Jun 23, 2016

Windows to the past


Windows to the past

The legacy of South East Asia is revealed at these four World Heritage-listed Sites

Since their first safeguarding campaign in 1954 rescuing Ancient Egyptian treasures, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has passionately championed the preservation of the cultural and natural heritage they describe as ‘…irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration...’

South East Asia boasts many sites on the World Heritage List including these unique testaments of outstanding universal value.

Angkor: The Pride of Cambodia

‘… exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archaeological and artistic significance.’ – UNESCO

Angkor’s magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire stretch along 400-square kilometres of communication routes and hydraulic structures amongst the forests and farmland near Siem Reap.

It contains over 1,000 temples from tiny brick towers to Angkor Wat, the world’s largest single religious monument of soaring towers, intricate carvings and breathtaking sanctuaries. When the diaries of 19th century botanist, Henri Mouhot (who accidentally discovered Angkor) were published posthumously, the temples gained worldwide attention and extensive restorations began on this grand religious, social and administrative metropolis, which dates from 802.

Hoi An Ancient Town: Vietnam’s Peaceful Meeting Place

‘… an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time in an international maritime commercial centre.’ – UNESCO

The Ancient Town of Hoi An is a beautifully preserved traditional Asian trading port and the only one intact in Vietnam. This trading centre of the Sa Huynh people dates back to the 2nd century BC and was the most important port of the powerful Champa Kingdom by the 15th century.

Hoi An flourished between the 16th-18th centuries and saw Christianity arrive in Vietnam. Notable historical monuments include its symbolic Japanese Covered Bridge built in the early 1600s, whilst silk, spices and handicraft s are still the most widely traded commodities with the House of Hoi showcasing silkworms and a 17th century loom.

Luang Prabang: A Laotian blend of two distinct cultural traditions

‘…an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities…’ – UNESCO

Encircled by lush greenery in the heart of mountainous northern Laos is Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Lane Xang (Kingdom of a Million Elephants) between the 14th and 16th centuries and a regional centre of Buddhism. UNESCO praises the built heritage of Luang Prabang, which ‘is in perfect harmony in the natural environment’ relaying the rich architectural and artistic fusion of Lao urban architecture with that of the colonial era. Most traditional buildings and temples are wooden structures, however balconied brick houses characterise the 19th and 20th century colonial influence. Heralded by the 16th century Wat Xieng Thong, the town’s many richly decorated temples are amongst the most sophisticated in South East Asia.

Halong Bay: Vietnam’s Majestic ‘Descending Dragon’

‘The outstanding value…is centred around the drowned limestone karst landforms, displaying spectacular pillars…’ – UNESCO

Mother Nature’s artistic mastery stamps Vietnam’s Halong Bay with a showcase of over 1,600 uninhabited limestone karsts and islets soaring out of the emerald waters. Halong Bay - which means ‘descending dragon’ after local folklore surrounding its creation - is also one of the ‘New

Seven Natural Wonders of the World’ with biological interest including its mature clusters of conical peaks and isolated towers. Halong Bay’s spectacular canvas includes Thien Cung and Me Cung caves, Soi Sim and Titov islands, the Cat Ba rainforest, and Sung Sot grotto. Many artefacts marking important events in Vietnamese history have also been discovered.