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PLACES TO GO
PLACES TO GO

The stories behind these unique UNESCO Heritage Sites.

  1. Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site

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Image: © Eric Hanauer

This island was a site for nuclear experiments from 1946 to 1958. 67 tests were made on the island, and the results were so bad that until now, no one dares to live there due to nuclear contamination.

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Image: © Eric Hanauer

Back in 1946, due to World War II, the United States decided to resume nuclear testing and had displaced the local inhabitants. The tests also include the explosion of the first H-bomb, which had major consequences on the natural environment of the island as well as the people who were exposed to radiation.

The displaced local inhabitants, of course, were not happy about it, because the tests have destroyed some of their culture and heritage that was passed down from generation to generation.

  1. Tomb of Askia

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Image: Antonio Feliziani

The name is pretty straightforward in telling its story. It’s a tomb built after the Emperor of Songhai, Askia Mohamed, came back from Mecca after converting to Islam. Of course, as its name suggests, he is actually buried there after his death.

The complex consists of a pyramidal tomb where he lies, two mosques, a cemetery, as well as an assembly ground. At 17 metres tall, it is the largest pre-colonial architectural monument in the region, as well as the first example of Islamic architectural style that was later adopted by others in the region.

  1. Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes

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Image: © Lee Kwang Choon

The island was created with the formation of the highest peak in South Korea, Mount Halla. As of now, the volcano is no longer active because the lava tubes that once fed it has dried up with the last eruption over a thousand years ago.

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Image: Ivo Roghair

Since its last eruption, the island is now home to lots of plants and animals, and you can perhaps spot some of them depending on your hiking trail. One of the best things to do while you’re there is to view the lake from the peak of the mountain.

  1. Machu Picchu

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Image: Walter Diaz

Machu Picchu is believed to have been a royal estate to the Inca leaders, whose civilisation was believed to have been completely wiped out by Spanish invaders, or by an outbreak of smallpox. Today, it is filled with hundreds of tourists.

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Image: Seig & Alice Kopinitz

The keyword ‘believed’ is because there are many different theories as to why the site was built, and none have been proven. Some believed that rather than a royal estate, it was a religious site, or even a trade hub, a transportation station, a women’s retreat, or even a prison. If you ask me, I side with prison, because of all its stone walls.

  1. Jesuit Block and Estancias of Cordoba

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Image: UNESCO

In the heart of the Cordoba province of Argentina lies the remnant of one of the most successful social and economical projects carried over by the Society of Jesus in Spanish Americas. Its founder, Saint Ignatius Loyola, had a simple mission: youth education and evangelisation in the New World.

What Jesuits achieved was not only a place to worship, but also an intellectual and cultural centre that formed doctors and lawyers that made important contributions to science, technology, and the arts during that time. The glory came to an end when King Charles III signed a decree that expelled the Society of Jesus from the Spanish Americas.

  1. Cliff of Bandiagara

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Image: © Sacred sites

The communities at this site are calls the Dogons (I read it as Dragon and got attracted). They are an ancient tribe that lives in Mali, Africa, and they claim to be the living conduit between heaven and Earth, possessing not only the knowledge of cosmos, but of man’s true origins.

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Image: © Sacred sites

In one of their oldest legends, it was said that a race called the Nommos visited Earth from the star Sirius. The Dogons learned that there was a companion star orbiting the Sirius star, which wasn’t visible to the naked eye until 1970, when a telescope photographed it.

The Dogons can correctly define the key components of matter, from atoms to the vibrating threads of string theory, all in the proper sequence, which they claimed to have learnt from the Nommos. They revealed that the Nommos were amphibious creatures who were clothed in grey and were responsible for giving rise to all of mankind.

Kinda sounds like a story out of Star Wars, doesn’t it?

  1. Megalithic Temples of Malta

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Image: © Sacred sites

These temples are known to be some of the oldest temples in history, with some dating back to before the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge. One of the temples, Ggantija, is derived from the word ggant (giant), because they believed that a race of giants were responsible for building the temples.

But historians believe that the temple builders were farmers who grew cereals and raised domestic livestock. They worshipped a mother goddess, whose type is known from early statuettes found scattered around the Mediterranean. The statues found on Malta were similar, several being of uniquely large size.

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Image: © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

While it can be proven that worship in Malta included animal sacrifice, beyond that, little is known about the rites and rituals that took place. The temples aside, the inhabitants of Malta left no writing behind them.

  1. Malacca, Historic City of the Straits of Malacca

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Image:  © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

Of course, I wouldn’t leave out the pride of my own country. Developed from over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West, there are distinct Asian and European influences that can be seen.

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Source: Of Atlases and Empty Pockets

The state was found by a Sumatran prince, who was fleeing his country. He had been taking a short rest under a tree, where he witnessed a kancil (lesser mouse-deer) using its hind legs to kick his hunting dog into the river. Instead of getting angered, he was rather amused, and has found that event to be an auspicious one. The prince then named the place after the tree he was resting upon, which was called Melaka (Malacca).

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Image: Daniel Chong Kah Fui

The state grew into a prominent trading ground, and a link between East and West. During that time, many Chinese migrants settled, establishing the Peranakan culture for the future. Hearing about this flourishing state, the Portuguese came and conquered Malacca, followed by the Dutch, and then the British, each spreading their influence.

History aside, Malacca also has its own famous urban legend revolving around the Princess of Mount Ledang. The Sultan had heard of her beauty and wanted to marry her, but she set seven impossible conditions, as a subtle way to turn him down, or to test his true love, the last condition being a silver bowl of his son’s blood. He had been unable to fulfill her requests, and gave up on marrying her.

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