Borobudor Sunrise Tour in Beautiful Yogyakarta, Indonesia

borobudor sunrise tour
Before we traveled to Indonesia I knew embarrassingly little about the country. I knew about Jakarta because we know some people from there. I had of course heard of Bali but actually hadn’t realized for the longest time that Bali was part of Indonesia. And I knew about the fantastic Komodo Dragons. I had never heard of Borobudur. We came across it while planning our vacation and instantly knew visiting it was going to be the highlight of our trip. Amazing as the 9th century Buddhist temple is, it’s eve
n more amazing at sunrise so we decided to plan a Borobudor sunrise tour.

borobudur statues temple

 

Options for Seeing the Sunrise

There are a large number of tours that go to the temple from Yogyakarta which is around an hour from Borobudur. They tend to start off from your hotel around 3:30 am and arrive at 4:30 am at Manohara Hotel within the grounds of the temple. Another option is to stay at Manohara Hotel itself so you just wake up and go. Since we were traveling with our son we decided to stay at Manohara Hotel. He’s an early riser (he was getting up at 4 am most days then) but we thought that waking him up at 3:30 am and then driving for an hour to the Borobudor sunrise tour would be pushing it.

There are also some smaller guesthouses that have been popping up just outside of the temple. If you stay in one of them you can wake up closer to the start of the Borobudor sunrise tour, bike over to Manohara and join the sunrise group. In hindsight, I wish we had done that. Some visitors try to be there right at 6:00am when the gates open and then make their way up to the temple without the sunrise tour. Depending on the time of year, the sun may not be completely up yet and it is possible to climb the temple in time to see the sun rise in all its glory. When we visited, “blue hour” occurred around 5am. Then around 5:50am there was a pastel light of dawn, followed nearly right at 6am by a brilliant orange sky. The dramatic colors only lasted less than 15 minutes though, so on the day we went you would have really had to run from the front gate and then up the stairs to catch it with a 6am start.

Hotel Options

We flew from Bali to Yogyakarta and stayed at the Hyatt Regency for a night. The hotel was a bit beyond our price range for the trip but considering it is a Hyatt hotel, the price (around $70 USD a night including buffet breakfast) was very reasonable. We did have an issue with a double booking that was eventually cleared up when we got back home but we were there for the pool and the pool is spectacular! This was our peace offering to our son for dragging him around to a bunch of temples. There was a huge winding pool in a garden setting accented with buildings in the style of Borobudur.  The waterslide even came out of a temple! There were stone bridges, a basketball net, and even a waterfall. The pool alone is worth the visit!

hyatt regency yogyakarta pool

The following morning we were picked up by the driver we had arranged to take us to Manohara Hotel. It was pouring rain. Absolutely pouring down and we were starting to feel a bit worried about our sunrise tour. The streets were flooded and it didn’t look like the rain was going to give up any time soon. Our driver assured us though that we had nothing to worry about and that after a big storm, the sunrises were always spectacular.

We arrived at Manohara Hotel and were checked in quickly. The grounds were beautiful and there right outside the dining area was Borobudur in all its glory. It was still raining so we didn’t explore the temple much that day.

Borobudur Manohara Hotel Rain

The hotel itself though was less than spectacular. They have a monopoly in the area and it seems like the owners are taking advantage of the fact. Our bathroom was filthy with hair and dirt everywhere. Our shower had hot water for less than 2 minutes. I’ve since read other reviewers have mentioned this as well so it wasn’t the first time it had happened. The staff acted very surprised and said they would come and fix it but never did. There were ants everywhere in the room. I left my toothpaste out on the counter and when I woke up in the morning there were hundreds of ants covering it. We continued to find ants in our luggage for days after we left the hotel. The food in the restaurant was also overpriced and poor quality. Our stay at the Hyatt outside of Yogyakarta had been cheaper so we were really quite annoyed.

Borobudor Sunrise Tour

The convenience of just being able to roll out of bed and go straight to the Borobudor sunrise tour was fantastic though. We got out of bed around 4 am, gathered our things and met the people coming from other hotels joining the Borobudor sunrise tour at the front desk by 4:30. We were given flashlights, put our son on my husband’s back in our Manduca baby carrier and followed our escort to the temple. There was nearly no light at all as we walked up to the temple but luckily there are railings going along the steps that you can hold on to. 

Borobudur Sunrise tour

It stayed fairly dark for about 15 minutes more until blue hour came and we started to take photos. While there is plenty of room to get a great photo without anyone in it, the light from all the people using their phone’s cameras can get really annoying when you are trying to set up a shot.

Borobudur temple blue hour   Borobudur temple blue hour

Blue hour faded into a pinkish dawn as we listened to the morning prayers being broadcast on loudspeakers and watched the mist roll through the trees.

borobudur dawn temple statue
mist fog borobudor sunrise tour
We had been up at the top of the temple for about an hour and the sun was quite high in the sky. People were starting to make their way back down the stairs and though it was pretty we were feeling a bit let down. Our driver had promised a spectacular sunrise. Suddenly at almost precisely 6:05 am the sky changed to brilliant oranges, reds and yellows! We were told that it was the most spectacular sunrise they had had in a month.borobudor sunrise tour temple   borobudur temple sunrise tour

The brilliant colors lasted less than 10 minutes but we stayed for another hour just watching and listening.

borobudur temple sunrise tour   borobudur temple sunrise tour


Hours

Open hours:  6 am – 5 pm

Cost

Foreign Visitor: 280,000 IDR per person
Domestic Visitor: 30,000 IDR per person

Borobudur Sunrise Tour or Sunset tour (via Manohara Hotel)

Foreign Visitor: 400,000 IDR per person
Hotel Guests: 250,000 IDR per person
Domestic Visitor: 270,000 IDR per person 
Kids 1-5: Free
Kids 6-10: 50% the adult price


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Hue Vietnam Travel Guide: Tombs, Towers and Tanks

hue vietnam travel guide

Things To Do In Hue Vietnam

Once the national capital from 1802-1945, Hue Vietnam is home to the ancient Imperial City (Citadel) and the tombs of several emperors. The ancient sites around Hue Vietnam are spectacularly beautiful and it was well worth the visit. Learn more in this Hue Vietnam travel guide!

Hue Imperial City (The Citadel)

Emperors of Vietnam once lived in this walled fortress and palace. Much of the structure was damaged or destroyed by battles with the French in 1947 and American forces in 1969 with only 20 out of 148 structures surviving but it still remains an impressive complex with ongoing restoration.

Hours: 8am – 6pm

hue imperial city citadel
hue imperial city citadel

Hue Vietnam Provincial Museum (War Museum)

This small museum doesn’t appear to even get a mention in the guidebooks but if you are visiting the Imperial City next door and are interested in military exhibits it may be worth a quick visit. The museum is in bad repair. The grass hasn’t been cut in ages and there are large holes in the pavement leading down to the drains below. Staff scurried to turn on fans and lights when we walked in like they weren’t expecting visitors. Inside the museum some photos, small weapons and other wartime paraphernalia can be found.

The only reason we visited (twice!) is that out in front of the museum there is a collection of tanks, a helicopter, a plane and other military vehicles from the Vietnam War.  Each vehicle has a plaque with the name of the vehicle as well as the year and place it was captured from. Our son was THRILLED to see a helicopter so close for the first time and excitedly ran back and forth between each vehicle.

Hours:  8:00-11:00 am, 2:00pm – 5:00pm (closed Sundays)

Hue provincial war museum

Hue provincial war museum

Thien Mu Pagoda

Built in 1601, Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest religious building in Vietnam. This seven story tower is part of the temple complex on Ha Khe Hill just outside of Hue overlooking the Perfume River.

thien mu pagoda

Not only beautiful, the pagoda has strong historical, political and religious significance in the region. In 1963 the Buddhist Crisis in Vietnam saw the Catholic government cracking down on the Buddhists majority (70-90%) in the country and Buddhism. The crisis began when 9 unarmed Buddhist were shot by the army in Hue. Thein Mu Pagoda became a major organizing point for the movement.  In protest of this crackdown and the government’s refusal to meet calls for religious equality, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc drove to Saigon on June 10th, 1963. There in front of onlookers, reporters and supporters he conducted self-immolation by setting himself on fire.

]Self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức. Photo by Malcom Browne 1963

Self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức. Photo by Malcom Browne 1963

In the background of this world famous image by Malcom Browne the car he drove can be seen. It is presently on display at Thien Mu Pagoda.

Tombs in Hue Vietnam

There are 7 imperial tombs just outside of Hue but the most commonly visited are the Tombs of Emperor Minh Mang, Emperor Tu Duc and Emperor Khai Dinh. We did not have a chance to go to Emperor Tu Duc’s tomb but made it to the other two. When visiting the popular tombs it is best to get there early in the morning before the tour groups arrive or later in the afternoon when they have gone. It can get crowded! We visited Khai Dinh tomb before 9am because there are a lot of steps and we wanted to avoid climbing them in the heat. By 9:30 the tomb was packed with tourists arriving in tour buses. We then went to Minh Mang tomb and even around 10:30 the tour groups were just starting to arrive. Any driver you hire should be able to advise you on what times to go to beat the crowds.  The tour groups seem to have very set roots.

Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai Dinh Tomb took 11 years to build and was completed in 1931. Before his death he visited France resulting in the tomb being a combination of both Western and Eastern styles. Khai Dinh’s tomb is the last of the large imperial tombs in Vietnam.  The dragon sculptures along the sides of this temple were the largest dragons in Vietnam though the Dragon Bridge in Da Nang likely now holds this distinction.

khai dinh tomb hue vietnam

khai dinh tomb hue vietnam

Minh Mang Tomb

The construction of this tomb began in September 1840 but by January 1841, Emperor Minh Mang had passed away. The tomb was fully completed by 1843 under the watchful eye of Emperor Thieu Tri.  The burial grounds include landscaped lakes, and canals as well as beautiful architecture.

minh mang tomb hue vietnam

minh mang tomb hue vietnam

Is Hue Kid Friendly?

hue vietnam

We went to Hue when our son was 3.5 years old. In Da Nang, Hoi An and Hanoi we saw a lot of kids his age and some even younger but in Hue he seemed to be one of the youngest. There aren’t a lot of activities aimed at children in Hue and there are no beach resorts so it’s less appealing to parents traveling with really little ones. It seemed to be more popular with families that had kids 8 years old and up.

That being said, Hue is not unfriendly to kids! Many of the sites are free for younger kids. The Imperial City and Tombs offer a lot of space for kids to stretch their legs and to explore and as a vehicle lover our son really enjoyed the small war museum. We would go out early in the morning and then spend our afternoons in our hotel’s pool or playing indoors in our room. There’s a lot of walking so a good baby carrier that allows you to carry little ones on your back like the Manduca baby carrier can be a life saver if your infant to preschooler is too tired to walk. But short early morning trips, ice cream and swimming pools made Hue a great place to visit with a little one.  If I were to go back through it would definitely be in the winter months! It was 38 degrees the entire time we were there in July!

Getting In And Out

Private Car

We traveled to Hue by car from Hoi An through Da NangHoi An to Hue it is about a 3 hour drive and Da Nang to Hue around 2. The driver can take the route either along Hai Van Pass or through Hai Van Tunnel. At a length of 6.28 km, Hai Van Tunnel is the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia and it can save you between 30 minutes to an hour on your trip between Da Nang and Hue. Hai Van Pass though is much more scenic winding up the mountain and along the coast.  Most drivers and tour buses choose to dive the route along the coast and stop at the top for a break and to enjoy the views. There are shops and restaurants at the top as well.

Cost for a private car:

Around $60-$75 USD

Plane

There are direct flights to Hue Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City, Dalat and Hanoi. The flights from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi arrive daily but Dalat only has flights every other day. We decided to drive into Hue and then flew to Hanoi.

It is also possible to book a local bus, train or a tour bus between the two cities. Tour buses seem to be most popular with group tours that are only going to Hue for the day but your hotel should be able to help you make arrangements.

Getting Around

Walking

We were in Hue in July and it was HOT. Even in the evening it was hot so we didn’t walk around too much. They do though have a nice park and walkway area along the perfume river. In the evening little shops and restaurants open up and it’s a lovely place to take a stroll.

walkway along river hue vietnam

bridge across perfume river hue vietnam

Taxi

Taxis in Hue are cheap and your hotel can easily arrange for them to pick you up. When visiting the sites it is quite common to arrange a set price and have the taxi driver wait for you while you visit. This means that many of the taxis you see waiting may not be available.  A couple of times we did not make these arrangements and were unable to find another available taxi despite being in the city. We did not run into any large problems with taxis in Hue but twice we were brought to the wrong end of a site even though our hotel had arranged the pickup.

Private car

We arranged a private car to visit the tombs outside of the city and to take us to the airport. I wish we had used them our entire time in Hue! They were absolutely fantastic and reasonably priced. There are several companies in the area but here are two we had contact with.

We used this company both times. We were picked up on time (actually the driver was early) in a fantastically clean SUV. Our son was thrilled since he had never driven in a large SUV like this before. All 3 seatbelts in the back were working. Our driver was safe, friendly and knowledgeable.  We decided to use the same company when we went to the airport and had the same experience the second time as well.

Website: http://www.stopandgo-hue.com/
Email: stopandgocafetours@gmail.com

We did not use this company but I was very impressed with their customer service. Their reviews on TripAdvisor are also high. We needed to make a last minute reservation and they were very quick to respond. They also have baby car seats available for small children. Unfortunately I was not able to connect to the internet at our hotel in the evening and when I finally got through to them they were fully booked for the time we wanted to visit the tombs. They offered us a discount if we would go later in the day or offered to take us the next day instead. We were short on time though and wanted a very early start to beat the heat so we went with a different company.

Website: http://www.tourfromhue.com/
Email: tourfromhue@gmail.com

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15 Must See Amazing Ancient Temples Across Asia


There really is no place in the world like Asia that can make you feel just like Indiana Jones on an adventure searching for lost treasure! Hacking your way through jungles, crawling across deserts and battling secret societies…well maybe not quite but the ancient temples found across Asia are absolutely amazing! We’ve compiled a list with some fellow travel bloggers of 15 amazing ancient temples in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand that you really should check out. Be sure to click on the links to find out more and to check out the contributor’s websites!


Cambodia

1) Banteay Srei

Contributed by: our3kidsvstheworld

ancient temples

There are so many amazing temples in Siem Reap the obvious ones being Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Our amazing tuk-tuk driver (contact details on my blog) took us to a different temple about an hour from Siem Reap called Bantaey Srei. This temple was built in the 10th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Banteay Srei is a lot less intact then the previous temples mentioned but the intricacies that set this one apart is the delicate cravings on the structure. It is believed that this temple was built by a female and the carvings were also completed by females. This makes this temple quite unique.

The temple is also carved from a red sandstone, so it appears very different from the main temples and likely the reason it has not stood the test of time like others produced from stone.   I think it is definitely worth visiting even just to view the delicate cravings and you get to take in a lot of the country side on the way out to the temple. 


2) Ta Prohm

Contributed by: Not Another Travel Blog

If you visit any temple in Cambodia, after Angkor Wat of course, make sure to visit Ta Prohm. Famous for its use as one of the locations in the Tomb Raider film, it's the most atmospheric and impressive temple we visited in South East Asia. Part of the jungle and yet still a recognisable temple structure, its narrow winding corridors, towers of stone and inner sanctuary make it a brilliant place to spend a couple of hours.

Trees intertwine with the stone work and create whole new structures of their own, adding an even more unique and mystical sense to the temple than you'd expect. Dating back to the late 12th / early 13th century the ruins of Ta Prohm are included in the world heritage list in their own right. Keep your eye out for the hidden ‘stegosaurus’ carving on one of the inner walls – did dinosaurs roam the temples of Angkor or is it a case of mistaken identity? These amazing jungle ruins are an incredible sight and are included in the park admission price so there's no excuse not to pay them a visit on your trip to Siem Reap.


India

3) Badami Cave Temples

Contributed by: Go Beyond Bounds

The Badami cave temples in the Karnataka state of India are a remarkable example of rock-cut architecture dating back to the 6th century. The magnificent rock cave temples carved from the colossal sandstone cliffs are amazingly manmade. The temple complex consists of 4 temples which have beautiful carvings of Hindu divinities on walls and pillars of the hall leading to the sanctum sanctorum. The first temple is the oldest one and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the second and the third are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the fourth is dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras. The temple area offers an awe-inspiring view of the Agastya Tirtha Lake which has few more temples which can be visited through a neighboring village. There is also an archaeological museum in the village which houses some of the interesting artifacts of the history of the Chalukya dynasty who built the splendid rock cave temples. The nearest airport is Belgaum (150 km) and is around 450 km from Bangalore.
 

4) Ellora Caves

Contributed by: The Travelling Slacker

Ellora Caves were were built between 6th to 10th century. Originally there were more than 100 caves although only 34 are open to public now. Different caves are dedicated to Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain sects. The crowning glory of Ellora is the Kailashnath Temple (Dedicated to Lord Shiva) at the cave number 16. It is a massive temple. The sheer size and intricate details inside make it hard to believe that it has been cut out of one single piece of large rock!

It is believed that these caves were developed over several centuries under the aegis of different dynasties. That is why, caves dedicated to different religioins came up, depending on the preferences of their patrons. These caves were in use till the 13th century but they were gradually abandoned with the Islamic conquest of the subcontinent. However, they have managed to survive several centuries of neglect and now they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
 

5) Shree Meenakshi Temple

Contributed by: Backpack Adventures

There are so many temples in India that I doubted whether it was worth it to make a detour to see the Shree Meenaksi temple in Madurai. According to the Lonely Planet it was, but in India it is easy to get an overload of temples and having to sit 3 hours in a bus to see another one seemed a bit unnecessary. Yet, being relatively so close to this masterpiece and not going also seemed a bit of a waste, so I went. And I was so glad I did. The Shree Meenakshi temple is not just a temple, but a whole complex full of life.

I calculated to be inside for maybe one or two hours, but ended up spending almost my whole day there. This is maybe the only temple with an actual shopping bazaar inside including food stalls. Thousands of people come here every day to celebrate the major events in their lives. Marriages and new born babies. It’s busy and families gather in the hallways for pick nicks. The temple complex is huge and every corridor offers something new and surprising. Still, after several visits to India, this is my favorite temple. 


Indonesia

6) Borobudor

Contributed by: Family in Faraway Places

The Buddhist temple Borobudor in the Java region of Indonesia is located about an hour from Yogyakarta. It is believed to have been completed around 825 CE though there is no record of who built Borobudor or why it was originally built. The site was abandoned around the 14th century though and over the centuries was covered by the jungle and ash from the nearby volcanoes. The story of the great monument lived on in local stories and was rediscovered by Lieutenant Governor-General Thomas Stamford Raffles around 1814.

Probably the most popular way to see Borobudor these days is to go on a sunrise tour. For an additional fee, guests are able to enter the grounds of the temple around 4:30am before it is open to the public. You make your way up the stone steps in the dark with a small flashlight to guide you. As we waited for the sun to rise we listened to morning prayers being broadcast as fog wound its way around the coconut trees below. Blue hour faded and then suddenly the sky was a brilliant yellow. Absolutely magical!

7) Tanah Lot

Contributed by: Travels with Carole

Located about 12 mi. from Denpasar, the expansive 16th-century Tanah Lot temple complex is scenically set atop an offshore rock.  It is one in a chain of seven sea temples along the southwestern Bali coast, each established within eyesight of the next.  This one is spectacular at any time of day, but morning light is said to provide the best photos.  Sunset is also good for photos, but bus-loads of tourists arrive then and the rock is in shadow.  The best way to watch the sun set is fortified by a cold beer or fresh coconut water at one of the bluff-top cafes.  Souvenir stalls are plentiful, and hawkers offer interesting items as you walk around–I was especially impressed with the kites.  The temple name translates as “small island floating on the sea.” Unfortunately, though I did explore the area surrounding the temple, I missed going into the temple itself.  The solution to that is a return trip in the future, at which time I also plan to visit the other six temples in that chain.  


Myanmar

8) Mingun Pahtodawgyi

Contributed by: Getting Stamped

When traveling around Asia there are tons of gorgeous temples but some of the best and my personal favorite are in Myanmar. On my 2 weeks in Myanmar itinerary, we spent 2 days in Mandalay in which we hired a private driver one day to bring us around. About an hour drive from Mandalay is the temple of Mingun Pahtodawgyi. Construction of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi temple was started in 1790 but intentionally never finished. In 1839 a huge earthquake hit causing the massive crack running through it. That crack is what stuck out to me, and as soon as I saw a picture of this temple I knew I had to make the special trip out there. The temple is still used today with both locals and tourists visiting it daily. There is no other temple in Myanmar and it's special in its own way. Def put Mingun Pahtodawgyi on your temple bucket list.  


9) Shwedagon Pagoda

Contributed by: Foodie Flashpacker

Having spent so much time in Asia you can start to experience temple fatigue. You feel like they start to run together and if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. When I first laid eyes on the Shwedagon Pagoda I was immediately relieved of any previous temple fatigue. It’s truly the most stunning temple I’ve ever seen.

The temple is located in Yangon, Myanmar. Historians and archaeologists agree that it was built between the 6th and 10th centuries. However, legend has it that it was constructed more than 2,500 years ago which would make it the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world.

The stupa is nearly 100 meters tall and appears to be solid gold, which is actually brick covered in real gold. The crown is covered in more than 5000 diamonds and nearly 2400 rubies. This makes the huge shimmering pagoda a truly impressive site.


Sri Lanka

10) Anuradhapura

Contributed by: RandomTrip

Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, and a must-visit place if you ever visit this amazing country. It is believed it was the capital of Sri Lanka from the 4th century BC until the 11th century AD. So you will be admiring some buildings and ruins older than 2000 years!

It's home of some amazing Buddhist pagodas, from which I highlight the one in the picture, Jetavanaramaya. This big pagoda is supposed to host a piece of the belt of Buddha. It was covered by jungle until 1981, where the restoration work began, which has not finished yet. It is the tallest Buddhist stupa in the ancient world, the 2nd tallest non-pyramid building in the ancient world, and the biggest brick structure in the world

The other amazing place of Anuradhapura I would like to highlight is the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred fig tree which is said to be a branch from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi tree in India, where Buddha achieved enlightenment. It is the oldest living human-planted tree with a recorded planting date (it was planted in the year 288 BC)


11) Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic)

Contributed by: 5 Lost Together

Most world travelers wouldn't recognize the name of Sri Dalada Maligawa temple in Sri Lanka by its official name.  Located in UNESCO world heritage site Kandy, the temple is better known for what it houses: a tooth of the Buddha.  Generally referred to as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, this temple attracts both Buddhist worshipers and tourists.  While the outside of the temple is rather ordinary, inside you will find ornate carvings and statutes and lavish hallways.  The main attraction of course is the tooth relic, in which you can only see the casket it is contained in.  Go during puja (3 times a day) to experience the reverence cast on the tooth and this temple and preferably with a guide who can explain the history of the temple.  You may not understand the puja, but the beating of the drums, passion of the worshipers and sizable crowds create a dizzying atmosphere.  After experiencing the frenzy of the puja and getting a glimpse of the tooth casket, relax and enjoy the picturesque lakeside setting of the most important temple in Sri Lanka. 


Thailand

12) Prang Sam Yot – The Monkey Temple

Contributed by: Jonistravelling.com

Prang Sam Yot, AKA the Monkey Temple, is one of the coolest ancient temples in Thailand. It's located in Lopburi, a former Thai capital just a couple of hours by train from Bangkok. The temple dates back to the Khmer era and is the headquarters for a massive gang of monkeys who patrol its grounds in search of food. If you're carrying food or even just rustling a plastic bag, you'll soon have company. There are also many other ruins in Lopburi, including temples and palaces. The monkeys don't just stick to the temple either — they roam the streets, climb through windows and cross roads in massive convoys. It's an entertaining place to visit and can easily be combined with a trip to Ayutthaya. You could visit both as a long day trip from Bangkok but it's better to spend a few days in this area. This lets you explore early in the mornings and late in the afternoons and escape the heat and day trip crowds.
 

13) Si Satchanalai Historical Park

Contributed by: Surfing the Planet

The Si Satchanalai Historical Park is a less known annex of the Sukhotai Historical Park, but a must-visit place when you are in Central Thailand. It is found at a 2 hour bus drive from the latter. Si Satchanalai was founded in the 13th century as a second center of the Sukhotai Kingdon and the crown price used it as residence in the following centuries. The ruins of Si Satchanalai might be less spectacular than those of Sukhotai, but you have a good chance to visit them almost on your own in a more rural and somewhat mysterious environment.

When you get off the bus coming from Sukhotai, you can rent a bike to explore the area with a map included. Some of the most important sights to visit are Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng, a temple on top of a small hill with great views and Wat Chedi Jet Thaew, which resembles a lot to the Sukhotai temples. The most charming part of the Si Satchanalai Park is Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat, an impressive temple with several sitting Buddha statues.  
 

14) Sukhothai historical park

Contributed by: Grabbing Life by the Balls

Sukhothai Historical Park, which encompasses three different sites in the ancient Thai capital, is a hidden gem.  About half-way between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it receives only a small fraction of the visitors of better known temples in SE Asia. The central site, which is the most extensive and impressive, is easy to explore on foot or by bike, with few crowds.  The temples were built in the 13th and 14th centuries and the site includes over 190 ruins.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and costing only 100baht (less than US$3) for a day pass, Sukhothai is better value than the Angkor complex in Cambodia will ever be.  Renting a bike from one of the vendors across from the ticket booth is the best way to get around, and only costs 30 baht for the day (less than most hotels charge).  Insider tip: Be there on a Saturday night when they light up the main temples with candles (included in your day pass).
 

15) Wat Maha Tha (Ayutthaya)

Contributed by: Gamin Traveler

The Wat Maha That or Temple of the Great Relics is located in Ayutthaya's city center – a temple built during the 14th century (1374 during the reign of King Borommaacha). The temple was a residence of Thai Buddhist monks and was burnt in 1767 during the Burmese War. In 1935, Wat Maha That was registered as part of Ayutthaya World Heritage Historical Park, and in our opinion, a definitely must-see when you are traveling in Ayutthaya. You can visit it even if you're in Bangkok. The trip is around one hour and a half from the capital by train. People like to see and take pictures to The Head of The Buddha in a tree trunk with roots growing around. Apart from it with, the complex is really interesting to walk around and has been very well conserved. The visit can last around an hour.


What are your favorite ancient temples in Asia?

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Mysterious Unjusa Temple of 1,000 Buddha and Pagodas

unjusa temple hwasun

View of Unjusa in the Spring on our first visit

The South Korean temple, Unjusa in Hwasun County is a bit of a mystery. No one is quite sure who the founder is but it is estimated to have been built sometime between 57 BC and 935 AD. Originally the temple had more than 1,000 Buddha statues and 1,000 pagodas but today only 91 stone statues and 21 pagodas of various sizes remain. They can be found around the temple grounds and in the surrounding fields and mountains.
child looking at buddha statue unjusa hwasun korea temple
small statue unjusa hwasun temple korea
pagoda in mountain at unjusa temple
Buddha statue under large stone hwasun unjusa south korea temple
multi cylindrical pagoda unjusa south korea hwasun
A few years ago when our son was only a few months old we took a trip to Unjusa. We hadn’t researched much before we went. We enjoyed our time but when we got home we found out that we had completely missed the giant statues of Buddha lying down. We knew we would need to return!
Painting on the temple roof
many little gold colored buddha
Temple door carvings and painting lotus

We have just returned to Unjusa and were pleasantly surprised! Since our last visit they have invested in creating beautiful trails and stairs to the main attractions in the mountains. The stone or wooden paths are steep in parts but are some of the best I have seen in my 11 years in Korea! When we visited before my husband and son had to wait at the bottom of the mountain as I climbed to get a good photo because the trail was rather slippery when wet. This is no longer a concern!

walkway at unjusa temple
Stairs going to the reclining buddha
This visit we were sure to get a pamphlet (in English!) and checked the maps so we knew where we were going. The paths are well labeled and there are signs at the major monuments in both Korean and English explaining the significance. We had missed the giant reclining Buddha statues the first visit because we had taken the trail up behind the temple rather than the trail to the left. It is clearly marked and was entirely our mistake.

We didn’t make the mistake again though! After you climb the stairs to the top of the hill there is no missing the reclining Buddha statues. Carved out of the stone in the ground, one is nearly 42 feet and the other around 34 feet. The carvings are rather crude but it is still impressive. I have never seen anything else like it in Korea.

Buddha lying down carving from rock
reclining buddha unjusa temple

The hikes around Unjusa are easy and not very crowded. It’s quite far from the city with few restaurants or other services around. It’s best to bring your own food! Some guided tour groups do make it out to the temple but with such a large area to explore it never felt busy. With so many treasures to search for it’s easy to discover something new each time you visit Unjusa which is why it’s one of our favorite temples in the region.

Cost

  • Adults 3,000 won / Teenagers 2,000 won / Children 1,000 won

Hours

  • Summer 08:00-18:00 / Winter 08:00-17:00

Transportation

  • From Gwangcheon Bus Terminal (USquare) in Gwangju take city bus number 318 or 218. The ride takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Confirm with the driver that the bus will stop at the temple (운주사). 

Photos of Songgwangsa Temple in Fall

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  • Website: http://songgwangsa.org/
  • Admission: Adults 3,000 won, students 2,000 won, seniors and children under 7 free
  • Address: 100 Songgwangsaan-gil, Songgwang-myeon, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
     
  • Travel Time: Car 45 min – an hour. Bus 1 hour and 30 min. The direct bus to Songgwangsa leaves from Gwangju Express Bus Terminal (U Square) every hour. 


All images © 2013-2016 Jessica Solomatenko

Imagine Your Korea! Beautiful Autumn Baegyangsa Temple

고불총림 백양사
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Website: http://www.baekyangsa.or.kr/
Admission: Adults 3,000 won, students 1,200 won, children 700 won, babies FREE

Address: 1239, Baegyang-ro, Bukha-myeon, Jangseong-gun, Jeollanam-do 전라남도 장성군 북하면 백양로 1239 (북하면)

Travel Time: Car 35 min, bus 1 hour. It is considerably longer during peak season! Take heavy traffic into consideration.

Bus: From Gwangju Express Bus Terminal (U Square) there is a direct bus to Baegyangsa which takes around an hour. During the peak season it is best to book your tickets in advance!

All images © 2013-2016 Jessica Solomatenko

Manduca Baby Carrier Traveling With Kids Review

When our son was 3 and a half years old we made a trip to Vietnam.  As I start to pack there is noticeably less “stuff” that we are bringing this time. Our stroller is staying at home. We don’t really use it any more. Completely toilet trained, there are no diapers. No booster seats, sippy cups or travel sterilizer bags. And I have become aware that this would likely be the last trip for our Manduca baby carrier.

7 month 7 unjusa templeBabywearing isn’t really a trend in South Korea where we live. It’s more just a normal, everyday thing that parents do here until the baby can walk. The city roads are busy, sidewalks bumpy and a lot of businesses are completely wheelchair or stroller inaccessible. I’ve had to carry my sleeping son in his stroller up 10 steps just to get to the bank machine! Carrying your baby without the stroller just makes a whole lot more sense sometimes.

It’s also very much tradition in South Korea. It’s not uncommon to see 70 or 80 year old grandmothers carrying their grandchildren on their backs in a modern style podaegi (blanket wrap style carriers) like they once did with their own children. So, when I became pregnant back in 2012 finding a good carrier was much more on my mind than checking out the latest trends in strollers.

The very first baby iten that we bought for our son was our Manduca baby carrier. As an excited new mom I shared the news with my friends and family who are online just to have one friend pipe up and tell me that I could have bought a similar Korean carrier for half the price. I was confident though that the quality wasn’t the same. After all these years I still consider it the best investment in an item for childcare that we bought and worth every penny spent!

The Details

The Manduca carrier can be used for newborns up to children weighing 20 kg. One of the things we liked about the carrier was that the newborn insert is sewn right into the carrier. There was no need to buy an additional insert! The back also extends to give older children more support. It has wide belts at the hip and shoulder and is adjusted to fit the person doing the carrying easily and quickly. The carrier fit both my husband and myself comfortably and we could switch the carrier to the other parent in seconds. It can be used on the front, back and hip. We never found any need to carry our son on our hips but that option is there if desired.

23 month 23

Travel

I don’t think there is a carrier out there that I would have liked more for traveling. Every country we visited we ran into other parents who were also using the Manduca baby carrier in their travels. At one point we purchased a metal frame hiking carrier. It fit my husband fine but cut into my back and it took up so much space in our baggage. The Manduca carrier though was nearly always comfortable to wear, weighs only 600 g, took up about as much space as a pair of jeans in our luggage, and it held up fantastically after many many many washes.

26 months 2015 indo (3)

Quite some time after we bought it I accidentally closed the buckle for the waist strap in the car door. It cracked but still held up perfectly! When our son was 3 years old we decided to buy a new (used) Manduca from a friend. We were going to be climbing up temples in Bagan, Myanmar with our son on our back and were a bit concerned about all the weight on the crack now that he was older. At that time, other than a little fraying at the edges and fading of the fabric everything else about the carrier was still fine.

38 months DSC_4107

38 months DSC_4163

This trip will likely be our last one with the Manduca carrier. Our son is tall for his age and is reaching the upper weight limits. It’s going to be a whole different experience when we can no longer just put him on our back, grab our bags and go! We’ve hiked mountains in Korea, climbed Borobudur in Indonesia at sunrise, and visited the snow monkeys in Japan all with the help of our Manduca carrier.

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manduca baby carrier

Hwaeomsa Temple in South Korea for Buddha’s Birthday

buddha's birthday hwaeomsa temple lanterns

On the weekend of Buddha's birthday each spring, festivities are held at the temples all across South Korea. The temples around the country hold events for the entire family. There are performances, ceremonies, free food and lots and lots of colorful lanterns!

buddha's birthday hwaeomsa temple lanterns

Though all temples, big or small, will have some sort of event or lantern display, some are better than others. After recieving a recommendation from a friend, we made our way this year to Hwaeomsa Temple near Gurye, Jeollanamdo. It takes about an hour and a half to drive from Gwangju city to the temple.

buddha's birthday temple Hwaeomsa
buddha's birthday temple lanterns Hwaeomsa


The temple did not disappoint! Traditional music and chanting could be heard throughout the complex. Visitors offered prayers and lit incense but there were also vendors selling ice cream and popcorn as children ran and played. We were also incredibly lucky to catch a bell ringing ceremony which we had never witnessed before!​

buddha's birthday temple monk ringing bell korea
buddha's birthday temple lanterns koreaBub dancing to the chanting from the monks

buddha's birthday temple lanterns korea

hwaeomsa temple roof south korea
hwaeomsa temple buddha birthday lanterns korea

buddha's birthday temple monk ringing bell korea

Admission Fee

  • Adults 3,500 won 
  • Youth 1,800 won 
  • Kids 1,300 won

Transportation

From Gurye Bus Terminal take the bus headed to Hwaeomsa Temple. From the station the ride is about 10 to 20 minutes to the temple bus stop. It approximately another 20 minutes walk from the bus stop to the temple.

Free parking closer to the temple is available for people heading to the temple by car.