A round up of the 18 sites in South-east Asia that sport the UNESCO World Heritage label. Plus, agents weigh in on the state of tourism at these sites and other locations they think should make the cut
1. Angkor – Constructed by Khmer King Suryavarman II between 1113 and 1150, the long-standing symbol of Cambodia has more than 3,000 apsaras (celestial nymphs) carved into its stone walls.
2. Temple of Preah Vihear – Dating back to the 9th century, the Hindu temple – constructed along an 800m-long north-south axis – stands atop a 525m-high cliff in the Dangrek Mountains near the Thai-Cambodian border.
3. Town of Luang Prabang – Built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan Rivers, the ancient capital boasts a fusion of traditional Lao architecture and colonial structures built by the Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries.
4. Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape – At the base of the Phou Kao mountain in southern Laos, the Vat Phou Temple complex is more than a millennia old with well-preserved ruins of temples, shrines and waterworks dating from the 5th to 15th centuries.
5. Pyu Ancient Cities – The site comprises the archaeological remains of palace citadels, burial grounds and Buddhist stupas belonging to the three city-states – Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra – along the Irrawaddy River.
6. Historic City of Ayutthaya – Founded in 1350 by U Thong, Ayutthaya’s first king, the 289ha city flourished for four centuries before it was attacked and destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. Temples such as the Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Phra Mahathat still remain.
7. Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns – Situated in the northern region of present-day Thailand, this property comprises the three physically closely related ancient towns Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet.
8. Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries – Encompassing 622,200ha in Uthai Thani, Tak and Kanchanaburi, the sanctuary comprises two river systems, the Upper Khwae Yai and Huai Khakhaeng. Species include 120 mammals, 400 birds, 96 reptiles, 43 amphibians and 113 freshwater fish.
9. Ban Chiang Archaeological Site – Dating from 1,495BC, the 67ha area in north-east Thailand contains early evidence of settled agrarian society in South-east Asia, along with evidence of wet rice agriculture and domesticated farm animals.
10. Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex – The 615,000ha site comprises five contiguous national parks of Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida, Ta Phraya and the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary. It contains more than 800 fauna species, 112 mammal species, 392 bird species, and 200 reptiles and amphibians.
11. Complex of Hué Monuments – Established as the capital of unified Vietnam in 1802, Hue was the political, cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945, and is a remarkable example of late feudal urban planning in Asia.
12. Halong Bay – Covering an area of 43,400ha in the Gulf of Tonkin north-east of Vietnam, Halong Bay boasts more than 1,600 limestone islands and islets. Most of them are uninhabited and have towering limestone pillars, arches and caves.
13. Hoi An Ancient Town – The inscribed property in Quang Nam Province comprises a well-preserved complex of 1,107 timber frame buildings with brick or wooden walls. The town reflects a fusion of cultures and is a good example of a small-scale trading port active from the 15th to19th centuries.
14. My Son Sanctuary – Dating from the 4th to13th centuries, the site was the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom. Located in the Duy Xuyen District, it is made up of numerous tower temples built for Hindu divinities Krishna, Vishnu and Shiva.
15. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – Located in the middle of the Annamite Mountain Range in Quang Binh Province, the 123,326ha national park features geological diversity as well as over 104km caves and underground rivers.
16. Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi – The Thang Long Imperial Citadel was built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty and constructed on the remains of a Chinese fortress from the 7th century. It reflects a culture specific to the lower Red River Valley, at the crossroads of influences from China and the Champa Kingdom.
17. Citadel of the Ho Dynasty – Built in 1397, the site in Vinh Loc District comprises the Inner Citadel, La Thanh Outer Wall and Nam Giao Altar. It bears witness to the period in South-east Asian history when traditional kingship and Buddhist values were giving way to new trends in technology, commerce and centralised administration.
18. Trang An Landscape Complex – The property near Ninh Bình comprises limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, paddy fields and small villages. Caves there have revealed archaeological traces of human activity over a continuous period of more than 30,000 years.
Source: TTG Asia