Standing majestically at the western coast of Makassar, South Sulawesi. Fort Rotterdam is recognized as the city’s most iconic landmark. With historical traces dating back to the Kingdom of Gowa from the 16th century to colonization by the Dutch, this Fort has silently witnessed many episodes in Makassar’s history, playing a most essential role in its development.
Its magnificence and authenticity has always captivated those who set eyes on it. Originally called Benteng or Fort Jumpandang or Ujung Pandang, the huge complex was first built in 1545 in the era of Imanrigau Daeng Bonto Karaeng Lakiung or Karaeng Tunipalangga Ulaweng, the tenth King of Gowa. Initially, the fort was made from a mixture of Stone and burnt clay, and took the shape of a typical square Portuguese architectural style.
The fort was also expanded and took on a new shape resembling a sea turtle, thus the fort gained a new name, Benteng Pannyua (Penyu) or Fort Sea turtle. The shape is not only unique, but also contains deep meaning. For just as a sea turtle lives both on land and at sea, the glory of the Gowa Kingdom also stretched on land as well as over the seas.
An impressive “Changing of the Guard” ceremony takes place at the Ballalompoa Museum, the former Palace of the Sultan of Gowa. Wearing resplendent bright red costumes, “soldiers” involved in the “Changing of the Guard” at the former Gowa Palace will perform their drill for the public to watch every morning at 09.0 am, promised the Bupati (Regent) of the district of Gowa.
Built in 1936, the Palace of the Sultan of Gowa, formerly also known as the Sungguminasa Palace, is a large wooden structure built on stilts and has an imposing roofed staircase that leads to the reception room. It has five wooden panels in the gable of the roof, which denotes royalty and may be used only by the Sultan.
The Ballalompoa Museum today houses the resplendent treasure and regalia of the former Sultan of Gowa, among which the Gowa gold crown, bracelets with precious stones, royal swords, keris and gold jewellery.
Every year a special ceremony called “Acera Kalomponag” is held to cleanse and weigh the gold crown, which is believed to have been inherited from the first female ruler of Gowa, called I Tanisamanga. According to belief, the crown never weighs the same each year it is weighed. When its weight increases it is a good omen that all will be well in the region.
Tana Toraja is safely protected beyond the lofty mountains and rugged granite cliffs of the central highlands of the island of Sulawesi and the home of the Toraja people. 'Discovered' and opened to the world from their long isolation only since the beginning of the last century, the Toraja today still adhere to their age-old beliefs, rituals and traditions. The nobility of Toraja are believed to be descendants of heavenly beings who came down by a heavenly stairway to live here on earth in this beautiful landscape. To keep up the energy of the land and its people, the Toraja people believe that these must be sustained through rituals that celebrate both life and death, which are attached to the agricultural seasons. Tourists to Toraja, therefore, are either attracted by its unique culture and rituals, most of which are mostly centered around graves and death ceremonies. While others prefer to avoid the morbid images and go trekking through the spectacular, almost untouched Toraja countryside visiting remote villages, or exhilarate in rafting the Sa'dan river rapids.
Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s directional temples, and is situated on a rock in the ocean, just offshore. From all the beautiful temples on Bali, Tanah Lot is quite special and for many one of the "must-things-to-do".
It is said that Pura Tanah Lot has been built on the recommendation of an important Hindu priest Danghyang Nirartha in the 16th century, who has shaped Bali's Hinduism and religious architecture for the centuries to come.
Tanah Lot is a very important site for pilgrimages and plays an important role in Balinese spiritualism and mythology. The rock that the temple sits on has been eroded by the ocean over the centuries, and is now undergoing a process of restoration.
Set within a beautiful park in front of the Bali Governor Office in Renon, Denpasar, this massive cultural monument was built in order to mark the struggle of the Balinese people throughout history. The Bajra Sandhi Monument features a three-tiered black stone structure with a tall tower that’s surrounded by courtyards. There’s a spiral staircase that leads up to the top of the monument offering 360-degree views of Denpasar, including the surrounding government buildings and the towers of the Denpasar Cathedral. On the building’s second floor, a series of 33 dioramas trace Bali’s long and unique history: prehistoric times, the introduction of Hinduism, Dutch colonialism, and its independence.
Not much remains of the once powerful 13th century East Java kingdom of Singosari. An unfinished temple and two giant statues that once stood guard in front of the palace are the only traces left of this great kingdom.
Settled on a hillside plateau, overlooking Prambanan temple complex and with a view to Mount Merapi behind Prambanan Temple complex, lie the remains of a once grand palace. The palace (kraton) is named Ratu Boko after a King Boko of local folklore, but the real owner of the palace is more likely to have been a king of a local dynasty.
The Sailendra dynasty built this Largest Buddhist monument in the world between AD 780 and 840. It was built as a place for glorifying Buddha and a pilgrimage spot to guide mankind from worldly desires into enlightenment and wisdom according to Buddha.
Taman Mini Indonesia Park is a must-try for families visiting Jakarta or anyone looking to schedule one day in their city holiday plan to appreciate the rich arts and cultural diversity of the whole Indonesian islands. It’s one of the most unique amusement parks in the world and offers a great break away from the hectic metropolitan scenes.
The park boasts multiple pavilions, each representing the unique architectures, traditional costumes and performing arts of the different islands. From the arching roofs of traditional Sumatran houses, eloquent moves of Javanese and Kalimantan traditional dancers, to the ornate wood carvings and heritage textiles from the Nusa Tenggara Islands.
Gedung Kesenian Jakarta is a heritage building from Dutch colonial days, where artists regularly perform traditional and modern drama, concerts, and musicals. Built in 1821 its construction is in neo-renaissance style and was called the Theater Schouwburg Weltevreden or the Pasar Baru Theater since it is located just across the popular Pasar Baru shopping center.
The main Sudirman-Thamrin avenues in Jakarta lead to the Merdeka Square, where in its center stands the National Monument (also known as Monas or Monumen Nasional) which houses the first red-and-white flag flown at the Proclamation of Independence on 17 August 1945. This flag has now become threadbare, and so nowadays on Independence Day ceremonies, the original flag is taken out but only to accompany the replica flag to be flown in front of the Merdeka Palace. The 137 meter tall National Monument is obelisk shaped, and is topped with a 14.5 meter bronze flame coated with 32 kilograms gold leaf.
Within the pedestal is a museum depicting in diorama Indonesia’s fight for Independence as well as the original text of the Proclamation of Independence. A lift takes visitors up to the look-out platform at the base of the flame for a grand view of Jakarta. Surrounding the Monument is now a park with a musical fountain, enjoyed by the Jakarta public on Sundays for sports and recreation. Deer roam among the shady trees in the park.
Located on Medan Merdeka Barat, the National Museum is the pride of Jakarta, providing visitors an insight into Indonesia’s long history in cultural heritage from prehistoric days up to today. Having recently been expanded, the museum houses an impressive collection of no less than 109,342 objects covering Indonesia’s Prehistory, Archaeology, Ethnography, Numismatics-Heraldic, Geography and Historical Relics.
Here are statues and stone inscriptions discovered on sites throughout the archipelago starting from the first century AD, a complete collection of batik cloths and woven textiles produced through the years in the different islands. While on the top floor one finds displayed the collection of gold and silver ornaments and jewelry once owned by the rajahs and sultans of the archipelago.
Visit Fort San Pedro or Fuerza de San Pedro to have a glimpse of Cebu’s rich history. The work on the fort was first started on May 8, 1565 by Spanish and indigenous Cebuanos under the command of Miguel López de Legazpi.
Just a quick walk from Fort San Pedro, you can already reach the Minor Basilica of the Holy Child, commonly known as Santo Niño Church. Considered as the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, it was built on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was found in 1565 by Spanish explorers led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
You’ve probably seen images of Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion with the head of a lion and the body of a fish.
The Merlion's body symbolises Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which comes from the same root as the word tasek ('lake' in Malay).
Its head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay. Today, you can glimpse this legend at Merlion Park. Spouting water from its mouth, the Merlion statue stands tall at 8.6 metres and weighs 70 tonnes.
This icon is a must-see for tourists visiting Singapore, similar to other significant landmarks around the world.
Beautifully restored, Thian Hock Keng Temple, which is dedicated to Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea, is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore.
Built-in 1839 with the support of prominent members of the Hokkien community, such as philanthropist Tan Tock Seng, Thian Hock Keng Temple is Singapore's oldest Chinese temple.
Dedicated to Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea, early Chinese immigrants came here to give thanks for their safe passage across the vast waves of the South China Sea.
At the temple, take in the remarkable architecture in the traditional southern Chinese style.
Keep an eye out for the detailed carvings and sculptures of dragons, phoenixes, and deities, as well as the colorful broken porcelain on the roof ridges, a Fujian decorating technique.
Amazingly, not a single nail was used in the original construction of the temple, which is now a gazetted national monument and managed by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.
Clarke Quay and the surrounding Riverside area presents Singapore’s most exciting nightlife scenes, as well as a handful of excellent restaurants good for dining by the waters' edge any time of day. Lining the two riverbanks just upstream from the administrative and financial districts, old colonial shop-houses and moored Chinese junks of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay have been converted into chic pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
Kota Iskandar, Johor State Administrative Centre was opened in April 2009 and is now one of the must see places in Johor. Inspired by Moorish-Andalusian and Johor Malay designs and motifs, Kota Iskandar is Malaysia’s first Experiential Parliament where visitors through our guided tours will be allowed the chance to enter Johor’s beautiful state parliament hall and immersed in Johor’s rich culture and history while understanding the symbolisms and abstract interpretations in true style and splendour of Kota Iskandar- Johor’s Living Legacy.
Want to know what it’s like to live in a palace? The Royal Museum is possibly the best place to see and experience the royal way of life in an Asian palace.
The Royal Museum opened its doors on 1 February 2013 and is located in the old National Palace which was the official residence of the King and Queen of Malaysia. The old National Palace has now been converted to a museum and is open to the public.
Istana Negara (National Palace) is the official residence of the Yang DiPertuan Agong who is the head of state of Malaysia. The New palace which was opened in 2011 is located at Jalan Duta, replaces the old Istana Negara.
The Mother of all Churches, Cathedrals and Basilicas of the Philippines. The Manila Cathedral-Basilica is the Premier Church of the Philippines because of all the Churches in the archipelago, it was the one chosen to become the Cathedral in 1581 when the Philippines was separated from the Archdiocese of Mexico and became a new diocese with its episcopal seat in Manila. As the Church of Manila, it was established by the secular priest Juan de Vivero in 1571 under the patronage of Mary, La Purissima e Inmaculada Concepcion. Fr. Vivero was given the special privilege and sole faculty by the Archbishop of Mexico to take care of the spiritual welfare of the new Philippine colony.
Travel back in time and trace Philippine history at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, the famed "Walled City," where the historic fortress at the mouth of the Pasig River served as the Spanish military headquarters during the country's turbulent Colonial Era.
Today it stands as a Shrine of Freedom, a memorial to the National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who was imprisoned and spent his final days there before his execution for inciting revolution against the Spanish authorities. The fort is also a memorial for those who lost their lives during the Japanese Occupation of World War II.
Visiting this historical landmark takes little effort: just take the train (LRT Line 1) and get off at the United Nations Station. From there you will take a 20 to 25 minute walk.
Quiapo Church, also known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, is the site of the annual January Black Nazarene procession. One of Manila’s most famous churches, Quiapo Church gets very crowded every Friday when thousands of devotees come to light a candle in supplication to the Black Nazarene, a life-size image of Christ believed to be miraculous. The present cream-colored edifice was built after the original Mexican Baroque structure burned to the ground in 1928. Quiapo is also famous for the Black Nazarene. The Feast Day of the Black Nazarene (also known as Quiapo Day) is celebrated every January 9th.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Bitexco Financial Tower & Sky Deck stands 262 metres high at the centre of the city’s business district and offers visitors an unparalleled city view from its Sky Deck.
Designed by renowned American Architect Carlos Zapata, this 68-storey tower houses offices, shops, restaurants, and a helipad. CNNGo recently ranked the building fifth in their listing of the world’s 20 most iconic skyscrapers.
The structure also received an ‘Excellence in Structural Engineering’ award from NCSEA in 2011 and is currently the 124th tallest building in the world. The main attraction at the tower is the Sky Deck where visitors can enjoy dramatic views across the bustling city below.
Sky Deck visitors are accompanied by an English-speaking guide and can also enjoy interactive touch screen fact boxes delivering information on points of interest regarding city landmarks seen from above.
The Cao Dai Temple was finished in 1955 when the Cao Dai Army was formed following the Japanese occupation of Indochina. Caodaists believe that all religions are ultimately the same and seek to promote tolerance throughout the world.
The Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Confucius, in addition to Joan of Arc and Julius Cesar are all honoured at this temple.
There are nine hierarchies of worship including a pope, cardinals and archbishop with festivals, rituals and prayer all practised regularly. The temple is similar in design to a Christian Cathedral featuring side aisles and an altar, as well as a long central nave, all positioned as they would be in a Christian Church, there is even a high dome decorated with clouds and saints.
The main focal point is a Divine Eye symbolising God which has the Ying and Yang icon in its pupil. Ceremonies take place daily with two services accompanied by musicians and a choir singing in English to traditional Vietnamese music.
The Saigon Opera House in Ho Chi Minh is an elegant colonial building at the intersection of Le Loi and Dong Khoi Street in District 1, very close to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and the classic Central Post Office. The restored three-storey 800-seat Opera House was built in 1897 and is used for staging not only opera but also a wide range of performing arts including ballet, musical concerts, Vietnamese traditional dance and plays. Performances are advertised around the building and information can be found in the state-operated tourist information centre close by.
The exterior has the appearance of polished pearl and makes a great place to photograph – especially at night when bathed in a soft, orange light. The entrance is through a vaulted archway that is kept in immaculate condition; inside, expect swathes of red velvet, classical friezes and hardwood floors. Although the official name of the building is The Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh it is by far more commonly known as the Saigon Opera House and after the restoration work in 1995, the building is just as it was at the turn of the 19th Century.
Mariamman Hindu Temple is a sacred Hindu Temple dedicated to the goddess of the Rain ‘Mariamman’. This temple was built in the late 19th century by traders coming from India and has been well preserved. This complex is the only Hindu temple in Saigon and is believed to have miraculous powers giving luck and wealth to its visitors.
The outer wall of the Temple has a collection of interesting statues of different gods and goddesses like Mariamman, Vishnu, Brahma and Ganesha. The main hall of the complex (The Rajagopuram) stands twelve metres tall and inside you find a well-maintained statue of Mariamman flanked by her protectors ‘Maduraiveeran’ and ‘Pechiamman’.
If you would like to enter the Mariamman Hindu Temple than do not forget to take of your shoes and dress appropriately. To favour the goddess of the rain you can also take some offerings such as joss sticks, jasmine, lilies and gladioli. These can be bought in front of the entrance. In the near vicinity of this temple, you can also find Ben Thanh Market. Entrance to the temple is free of charge and can be visited from 07:00 – 19:00.
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. The building was designed by Alfred Foulhoux and features arched windows and wooden shutters, just as it would have in its heyday in the late 19th Century.
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh was constructed between 1886 and 1891 and once inside, the looping arches, intricately designed marble floors and antiquated telephone boxes all serve as a reminder of the importance the post office played in days before email and mobile phones. Although the architecture is distinctly French, the large portrait of Ho Chi Minh hanging high above everyone at the far end of the building reminds everyone we are definitely in Vietnam. Painted onto walls overhead are two maps of the region; one of them showing the telegraph lines that crisscross Vietnam and Cambodia and the other displaying a map of the Saigon region in 1892.
Although the experience is a fascinating glimpse into history, the fact that this is still a functioning post office makes the experience even sweeter, and we encourage everyone to send a letter or postcard from here – it’s a piece of living history where even the old fashioned glue pots are still in use for sticking stamps to letters. There are two wings branching out from the main office, selling souvenirs, postcards and lacquerware but the prices are inflated and the same products can probably be found elsewhere for a better price.
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 1880s by French colonists, is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Located in Paris Square, the name Notre Dame was given after the installation of the statue ‘Peaceful Notre Dame’ in 1959.
In 1962, the Vatican conferred the Cathedral status as a basilica and gave it the official name of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Measuring almost 60 metres in height, the cathedral’s distinctive neo-Romanesque features include the all-red brick façade (which were imported from Marseille), stained glass windows, two bell towers containing six bronze bells that still ring to this day, and a peaceful garden setting in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City District 1.
Reunification Palace was the base of Vietnamese General Ngo Dinh Diem until his death in 1963. It made its name in global history in 1975. A tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through its main gate, ending the Vietnam War. Today, it's a must-visit for tourists in Ho Chi Minh City.
The palace is like a time capsule frozen in 1975. You can see two of the original tanks used in the capture of the palace parked in the grounds. Reunification Palace was the home and workplace of the French Governor of Cochin-China. It has lush gardens, secret rooms, antique furniture, and a command bunker. It's still in use to host important occasions in Ho Chi Minh, including APEC summits.
The Reunification Palace has five levels. The basement features tunnels, a war room and telecommunications centre. The war command room has original maps on its walls. Period telecommunications equipment are also on display. Its adjoining basement rooms display war propaganda materials. On the third floor, there's a card playing room while the fourth houses a casino. Reunification Palace's rooftop terrace is fitted with a heliport.
Emperor Jade Pagoda, also known as Tortoise Pagoda, is one of the five most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City.
Built at the turn of the 20th Century by a community of Cantonese who migrated from Guangzhou province in Southwest China, this pagoda is a fine representation of Mahayanist branch of Buddhism that is practised widely in Vietnam.
In the main hall, the Emperor Jade Chua Ngoc Hoang or the 'God of the Heavens' reigns supreme. Aided by two assistants, the Emperor decides who can enter this higher realm. Those who don't pass this gate will meet with the formidable 'God of Hell', on the left, who will send sinners to one of the 10 levels of hell. Life in purgatory is magnificent if somewhat gruesomely represented by the intricate carvings on the temple wall, depicting different kinds of punishments that await transgressors.
In a different hall, the goddess of fertility Kim Hua, surrounded by figures of women and small children, blesses childless couples who pray for an offspring here. The goddess of mercy Kuan Yin, who forms a very important part of any Taoist temple, has an altar in a room on the top floor.
Emperor Jade Pagoda is a living and working shrine very much in use by the locals who come here to prayer or make votive offerings of flowers and light candles and joss sticks. With worshippers coming and going, the temple can get busy and feel a little cramped. Its dimly lit, the narrow passageways filled with smoke lend an atmospheric feel to the place, adding to its charm.
Wat Preah Keo Morakot (Silver Pagoda) is located in the southern portion of the Royal Palace complex. The pagoda was formerly known as Wat Uborsoth Rotannaram because it is where the King worshiped, prayed and practiced every Buddhist Silas Day. In the additional, the royal family and officials also held Buddhist ceremonies there.This pagoda has no monks. However, this Majestic King Norodom Sihanouk lived there for one year when he entered the monkhood on July 31, 1947. Because the pagoda has no monks, visitors usually refer to it as Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot. When the King celebrates Buddhist ceremonies, monks from other pagoda such as Wat Unaloam and Wat Botumvattey are invited to attend the ceremonies. Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot was built between 1892 and 1902, during the reign of King Norodom, but at that time it was constructed of wood and brick. Its design is base on Cambodian architectural style. Then Banhchos Khan Seima ceremony was held on Feb 5, 1903.
There are 1,650 art objects housed in this temple. Most of them are Buddha figures. They are made of gold, silver, bronze and other valuable materials. Some are decorated with diamonds. They are gifts from the King, the royal family, dignitaries and other people who worship at Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot, where they pray for peace and prosperity, for happiness and for the preservation of Cambodian cultural heritage for the next generation. In front of the throne, site a Buddha statue made of gold, weighing 90 kilograms (about 200 pounds) and decorated with 2,086 diamonds. The biggest diamond is on the crown. It is 25 millimeters. This statue was commissioned in 1904 by King Sisowath, following the suggestion of King Norodom. King Norodom said, after his body was cremated the gold casket should be melted to make Buddha statue representing Preah Srei Araymetrey. This Buddha statue is named Preah Chin Raingsei Rachik Norodom.
Cambodia’s Royal Palace complex was begun by King Norodom I (ruled 1860-1904) in 1886, when the capital was moved to Phnom Penh. Most buildings were completed before World War I, with involvement by French administrators and Thai designers and architects. French influence can be seen in the formal gardens which enhance the palace, and there are some European-style buildings on the grounds. Now Royal Palace is a home to His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Sihamoni, King of Cambodia.
Royal palace has four gates. The eastern Victory Gate leads directly to the entrance of the throne hall and is used only by royalty and VIPs. The northern or funeral gate is only opened after the death of a monarch. After being embalmed, the monarch’s body is kept in state at the palace for three months, with the face hidden by a one-kilogram solid gold mask, before being taken out via this gate. The west or executing gate was used by condemned prisoners exiting the palace to be killed. The southern gate is reserved for use by commoners and it is through this gate the public reaches the Silver Pagoda.
At the top of palace’s throne hall, note the four pale, almost clown-like faces, which represent the all-seeing king. The hall itself is painted vivid yellow, a symbol of Buddhism, and white, for Hinduism, the two main faiths of Cambodia until they were combined into one by Jayavarman VII in the 12th century. The central door of the five at the front of the throne hall are reserved for royalty and VIPs. Inside, note the 1913 ceiling mural telling the story of the Ramayana. The thick carpet supplied by China in 1993 matches the lotus-bud floor tiles.