My wife and I feel lucky to have visited the ruins of Angkor Wat for a second time with a close friend from the United States this past March. To see and experience the long history of the Khmer people has definitely been an amazing experience and something we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
With that being said, there’s definitely changes that should be made to preserve the grandeur and what’s left of the Angkor Wat temples for others to be able to enjoy. History provides important revenue streams for many developed and developing countries throughout the world. We don’t mind paying to visit places like Angkor Wat because we know some of the money will go towards proper restoration, training, and saving of the temples.
And yet it’s not enough.
Eventually the Cambodian government will have enough money from the foreign tourist hoards running roughshod over their beloved Angkor Wat ruins, but as of now, that time hasn’t come yet. I hope it does soon as we found with our second time exploring the ruins a more pronounced presence of tourists across all elements of the temples. The Peruvians have gotten the memo on how to preserve their Machu Picchu with capping the volume of people allowed to access the site, but that’s not the the case in Cambodia.
Our guide along with local people we talked to are afraid that Angkor Wat will be loved to death with the increased exposure the temple complexes have received over the past few years. We are part of the problem too. We have wanted to see the ruins ourselves, but with time we’ve learned to understand how drastic our own presence has on items of antiquity. Each footstep, each push of the hand against a wall, every tourist climbing on the wall adds more stress to an already decrepit system in dire need of stability.
I sincerely hope that all governments and not just the Cambodian one will take heed and start coming up with better methods of reducing the stress on their antiquities while also preserving their cultural heritage for tomorrow’s generation.