Sights of Southeast Asia


A choice of Sights in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has a great variety of sights to visit. Among them are some of the most impressive of the world, as magnificient Borobodur on Java, famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Pagan in Burma/Myanmar. Many more are worth to be visited and many of the smaller sights are sometimes the nicest - particularly when few people go there. They can be sometimes very surprising. Who, for example, expects two temples in central Java who look like they were built by the middle-American Maya culture?

Angkor Archaeological Park

Ta Prohm

'Ta Prohm in Angkor Archaeological Park' by Asienreisender

One of the most photographed spots in Angkor. Image by Asienreisender, 10/2015

The huge, 400km2 large Angkor Archaeological Park is a cultural landscape in northwest Cambodia. It was the center of the medieval Angkorean empire with several of it's capitals. Angkor was the largest pre-industrial city in worlds history and lasted over more than 600 years. In this time the ruling class of high priests and godkings let built a number of great temples in the area. Nowadays the sights, among them Angkor Wat and the royal city Angkor Thom, are the by distance most visited sights in Southeast Asia.

Since Angkor Park is such a tourist attraction for millions every year, the entrance fees are quite high. It's interesting to have a glance on what's going on with the many millions of dollars collected every month...

Visit Angkor Archaeological Park...

Angkor Borei and Phnom Da

Nowadays a meaningless village close to the Cambodian / Vietnamese border, Angkor Borei was once among the first urban centers of Southeast Asia. Situated in the Mekong River delta, some suppose that Angkor Borei was the capital of Funan, Southeast Asia's oldest civilization. The discussion about the site of the capital has an ideological implication; if the ancient Khmer had their center or origin in nowadays Cambodia or in nowadays south Vietnam.

Close by the ancient town there is a twin hill with two other temples of pre-Angkorean origins. It's the site of Phnom Da...

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Angkor Thom and Bayon / Cambodia

Terrace of the Elephants at Angkor Thom by Asienreisender

Southeast Asia's classical empire of Angkor moved it's capital over the centuries several times. All of them were placed in the same area, means some kilometers around of nowadays Siem Reap, northeast of the great Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. One of these capitals, and it was also the last, the best-known and longest lasting of Angkor's capitals, was Angkor Thom. The famous Bayon was the state temple of Angkor Thom.

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Right: The 'Terrace of the Elephants', part of an ancient tribune from which the Angkorean kings and high nobility watched games and processions. Image by Asienreisender, 2006

Angkor Wat / Cambodia

Angkor Wat by Asienreisender

Angkor Wat, seen from the south side. Image by Asienreisender, 2006

Angkor Wat is a sight of superlatives. It's the biggest religious monument in the world, the most visited sight in Southeast Asia, the best-preserved of the whole Angkor site, the most impressive monument for most of the visitors, the only religious site of whole Angkor which remained a significant religious center since it's foundation until today, it represents the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture, it's the symbol for Cambodia since 1863 and decorates the national flag of Cambodia, and maybe there is more to add...

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Ayutthaya / Thailand

The Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya was one of the great empires of Southeast Asia in the late middle-ages until early modern times. It was the successor of the in Indochina dominant empire of Angkor. An army from Ayutthaya besieged and sacked Angkor Thom in 1431/32. Ayutthaya filled the role of the most influencial power on the Southeast Asian peninsula from then on. Many skilled specialists were brought from Cambodia to Ayutthaya, influencing the newly emerged power deeply. Ayutthaya was in the 17th century described by Asian as well as Western visitors as one of the most meaningful places in the world. French envoys as Simon de la Loubere (1687/88) compared Ayutthaya with the contemporary Paris in wealth, political power and cultural influence.

Have a look for Ayutthaya...

Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet, one of the main state temples in Ayutthaya. Image by Asienreisender, 12/2012

Ban Chiang
Archaeological Site / Thailand

'Pottery From Ban Chiang' by Asienreisender

Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is a very special place. It was in pre-historic times inhabited over a timespan of at least 3,500 years. The first neolithic settlers in Ban Chiang mark the transition of a nomadic living species to a farming one which evolved more and more sophisticated technologies. Among them is rice cultivation, pottery, textile production, bronze casting and iron forging. According to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Ban Chiang is "considered the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in Southeast Asia." Here we find the earliest evidence of farming in the world region. Ban Chiang Archaeological Site became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in 1992.

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'The Prasats of Banteay Srei' by Asienreisender

Banteay Srei

Angkorean temple Banteay Srei is a very unique medieval Khmer temple. It's built in very precious red sandstone and represents the finest ornamentic of the Angkorean temples. Although the site is small compared with the great temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom some 25km away, it's worth to make a detour.

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Right: The prasats of Banteay Srei. Image by Asienreisender, 2015

Borobodur / Java / Indonesia

'Borobodur' by Asienreisender

The upper part of the stepped pyramid of Borobodur with the main stupa. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

According to the common view there are three main sights in Southeast Asia. That's famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Pagan in Burma/Myanmar and Borobodur in Indonesia. Borobodur is a huge, medieval, stepped pyramid. It is the biggest buddhist temple in the world. The grand monument is built in the Kedu plain in south central Java. Built 350 years before Angkor Wat, Borobodur is much more positive in it's meaning and narrative than the sinister Angkorean monuments. It has the magnificence of a world wonder.

Visit splendid Borobodur...

'Dieng Plateau' by Asienreisender

Arjuna complex, where the most temples on Dieng Plateau are concentrated. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Dieng Plateau

The Dieng Plateau in central Java is as well an archeological landscape with the oldest hindu temples remaining in Java as the caldera of a huge, ancient volcano which eruption some 16,000 years ago shaped the high plateau with a number of new craters and volcano peaks around. The whole high plain is still volcanic and every few years there are outbreaks, some of them pretty hefty.

Visit the Dieng Plateau...

Kamphaeng Phet / Thailand

Kamphaeng Phet is a historical town in northern central Thailand. It served as a medieval fortification for the Siamese empires of Sukothai and Ayutthaya. Nowadays it's part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, together with Sukothai and Si Satchanalai. Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park is a large place within old city walls. The temple ruins, the fresquos and Buddha statues who remained and are nicely restorated show clearly Sukothai style.

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Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park
'Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park' by Asienreisender

A stroll through Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park is a pleasure. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2007

Lopburi / Thailand

'Wat Mahathat, Lopburi' by Asienreisender

The upper part of the main prang of Wat Phrasrirattana Mahathat in Lopburi. Many of the nice little ornaments are disappeared or heavily damaged. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Lopburi is known for it's monkeys, the long-tailed macaques, who are around Prang Sam Yod and the wider circle around. But, more than that, it has a very long history which is exemplarily for Thailand's central plain. The two early high cultures of Southeast Asia, like the Mon civilization of the Dvaravati Culture and the classical Khmer empire of Angkor left their traces in Lopburi, before it became a Siamese and Thai city. It's a fascinating place to just walk around and discover by one's own all the sites who are situated on a small area. No vehicle is required for that. The best piece is the old Royal Palace which also houses the National Museum of Lopburi.

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Luang Prabang / Laos

Vat Xient Thong in Luang Prabang by Asienreisender

16th century Vat Xieng Thong. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

The legendary town of Luang Prabang in the north of Laos is a centerpiece of the country for it's cultural heritage and it's attraction to international tourists. The historical Laotion architecture here is represented by a number of temples, of whom only one is really old (Vat Xieng Thong Ratsavoravikanh, 16th century); the others were all destroyed in the 19th century and later rebuilt.

Luang Prabang is situated in the mountains on an altitude of some 700m above seal level at the confluence of the Nam Khan (Khan River) and the Mekong River.

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Old Colonial House Facade


Malacca, an old Chinese trade port at the western coast of Malaya, is the most historical place in Malaysia. In 450 years of colonial history the Portuguese, Dutch and British succeeded on another. The traces of all these different influences over the centuries are still vivid in Malacca.

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Published on December 21th, 2012

Penang and George Town

George Town on Penang Island is a place in Southeast Asia with a rich colonial history. Having been the first British colony in the world region, it attracted settlers from many other places in Asia what led to a multicultural development and present of the place. Besides the British heritage there is a major Chinese and a considerable Indian influence in George Town, while the Malays appear a bit marginalized. The old town, a UNESCO World Heritage since 2008, is worth a clother look...

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Naga at Phanom Rung by Asienreisender

Phanom Rung / Thailand

Situated on top of an extinct volcano at a height of 381m, Phanom Rung represents maybe the finest monument of the classical Angkor period which is situated in Thailand. The sight is particularly impressing due to the fine restauration work and the location in a mountain forest. Many of the medieval sandstone carvings are of great quality.

Have a look at Phanom Rung...

Phimai by Asienreisender

Phimai / Thailand

In the heart of Phimai, a small town in Thailand's northeastern Isan region, one of the most remarkable Angkorean cultural heritages outside Angkor itself is situated: Prasat Phimai. Phimai town is a medieval Khmer foundation, became the first time fortificated in the 11th century and advanced to a spiritual center of the classical Angkorean empire.

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Phnom Bayang / Cambodia

'Phnom Bayang' by Asienreisender

Widely unknown is this little sight at the Cambodian/Vietnamese border at Phnom Dien/Tinh Bien. The five monuments on top of Phnom Bayang mountain consist of a main hindu temple from the early 7th century and four side temples. It's said they were built as a victory memorial of the empire of water Chenla over the empire of Funan. There is no touristic infrastructure at the sight and very few visitors make their way up to the mountain. It's rather an attraction for archeologists, historians and some who want to leave the beaten paths.

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Phnom Chisor Fresco by Asienreisender

Phnom Chisor / Cambodia

Between Takeo (26km) and Phnom Penh another remarkable Angkorean temple site is situated. It's Phnom Chisor Temple. The site consists of a central shrine, surrounded by five more shrines and two libraries. They all are inside a walled gallery with an entrance and an exit gate. As typical for the ancient Khmer buildings the construction material is laterite, bricks and sandstone for the carvings.

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Prambanan / Java

Prambanan is a medieval temple city in central Java. Prambanan temple compound consists of three main monuments with another three complementary temples and hundreds of more temple buildings around. The whole compound was build in the decades from 850 CE on. Prambanan is not only impressive because of the sheer size of the monuments but, above all, due to the highest quality of crafts and arts. The monuments of Prambanan are seen as a response to the closeby Borobodur monument and certainly many of the same artisans were involved in the construction of both sites.

The sight of Prambanan is defenitely among the cultural highlights of Southeast Asia.

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Prambanan Temple Compound

'Prambanan Temples' by Asienreisender

Prambanan Temple Compound. Because of natural disasters like earthquakes or outbreaks of volcanic Mount Merapi the site was abandoned and in ruins for centuries. Restauration efforts concentrated first on the reconstruction of the main temples on the inner square, the central platform. What we see here in the foreground, right and left to the way, is the middle area of the former temple city. There were 224 more temples placed, but except of two restored ones all the others are nowadays merely heaps of stones.

Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Prasat Muang Tam / Thailand

Prasat Muang Tam is a middle-sized temple of the Angkorean empire of the 10th to the 13th centuries. Although we find all the typical style elements of the Angkorean art here, Muang Tam has some specifics. There are e.g. four ritual ponds in the sanctuary who give the compound a unique style. Although it lies in the shadow of the much more frequented sight Phanom Rung nearby, it's defenitely worth to come here. Even those who are not interested in ancient architecture, culture and history might well enjoy the quiet atmosphere in the not so small park with it's plenty of green.

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Prasat Muang Tam

'Prasat Muang Tam' by Asienreisender

The gallery of the inner sanctuary and three of the prangs of Prasat Muang Tam, seen from southwest. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2015

Prasat Ta Muen / Thailand

Prasat Ta Muen by Asienreisender

At a very remote spot in Thailand's Surin Province at the very border to Cambodia are three small remains of Angkorean buildings to find. Coming from the next village in Thailand, Phanom Dong Rak, where the last bus stop is placed, a lonely road leads one some ten kilometers south into the jungle. The first site one reaches is Prasat Ta Muen, which looks like a chapel with an intact roof and a hall inside. (...) Few tourists make the way out to here. Prasat Ta Muen is truly a hidden pearl in the jungle.

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Preah Khan / Cambodia

'Wall of Preah Khan, Overgrown by a Giant Figtree' by Asienreisender

The Angkorean site of Preah Khan was once a large temple city. It lies close to Angkor Thom, the last capital of the medieval Khmer empire. Preah Khan was, for a few years, the temporary capital of the empire, until the construction of the much larger Angkor Thom was completed.

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The site has been kept, despite much restoration work, in a state overgrown by the jungle, as it was when the temple complex was rediscovered. Image by Asienreisender, 12/2006

Roluos Group / Cambodia

The first capital of the later so powerful Angkorean empire has been Hariharalaya, about 15km north of Tonle Sap Lake. What is left of it today is called the 'Roluos Group', consisting mainly of three different temple compounds built in the 9th century.

Pay a visit to the Roluos Group...

'Bakong Temple | Roluos Group | Angkor Archaeological Park' by Asienreisender

The main temple compound of the Roluos Group is Bakong, a temple built supposedly after the model of magnificent Borobodur in central Java. Image by Asienreisender, 12/2006

Si Satchanalai / Thailand

A little treasure among the main sights in the northern plains of Thailand is Sukhothai's 'little brother' Si Satchanalai. Although not among the most importantly ranked historical places, Si Satchanalai has a long history, dating back until the stone-ages. Si Satchanalai stood culturally and politically very close to Sukhothai. It's particular charm lies in the remoteness of the place, it's quietness and the fact, that there are merely almost exclusively daytour tourists visit the place.

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Si Satchanalai Historical Park
'Si Satchanalai Historical Park' by Asienreisender

One out of hundreds of ruins in Si Satchanalai Historical Park. Si Satchanalai is, together with Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet, UNESCO World Cultural Heritage since 1991. Image by Asienreisender, 2007

Sukhothai / Thailand

Sukhothai was a medieval town and kingdom in north central Thailand. It's heydays were in the 13th and 14th century, when it became a significant rival of the empire of Angkor and gained large territories in Indochina. Sukhothai is considered being the egg out of which Thai culture has crept out. The development of Thai script and the introduction of Theravada Buddhism happened here. Famous, but not undisputable, is the Stele No. 1, which is allegedly from the late 13th century.

Nowadays the old city and it's wider surroundings, mostly plains but in the west also a mountainous area, are a large Historical Park. Sukhothai got declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1991, together with the towns of Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet. It's one of the most remarkable historical sites in Southeast Asia.

Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai Historical Park
'Wat Mahathat | Sukhothai Historical Park' by Asienreisender

Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai Historical Park. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2007

New Sukhothai therefore is a vibrant town with too much traffic. Though, it's the base for the trip to the necropolis, for almost all the guesthouses and hotels are placed here.

Visit the medieval necropolis of Sukhothai...

Ta Prohm | Angkor Archaeological Park

Ta Prohm is, together with Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the third centerpiece of the sights of Angkor Archaeological Park. It has a particular charme for the archaeologists left it, despite thorough restoration, in a state as it has been in the 1920s, when a first restoration took place here. The large ruins are partially overgrown by large trees, what gives the place a mystic atmosphere. However, the abandoned appearance of Ta Prohm stands in stark contrast to the masses of touristic visitors who come here every day, often in busloads, and roam the site. Ta Prohm became famous due to a Hollywood movie with Angelina Jolie - Tomb Raider.

Have a look for Ta Prohm...

Ta Prohm, West Wing
'Ta Prohm, West Wing' by Asienreisender

The exit from the large temple compound of Ta Prohm. Alltogether, Ta Prohm was a walled city inside Angkor City with tens of thousands of people who's lifes where centered on the monastery. Image by Asienreisender, 10/2015

Ta Prohm | Tonle Bati / Cambodia

Ta Prohm is a remarkable well-preserved 13th century Khmer temple compound. Built under the reign of Angkorian king Jayavarman VII, it represents Khmer architecture on the zenith of their arts. The main sanctuary is built in fine sandstone and shows a lot of unique fresquos who are still in a relative good shape. The sight is merely 35 kilometers from Phnom Penh, but nevertheless very few visitors find their way to it. In the past there was an entrance fee charged for visiting the area, but, probably due to the few visitors, the money grabbing is abandoned.

The site of Ta Prohm is not to mix up with the Angkorian temple site with the same name around Siem Reap - the famous site which is overgrown by a huge fig tree and was shown in the Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie.

Close by the remarkable temple compount lies another temple, which dates about a hundred years further back into the past. It's called Yeah Peau.

Both temples are close to the shores of the large Tonle Bati, a sweetwater lake with a lot of high-prized, basic restaurants who are stilted on the water.

Another, although pretty poor site to visit is Phnom Tamao Wildlife reserve, an animal prison a few kilometers south of Tonle Bati.

The Temple Compound of Ta Prohm

'The Sight of Ta Prohm' by Asienreisender

The main sanctuary of Ta Prohm. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2015

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Udong / Cambodia

Udong (also: Oudung) was in former centuries repeatedly the capital of Cambodia, before the royal court moved to Phnom Penh. Little is left of the old place, except a mountain with a number of mostly old stupas who served as burial places for the Cambodian kings.

'Phnom Udong' by Asienreisender

Phnom Udong. Image by Asienreisender, 12/2014

Udong was also one of the about 20,000 killing fields. A small stupa displays some skulls and bones behind glass, similar to the memorial stupa in Choeung Ek near Phnom Penh.

Some 15km away from Udong lies Lovek, which served also as Cambodia's capital in the 16th century.

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Wat Phou Champasak
Cultural Landscape / Laos

Wat Phou Champasak Cultural Landscpape by Asienreisender

The axis and the barrays of Wat Phou. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

Wat Phou Champasak is not only an extraordinary Khmer temple (see: 'The Empire of Angkor') but a whole, planned landscape of medieval times, dating back in it's origins before Angkor. It's stretching from the Kao Mountain over 10km down to the banks of the Mekong River. It includes a large main temple complex with waterworks and an axis way together with some side temples and two ancient settlements.

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Sights of Southeast Asia