17 November 2010

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

You know a place is every inch worth to visit if it is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a list that is highly regarded as a spotlight in the tourism industry for each of the countries in which the site is located. With the selection criteria being so exhaustively comprehensive, a site or property has to be very very outstanding to even get the chance of being nominated before getting inscribed on the list.

I’ve always believed that a visit to World Heritage site is a privilege. Out of thousands of sites that have applied to be declared UNESCO World Heritage Site, only 911 properties have made it to the list so far and I’ve been so lucky because my travel trips to some parts of the world had brought me to some of them.  Check out my list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
1. Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Our very own Mount Kinabalu has always fascinated me ever since I was a kid. I’d climb up to the roof of my family’s house in Keningau just too take a peek at the beautiful silhouette of Mount Kinabalu in the morning. I’d put it into every painting that I drew at school.
I first climbed it when I was 14 years old and I returned to conquer it again with a group of university friends back in 1998. Of course the latest one (and definitely the most expensive) happened 2 years back.
This majestic mountain keeps waving at me every time I drive past Kundasang, the mountainous sub-district in which Mount Kinabalu is located. And yeah, I’m already thinking of doing my 4th climb sometime soon.
2. Mulu, Sarawak, Malaysia
I visited Mulu just a few months ago as part of my effort to make this year an adventurous one and I was sooooo amazed to see what it has to offer. Consisted of 4 main caves that can be easily covered on foot, Deer Cave, Lang Cave, Wind Cave and Clear Water Cave have proved how caves have so many things to offer than just a big space of darkness.
While Deer Cave can astonish everybody with its gigantic size ,Lang Cave and Wind Cave offer close sightings of beautiful stalagmites and stalactites that took millions of years to shape up into how they look today.
Mulu is not all about caves though. It also offers an unforgettable experience of walking through a Tropical pristine rainforest that can amaze you with its beauty and close encounters with a variety of rare insects and animals.
3. Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay is one of my favorites among all the World Heritage sites that I’ve been to so far. The experience of sitting on the roof deck of a ‘junk’ while it cruises its way past hundreds of beautiful islets is something that has been staying in my head up until today.
The picturesque views, the relaxation it offers and the beautiful people that I met on board – I know I can never get over Halong Bay FOREVER.
If there was a place that God had planned for a paradise on earth before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple, it would have been Halong Bay.
4. Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Hanoi, Vietnam
Oh well, this site has only been declared a world heritage site quite recently. In fact I’m not even sure it was already inscribed when I was there.
I was quite sure that any entry to the site was strictly forbidden back then. I could only see the flag from outside of the fence. I didn’t get to go in so I don’t really know what to write about it.
I just hope that by the time I visit Hanoi again, it is already open to public. At least it can justifies itself as to why it deserves to be in the list.
5. Bank of Seine, Paris, France
If you look at the list, Eiffel Tower is not specifically mentioned as a world heritage site. But it is stated there that the Bank of Seine is. I can only assume that the Eiffel Tower is part of it.
Oh well, walking along the riverbank of the Seine River is one of my most memorable moments in Paris. Known as The City of Romance, Paris could slap you with intense loneliness if you were there alone.
It wasn’t a good feeling to see couples holding hands and going mushy mushy on each other while all I had to hold on to was a damn lifeless tripod. The loneliness was so intense I actually told myself that I’d never come to Paris alone ever again. I'd definitely go with somebody, but NEVER ALONE. I've had enough of being loser there. :-P
6. The Palace of Versailles, France
The Palace of Versailles was the only place outside of Paris that I went to when I visited France last year. It really is hard to visualize the palace as a whole when there are just so many things to see in and around it.
Walking from one room to another, my jaws dropped as I saw the massive collection of arts pasted on the walls. Every corner of the palace is filled with masterpieces of art. The murals can be feverishly mind-boggling you’d actually get tired of looking at them and going ‘whatever’ after awhile! LOL.
Ohh, and it’s not just the Palace that makes the Palace of Versailles a household name in the French tourism industry. Instead, the Gardens of Versailles that cover some 800 hectares of land are just as mind-blogging as the palace itself. It is full of beautiful fountains that only jet water up into the air at certain times of the day.
7. City of Bath, England
To tell the truth, I’ve never heard of Bath before I took the tour to the Stonehenge. There gotta be at least two other places to come with it in a day- tour so having had picked the Windsor Castle beforehand, I chose the City of Bath to complete the list in the very last minute.
I actually took it over places that my ears were more familiar with such as Oxford University and Canterbury. The good thing about coming to a place that you’ve never heard of is the amazement that you’re not prepared for. The moment is much sweeter to take in and the impact is certainly bigger. Set at the bottom of the beautiful Avon Valley, the City of Bath gotta be one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been to in my entire life.
Its beauty struck so hard on me I kept telling myself that if I were to come back to England again, it’d come back for the City of Bath.
8. Stonehenge, England
Being some of the most recognized stones in the world, the mysterious stones of Stonehenge are definitely somewhere on the top list of my 1000 Places I Want To Visit Before I Die.
The debate still continues as to how the pieces of rocks got there and why they were arranged in such a peculiar way.  The reaction varies from the people who come to see the Stonehenge for themselves. As for me, I don’t really see anything special about them accept for the fact that they are in the middle of nowhere.
Whoever put the stones there must have had the strength of a goliath.
9. Westminster Abbey, London
Being a city that has a very long history, London is full of historical buildings and structures that even the whole city of London can actually make it to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage.  The list however has specified a number of buildings and one of them is Westminster Abbey.
I really thought it was part of the House of Parliament until I got there and found out it was a church. I didn’t actually go inside it because I already had a list of churches that I wanted to visit and Westminster Abbey wasn’t in it.
I used to have this thought that churches are all the same.
10. Tower of London, England
Tower of London was one of the places that I put into my list on the very last minute. Somehow most of the reviews that I’ve come upon were not really supportive of the idea to spend away some 17 pounds over Tower of London. The history that it holds and for the fact that it is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in London, I just decided it’d be worth to visit.
Oh well, there really is nothing much to see at the Tower of London. You’d be taken into a 15 minutes or so tour inside the building where you’d get to see a collection of royal stuffs and clips of royal weddings and all.
Ohh, and if close sightings of gold and diamond can pretty much excite you then Tower of London would offer you with plenty of them.
11. Baroque Churches of the Philippines, Manila
It wasn’t a good moment for me at the Baroque Churches in Manila. I spent most of my time there cursing myself for having left the spare battery of my camera back at the hostel and the one that I had with me was running flat.
I’m not sure why it is listed as Baroque Churches in the UNESCO list when it is called ‘San Agustin Museum’ on the entry ticket.  And it is a museum indeed. There are many things that they have put up for display and most of them have nothing to do with church or, with respect, God. For me, the building itself is the main attraction.
It is heavily European and walking through the arching hallways is like walking in some classic movie whose filming was done in some ancient palace in Spain. It might be beautiful, but it is also spooky. One of the rooms had been allocated to accommodate boxes of cremated ashes. Spooky indeed.
12. Canterbury Cathedral, England
I visited Canterbury with Nelda and his Briton hubby Mike as part of our tour around the district of Kent. Being a tourist magnate, I wasn’t at all surprising to see how the streets of Canterbury were so crowded when I was there. The presence of so many visitors can turn the little city into a celebration in any normal day. There were street performances and everything.
Oh well, with so many beautiful churches all over England, it really hard to see how the Canterbury Cathedral is outstanding among them all. It is probably mostly notably known as symbolically the center of the worldwide Anglican Communion. If there’s something outstanding about the Canterbury Cathedral to me, it’d be the wood carvings in and around the altar area.
Most of the churches that I went to preserve the wooden color but here at the Canterbury Cathedral, they seem to add in the beauty by painting the carvings into colors.
13. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
Being one of the most iconic buildings in the world, Sydney Opera House needs no introduction. It went there as part of my tour across the Eastern part of Australia. Sydney Opera House is only beautiful to be visualized wholly from a distance but not when you’re a spit’s throw away from it.
The shells of which the building is mostly famously known for are surprisingly made of porcelain tiles, almost like the ones that we use to do the flooring of a toilet.  I could even see how some of them were beginning to crack open.
SO, I’ve visited 13 UNESCO Word Heritage sites so far. It really is a wonderful feeling to know that my next marathon would take me to another World Heritage site and it is happening this very weekend!
It’d be my very first visit to the Pearl Island  - our very own UNESCO World Heritage. Can’t wait. ;-)


thomas said...

Don't forget to try the nice food there.

Kelvin said...

Wow, 1000 places? So how many u visited so far?

JIPP said...

Thomas: I will. In fact, I'm more excited about the food then the run. LOL
Kelvin: It's just a target and I'm not even sure how many places I've been to so far. Hehe.

aud said...

I don't know how many WH sites I've been to, will check later. A good way to build up the travel wish-list.

You tweeted about it - ya, what/where is Lenggong? Is it that site in Lembah Bujang?

JIPP said...

Audrey, I've never heard of it actually. Strange.

Julie Lim said...

Totally agree with you that Unesco World Heritage Site's are worth visiting. Whenever I do research before visiting a particular country, I'll refer to the list to ensure I don't miss anything out.

What do you think about the New 7 Wonders? Some people are of the opinion that some of the sites don't deserve to be in because the citizens of some countries voted maximum to get their site into the list.


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