World Heritage status indicates a location’s cultural or natural outstanding significance to the region. The national and international efforts that go into preserving and protecting these national gems guarantee an enriching visit, on or off the bicycle.
Many historical and natural landmarks can’t survive without some help. The ravages of time, from natural erosion, overgrowth, and catastrophic events can wear away or completely swallow up a treasure. And man often endangers these monuments with his need to develop, expand, exploit, or, sadly, wage war.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, has been officially administering the world heritage programme since 1972. Nations submit a list of cultural and natural sites they wish to preserve to be assessed against to a set of criteria.
Once designated a cultural or natural (or in some cases, both) status, the location becomes protected by international, as well as local, laws and conventions. National and UN funding is designated to preserve and protect the area according to stringent guidelines. This is to ensure that the site is maintained to its original condition as possible.
That’s why there’s no roller-coaster rides in the middle of Angkor or skyscrapers next to the Pyramids of Egypt!
And it’s because of the effort to stay true to the original that these sites are often the major draw for travellers. A World Heritage site guarantees a level of authenticity – a window into a world that may have been lost if not for its status of having outstanding significant value.
You may question the antiquity of those ‘ancient’ pottery shards at the market, but Laos’ Plain of Jars is indeed a plain with thousands of burial jars from the Iron Age that survived intense carpet bombing during the Vietnam War.
Needless to say (but I’m going to anyway), many of these sites are perfect for an exploration by bicycle.
There are three cultural and two natural World Heritage sites, including Ayudhya and Sukhothai, both historic capitals, the prehistoric settlement at Ban Chiang, and the Khao Yai forests and Thungyai Hua Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuaries.
Here you can visit the ancient royal capital of Luang Prabang or the Vat Phou.
Journey to the past with a trip to the temple complexes at Angkor or Preah Vihear.
Vietnam boasts eight sites, including the Hindu-influenced My Lon and the magnificent limestone outcrops of Ha Long Bay.
The Pyu ruins in and around Bagan are truly worth a visit for any adventurer.