothing like a dose of heritage to inspire awe on foreign soils.
1. Borobudur, Indonesia
Dubbed the apple of Magelang’s eye, Borobudur is said to be the most intricate and sensitive of Southeast Asian heritage sites. Built sometime between the 9th and 14th centuries, the construction of Borobudur befits the principles of Buddhist cosmology. Surrounded by mountains and lush jungles, this spiritual destination is apparently mathematically precise; its square and circular levels were designed to resemble a Sri Yantra mandala (seen from a top view), a symbol of divine unity. So if you find yourself tingling with existential awe during your visit, you already know why!
2. Taj Mahal, India
Sitting majestically beside the Yanma River in the city of Agra, Taj Mahal is a grand labour of love, making it especially the perfect pitstop for romantic vacationers. Built in 1631, the building was commissioned by the Shah Rajan to honour his late wife Mumtaz Mahal, who had died in labour. The Taj Mahal took 22 years and 20,000 workers to materialise, but the strenuous effort paid off. Since 2007, the site is dubbed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
3. Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, Mongolia
Standing 40 metres tall, the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue is attached to the Genghis Khan Status Complex, itself a beautiful 10-metre fixture of 36 columns representing Genghis’s ruling lineage. Designed by sculptor D. Erdenebileg and architect J. Enkhjargal in 2008, the entire building can be found in Tsonjin Boldog, a town located 54 km east of Ulaanbaatar. The complex sits next to the Tuul River, allegedly where the famed ruler found a golden whip. There, you can marvel over portraits of Genghis’s descendants, eat Mongolian food, and try on colourful local costumes.
4. Bodhi Tataung, Myanmar
One of Southeast Asia’s most magical places to visit is Bodhi Tataung; it is where the two of the biggest Buddha statues reside. The first Buddha statue, officially referred to as Laykyun Setkyar, stands majestic at 116 metres, while the second one reclines in rest, measuring 95 metres. The entire masterpiece is part of a 16-story colossus that enables visitors to marvel over religious artworks and thousands of smaller Buddhas lined along the way. Spotted nearby on the complex’s ground is the Aung Setykar Pagoda, said to be one of the most revered destinations for Buddhist pilgrims.
5. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
No list is complete without the mention of Angkor Wat, which is usually the first name that comes to mind when thinking of Asian monuments. Measuring a total of 162.5 hectares, the entire site is said to be the epicentre of Cambodia’s golden past. Much like other Buddhist temples throughout Asia, Angkor Wat was created in the 12th century. But what makes the UNESCO site distinguishable from the rest is its network of temples done in the classical style of Khmer architecture. To reach Angkor Wat, one must head 5.5km north of Siem Reap, Cambodia’s present capital city.
6. Batu Caves, Malaysia
Nestled in the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves is a Hindu temple and shrine outlined in a limestone cave. A key landmark that makes it recognisable to onlookers is its entrance-guarding Lord Murugan statue which, at 42.7 metres tall, is considered to be the second tallest Hindu statue in the world. To access the site, one must have the courage to brace the site’s famous stairs, which take 272 steps to complete! Batu Caves is not only one of Malaysia’s busiest tourist attractions, it is also a holy destination during annual festivals such as Thaipusam and Maha Shivaratri.
7. The Great Wall of China, China
This ancient monument needs no further introduction. Located on the northern borders of China, the Great Wall begins in the eastern Hebei town of Shanhaiguan all the way to Jiayuguan in the western Gansu province. Built continuously from the 3rd century to the 17th, the wall spans over 20,000 km in length. While we won’t advise anyone to ever attempt crossing it, we admire the two Americans who had in 2007 succeeded in doing so (the expedition reportedly took almost a year to complete).
8. Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Japan
Nestled on a cliff in Kyoto, the Kiyomizu-dera temple finds itself a stunning part of the UNESCO- recognised Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto network. Founded as a small worship site by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro in 7th-century Heian, the temple had only gained its present majestic architecture in 1633. It is where pilgrims of the Edo period used to go to jump off the temple’s stage; to survive the 13-metre fall was seen as a successful “plunge” into a clean slate. Naturally, the act is now prohibited! Despite its morbid past, Kiyomizu-dera now sees brighter days; pilgrims today seek contentment from the temple’s rich built as well as the Kyoto cityscape observable from its decks.
9. Wat Chang Lom, Thailand
Located in the northern province of Sukhothai, Wat Chang Lom is a sacred destination for tourists and pilgrims alike. It was built in 1286 on King Ram Kamhaeng’s order, shortly after the discovery of a Buddhist relic on the site. The temple is one of the many ruins located within the Si Satchanalai National Park, some of which are Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo and Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat.