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UNESCO World Heritage Sites close to Singapore (just crying out for trips)

By: Jake Riggir

While we have plenty of history here in Singapore, we don’t quite have anywhere that’s worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t heaps of places in spitting distance – many of our neighbouring countries have beautiful, protected sites that are well worth a look.


Angkor Who? 

Angkor Wat
The largest religious monument in the world. With over two million visitors, this archaeological wonder should very much be on your ‘things I need to see before I die’ list. It’s that important to Cambodians that it even appears on their nations flag.
Silkair and Jetstar fly direct to Siem Reap, while Singapore Airlines has stop-overs via Ho Chi Minh City and KL


The abandoned Hindu temple of My Son


Mỹ Sơn
After you’ve spent some time in Hội An (below), it’s time to take an hour motorbike ride out to another World Heritage Site of Mỹ Sơn. Mỹ Sơn is a cluster of abandoned and damaged Hindu temples, built by the Champa dynasty between the 4th and the 12th centuries. Years of neglect and a certain war have left these buildings worse for wear, but the site is truly magnificent and well worth a look if you’re in the reigon.
Mỹ Sơn is an hour drive away from Hội An, with regular bus and tour services throughout the day.

Other temples or buildings

Ban Chiang Archaeological Site – Thailand

Baroque Churches of the Philippines – Philippines

Borobudur Temple Compounds – Indonesia

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Vietnam

Citadel of the Hồ Dynasty – Vietnam

Complex of Hué Monuments – Vietnam

Prambanan Temple Compounds – Indonesia

Sangiran Early Man Site– Indonesia

Temple of Preah Vihear– Cambodia



The original clock tower in Galle 

Galle Fort
This is the best example of a (still functioning) fortress town built by Europeans in South Asia. The Old Town of Galle was founded by Portuguese settlers in the 16th century and developed upon by the Dutch 100 years later. It’s European style meets South Asian traditions in this small town, and it’s been brilliantly restored and maintained, which makes for a truly special experience. It’s also cracking for shopping and eating out, which never hurts.
There are daily flights from Singapore to Colombo with SriLanka Airlines, Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. Once in Colombo, a bus or train ride along the beautiful coast is the best way to get there.


I wonder if that's stable 

Hội An
In 1999, this ancient Vietnamese trading centre was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Previously the largest trading centre in Asia, Hoi An is now an area with streets full of lamp shops, tailors, travel agencies and basically any shop you can think of. All sell modern products, while preserving the old flavour of the ancient town.
Silkair flies directly to Da Nang where you can get a US$20 taxi ride, or a US$5 mini bus to Hoi An.


Oldest functioning Protestant church in Malaysia

Malacca City
One a little bit closer to home. Being a target of Chinese, Dutch, English and Japanese conquerors, there are many different influences imprinted on the city and its people.  Known by Malaysians as the ‘Historic City’, it is really a sight to see all the different ways this small city had been influenced. You only have to go to the Malacca Wikipedia page to read up about all the different colonisation that has gone on in the city.
200km drive away from Singapore, or you can even get the KL bound train and alight at  Tampin station.

Other towns or cities

Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley – Malaysia

Subak – Bali

Historic City of Ayutthaya – Thailand

Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns – Thailand

Historic Town of Vigan – Philippines

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras – Philippines

Town of Luang Prabang – Laos



Not bad.. 

Ha Long Bay
Listed in many top natural wonders of the world, Ha Long Bay is just awesome. The beautiful bay includes more than 1,600 islands, most being uninhabited with amazing scenery. Take a trip out to the bay and experience all the different caves (some tackier than others – colourful lights included for the young ones), or maybe even take a canoe out. Or make your scooter be able to ride on water (Top Gear reference) to see how it will go!
Singapore Airlines, Tigerair, Vietnam Airlines, and Silk Air all fly to Hanoi. Once you’re there you can get a 4 to 5 hour bus the Ha Long, and spend a night or two there. Great shopping in the area too.


Climb it if you dare. There will be beer when you're done 

Kinabalu Park
Becoming one of Malaysia’s first national parks back in 1964, then becoming Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000, it is described as one of the most important biological sites in the world. It covers 754km² and is home to 326 bird species and over 100 mammal species (not MAMIL – Middle Aged Men in Lycra – fortunately).
Silkair and Air Asia fly daily to Kota Kinabalu.


Other natural spots

Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex – Thailand

Gunung Mulu National Park – Malaysia

Komodo National Park – Indonesia

Lorentz National Park – Indonesia

Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park – Vietnam

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park – Philippines

ThungyaiHuai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries – Thailand

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra – Indonesia

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park – Philippines

Ujung Kulon National Park – Indonesia