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Commercial overload at Angkor Wat

11-26-2012 09:15 BJT

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The temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia are the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. Built in the twelfth century, they are a stunning example of the technological and artistic advancements of the Khmer empire. Having fallen into disrepair over the years, they were 'rediscovered' at the turn of the last century and have now become one of the most famous destinations in the world.

Visitors number have exploded in recent years as Cambodia has become politically more stable, but there are concerns that such a high volume of tourists could damage these amazing monuments.

Built as a Buddhist temple around 1300 A.D., just after the construction of Angkor
Wat nearby, Angkor Thom served as the center for the Khmer Empire, despite being
physically threatened under the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970-80s.

Tourists head across the causeway towards the main temple at Angkor Wat. 800 hundred years ago this was home to the Khmer empire that ruled much of South East Asia. Today, it is probably the most visited tourist site in the region. Two million people in 2011 and over three million this year,an increase of forty percent.

According to the Governor of Siem Reap province that is just the start. He has he wants to see sustainable and environmentally friendly growth in future numbers of tourists. But that doesn’t mean he’s short on ambition.

Governor of Siem Reap Sou Phirin said, “Seven million, but now we have three million three hundred thousand. Maybe 2015 we will have more than 7 million. Yes, Yes. "

It is a concern that these high numbers of tourists might be doing more damage than good. Many have little understanding of the 12 century structures and how vulnerable they are.

Ginevra Boatto with World Monuments Fund said, “The visitors coming to Angkor are often not provided with enough information, by the tour guides, to understand that these structures are fragile.”

The World Monuments Fund has been working with Apsara, the organization responsible for the care of Angkor Wat, to protect and restore the temples. But it isn’t easy and in some cases it has meant limiting numbers, as they’ve now done with one small temple on a prominent hill.

Boatto said, “We had thousands of people going to the top for the sunset, me too years ago I did this. So they were sitting everywhere, they were themselves not in safe conditions and the temples conservation was at risk”

One of the attractions of visiting Angkor is to be allowed to wander freely in the huge temple site. In fact it is quite startling to be left alone with so many priceless artifacts.

Cambodia remains a poor country and the financial impact of the tourist dollar over rides most concerns. But there is a growing acceptance that the temples at Angkor are an invaluable National asset that must be protected for generations to come. And while the tourists continue to come, perhaps in the future, they may not be allowed to get quite so close,


Editor:Zhang Rui |Source:

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