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Seven sites for sore eyes

Komodo Island, Indonesian. This convict-founded island sprawling across 400 kilometres transports the visitor back to the time of the dinosaurs. Yellow-tongued leathery giants dominate Komodo and embody its identity.

Forget the Taj Mahal and all the other established, over-run Asian wonders. The East boasts a swathe of heavyweight attractions that possess equal charm but have yet to catch up on the glamour and recognition front.

In a guide to the region’s other marvels, we sidestep the likes of Angkor Wat and zero in on a group of outstanding rival contenders. Many are a schlep from any major metropolis obscure, even, and on the dark side but blessed with the wow factor. Better yet, they may be capable of rekindling the curiosity of the most jaded tourist afflicted by temple fatigue.

The line-up runs the spectrum, featuring everything from a Jurassic Park-style primeval island to the world’s most haunting war memorial and a monster stone carving hewn from pink limestone cliffs.

Together, these select seven conjure up an intriguing picture. They suggest that, despite its cliched un-PC overtones, the term “mystique of the Orient” still has meaning.

(Photos: Sites for sore eyes)

Komodo

Indonesian archipelago

This convict-founded island sprawling across 400 kilometres transports the visitor back to the time of the dinosaurs. The yellow-tongued leathery giants that dominate Komodo and embody its identity would look at home in the company of the tyrannosaurus and pterodactyl.

Up to three metres in length, Komodo dragons are the largest species of lizard. Thank “island giganticism” the tendency for animals to grow to outlandish proportions because of a lack of predators and competition liable to spoil their chances if they lived on the mainland. Not that many animals would mess with them. Komodo dragons are venomous. What’s more, they can run at 20km/h, stand on their hind legs to catch prey and, oh yes, climb trees.

The freaks may have been responsible for the original dragon myths. Either way, they will fire the curiosity of children and adults alike. Their tremendous presence underlines that there is more to Indonesia than that confetti-strewn paradise across the water, Bali.

Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden

Bangsaen, Thailand

“Welcome to hell”, announces the sign introducing the visitor to Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden, one of Thailand‘s most extraordinary draws. The question is why hardly anybody has heard of the unique sculpture trail theme park, with overtones of a horror flick such as Saw. The answer might be that it is remote a 90-minute drive south of Bangkok.

Another reason for the neglect might be that its nightmare vibe is so at odds with Thailand’s benign Buddha-brochure image. Either way, Wang Saen Suk is fascinating. Similar to a Christian hell, the garden depicts what happens in the afterlife to those who behave like the most wayward Khao San Road chancer. Some fallen fools on display just look wretched.

Others are being forced to become intimately acquainted with their own entrails. Move over Torquemada. The garden graphically reminds the visitor to be good and avoid getting hooked on anything harder than red curry. To better your prospects of dodging hell when you die, you are free to feed coins into the collection box carved in the shape of a big-bellied Buddha.

Khajuraho temple complex Continued…

For Entire story: smh.com.au

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