Guest Post: Asia’s five most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage sites
If you’re planning to visit some of the world’s most diverse, rare and spectacular natural and manmade landmarks, you could do far worse than consult UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
From Peru’s incredible mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu to the lost city of Petra in Jordan, the list basically reads like a giant guide to places you really should make an effort to visit before you die. Perhaps one day it’ll be renamed the UNESCO bucket list, although any reference to the Hollywood snoozefest that inventively casts Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as old men should probably be avoided.
Unsurprisingly, some of the jewels of the heritage ranking are dotted across Asia. Some, like Angkor Wat, are known the world over, while others are a little more off the beaten track. Read on for our choice of the top five UNESCO sites in the Asia-Pacific region.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
The world’s largest Hindu temple complex can be found at the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap. Deservedly considered to be one of the most symbolic sites on the planet, Angkor Wat truly is breathtaking.
In fact, Angkor Wat is only a small part of the archaeological park, which stretches over 400 sq km and includes the remains of the Khmer Empire’s various capitals from the ninth to the 15th centuries.
The site isn’t just important on a spiritual level – its construction and development sparked a new artistic horizon for oriental architecture and art, drawing on influences from the Indian subcontinent and taking them in a whole new direction.
Indonesia’s Borobudur Temple Compounds
It’s less well-known than Angkor Wat, but this Buddhist temple in Central Java is every bit as impressive. The historic site also makes its Cambodian counterpart look like a mere whippersnapper, with parts of it dating back to the eighth century.
Built over three tiers, Borobudur comprises a pyramidal base made up of five square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and a huge mound-like structure – or stupa – at the top. That might sound more like a geometry lesson than a description of Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction, but rest assured that the temple really is a spectacular sight.
Tragically, the temple was allowed to fall into disrepair after being abandoned following the Javanese conversion to Islam in the 1300s, but it was restored in the 1970s with the help of UNESCO and can now be seen in all its glory.
The Historic Town of Sukhothai in Thailand
It measures less than 3.5 sq km, but what it lacks in size, Sukhothai more than makes up for with its sheer wow factor.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the town was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and its royal history is apparent as soon as you catch a glimpse of its magnificent towers, stupas and statues.
Today, Sukhotai is rightly viewed as a masterpiece of the architectural style that was typical of the early Siamese period. As the kingdom grew in power, it became a cultural sponge, soaking up numerous architectural influences and melding them into what’s now often simply dubed the ‘Sukhotai style’.
Historic Melaka and George Town in Malaysia
In a country best known for the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets of ultra-modern Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and George Town stick out like sore thumbs. Situated on the Straits of Malacca, the towns developed over 500 years due to their strategic positions on key trade routes between east and west.
Fortunately, this was the sort of trading that involved actually shipping goods around the world, rather than the kind that involves stressed men in suits yelling “buy” and “sell” at the top of their voices.
As a result, both George Town and Melaka drew influences from Asia and Europe that are reflected in their truly unique layouts and architectural styling.
Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park in The Philippines
Some of Asia’s most important forests are found in Puerto-Princesa, a spectacular limestone karst landscape with an underground river that emerges directly into the sea.
The subterranean river is one of the most unique of its type anywhere in the world. Stretching for a little over 8 km, its course includes several huge chambers that measure up to 120 m wide and 60 m high.
Words really don’t do justice to this amazing network of rivers, tributaries, dense forests and craggy peaks, but if you need convincing then bear in mind that Puerto-Princesa was recently chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
About the Author:
Ryan is the resident blogger at AsiaRooms. When Ryan is not working he spends his time travelling the globe, drawing on his travel experience and passion for travel to spread the good word. Ryan is also a social monkey and can be found lounging around on Twitter & Google+ and loves to interact with other travel bloggers.
About Yafieda Jamil
A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.