GHM hotels are hard to outclass, but for travellers trying to find some of the few things that can outclass the renowned properties, they don’t have to wander far. With a number of locations, GHM has been strategic in their property placements such that no site is more than a stone’s throw away from a number of breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Last month, as I stood in the immigration line at the Da Nang International airport, I got to chatting with a couple who was on their way to The Nam Hai Hoi An for the first time. Having stayed there twice before, I can’t help but feel that through our conversation, I helped raise their level of excitement regarding what to expect. They said they had only heard good things, and knowing personally what a GHM property offers, I know that the good things that they had heard were only to be outdone upon arrival. Fast forward a few days and I catch the same couple at the lavish breakfast spread before the disappointingly uneventful Manny Pacquiao – Floyd Mayweather fight. Not paying much attention to the droll of the overhyped affair, I asked them how the trip had been going so far. It’s one thing hearing the good things people say, but it’s another thing entirely when their feelings broadcast so clearly across their faces that no words even become necessary. “Perfect,” they responded in unison, smiles plastered across their sun-reddened faces.
When one gets into conversations that orbit the GHM universe, this fawning seems to be the norm — gushing over the unbeatable pampering, oozing over the euphoric spa treatments, raving about the superb food — but what seems to be oft-forgotten in these usually-giddy conversations are the discussions that centre on what happens outside of many of these immaculate properties. While each of us holidays for a different reason, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, the locations of GHM properties afford travellers a set of world-class resources that are difficult to find elsewhere. These resources? A healthy smattering of UNESCO World Heritage sites that are rarely more than a stone’s throw away from luxury. For that reason, we take a look here at a number of UNESCO sites that are easily accessible from each of the GHM properties across the globe, after all, wouldn’t that warm bath in your outdoor tub feel a hell of a lot better when you close your eyes and still have the silhouettes of ancient Hindu shrines occupying your mind?
An archipelago of over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is one of the most diverse countries on the face of the earth, and you’ll be hard-pressed to forget that as you take in the vibrant mish-mash of colours, languages, animals, flora and fauna on your evening walks. With a spate of UNESCO World Heritage sites, perhaps the most intriguing is that which makes up a decent chunk of the island of Bali. The cultural landscape of Bali has been listed as one of Indonesia’s eight unique World Heritage sites and it’s easy to see why. Terraced rice paddies combine with an 18th-century temple, and a complex system of irrigation canals (subak) to cover over 19,500 hectares in a display that, to the Balinese, signifies the connections that exist between the human, spirit and natural worlds.
This system of interconnected ingenuity can be best viewed at places like Tegalalang village (North of Ubud), the water temple at Pura Ulun Danu Batur, the Pakerisan Watershed, and the royal water temple of Pura Taman Ayun. Truly something to behold, Bali’s cultural landscape isn’t the only UNESCO site worth seeing if one is hanging out in tropical paradise, however. Hop on a short flight (an hour and twenty minutes) from Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport to Yogyakarta to take in Borobudur, the 8th to 9th-century Buddhist monument that boasts the largest series of Buddhist bas-reliefs in the world at over six kilometres, and Prambanan, an equally stunning 10th-century Hindu temple complex.
Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia: Komodo National Park; Ujung Kulon National Park; Sangiran Early Man Site; Lorentz National Park; Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra
Oman boasts a rich history, as happens when you are a country that lies in strategic shipping lanes for thousands of years, that is some of the most fascinating, and oldest, that you will find in the world. Though travel times can be long in this expansive country, the scenery throughout Oman is sure to leave travellers in awe, and making headquarters in Muscat allows travellers a central hub from which all travel arrangements can easily be made. But what to see? A marvel of old world engineering, the al falaj irrigation system, for example, is a UNESCO World Heritage protected cultural relic that has been around since 2,500 B.C., and is a natural system that relies on both underground sources of water and good old gravity to pump out, and spread water through hand-made channels to typically dry areas that need help in sustaining life in the sensationally hot desert. But this engineering feat is not the only piece of protected history that makes its home in Oman, and one would be challenged to find more awe-inspiring pieces of the old world than the structures that remain standing tall in the Al-Dhahira region of north-western Oman. Here, the archaeological sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn make up the most complete set of settlements in the world from as far back as the 3rd millennium B.C.
Another piece of Oman’s legacy as one of the great historical sites in the world is that of Frankincense, yet another UNESCO-protected treasure that calls the coastal country home. One of the great luxury items over the centuries, this valuable trade piece has had roots in Oman for as far back as any can remember, and while it now gets lugged around quite easily in travellers’ carry-on luggage as a souvenir (be sure to grab some on your way out), this aromatic resin used to be the financial life-blood of places like Khor Rori, Salalah, and Al-Balid, where it was shipped out by the boatload to the distant shores of places like Mesopotamia, India, and China.
Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Oman: Bahla Fort
Tucked away in the centre of Europe, this small mountainous country presents the mosts opportunities for travellers to indulge in UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other spot on the GHM map. Small and easily navigable, whether by car or train, Switzerland is a country in which any and all sites are easily reachable from anywhere within the country, Andermatt included. For starts, in north-eastern Switzerland stands the Abbey of Saint Gall, an 8th-century monastery-turned-Roman-Catholic-complex, this series of buildings brings together over a thousand years of architectural styles and was once, and still is, the home of one of the oldest and most prized libraries in all of Europe.
Also featured in Switzerland, this time in the Canton of Berne, is the UNESCO-protected old city of Berne. Bringing together architecture from the 15th to 18th centuries, and surrounded by the River Aar, the old city of Berne offers visitors a walk through exquisite and historic urban planning on the Swiss plateau. For something essentially Swiss, visitors might also venture to the Jungfrau-Aletsch section of the Swiss Alps in south-western Switzerland, where they will find the highest number of glaciers in the Swiss Alps, along with the most sizeable glacier in all of Eurasia.
Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Switzerland: Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair; Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzona; Monte San Giorgio; Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces; Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes; Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona; La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle, Watchmaking Town Planning; Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps
This long coastal country is mired in history, and that becomes evident as you take a look at the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites that populate this increasingly popular Southeast Asian getaway. From the coast to the densely thicketed interior, Vietnam takes pride in a diverse mix of historical artifacts that no travellers should miss. Hoi An, the home of The Nam Hai luxury resort, is the first on this long list of notable sites with the historical old city which brings together architectural diversity, a rich tradition of multiculturalism, vibrant multitudes of lantern-festooned streets, and a hard-to-leave relaxed vibe. Grab a cup of ca phe sua da and soak in the storied lineage that has kept this city relevant since the early days of Champa reign centuries ago.
Another city which tops the list of UNESCO destinations to see in Vietnam is Hoi An’s northern neighbour, Hue (three hours by car from Hoi An). This once-capital is home to a slew of imperial remnants that dot both the city’s inner limits and its most outer reaches. Divided by the Perfume River, Hue is a mixture of both history and natural beauty with its UNESCO-recognised monuments flanked by rolling mountains and endless fields of green. Perhaps the only thing more intriguing in this imperial throwback is the slow central Vietnamese languor that permeates the city’s maze of streets and alleyways, something which no traveller should ignore.
Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vietnam: Ha Long Bay; My Son Sanctuary; Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park; Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi; Citadel of the Ho Dynasty; Trang An Landscape Complex
(Featured image: The historic Japanese Bridge in the centre of the old town in Hoi An. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old town brings together a diverse history of architectural diversity and multiculturalism.)