For a getaway to feed your soul, why not browse through some of the world’s heritage sites? Asia is concentrated with world heritage sites, and rightly so. A region rich with history and cultural diversity, it’s no wonder that it holds some of the world’s most unique heritage sites. Travel Asia takes a look at some of these must-see sites.
Angkor Wat – Cambodia
One of South East Asia’s most notable landmarks, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is the largest and best preserved monument of the Angkor group. An architectural masterpiece, this magnificent temple was built by King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century, and it is estimated that it took approximately 30 years to be completed. Angkor Wat is one of the most prominent archaeological sites in the region, extending over approximately 400sqkm and 213m tall. The site stands as a testament to the Khmer architecture, incorporating a melting pot of different features which include monuments, large water reservoirs and sculptures – all in perfect composition, balance and proportions.
Ujung Kulon National Park – Indonesia
Located at the remote, south-western tip of the island of Java, Indonesia, the Ujung Kulon National Park holds the best and most extensive lowland forest. Also Indonesia’s first natural park, it is home to prime rainforest, untouched wilderness, virgin beaches and healthy coral reefs too. The Ujung Kulon peninsula and the nearing offshore islands have managed to retain their natural beauty. They possess an abundance of diverse flora and fauna which demonstrate an ongoing evolutionary process following the eruption of the famed Krakatau volcano in 1883 (the most well-known of modern volcanic eruptions because of its devastating effects). What’s more, Ujung Kulon is also known to be the last refuge of the critically endangered one-horned Javan rhinoceros (it is approximated that there are about 50-60 of them remaining, all of which can be found there).
Baroque Churches of the Philippines – Philippines
The Baroque Churches of the Philippines refer to four Roman Catholic churches built between the 16th and 18th century under the Spanish rule, which were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993. These churches are: Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín (Manila), Church of La Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion (Santa Maria), Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva (Miag-ao, Iloilo) and Church of San Agustín (Paoay). Though constructed in different parts of the country, these churches all incorporate a reinterpretation of Chinese architecture, infused with Spanish and Latin American as well as indigenous Philippine influences. As these churches were built to withstand the chaos of war and earthquakes (the Philippines is located within the Pacific Ring of Fire), their unique architectural style has been referred to as Earthquake Baroque.
Pyu Ancient Cities – Myanmar
The Pyu ancient cities of Myanmar were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. These include the remains of the bricked, walled and moated cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra located among irrigated landscapes in the dry zone of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River basin. These cities are what remain of the Pyu Kingdoms that reigned for over a thousand years (between 200BC and 900AD). The remains include palace citadels, burial grounds, manufacture sites, monumental brick Buddhist stupas, partly standing walls and water management features (some of which are still in use!), bearing testament to the intensive agriculture system that was in place.
Ban Chiang Archaeological Site – Thailand
Considered the most important prehistoric settlement discovered in Thailand, Ban Chiang, located in the north-eastern province of Udon Thani, may also be one of the country’s most underrated world heritage sites. However, for those interested in the process of evolution, Ban Chiang can definitely be a fantastic learning experience. In fact, this site was found by accident. Harvard anthropology student Steve Young discovered Ban Chiang when he literally fell (face first!) into the dirt which contained exposed pottery that Young recognised to be an important cultural find. The excavations that followed uncovered archaeological jewels, such as jewellery, spears, farm tools and ceramic dishes, some of which are said to date back to 2100BC. These memorabilia are exhibited beautifully in the Ban Chiang National Museum, complemented with information that walks you through the evolutionary journey of a primitive agricultural society as it transformed into a community with high technological skills. For an added dose of history, the town’s main excavation site, Wat Pho Sri Nai, is a short drive away from the museum, and is filled with pottery and human bones that have been preserved for public viewing.