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Malaysia's heritage sites, beloved by the world
Malaysia has recently made it to the coveted list of Top Ten Travel Destinations for 2014 by Lonely Planet, as the only Asian country in the list, thus adding on to the anticipation for the government-initiated Visit Malaysia 2014.
Typically known as a melting pot where one can experience diverse cultures in one place, with its mouthwatering local cuisines available at anytime of day, Malaysia has one more reason to invite travellers and visitors worldwide - her heritage sites.
To date, there are four heritage sites in Malaysia that have been gazetted as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The sites have passed a strict 10-criteria selection process that were divided into six cultural and four natural criteria.
Of the sites selected, not only must the sites bear a unique and exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation, UNESCO also takes into consideration the protection, management, authenticity and integrity of the properties by the local government.
Malaysia proudly entered the list in 2000 with its Gunung Mulu National Park and Kinabalu Park, both located in the island of Borneo.
Gunung Mulu National Park offers nature enthusiasts panoramic views and serenity as they discover the nature reserves in Sarawak. (Photo credit : Tourism Malaysia)
Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak is important for its biodiversity and karst features. Its remote location proved to be no barrier to researchers as it is the most studied tropical karst area in the world.
At 52,864-ha large, the park contains 17 vegetation zones with some 3,500 species of vascular plants on site. The park is characterised by its namesake, the Gunung Mulu, a sandstone pinnacle that stands at 2,377 metres high. It also contains the Sarawak Chambers, the largest known cave chamber in the world that has been popularly quoted to have space so collosal that 40 Boeing 747 aircrafts could be parked there without overlapping their wings!
Spanning a property of 75,370-ha, the Kinabalu Park in Sabah is famous for its majestic 4,095-metre high Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak between the Himalayas and the New Guinea.
A journey through the sights and sounds of the Mount Kinabalu Botanical Garden. (Photo credit : Tourism Malaysia)
Kinabalu Park earned its inscription as a heritage site due to its diverse range of flora and fauna that are found nowhere else in the world. Those climbing the mountain would experience scenery and temperature changes as they go further up; this is because the altitudinal and climatic gradient of the mountain changes from a tropical forest to alpine conditions.
The Park is also home to more than half the families of all the flowering plants while many threatened and vulnerable species of Borneo's mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates also call the park their sanctuary.
In the northen state of Perak, the archaeological heritage of the Lenggong Valley is the latest addition that was inscribed in 2012.
Malaysia's National Heritage Department recorded in a statement that the Lenggong Valley area has been found to contain artefactual evidence in the open air and cave sites spanning all the periods of hominid history outside of Africa.
The series of caves and open air sites along the Perak River in the Lenggong Valley are solid proof that the area was well-occupied, particularly during the Palaeolithic era, as well as during the Neolithic and Bronze age periods from 1.83 million years ago to 1,700 years ago.
These sites are said to represent one of the longest records of early man in a single locality in the world and are proudly shared by Malaysia with the world.
Of cultural importance, travellers can take a step back into the days of old in Melaka and Georgetown, Penang; both jointly bestowed a World Heritage Site inscription in 2008.
The two historic cities of the Straits of Malacca have both been important ports of call as the crossroads between the East and the West in the past, with history dating more than 500 years.
UNESCO has regarded Melaka and Georgetown as a reflection on a mixture of influences which have created a unique architecture, culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in the East and South Asia.
Historical city at its best : Christ Church is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia, a legacy from Dutch colonialism. (Photo credit : Tourism Malaysia)
Malacca is steep with history originating the 15th-century Malay Sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch periods beginning in the early 16th century, with historical remnants than can still be seen today with its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, while Georgetown marks the British era from the end of the 18th century through its residential and commercial buildings.
Standing the test of time : Fort Cornwallis remains as a preserved historical landmark under the Georgetown UNESCO World Heritage site. (Photo credit : Tourism Malaysia)
Over in Penang, UNESCO's stamp of approval for Georgetown was celebrated in a three-day festivity that included a street procession and fireworks on display. The cities old-school charm is a stark contrast to the busy city life in Kuala Lumpur, which is a quality much appreciated by visitors from outside and inside the country alike.
Hotel (luxury, boutique and budget) and food (restaurants and street) businesses have been consistently soaring in the two cities due to the influx of visitors. The UNESCO status for both cities heightens interest for first-time visitors and cement Malacca and Georgetown's popularity amongst travelers.
Recently, Malacca and Georgetown were included in a list of Asia's most spectacular and culturally important UNESCO World Heritage Sites by Asia's leading hotel booking site Agoda.com.
The list is convenient for travelers who aim to experience more heritage and culture than a typical stay at a foreign country and proved the pulling factor of a world-acknowledged inscription such as UNESCO's.
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