Penne 4 Your Thoughts

Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Last year, inspired by countless photos of beautiful sunrises at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Happy Gwailo and I decided to spend our year end break in Cambodia, with Angkor Wat – the highlight of our trip – saved for last.

We kicked off our tour of the temples with sunrise at Angkor Wat. We knew – of course we did – that Angkor Wat would be very touristy and that December/January is high season. But even so, the hordes of tourists (and of course we were part of the problem) at Angkor Wat for the sunrise was shocking.

The picture in my head was of a serene sunrise with the ruined temples in the background. It would be silent, meditative almost – a spiritual start to the day.

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The crowds watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat

Instead, what we got were hundreds, if not thousands, of people gathered by the pool fronting Angkor Wat. It was noisy, with the air filled with the chatter of hundreds of people; it was definitely not serene and peaceful to say the least.

To give the government its’ due, there are many restrictions in place to protect their national treasure such as prohibitions on touching the friezes. The tourists here are also decent enough human beings that there isn’t litter everywhere. Even so, I can’t help but wonder how the thousands of people that come through here every day will impact the ancient temples.

A beautiful destination, combined with Instagram, the internet, and modern day travel, is both a treasure and a curse. It’s such a recognised phenomenon that this Business Insider article lists seven places that have been ruined by too many tourists, including one sad story about how some tourists killed seven of the famous swimming pigs at Pig Beach in the Bahamas because they fed them food and alcohol.

Yes, there are many beautiful places in the world, and yes, I want to see them too. But the next time I’m planning a trip, I’ll be thinking about how I can travel responsibly and do my part to protect, not destroy the place I’m visiting.

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Silence.


12 comments on “Sunrise at Angkor Wat

  1. Mabel Kwong
    January 23, 2018

    I have heard about a lot of people visiting that place, but that does look like so many people! A full sea of them! Maybe for locals that is normal, to be around a lot of people but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Have heard of the proposed restrictions and would be interesting to see which way that goes.

    • Penne Cole
      January 23, 2018

      yeah definitely not my cuppa tea. And yes, hopefully the restrictions work because the temples may not last very long otherwise.

  2. Victor Tribunsky
    January 23, 2018

    I remember the times when only a few photographers waited the sun rise near this lake. It was spiritual indeed.

    • Penne Cole
      January 23, 2018

      Lucky you. I wish I had seen it back then.

  3. Pingback: Silence – Beach – What's (in) the picture?

  4. Pingback: Silence WordPress Photo Challenge | RyanPhotography

  5. gilesmeetsworld
    January 31, 2018

    Really honest post and I love how you’ve included the picture of the people there too. It’s something I want to try and do more, as in I mean taking pictures of the reality of places as well as the idiolised versions of them to show people what they’re ACTUALLY like to visit. Instagram just seems full of edited, filtered, hyper reality versions of places that are nothing like real life, so it’s great you’re showing the real place too

    • Penne Cole
      February 1, 2018

      Thanks for your kind comments, Giles. Yes, I thought it would be a bit disingenuous to post the instagram-perfect snap, but not the reality.

  6. gilesmeetsworld
    January 31, 2018

    Also! I forgot to mention, there’s a cool site I’ve often browsed but not yet booked anything with called ‘’, they have some really cool niche trips all designed around travelling in a more sustainable and responsible way. It’s where I’ve looked for inspiration on places sometimes and has changed a lot since I first heard of it, but might be of interest to you

    • Penne Cole
      February 1, 2018

      Thanks for the tip! I was struggling a little with what to do for my next trip.

  7. Beauty and the Beach
    February 16, 2018

    Great post! I loved Angkor Wat and the other temples too! Check out my post about my experience x

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This entry was posted on January 23, 2018 by in Asia, Cambodia, Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge and tagged , , .

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