When a site receives recognition from UNESCO, its status rises. It becomes a site, manmade or natural, that gets more public attention and which will potentially have different bodies keen to ensure its survival in the best possible condition. Thailand currently has five sites, three cultural and two natural, that have been approved by UNESCO and there is an additional list, mostly cultural that are being considered for submission in the future. Thailand travel packages can be tailored to include these places and some will be in an organised Thailand family tour anyway.
• Ban Chiang Archaeological Site in Nong Han in Udon Thani Province was discovered in 1966 and granted UNESCO status in 1992. It is famous for red pottery and the site has been dated as many centuries BC. There have been many skeletons found but it is certainly more than a burial site. There have been several artefacts found, mostly bronze and carbon dated between 2000BC and the 2nd Century.
• Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Siam until it was moved to Bangkok towards the end of the 18th Century. Its history dates back to the 14th Century and it was thought to be the largest city in the world in 1700, trading with many nations, east and west. It was largely destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 who were expelled a few years later. It is a modern city today, 80 kilometres north of Bangkok but the ancient ruins were granted UNESCO status in 1991. The stone buildings that survived the destructions, palaces and temples, are a ‘’must see’’ on any Thailand holiday, often on a day trip from Bangkok.
• Sukhothai is an ancient city in lower North Thailand. It was the 13th Century Capital having been founded between 1238 and 1257; the Phra Ruang Dynasty was there for 120 years. Temples and monuments have been well restored and are contained with an Historical Park. There is also the Royal Palace, an excellent museum and the city of Si Satchanalaiclose by, some 400 kilometres north of Bangkok. Today’s modern city of the same name has a population of just 35,000 but gets plenty of visitors on Thailand tour packages.
• Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest contains a number of national parks. It is a medium size mountainous region to the east of Thailand where there is still a good chance to avoid any crowds. This is a beautiful region where those wishing to just absorb the natural environment will feel very much at home.
• Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary was recognised by UNESCO in 1991 yet it remains fairly unknown to bird watchers, quite remarkably. There is a good chance of seeing elephants, possibly leopard. Its relative inaccessibility in Thailand’s north west highlands guarantees it will remain a real gem. There are tigers with paw prints seen regularly but the animal itself less often. There are certainly enough prey species to support both them and the leopards.
Possible Future Sites
There are some further sites which may be approved in the future as they appear on a current ‘’tentative’’ list:
• Phimai is the western end of a corridor of Khmer architecture that starts at Angkor in Cambodia.
• Chiang Mai in the north has many religious sites dating back to the 14th Century; it is easily accessible during Thailand travel, the quickest way being a domestic flight from Bangkok.
• Phuphrabat Historical Park in the north east has many interesting rock formations around which a number of religious sites were created. There are also many interesting rock paintings.
• Buriram, Nakhon Ratchasima and Surin are provinces in the north east with a border with Cambodia. There are many Khmer ruins in these provinces which also contain a number of extinct volcanoes. There is a significant Khmer minority and Lao is spoken widely.
• Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is the main Buddhist temple in the South of Thailand. This region were traders in the Middle Ages and the temple was built early in the 13th Century to reinforce the importance of Buddhism.
• Kaeng Krachan Forest is semi-evergreen and located on the border with Myanmar. There are around 100 animal species including tiger, the endangered Siamese crocodile and other reptiles, fish and birds.