Bad tourist behavior has led to a new code of conduct at Angkor Wat, including a prohibition on nudity. (Photo: iStock/Keith Molloy)
You’re going to have to keep your clothes on at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat now. And yes, it would seem that tourists do need to be told that.
Last winter, two Arizona sisters were arrested, fined, and banned for pulling their pants down and mooning the sacred temple complex in Cambodia. They weren’t the only ones to behave inappropriately — there’s been such a spate of nude selfies and selfies with monks (not at the same time) that the Apsara Authority, which oversees Angkor, has imposed a new code of conduct.
According to the rules, visitors cannot dress immodestly, meaning they can’t bare shoulders or knees—and the rest of the body has to stay covered. The code also prohibits visitors from giving candy or money to children, smoking (which had already been banned since 2012), climbing or touching the monuments, and disrupting the spiritual setting with loud voices. It also now requires you to ask permission before taking a photo with a monk, rather than just running up behind them and snapping a pic — which apparently a lot of people were doing.
The code is displayed on posters at Angkor and explained in a video that was sent to every Cambodian TV channel and also posted on YouTube. The video reviews the various new rules in dramatic fashion: In the opening vignette, a Khmer king rides an elephant through a crowd and points out tourist offenders, including a woman in short shorts, a man smoking, and a woman giving kids cash. He is alternately shocked, angered, and disappointed by the inappropriate behavior. The dramatization is followed by an explanation from an official. “These rules are made in order to prevent negative impacts on our temple, our environment and our culture,” he says.
A poster outlines the code of conduct at Angkor. (Photo: Apsara Authority)
If the video doesn’t convince potential offender, the poster should. It outlines seven rules, and includes a final warning at the bottom that is as definitive as it is heartbreaking: “Any act of looting, breaking or damaging Angkor, or exposing sex organs and nudity in public area is a crime punishable by law.“ That a sacred UNESCO World Heritage Site would have to explicitly remind people to keep their clothes on is just sad.