Southeast Asia is an amazing destination for traveling and exploring beautiful sights. Towering mountain ranges, impossibly green paddy fields, jungles, beaches, caves… the list goes on.
If you have a chance, make sure you pay a visit to a few UNESCO World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia. Here are the top 8 world heritage sites in Southeast Asia you must go and experience:
1) Angkor (Cambodia)
The first entry to the list must be one of the most impressive World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia: Angkor. Composed of the remains of the capital of the Khmer Empire, the Angkor site includes the famous temple of Angkor Wat, the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom, and the jungle-covered Ta Phrom temple.
Built by King Suryavarman II, the temple complex of Angkor Wat was once the heart of a mighty civilization.
The size is intended to be nothing less than a symbol of the universe as the Hindu Khmer understood it: the moat stands for the oceans around the earth; the concentric galleries represent the mountain ranges surrounding the divine Mount Meru, the Hindu home of the gods, which is itself embodied by the five central towers.
The walls are covered with carvings depicting the god Vishnu (to whom Angkor was principally dedicated), as well as other scenes from Hindu mythology.
2) Botanical Gardens (Singapore)
The Botanic Gardens are Singapore’s first UNESCO Heritage Site, and rightfully earn a place among the best World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia.
Highlights include the National Orchid Garden, which boasts the world’s largest orchid display- over 60,000 plants and orchids.
The SBG Heritage Museum features interactive and multimedia exhibits and panels that detail the Gardens’ rich heritage, while the CDL Green Gallery displays botanical related exhibits.
Kids will have a blast at the Jacob Ballas Children’s garden where they can play and learn all about plant life. A host of restaurants and cafes are also available to satisfy thirsty and hungry visitors after a day out in the sun.
Once you’re ready to step back into the concrete jungle, the Orchard Road shopping district is mere minutes away.
3) Borobudur Temple Compounds (Indonesia)
Dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, this famous Buddhist temple, is located in central Java and is revered as one of the most impressive religious World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia.
It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa.
The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.
The Borobudur Temple Compounds consists of three monuments: namely the Borobudur Temple and two smaller temples, the Mendut Temple and Pawon Temple. Those three monuments represent phases in the attainment of Nirvana.
The temple was used as a Buddhist place of worship from its construction until sometime between the 10th and 15th centuries when it was abandoned. Since its rediscovery in the 19th century and restoration in the 20th century, it has been restored into a Buddhist archaeological site.
4) Malacca and George Town (Malaysia)
Developed as points of exchange between Western and Eastern civilizations, the historic cities of Malacca and Georgetown are beautiful remnants of multicultural heritage on the Straits of Malacca.
In both cities, the cultural and architectural contributions of local Malays as well as Chinese and South Asian immigrants can be seen, and their own evolutions traced over time.
The government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications of Malacca demonstrate the early stages of this history originating in the 15th-century Malay sultanate, which was followed by Portuguese and Dutch periods of control beginning in the early 16th century.
George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century and features residential and commercial buildings from that period, making it one of the most historically rich World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia.
5) Luang Prabang (Laos)
Luang Prabang is considered to be the best preserved World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia and is the most sacred old town of Laos.
It used to be the capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom in Laos. This gorgeous, historic town is made up of no less than 33 temples, caves filled with Buddha statues, and several colonial buildings.
Located in northern Laos at the heart of a mountainous region, the town is built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River.
Luang Prabang is exceptional for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflect the fusion of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the colonial era. Its remarkably well-preserved townscape reflects the alliance of these two distinct cultural traditions.
6) San Agustin Church (Philippines)
Located inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila,San Augustin Church is one of the most impressive World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia.
San Agustin church was one of the premier churches during the Spanish period, having served as the source of the political influence of the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines.
Built between 1587 and 1606, the San Agustin Church was the only building left intact after the destruction of Intramuros in World War II. The massive facade conceals an ornate interior filled with objects of great historical and cultural merit.
Note the intricate trompe l’oeil frescoes on the vaulted ceiling.
7) Halong Bay (Vietnam)
Boasting 8 of the World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia, Vietnam clearly shows why it is among the most enthralling destinations in this part of the world.
The natural wonder of Halong Bay, located in the Quảng Ninh Province tops the list thanks to its eye-popping 1,600 limestone islets scattered around the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Halong translates as ‘descending dragon’ and legend tells us that this mystical seascape was created when a great dragon charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouging out valleys and crevasses. As the creature plunged into the sea, the area filled with water leaving only the pinnacles visible.
Halong Bay region includes Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay.
8) Historic City of Ayutthaya (Thailand)
The Historic City of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom.
It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries, during which time it grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce.
It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendour.
The sites including Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Wat Phra Ram and Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit.
Have you visited any of these beautiful World Heritage sites in Southeast Asia? Let us know about your experiences, or better yet- send us in a picture from one of these sites for your chance to be featured in a future post.