Best Places to Travel around Southeast Asia to see Dragons
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
We love dragons and we love to travel, what better way to combine our two loves together. We were traveling around Southeast Asia when the pandemic locked us down in Thailand that made us come back in the US for now and as I am sitting here writing this I am itching to get back out there and what we missed.
Our family is a worldschooling family and if you don't know what that is, just think of homeschooling while traveling the world and using those travels as a core part of the curriculum.
#1 Wat Samphram Temple Near Bangkok, Thailand
This temple is an incredible temple that is 17 stories tall and has a dragon wrapping all the way around and up the tower. The incredible thing is that you can walk inside the dragon. The temple is a little off the typical tourist track and I believe the reason it is not promoted as much as others is because it has been in the middle of repairs for quite awhile now. It has still been open for people to visit and looks like something I do not want to miss and we were so disappointed that we could not make it here during our last trip. The temple itself is about 40 kilometers west of Bangkok or roughly an hour Grab ride away. Grab is the Asian version of Uber and so much cheaper. At the time of this post it is about $20 USD roundtrip. This excursion can be easily seen in a day, so no need to get accommodation around the temple, just stay in Bangkok.
#2 Big Buddha Temple Phuket, Thailand
This temple is one that we were able to actually get to see. We were able to get a private taxi tour of Phuket, well at least the parts that were open for $60 usd. That is an incredible value to have an all day driver and tour guide that gears the trip towards the things you want to see. This temple is mostly known for the Big Buddha obviously, but there are actually almost as many statues and designs of the Naga dragon as there are of Buddha.
The Naga Dragon is guarding Buddha overlooking Phuket Town along the staircase rails. When climbing the stairs you must pause to turn around and look at this amazing view. It is one thing to see some cool dragon stuff, but to see it with this kind of view was breathtaking and we were so lucky to see it during a time where we nearly had the whole thing to ourselves.
Here I am standing next to one of the Naga heads that head to be replaced due to damage from a different time. They have this on display near the top of the stairs.
This is another view of Phuket Town from the railing across from the base of the stairs. There are multiple bench and pavilions overlooking the island and are a great place to stop for a snack and cool down. It is imperative that you enjoy the cats that roam the grounds.
There are great views all around the temple grounds and you need to make sure and explore every inch. There are actually two large Buddha statues at the top. This Gold one is off to the left of the main Buddha statue.
There are footprints and handprints of Buddha that are sacred in an area that seems a little hidden with small paths leading to an incredible view as well.
You can make a whole day out of this excursion and plan a visit to this Elephant Sanctuary that is on the same road leading up to the Big Buddha Temple.
#3 Halong Bay
The name of Halong Bay translates to descending dragon. According to Vietnamese legend and mythology the people are descended from a dragon and a fairy. Halong Bay is central to the legend of the Mother dragon and her children coming down to protect the Vietnamese people from an invasion. They were called down by the Jade emperor for help. The Vietnamese people were losing the battle until the dragons came down to the rescue and destroyed the invaders in a glorious rage of fire. Legend has it that massive emeralds appeared in the bay after the battle and created an impassable barrier to protect Vietnam from invaders. The emeralds were left behind and were turned into the islets and islands that are now what we know as modern day Halong Bay. After the victory the Mother dragon and her dragonets did not return to their heavenly home, but rather stayed to help the Vietnamese rebuild, farm, and reclaim the land and taking human forms. This is the bay the dragon descended and saved the Vietnamese people.
In modern times you can revel in the mythology and lore while taking deluxe multi-day cruises on small boats with chefs on board and kayaks to enjoy from around $270 usd per person This is definitely on our bucket list.
#4 The Dragon Bridge Da Nang, Vietnam
In the digital nomad hotspot that is Da Nang, Vietnam lies this incredible bridge over the Han river that connects the main part of the city to the impeccably clean beaches My Khe and Non Nuoc as well as the Da Nang International Airport. The Dragon Bridge is a true firebreathing and water breathing dragon. Each weekend night at 9pm as well as special holidays you can witness 2 minutes of firebreath and 3 of the waterbreath.
This incredible bridge was completed in 2013 and commemorated the 38th anniversary of the liberation of the city. It is 666 meters long or nearly 2200 feet for those of us used to the imperial system.
If you want to see both, then I suggest flying into Hanoi for Halong Bay or Da Nang and see the Dragon bridge. I would plan to see first whichever one is a cheaper flight from your departure airport and then hop a quick flight to the other. You can find most flights from Danang to Hanoi from $50 usd round trip.