Ruins invite the traveler’s imagination to run wild, to picture a place now in modern times, back in a different age and stage. Ruins have the ability to transport us, to place us right in the heart of a destination’s history and very makeup. While known for modern cities and innovation, Asia as a continent is crawling in ruins, some jungle covered and unknown to visitors and others given UNESCO approval and the tourists to prove it. Popular or unknown, these enchanting ruins across Asia are worth the gander for the bout with time travel.
Located in the Henan Province of China, visitors will find one of China’s last surviving masterpieces of Buddhist rock carving. First carved out in 494AD, the caves consist of more than 100,000 carvings, some small in statue and others measuring over 50 feet. Showcasing the high point of Chinese stone carving, the caves have even been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site. While some of the carvings have been vandalized or taken to museums, those that remain continue to impress, showing of Chinese art from the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties. At night, the caves are illuminated for a magical sight.
Settled into the mountainous border area of the Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, you will uncover yet another impressive ruined site in Asia. The My Son Sanctuary was built between the fourth and thirteenth centuries in a lush jungle valley. It was once the most important intellectual and religious center of the kingdom of Champa. Now receiving UNESCO status, the My Son Sanctuary preserves around 20 of its original structures out of the 68 that once stood here. It is the site’s location that proves especially dramatic for visitors with its ruins surrounded by jungle, mountains and streams.
Perched near Alwar in Rajasthan in India, Bhangarh is certainly not one of Asia’s oldest ruined sites but perhaps its most bewitching. Bhangarh was a community founded by Madho Singh in 1631. The settlement boasted 10,000 dwellings at one point. However, Bhangarh was deserted around 300 years ago for mysterious reasons, causing the site to receive a somewhat haunted reputation. Day tours are offered to explore the site known for its richly detailed architectural ruins. While hauntingly beautiful, the ruins are not open to night visitors, as the government has banned entry after sunset.
A site like Angkor Wat needs no introduction. Angkor Wat is easily the most famous ruined attraction in Cambodia and possibly Asia. Built under the reign of Suryavarman II in the 12th century, the complex shows off astounding Khmer architecture. Angkor Wat is considered the most impressive and best preserved of the some 300 temples and monuments that once stood in the area. The temple alone covers a massive area of 1,500 meters by 1,300 meters. A visit at sunrise or sunset might be incredibly popular but it also one of the best times to capture the magic of Cambodia’s most well known ruins.