10 Little Known UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southeast Asia

Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia | Source
Hue, Vietnam
Hue, Vietnam | Source

In the southeastern corners of the Asian continent scatter eleven countries that comprise Southeast Asia: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These countries generally have tropical climate that make them a fertile ground for lush tropical forests as well as endemic flora and fauna.

They also have cultures that are both indigenous and influenced by their Asian neighbors.

Some of these tropical forests and cultural structures have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.

Of course, many people already know Angkor in Cambodia, Borobudur in Indonesia, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Rice Terraces in the Philippines, and Ayutthaya in Thailand.

Not so many people, however, are aware of these 10 little known UNESCO World Heritage Sites below.

1. Complex of Hué Monuments, Vietnam

The historic town of Hue in Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has monuments that bring one back in time, when Hue –already having a thousand-year history –served as the Nguyen Dynasty’s capital from 1802 to 1945.

The dynasty embellished its capital with uniquely Vietnamese architectural structures.

Many of these cultural wonders have already ruined.

Still, some are intact.

They can be found along the banks of the storied Perfume River that winds through the Capital City, Forbidden Purple City, Imperial City, and Inner City.

2. Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, Thailand

The 615,500-hectare Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest in Thailand is the forest refuge of vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered species of animals.

It is a sanctuary that can support the long-term survival of these species.

Some of these species include 112 of mammals, 392 of birds, as well 200 of both amphibians and reptiles or about 800 species all in all.

Because of its importance in global conservation, the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest in Thailand has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia

The island of Borneo in Malaysia is the site of a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Gunung Mulu National Park.

This park has striking tropical karst features and is the home of the imposing sandstone peak Gunung Mulu that rises 2,377 meters.

It has a network of caves that wind through 295 kilometers of length.

One of these caves is the Sarawak Chamber, thus far the largest discovered cave chamber in the world at 600 meters by 415 meters and 80 meters high.

Gunung Mulu National Park is also an important habitat of bats and swiflets.

4. Melaka and George Town, Malaysia

Indeed historic cities of the Straits of Malacca, Melaka and George Town exhibit the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures in Malaysia.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site was developed throughout the half a millennium of trading between Asia and the West that resulted in tangible and intangible multicultural influences.

In this site people can find 15th-18th century commercial, public, and residential buildings; churches; town squares; and fortresses.

5. Lorentz National Park, Indonesia

The 2.35-million-hectare Lorentz National Park in Papua, Indonesia is the biggest protected area in the whole of Southeast Asia.

Located along the junction where two continental plates continuously rub, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has interesting geology and substantial amount of biodiversity.

Its mountains are also ever-evolving because of glaciations.

6. Vat Phou, Laos

In the Champasak Province in Laos, one can find the well-intact Vat Phou Temple complex, a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site that has a history of over a millennium.

The landscape of Vat Phou reflects the sacred relationship of humans and nature in Hinduism.

Thus, temples, shrines, and waterworks are located in a geometric pattern from the axis of the mountain and the river.

These architectural wonders are from between 5th century and 15th century and are regarded as part of the Khmer Empire.

7. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

The oldest major karst in the whole of Asia at 400 million years old is the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Quang Binh province.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang has a very curious karst landscape and several geomorphic features that are ever changing because of tectonic plate movements.

It also has a complex system of caves and underground rivers that dot the park’s 65 kilometers of length.

8. Preah Vihear Temple, Cambodia

A magnificent temple dedicated to Shiva is the Temple of Preah Vihear in Cambodia.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a history that can be traced as early as the 9th century and has pavements and staircases that date back in the 11th century.

Located in a remote location in a Cambodian plateau, Temple of Preah Vihear is relatively well-preserved, allowing its visitors a look at its intricate ornaments and glorious architecture.

9. Tubbatha Reefs Natural Park, Philippines

Located around a far-flung island in Palawan Islands in the Philippines is nature’s splendid undersea wonder Tubbataha Reefs.

This natural UNESCO World Heritage Site is a diver’s paradise with its immense amount of water animals, reefs, lagoons, and walls.

Measuring about 130,000 hectares of protected space, Tubbataha Reefs is home to 350 species of coral and 500 species of fish.

10. Ujung Kulon, Indonesia

Ujung Kulon National Park is located in Indonesian provinces of Banten and Lampung.

This park constitutes the Ujung Kulon peninsula and its surrounding islands.

It is notable for its importance in the study of geology, particularly in the study of volcanoes.

It is also the home of the famous yet under threat Javan rhinoceros as well as other endangered plants and animals.

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hué in Vietnam

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