Everyone knows Angkor Wat. The iconic mega-temple-complex is visited by millions each year. It’s a magnificent sight, a magnificent sight. But it’s quite overdone. I decided that instead of going there this round and taking the same pictures as last time, I would focus on a theme. One of the first things you think about in Cambodia is the effect (positive or negative) of tourism on Cambodian culture and society. Taking that a step further, I decided to look at vandalism and the defacement of the walls of Angkor. The wear and tear of the temples is quite easily accomplished because much of the structure was built using sandstone and similar soft stones. So, if you want to, you could take a penny, fingernail, or pen and make a scratch in a wall that is thousands of years old.
Why would anyone want to do this? That’s for social psychologist to answer, but I can assure you it’s been done and is continued to be done. How can I assure you? Just check out the 200+ pictures below and you’ll be able to judge the “humanity” within the tourism at Angkor Wat. You might also consider some of the pictures that don’t exactly look like vandalism. There are some images that look like they are professional. There is some script that could have been inscribed into the stones via a monk. But how do you verify? And who grants permission to these “living and dying buildings” (my poetic voice coming out now). Also interesting is the vandalism that’s been made more visible by obvious prevention measures. Some scratches forcibly removed by way of chipping the stone have caused immense destruction and remind me of graffiti in the USA that’s been painted over to look even uglier than the original imagery and language.
In January I might be able to go back. I may decide to or I may decide to stay away. If I do go back, I may take another look at the vandalism and see if it’s changed at all. Oh, and I found it fitting that “I Heart Greg” was scratched into one of the walls. I hope that whoever is out there thinking of me is proud.
More after the break.