Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent and sacred remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. As a resident of Siem Reap, I love visiting these temples and engrossing myself in the history of the glorious structures. However, I often feel frustrated when I see tourists (and locals, for that matter), engaging in disrespectful and inappropriate behaviour at the temples.
As our founder, Judith, says, “The first time I really encountered the Selfie Stick was at Angkor Wat. I literally couldn't believe what I was seeing. A bunch of people were taking up all available space videoing themselves in front of the sunset or sunrise - to show to who knows who when they returned home - instead of just experiencing the wonder and the moment. Some were standing so close to the edge up high, so obsessed with taking the perfect shot or video, that I was surprised nobody fell off or perhaps they have, just not that day. It really made me think where are we going with this? Shouldn't we just put the devices down and take in our surroundings and live through our eyes and ears rather than that technology? It's certainly something I'm trying to install in my 12-year-old son Callum who has been lucky enough to travel to incredible places since an early age."
Imagine my joy when the Apsara Authority released an ‘Angkor Code of Conduct’ in several languages. Finally, a way to spread the word about how to act appropriately at Siem Reap’s sacred temples! In case you haven’t heard of this Code of Conduct, the breakdown of good behaviour is below:
Dress code – If people can see your shoulders or knees, it is inappropriate. Leave the tank tops and shorts at your hotel.
Monuments – Avoid touching carvings, leaning on structures (I admit, I had no idea about this, but stopped as soon as I read the Code of Conduct), or taking anything from the temples.
Sacred sites – You are visiting sites that are over 1,000 years old and sacred. Speak softly, calming and avoid disturbing others.
Restricted areas – Yes, I love a good photo opportunity like you do, but you must read all the signs and comply with them. Don’t go where you aren’t supposed to, there are rules for a reason, and usually for the protection of visitors.
Smoking and littering – Angkor is a smoke-free site. Don’t smoke or litter, as we want a clean and safe environment for everyone to enjoy.
Giving to children –Do NOT give candy, money, presents or the like to children. It encourages them to beg and will keep them trapped in poverty. If you were interested in helping disadvantaged people in Cambodia, search for reputable NGO’s to make a donation to instead.
Monks – If you see a Monk, ask before you take a photo (I asked once, and a Monk said no. That was fine, we shouldn’t take photos of people without their permission). If you are female, don’t get too close to a Monk as you risk touching them, which is strictly prohibited.
I urge you to share the very useful Angkor Code of Conduct and make people aware of ways they can respect these ancient structures and preserve them for years to come.
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