Thailand has five officially recognised UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Three of the sites are cultural - Historic City of Ayutthaya (1991), Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns (1991), and Ban Chiang Archaeological Site (1992), while two are natural - Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries (1991) and Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex (2005).
Thailand has a long and prosperous history, which has led to the construction of countless ancient cities and historical sites. Several ruling empires built cities that in their time were counted as the largest and most prosperous in the world. Some of the original cities date to the Neolithic times. By placing the cultural and natural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list they will be preserved for future generations and much easier to appreciate on the Thailand holidays.
Here is an overview of the five recognised UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
Ban Chiang Archaeological Site
The Ban Chiang archaeological site in the Udon Thani Province was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. This site in the Nong Han District was first unearthed in 1966 and seen as a significant prehistoric settlement in Southeast Asia. It became an instant attraction because of the red painted pottery. With the past excavation work more and more pottery has been discovered in and around the village to give a real insight into the history of this region of Thailand. The ancient items of pottery were created with ornate details and rudimentary pottery techniques. This discovery has helped to understand the region’s social, technological and cultural evolution. Plus, it gives evidence of the first use of metals and early farming techniques.
Historic City of Ayutthaya
The Historic City of Ayutthaya was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. This site consists of a historical park that spans the entire region of the ancient city of Ayutthaya and the remaining ruins. The construction of this ancient city started in the 1350 and soon developed to a size that helped make it rival the city of Sukhothai. From the 14th century to the 18th century, the region continued to prosper and became one of the grandest cosmopolitan areas in the world at the time, while also a centre for global commerce and diplomacy. This ancient city was well located to not only give it protection from flooring, but also to minimize the risk of attacks by warships from an invading nation.
However, this didn’t stop the Burmese army when in 1767 Ayutthaya was attacked and led to a lot of the valuable and artistic objects being lost. Plus, the local population was forced out of the city which left it abandoned.
By 1969, work started in the ancient city in an attempt to preserve and renovate the local area. In 1976, the area was recognised as a national park and later acknowledge by UNESCO to give it further protection. Today, the modern city of Ayutthaya has a population in the region of 50,000 and the region is still able to attract plenty of visitors on the Thailand travel packages to the old city which forms the archaeological site with its Buddhist statues, monasteries, temples and palaces.
Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns
This town was recognized and accepted by UNESCO and listed as a World Heritage Site in 1991. The total area of this site consists of three historical parks: Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park, Si Satchanalai Historical Park and Sukhothai Historical Park. Each of these parks was preserved to protect the remains of the ancient cities that once flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries.
For instance, the Sukhothai Kingdom was the place of the country’s original kingdom and lasted from 1238 to 1438. The site is rich in temples and monuments which help to illustrate the start of the distinctive Thai architecture. The Sukhothai kingdom was ruled by plenty of kings with one of the most well-known including King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who expanded the empire’s boundaries of influence, and put in place the foundation for religion, monarchy and politics.
Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex
The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, and the first natural site listed. The forest complex consists of the Khao Yai National Park (approx 10 km NE of Bangkok) and the Ta Phraya National Park (near the border with Cambodia) and spans an area in the region of 230 km. This natural reserve is rich in wildlife and plants with an estimated 200 reptile species and 392 bird species, as well as 800 fauna species. One of the reasons to protect this land was for the threatened and endangered species, which are only able to survive in this particular tropical forest ecosystem.
A visit to Khao Yai Forest Complex on the Thailand customized tour is a pleasant experience, but needs to be planned right because the park has no internal transport, so it is best to travel to this region with your own transport, or when travelling as part of a prearranged tour.
Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries
This was the first of the natural sites to be listed and accepted by UNESCO in Thailand. It was recognised in 1991 and is a wildlife sanctuary located a short distance from the border with Myanmar and covers a total land area of 600,000 hectares. This protected area is home to a wide variety of animals that includes land vertebrates, birds and large mammals.
The Wildlife Sanctuaries include three parks in the Tak, Kanchanaburi and Uthai Thani provinces, and creates the largest protected region in Southeast Asia. A visit to Uthai Thani province on the Thailand travel tour is the best way to appreciate this preserved land.
The entire region of Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng is said to contain virtually all forest types that are seen in Southeast Asia, such as the pine forest, dry virgin forest, and mountain virgin forest. The majority of the region remains unspoiled to create the perfect place for all types of endangered and rare animals, including the bulls, leopards, tapirs, rhinoceroses, buffaloes, tigers and elephants.