Are you ready to explore the hidden cultural wonders of Southeast Asia? We invite you to learn more about the hidden heritage of Indonesia and Laos to ensure that your next vacation is genuinely remarkable.
From the orangutan-filled forests and famous volcanoes of Sumatra to the pristine beaches and elaborate temples of Bali, Indonesia has something to fit every tourist’s wishes. The nation's rich island heritage has a hidden colorful side that we'd like to share with you through a renowned rainbow community, art-filled university hot spot, and a famous art museum!
Kampung Warna-Warni Jodipan Colorful Village
Inspired by the vibrantly-painted favelas of Brazil, a once-struggling neighborhood in Malang, Indonesia transformed into an oasis of color and art! Kampung Warna-Warni or "Village of Color" was manifested after eight university students partnered with a local paint company to revitalize the town through a colorful civic engagement project. More than 6,000 pounds of donated paint helped beautify this community into a photogenic tourist destination! Each winding street has its unique character with dozens of "Instagrammable" spots for the perfect snapshot.
The Kampung Warna-Warni in Jodipan, Indonesia. Shutterstock
Yogyakarta Graffiti Art
The vibrant city of Yogyakarta, often referred to as "Jogja" by locals, is often considered the epicenter of new Indonesian art. A simple stroll through its streets will reveal colorful murals and graffiti that give us greater insight into Javanese culture. Grab a locally-roasted coffee at a hip coffee shop in the Prawirotaman and Sosrowijayan neighborhoods, and you'll surely pass brilliant murals, tiny spray paint tags, and striking street art. We highly recommend taking a local street art tour by one of the graffiti artists herself, Anagard, who stencils colorful images about the city's transformations and culture.
Grafitti Stencil Art about Freedom by Anagard / @Anagard_Stc / Instagram
Museum Rudana in Bali, Indonesia
Nestled amongst the world-famous temples, rice terraces, and yoga studios of Ubud, Bali, the Museum Rudana is an effective time capsule of Indonesian fine art. Established in 1995, this art museum was founded on the Balinese spiritual principle that art nourishes public wellbeing by fostering more profound harmony between man, nature, and the Gods. Wander the museum's lower flower to explore well-known Indonesian contemporary artists. The second and third floors celebrate paintings by Classical Balinese artists and even international painters that once lived on the island of Bali.
An artist in residence painting at the Museum Rudana in Bali, Indonesia / @MuseumRudana / Instagram
Known for its lush mountainous terrain, beautiful Buddhist monasteries, and French colonial architecture, the Southeast Asian nation of Laos is filled with hidden cultural gems. To learn more about its colorful heritage, we invite you to explore a few off-the-beaten-track caves filled with history and stunning examples of the nation's remarkable architecture.
Bold travelers will delight in the adventures presented by many of Laos' caves. Some contain beautiful stalactites and geomorphic features, while others house historic Buddha statues and secret swimming holes.
Many Buddha figures live inside the Pak Ou Caves in Laos | Instagram @tasteforcolor
Pak Ou Caves
The Pak Ou Caves have a history dating back thousands of years and are just a 40-minute journey outside the popular destination of Luang Prabang, Laos. Home to over 4,000 prized Buddha statues and icons, these breathtaking limestone caves are accessible only by boat, where the Mekong River meets the Ou River. While their size, body positions, and materials vary, the only factor uniting these Buddha effigies is their subtle imperfections. Wander inside the caves to observe their unique characteristics or bask in their collective beauty along the reflective waters.
Tham Phu Kham Cave
The beautiful Tham Phu Kham Cave is commonly known for its crystal blue lagoon hidden inside; however, the cave also houses a sacred Buddhist chamber. Glistening in the rays of light that shines from a small hole in the cave ceiling, a 9-ft Bronze Buddha reclines and invites locals to light incense and pray. As you wander through the cave's impressive labyrinth of chambers, you'll eventually be led to a turquoise natural swimming pool. Take a day trip from Vang Vieng to explore this cave's hidden wonders.
A woman stands in front of the reclining Buddha inside the Tham Ohu Kham Cave, Laos / Shutterstock
Wat Haw Pha Bang, Laos
The Wat Haw Pha Bang is one of the latest temples added to the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang in Laos. Although construction began in 1963, the building came to a halt while political parties shifted up until the late 90s. This ornate royal temple was completed in 2006, embodying traditional Luang Prabang architecture but assembled with modern construction techniques. The royal temple's elaborate, gilded design houses possibly the most important historical object in Laos, the Pha Bang, a 14th-century standing bronze Buddha statue covered in gold leaf!
Views of the gilded entrance to the Wat Haw Pha Bang in Laos / Shutterstock
Wat Xieng Thong, Laos
Truly one of the most remarkable gilded temples in Laos, the 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong is a historical symbol of architecture from Luang Prabang, which is also referred to as the "City of Gold." The temple is well-defined by its elaborate mosaic patterns, ornate wall carvings, rare Buddhist deities, gold leaf gilding and sweeping two-tiered roof. The surrounding property also houses a 40-foot-tall funeral carriage that houses the urns for members of the royal family, a Tripitaka library built-in 1880, a drum tower from 1961, and a 1560’s ordination hall.
Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang, Laos / Shutterstock
As you plan your journey around Southeast Asia, we hope you'll add a few of these cultural heritage sites and activities to your itinerary. Perhaps you'll wander the colorful streets of Java's Kampung Warna-Warni painted community or bravely enter the sacred caves of Tham Phu Kham in Vang Vieng, Laos. Either way, we know that you'll fall in love with these two beautiful ASEAN countries.