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Here are a few other lists I’ve compiled from the first 50 World Heritage Sites I’ve visited on my trip:
1) Royal Exhibition Building – Australia
Why this place is a world heritage site is beyond me. Having met people involved with UNESCO, much of what goes into making the list has to do with politics and putting together a good presentation. This really benefits rich western countries. The Royal Exhibition Building is an old building. The end. There are any number of buildings its age around the world, and even in Australia probably, which are as impressive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice building, but it isn’t THAT nice.
2) Sangiran Early Man – Indonesia
Sangiran is the location of where the fossils of Java man was found. Many other fossils have been found in the area as well, making it a valuable resource for paleontologists. There was really nothing to see here, however. There is only a museum, and a poor one at that. You can’t see any of the actual humanoid fossils. You can’t visit a dig site. I recently visited the Ban Chiang site in Thailand which is also an archeological site, and at least it had a very nice museum.
3) Sydney Opera House – Australia
The Sydney Opera House is an iconic building, but there are lots of iconic buildings which are not on the World Heritage list. I think there should be some sort of age test for a property. If the Sydney Opera House can make it, why not other iconic new buildings like Skydome in Toronto or the Bird’s Nest in Beijing? The Opera House isn’t even that impressive as you get up close. The Harbor Bridge is more deserving than the Opera House. The tile on the building looks like the teeth of someone who has been smoking two packs a day for 20 years.
4) My Son Sanctuary – Vietnam
The Vietnamese have done well with what they have to work with, which isn’t much. My Son is like one of the minor outer temples in the Angkor complex which doesn’t get much tourist traffic. The site itself isn’t very big. Moreover, the condition of the temples is pretty bad as they have been around a lot longer. The ruins are truly ruined. That being said, the visitor center at My Son is nicer than anything you’ll see in Angkor, but that doesn’t change facts of the case.
5) Great Barrier Reef – Australia
How could I possibly put the Great Barrier Reef on this list??? The “greatness” of the reef can only be appreciated by looking at a map or from satellite photos. If you are on the coast of Queensland, you’d never know there was a reef because you can’t see it from land. It is an hour boat ride away (at least), and once you are there, it really isn’t different than most other reefs, and you can only appreciate and see the small part of it which is immediately around you. You can get a better reef experience in the Pacific where the reef is very close to the shore and there is a definite lagoon area. The Great Barrier Reef is much more interesting in theory than as a tourist destination. While it gets a lot of tourists because it is in Australia, I wouldn’t put it in the top diving locations I’ve been to. I’m not saying the Great Barrier Reef shouldn’t be a World Heritage Site, only that really isn’t much to see first hand.
The ones I didn’t get to but wish I did
1) Lord Howe Island – Australia
The southernmost coral reef in the world and one of the favorite spots on Earth of the world’s most traveled man, Charles Veley. The photos I’ve seen of the place make me want to go there. It looks stunning. I also hope this show I’m not being too hard on Australia.
2) Komodo – Indonesia
Komodo dragons in the wild. C’mon.
3) Ujung Kulon National Park – Indonesia
This the location of Krakatoa which erupted in the 19th century. It was the largest volcanic explosion in recorded human history.
4) Shiretoko – Japan
Shiretoko is a peninsula on the tip of northern Hokkaido in Japan. It was December when I left Japan and the temperature was already cold in Hokkaido. I’d love to come back in the summer and visit.
5) Haeinsa Temple – South Korea
I also skipped this due to the cold snap in South Korea when i was there. Haeinsa Temple has a program where you can stay overnight with the monks. The temple itself is the home to some of the oldest Buddhist writings in the world.
Ones I wish I had spent more time at
1) Tongariro National Park – New Zealand
My stay in New Zealand was somewhat hurried because I had to book tickets out of the country before I got there. I would like to have gone hiking in the area.
2) Kinabalu National Park- Malaysia
Hiking to the summit of Kinabalu is doable for anyone in reasonable health. It is usually a two-day trip and you time it so you are at the peak at sunrise. Weather conditions on the mountain prevented me from making the attempt.
3) Shark Bay – Australia
I had spent a good amount of time and money in Exmouth diving and swimming with the whale sharks. Had not been so burned out from weeks of driving across Western Australia, I might have spent more time here. I did get to spend quality time with the stromatolites at least.
Places which should be World Heritage sites but aren’t
1) Nan Modal – Federated States of Micronesia
This site is on a par with Easter Island in my mind, yet it isn’t even one of the proposed sites on the Micronesia list. I think the property is privately owned, but I’m not positive. Nan Modal is reason enough to visit Micronesia, and there are a lot of other reasons. I always talk up Micronesia when people ask for suggestions for where to travel. It isn’t easy to get there from anywhere, but it is well worth the trip. This is an easy #1 in my mind.
2) Rock Islands/Jellyfish Lakes – Palau
The lagoon area around Koror is one of the most unique aquatic environments on Earth. The jellyfish lakes are one of a kind. Why this isn’t a World Heritage site is beyond me. If it were, it might have been #1 on my list of natural attractions. It is just that good. I highly recommend travel to Palau.
3) Temples of Bali – Indonesia
I bet most people assume that Bali would be on the list. It isn’t. If the list is about identifying and trying to protect important cultural sites, the Balinese culture is one of the most unique on Earth.
4) Gregory National Park – Australia
Home to Australian boab trees, it was a place that I was surprised to discover when I drove through it from Darwin to Purnululu.
5) Victoria Harbor – Hong Kong
The harbor of Hong Kong is more impressive than Sydney. I’d lump Victoria Peak on here and some of the classic buildings of the area. The feeling I had watching sunset on the harbor and watching the lights of Hong Kong turn on is one of my most memorable.
6) Blowholes of Savai’i – Samoa
Watching the blowholes on Savai’i was like watching the fountains of the Bellagio on steroids. An awesome display of nature and one of the most impressive and fun things I’ve seen during my travels. It isn’t even promoted as heavily in Samoa as some other attractions. I don’t think the Samoans are even considering this for inclusion. Tonga also has some impressive blowholes, but not quite as cool as Samoa. It is a trick even finding the blowholes. There is little in the way of signs or facilities when you get there. It is worth the trip if you are ever in Samoa.
7) Hawaiian Cultural Sites of the Big Island
There are three different locations in the National Park Service on the Big Island which celebrate Hawaiian culture. I think they should all be included as a unit. The only site dedicated to Pacific culture is Easter Island, and that really is more about the maoi than anything else.
8) City of Napier – New Zealand
Several cities I’ve visited have been given World Heritage status for the whole town. Napier is an art deco town, and I don’t think there are many of those in the world.