At Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, a new code of conduct means no more selfies with monks and no nudity

Monks at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province, Cambodia.

Monks at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province, Cambodia.

(Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press)

Angkor Wat is the onetime capital of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia and spiritual center for Buddhists around the world.

Now the UNESCO World Heritage site is banning selfies with monks (more on that later) and visitors who dress immodestly, such as baring their shoulders and wearing skirts or shorts that fall above the knee.

It’s an attempt to deal with bad behavior by travelers, which reached a crescendo in 2014 when several were arrested for posing naked. In February, two American sisters who apparently dropped their pants and mooned the sacred site were arrested.


“Any act of looting, breaking or damaging Angkor, or exposing sex organs and nudity in public area is a crime punishable by law,” the Visitor Code of Conduct says.

The Daily Telegraph reports that these rules have been posted in four languages outside Angkor’s temples.

More tourists than ever are flocking to the temple complex, which houses the remains of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to 12th century. It claimed $59.3 million in ticket sales last year and 2.35 million international tourists, up 5% from the previous year, according to a Cambodian newspaper.

Hence the need for guidelines to maintain the spiritual context of the site.

The rules also forbid visitors from giving candy or money to children, which “encourages them not to attend school but to beg”; smoking, which has been banned since 2012; and loud voices and noisy conversations that would disrupt someone trying to make a spiritual connection.

There is some good news too, according to the Telegraph’s report. Starting Jan. 1, Angkor Wat will open two hours earlier at 5:30 a.m. for those who want to witness sunrise at the temples.


Now back to the monks.

The rule points out that monks are revered and respected, but “if you want to take pictures, please ask for permission first.” So don’t just pose and snap a selfie; be respectful and ask.

Entrance fees cost roughly $20 for a single-day visit, $40 for three days and $60 for a week.

The code was compiled by the Apsara National Authority, which has overseen the Angkor complex since 1995. The site has been on the World Heritage list since 1992.


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