There are places that we visit for the architecture and there are sites that we visit for the stories behind them. And then there are some that are a combination of both, full of beguiling mysteries and extraordinary charms. Here are 5 intriguing places in Asia-Pacific that you can visit:
1. Plain of Jars, Xieng Khouang, Laos
Don’t imagine a plain full of your grandmother’s pickle jars. We’re talking about a site with thousands of megalithic stone jars scattered over hundreds of square kilometres near Phonsavan, in the mountainous part of north-eastern Laos. Some of the jars reach up to three metres tall, one metre wide and weigh more than a few tonnes. But who put them there and what are they for? It’s a question that experts still haven’t been able to pin down ever since their discovery in the 1930s. Some scientists think that these vessels, a number of them 2,000 years old, were burial-related. But we think the locals have a better theory: they were rice wine chalices used by giants for celebrations.
2. Manila Film Center, Metro Manila, Philippines
Everything about the Philippines’ former First Lady Imelda Marcos is intriguing, from her shoe collection to her grandiose projects, including the Manila Film Center. With the ambition to turn the Philippines into the Cannes of Asia, she spearheaded the centre’s speedy construction in time for the first Manila International Film Festival. But on November 17, 1981, an unknown number of construction workers fell into wet cement when the upper floor collapsed. Despite the media blackout, many people believe that Imelda ordered the 168 bodies of the workers to be poured over with cement so that work could resume. Since then, people have heard cries and seen apparitions of spirits pleading for a decent burial. The centre is now used by the Amazing Philippines Theatre, a transgender show, for their regular performances, so you might want to check with the performers about the rumours when you decide to drop by.
3. Kellie’s Castle, Perak, Malaysia
A Scotsman by the name of William Kellie Smith moved to Malaya (old name for Malaysia) in 1890 and made a fortune there. As proof of his growing wealth, he started the construction of Kellie’s Castle in 1915, an opulent mansion with a six-storey tower, wine cellar, rooftop courtyard and even the first shaft lift in the country. But there was a setback in the early 1920s, when a mysterious illness broke out and killed many of his construction workers. Even then, the construction didn’t stop. It only ground to a halt after Smith died of pneumonia and with him the plans for the castle, as his wife decided to sell everything and went back to Scotland. Said to be haunted, the castle has gone through a series of refurbishments and is now a popular tourist attraction, especially after being one of the shooting locations of the 1999 film Anna and the King.
SEE ALSO: Weirdly Wonderful
4. Tangalooma Wrecks, Moreton Island, Australia
The Tangalooma Wrecks are special as these form the only destination in the world where you can snorkel around several shipwrecks in one location. Its story began in 1963 when a group of recreational boat owners lobbied for the construction of a harbour on the large sand island. Their request was granted and fifteen vessels were deliberately sunk to form a breakwall for safe anchorage, also creating a wreck dive site in the process. The wrecks are not far off the beach and the water is shallow (between 2 and 10 metres deep) and teeming with amazing marine life. It’s truly an amazing experience to weave in and out the line of barges and dredges and meet wobbegongs, trevallies, kingfishes, yellowtails, sea urchins and colourful tropical fishes.
SEE ALSO: Unleashing the Spirit Horse
5. Terracotta Warriors, Xi’An, China
The Terracotta Army of more than 8,000 life-size clay warriors was built around 209 BCE on the order of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, to protect him in the afterlife in his eternal realm. Just as the underground palace mirrored the urban plan of the imperial capital, the warriors replicated the imperial guard; every soldier is unique and incredibly realistic, posed in a ready-to-fight stance. This huge mausoleum took 37 years and more than 720,000 people to complete. For more than two millennia, the emperor’s tomb has been buried deep under a hill, surrounded by a poisonous mercury moat. Even in this time and age, nobody in the world has the technology to safely excavate it. Many suspect that the tomb hides great treasures but no proof to back up this theory has been found and most of the people who worked on the necropolis were killed—probably not the kind of severance package they had in mind when they signed up for the job.
Know more intriguing places? Share them with us in the comments below.