Exploring South East Asia, UNESCO-style

The specialised United Nations agency UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) promotes and funds the preservation of centres of cultural or natural significance. This year the Committee has added nineteen locations to the World Heritage List, including the Al Zubarah Archaeological Site in Qatar and Germany’s Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe.

UNESCO supports projects from across the globe and, with nearly 1,000 sites under its patronage, there is sure to be a World Heritage Site in whichever part of the world you are visiting. Here are some of the most impressive sites that visitors to South East Asia should include on their travels.

Imagine the city’s feudal past while taking in the Hué monuments, sail among some of the 1,600 islands of Quang Ninh’s Ha Long Bay or journey down to the trading port of Hoi An. There is Hindu art to see at the temple of My Son Sanctuary or you can experience the wonder of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

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Three National Parks (Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan) form the basis of the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, considered by UNESCO to be in danger and extremely vulnerable to the threats of poaching, agricultural encroachment, illegal logging and infrastructure development, so it’s critical to catch this beautiful sight while you can.

Other World Heritage Sites in this region include the Borobudur and Prambanan Temple Compounds, Komodo National Park (home to over 5,700 endemic “Komodo dragons”), Java’s Ujung Kulon National Park and the highlands of Bali province.

Amongst this scattered archipelago, you can see the Spanish colonial town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur and the bustling marine life of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Search for the underground river of the limestone Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park and witness the relationship between people and the environment in the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.


Relive the wonders of Siam by visiting the 1350 city of Ayutthaya and the former Siamese capital of Sukhothai. Nature lovers should visit the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries, home to critically endangered tigers and elephants, and Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, home to more than 800 species of plant. Furthermore, as the sixth cheapest cities in the TripIndex survey, the capital city of Bangkok is affordable too, making Thailand a great choice for those on a budget.

Visit UNESCO’s website for more information on World Heritage Sites and the World Heritage scheme.

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