History lovers will have a great time in Asia. But for the ones who love temples, pagodas and stupas these are the places on mainland Southeast Asia you can’t skip!
Only two hours north from Bangkok you can find the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya a UNESCO world heritage site. The train to Ayutthaya departs several times an hour and a first class ticket costs only 65THB (less than 2 euros). When you arrive you take a little ferry to the other side of the river for only 5THB. From there you can probably walk to your guesthouse or hotel. I could, it was only half an hour of walking and it was a nice way to see something of the city already. Compared to Bangkok, Ayutthaya looked more autenthic and I noticed that there were only a few people who could speak English. I found out the best way to explore Ayutthaya is by bicycle. It’s a small place so you can cycle to all the temples and ruins. Wat Mahathat has its famous Buddha head in roots (photo on the right) and Wat Chai-Wattanaram (photo on the left) is very beautiful as well.
In the central north of Thailand you can find Sukhothai with it’s historical park, an other UNESCO world heritage site. From Ayutthaya I took the bus to Sukhothai and had a free pick-up from the busstation in Sukhothai to Happy Guesthouse. New Sukhothai has a nice nightmarket with cheap and delicious streetfood. You can take a ‘bus’ to Old Sukhothai for only 10THB. Old Sukhothai is where you can find all the beautiful ruins. The best way to get around is by bicycle (30THB) and one day is enough to visit the ruins in the historical park. If you have time left you can go to some of the temples outside the historical park as well.
The Temples of Angkor
Definitely the most famous ruins in Southeast Asia are the Temples of Angkor near Siem Reap, Cambodia. The ancient temples are located in the forest and together they are the most significant site of Khmer architecture. If you have more than one day, a good way to get around is by bicycle. The ruins aren’t close to each other so it’s a good workout. If you only have one day at the Temples of Angkor the best way to get around is by TukTuk (15USD a day). The most known temples are Angkor Wat which is the largest religious monument in the world and Wat Ta Prohm where you can see immense trees growing out of the ruin. In my post ‘10 Times Tears of Happiness‘ you can read more about that experience.
Bagan (also known as Pagan)
Bagan is the biggest collection of temples, ruins and stupa’s in the world. It’s so big that it’s hard to visit all the sites. Everywhere you look you see something interesting and beautiful. Most temples are quite a distance from each other so it’s easier to use an electric bike than a push-bike. I definitely recommend watching sunset and sunrise on a pagoda. Some people do a balloon flight during sunrise to see the beauty of Bagan from above. A balloon flight (330USD pp) wasn’t in my budget so we watched sunrise on our own pagoda and that experience is priceless!