Asia’s Amazing Empires and Where They can be Encountered
Asia is replete with incredible relics everywhere from the deserts of Ranthambore in northern India where the Mughals built dream-like forts and palaces to the jungles of Java and Vietnam where the Sailendra and Cham monarchs made their presence felt. Undimmed by the passing of centuries, these ancient structures are a portal into the past and relate to the stories of the fascinating empires that constructed them.
ASIA’S AMAZING EMPIRES
AND WHERE THEY CAN BE ENCOUNTERED
Asia is replete with incredible relics everywhere from the deserts of Ranthambore in northern India where the Mughals built dream-like forts and palaces to the jungles of Java and Vietnam where the Sailendra and Cham monarchs made their presence felt. Undimmed by the passing of centuries, these ancient structures are a portal into the past and relate to the stories of the fascinating empires that constructed them.READ MORE
KINGDOMS WITHIN THE "KINGDOM"Ayutthaya
Although Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second city, it is completely different from the bustling capital of Bangkok. Nestled in the foothills of northern Thailand, the city is full of hundreds of sacred temples, many of which date back to its days as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lanna. Further south, Central Thailand is the country’s cultural heartland. Fed by the Chao Phraya River, the fertile plain north of Bangkok births much of the nation’s rice crop while towns such as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai were formerly capitals of once-mighty Thai kingdoms. Steeped in colorful history, the majestic architecture in both towns can be enjoyably explored by bike or on foot. We recommend staying at 137 Pillars in town or in the Four Seasons Chiang Mai in a private pool villa in the lovely rice terraces.
Angkor Archaeological Park—the remnants of the capital of the once-mighty Khmer Empire that held sway over much of Southeast Asia—represents a glorious pinnacle of religious architecture. On discovering the wonders of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire see the Elephant Terrace and the beguiling Bayon which are tributes to the amazing ambition of the Khmer kings. Nearby, thick jungle roots grow over the crumbling ruins of Ta Prohm, making it one of the most evocative and memorable of Angkor’s temples. The crowning centerpiece of the complex, however, is Angkor Wat, the most magnificent religious temple in the world and considered to be the masterpiece of Khmer architecture. Vestiges of the Khmer Empire can also be glimpsed elsewhere in Cambodia at Banteay Srei and in Thailand at sites like Phanom Rung in Isaan. Stay at Amansara, Phum Baitang or the Bensley Collection Pool Villas for the most luxurious experience.
HIGHS AND LOS IN THE ANCIENT KINGDOM OF MUSTANGShinta Mani Mustang
Lying beyond the 8000-metre peaks of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges in the Himalayas, just inside Nepal’s border with Tibet, the ancient kingdom of Mustang stretches far into the vast Tibetan plateau. This majestic region is characterized by desert landscapes punctuated by towering peaks like Mount Nilgiri and a procession of Buddhist chortens (stupas). Mustang was once an independent kingdom, under the rule of Ame Pal, who founded the Kingdom of Lo in 1380. The seat of the dynasty was the walled city of Lo Manthang, which intrepid explorers can still reach by way of a high-altitude trail on foot, a rocky dirt road by SUV or by helicopter. The plushest place to stay in this unique region is the new Bill Bensley-designed Shinta Mani Mustang located in Jomsom. Interiors at the 29-suite property will incorporate warm colored fabrics and materials to reflect the rich tones of the surrounding landscape, which can be viewed from every window of the Lodge. Huge fire pits on the outdoor terrace will allow guests to admire millions of stars in the night sky in warmth as the temperatures dip.
CHAM CHARMSMỹ Sơn
Few places in Vietnam hold quite as much historic allure as Hoi An. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient port was at one time the trading hub of the Champa Kingdom that ruled over Central Vietnam, and its former importance can be witnessed in its colourful array of merchant houses, temples, and markets. These days it is the country’s premier destination with the Four Seasons Nam Hai hotel and a selection of restaurants, bars, and shopping (especially tailoring) options to rival those in the big cities of Hanoi and Saigon. With religious ruins, peaceful beaches and bucolic countryside in the near vicinity, the countryside surrounding Hoi An is equally intriguing. At Mỹ Sơn spectacular ruins mark the capital and religious center of the former Champa Kingdom. Only about 20 structures survive, but the enchanting setting in a lush jungle valley is enthralling.
MARVELS FROM THE MUGHALSThe Red Fort
From the ultimate romantic statement by Emperor Shah Jahan that is the iconic Taj Mahal to the Red Fort in New Delhi, Northern India is a treasure trove of Mughal architecture. The Mughal Emperors who ruled over the area from the 16th Century to the late 17th Century were renowned aesthetes, and the unique Indo-Islamic architectural style that flourished under their watch has bequeathed some of India’s most breathtaking structures, known for their towering minarets, pointed arches and onion domes. Founded by Babur in 1526, a descendent of Ghengis Khan and the infamous warrior Timur, the Mughal legacy includes Agra Fort, Jama Masjid mosque and Humayan’s tomb in Delhi, and other fine monuments from Aurangabad in Maharashtra to Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and Orchha in Madya Pradesh.
STUPA POWERS IN JAVABorobudur
The Sailendra dynasty, which flourished in Java, attained a high level of artistic expression in the many temples built under its rule and during the reign of one of its kings, the famous stupa of Borobudur was built. In his book ‘The Road Less Traveled’ author Bill Bryson remarked that Borobudur was the bold traveler’s equivalent to Angkor Wat since many fewer travelers venture to Java to see the Buddhist masterpiece. Carved from 55,000 square meters of lava-rock and decorated with 2,672 bas reliefs and 504 Buddha statues, the spectacular temple is a true wonder of Indonesia. Even more remarkably, it was undiscovered until the late 19th century when French archaeologists stumbled across it while charting the Javanese jungle when it was hidden under a thick layer of volcanic ash. Stay at Amanjiwo and experience one of the world’s most revered sunrises before taking an early morning tour of the magnificent Borobudur.
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