The “Tomb Raider Temple” – Ta Prohm at Angkor Wat

Very thought-provoking and similar to my own observations when I visited the site a few days back. It seems that sometimes the boundary between physical heritage tourism and conscious tourism (you see what you want to see and act in a way prescribed by media) become a bit muddled up.

I fear, not just for the future of archaeological sites, but for human heritage as a whole, and the natural ecologies of the developing world, ‘developed’ world, and those areas between. Observing the culturally-blended hoards of tourists ambling through At Phrom I noticed people stashing empty water bottles in dark corners, dropping litter, scrambling over unstable structures, and probably most concerning; people face-booking, snapping selfies from five different angles and not actually paying any attention to the environment around them. It’s as if there were a sign at the entrance saying “please leave your conscious, thinking mind at the door – you won’t need it where you’re going!”.

Middle Savagery

What have you seen?

It’s a common question in Siem Reap, home to the many hostels and hotels that feed tourists to the Angkor Wat temple complex. Sunburnt tourists trade stories while cooling off in the bar with a can of cold, cheap Angkor beer–the famous temple on the label collecting beads of condensation. A list generally follows the question. Oh, I’ve seen Bayon, Angkor, Banteay Srey, the waterfall and the Tomb Raider temple. 

jolie_angkor Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft at Ta Prohm.

In his 2002 article for the International Journal of Heritage Studies, Tim Winter  outlines the history of Angkor, as UNESCO terms it, “a geographical region, an archaeological site and a cultural concept”. Angkor “emerged as a major seat of power early in the 9th century AD and lasted until the capital’s abandonment in the middle decades of the 15th century” wherein god-kings would construct an irrigation network…

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