Wat Rong Suea Ten aka Blue Temple, Chiang Rai Thailand

The Blue Temple is known in Thai as “Wat Rong Suea Ten”, or “Temple of the Dancing Tiger”. Another ancient temple once stood here, and tigers are said to have roamed freely over the grounds when it was abandoned nearly a century ago. The Blue Temple as it exists today is brand new by comparison. The local village decided to rebuild the temple in 1996 and began the project in 2005. Construction was officially completed in 2016, but The Blue Temple is still considered a work in progress.

The stairs to the main entrance are guarded by naga serpents, whose tails ripple with detailed scales and twist and whirl around in entrancing elegance. The temple windows are protected by an angelic figure, posing proudly on a pedestal with feathered wings spread wide, a staff grasped behind its back. Brightly colored Yakshas, or female nature spirits, wait nearby to keep the temple safe from evil. Just behind the temple, a Buddha statue stands in an abaya-mudra pose, emitting an air of calmness and inviting visitors to relinquish fear and anxiety.

Inside, the Blue Temple is a kaleidoscope of colour and patterns, with elaborate and unbelievably intricate paintings completely covering every surface. Like most Thai temples, the walls depict stories of the life of the Buddha, but these have been painted in a particularly modern style. Much of this art is mounted in ornate gold frames which fit tastefully with the rest of the theme. Even the ceiling is spectacular, embellished with patterns so extraordinary they are almost psychedelic.

The centerpiece of the space is a seated Buddha statue, made of shiny white porcelain that looks eerie and blue in the reflection of the room. Powerfully framed by columns, he sits with one hand pointed to the ground, a representation of the moment he achieved enlightenment.

Wat Rong Khun aka White Temple, Chiang Rai Thailand

We were blown away with the breathtaking architecture and design of the White Temple that was created by the Thai artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. Born in Chiang Rai, the same city where the temple was built, Chalermchai Kositpipat has dedicated his life to the restoration and improvement of White Temple, known locally as Wat Rong Khun.

We didn’t notice it on first glance, but the White Temple has more than one roof. Inspired by the traditional design of Buddhist temples in Thailand, the building has a three-tiered roof. It is decorated with unusually intricate Naga serpents and makes for an incredible sight from afar.

In addition to the pure white color choice, much of the structural choices, mythical creatures, and positions of the White Temple’s guardians and deities depict a religious or symbolic meaning. The common theme of this Buddhist temple is of escaping greed and desire and moving towards enlightenment through Buddha’s teachings.

As one of the most unique and somewhat bizarre destinations in Southeast Asia, the White Temple in Chiang Rai province is definitely a place we didn’t want to miss on our trip to Thailand!

Ta Prohm aka King’s Monastery, Cambodia

Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 1The temple dating from 1187 originally was called Rajavihara, meaning “King’s monastery” in Sanskrit. The modern Khmer name “Ta Prohm” means “Old Brahma”. Ta Prohm was even used as a location in the film Tomb Raider.

The early French archaeologists intentionally left it partially unrestored. This is why until the present day enormous strangler figs (Ficus gibbosa) and even huger Thitpok  trees (Tetrameles nudiflora) grow from the towers and halls, spreading their gigantic roots over intricately carved stone, thus making Ta Prohm an icon of excellent architecture reconquered by the force of nature. This massive combination of art and vegetation is unique in the world, and one of the impressions nobody will ever forget. 

Ta Prohm was a monastery of enormous dimensions, 65 hectare, the size of some contemporary whole cities in contemporary Europe. According to a temple inscription 12,640 people lived here. Thousands of them were monks, but most of the inhabitants were laymen as supporters, including 615 female dancers. The monastery was enormously wealthy, as it had vast stores of silks, pearls, jewels and gold and was in charge of 3400 villages. It was a state within the state.

Banteay Srei aka Citadel of Women, Cambodia

The name Banteay Srei (sometimes written as ‘Banteay Srey’) translates from Khmer roughly as the ‘citadel of the women’. This name has only been applied recently (that’s ‘recently’ in a scale measured in centuries, so it’s still quite old), most likely because of the pink sandstone and the delicate carvings.

This beautiful 10th-century temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It has some of the most exquisite carvings of any Khmer temple and has almost a storybook ambience. The detailed carving of the sculptures, lintels, and friezes make it a beautiful structure. The walls are covered with deep, intricate carvings, each one carved with superb detail.

Angkor Wat aka Temple City, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple. Spread across more than 400 acres, Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world. Its name, which translates to “temple city” in the Khmer language of the region, references the fact it was built by Emperor Suryavarman II, who ruled the region from 1113 to 1150, as the state temple and political center of his empire. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat became a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century.

Although it is no longer an active temple, it serves as an important tourist attraction in Cambodia, despite the fact it sustained significant damage during the autocratic rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and in earlier regional conflicts.

It was “rediscovered” in 1840s by the French explorer Henri Mouhot, who wrote that the site was “grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.”

The compliment can likely be attributed to the temple’s design, which is supposed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods, according to tenets of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Its five towers are intended to recreate the five peaks of Mount Meru, while the walls and moat below honor the surrounding mountain ranges and the sea.

Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Angkor Thom, alternatively Nokor Thom located in present-day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer Empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by King Jayavarman VII. Angkor Thom is undeniably an expression of the highest genius. It is, in three dimensions and on a scale worthy of an entire nation, the materialization of Buddhist cosmology, representing ideas that only great painters would dare to portray.

Korea Traditional Hanok Airbnb

Hanok is an architectural term describing Korean traditional houses, also referred as Chosun houses. Hanok is typically located with mountain in back, facing the water and north in direction. The pillars, rafters, doors, window frames, and floor are wooden, while the walls are a mixture of straw and dirt. The paper to cover the frames of doors and windows was made from tree pulp. As the building materials used are all natural, hanok houses have excellent breathability, perfect for escaping the summer heat. Whilst many hanoks were sadly destroyed in the 1970s, small clusters have still been retained in the larger cities of South Korea.

The Accademia Gallery, Florence Italy

The Accademia Gallery is Florence’s most visited museum right after the Uffizi Gallery. The original statue of Michelangelo’s famous David actually has made the Accademia the most popular museum in Florence, thus making the statue the most admired work in all of Florence’s museums and top sights in all of Italy.

Kyoto Kimono Experience, Japan

When it’s the summer we can not only rent a kimono, but we can also rent a yukata (an informal and light cotton kimono) as well. It goes without saying, but a yukata is perfect when viewing a fireworks festival, viewing the Gion Festival, watching the ceremonial fires of the large Japanese kanji characters on the mountains in Kyoto, and a number of other summer festivals. But it’s not just festivals, when visiting somewhere specializing in sweet foods and eating a matcha (powdered green tea) based parfait or shaved ice, wearing a kimono is part of the fun of doing so in Kyoto.

Hsinbyume Pagoda, Myanmar

The Hsinbyume Pagoda aka Mya Thein Dan Pagoda (White Temple) is just a few hundred metres beyond the Mingun Bell further down the main street of Mingun. It is a very unusual Paya with a lovely gorgeous white structure. The Paya was built in 1816 by the grandson of the infamous King Bodawpaya, who later became King Bagyidaw, in memory of his first wife, Bodawpaya’s granddaughter Hsinbyume, who died in childbirth in 1812. The seven separate terraces of the Paya are meant to represent the seven mountain ranges and oceans in between and around Mount Meru with the stupa at the top representing Mount Meru itself. Mount Meru is the mythical centre of the universe in Buddhist-Hindu cosmolgy. There are also many small statues on the Pagoda representing various nat spirits, ogres, and naga serpents. All in all it makes for a gorgeous temple.