Many an adventurous explorer from the West have made their way to the region’s shores – seduced by the mystique of the Far East and a thirst for the unknown. Travel Asia takes a closer look at some places of attraction in the region that have achieved global prominence, thanks to these explorers…
Angkor Wat – Lost City Found
Built in the early 12th century by Suryavaram II, the temples of Angkor in Cambodia served to honour the Hindu God Vishnu; a massive construction project that spanned 400 sq km and took hundreds of years to complete. The area soon grew in importance and became a popular pilgrimage destination in South East Asia.
However when the Thais took over in the first half of the 15th century, the temples were abandoned and soon only lived in local fables and folklore. For centuries it seemed like the Lost City of Angkor would remain ‘lost’; that is until it was rediscovered; thanks to one French explorer. Henri Mouhot brought Angkor to the world’s attention in 1860. The ancient city charmed the French and by the early 20th century extensive restoration efforts were soon in full force, continuing till the present day!
Ban Chiang – An Accidental Find
In 1966, American Stephen Young stumbled (literally!) upon what was undoubtedly one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. Tripping on the roots of a kapok tree in Ban Chiang, Thailand, he noticed a ceramic ring in the soil, which turned out to be a partially buried clay pot. And thus a lost culture was discovered.
Perhaps what was significant about this prehistoric settlement dating back to around 2,000 BC is that it’s the earliest known Bronze Age site in South East Asia. Even more remarkable is that the site also shows the evolution from pre-metal to the Bronze and Iron Ages, revealing a peaceful, ancient farming community. The village today continues to promote age-old cultures. Centred on a museum and the archaeological dig it is dotted with stores selling the renowned Ban Chiang pottery with its distinctive patterns of red and cream swirls as well as black patterns, among others.
Prambanan Temple – Ruins Restored
In Indonesia, there is a famous legend about a beautiful princess, Roro Jonggrang who was cursed into a statue that was used as the thousandth sculpture of a temple. This tale is believed to have occurred in Prambanan Temple, also known as Roro Jonggrang Temple because of the legend.
The temple was constructed in the 9th century. The biggest Hindu temple in South East Asia, it consists of three main temples in the primary yard; paying homage to Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva respectively. The temple is also often referred to as the most beautiful Hindu temple compound in the world.
The temple ruins were discovered by Dutchman C.A. Lons in 1733. Since then, there was no looking back. Restoration works were done in stages, with the initial cleaning effort commencing in 1885 right up till the early 1990s.