Entering the walls of Angkor Thom is full immersion into Cambodia’s infinite beauty and some unfortunate circumstances.

The nature within the complex alone is reason to visit. These temples act as a veritable sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife – especially bugs! With no biological survey of Cambodia ever published, it’s impossible to determine the level of biodiversity but one only needs to look close to see the life teeming in the soil and trees.



Throughout the buildings of Angkor Thom, Theravada Buddhist monks participate in both the local’s worship and the tourist’s escapades. Robe-clad and barefoot they stand sentry over the shrines and monasteries. Sometimes the local Khmer people (and SFS students) will give them a small offering to receive a kabbalah or even a Sastra Slek Rith. Always there are tourists taking pictures of these personal, sacred events.

Hindu-inspired carvings adorn almost every reachable surface within Angkor Wat – easily deserving of its place among the Wonders of the Ancient World. Although no longer operational as a temple, locals and monks still frequent the shrines for to offer small offerings and present personal prayers. Ogling them are the herds of tourists and their guides. Packs of internationals clad in insensitive attire are shepherded along from monk to mural, flashing cameras shamelessly in the faces of those attempting worship and their Wat.



Although there is real concern about the impacts of tourism on local culture, tourism accounts for 35% of Cambodia’s economy and is vital to so many people’s livelihoods. As the semester progresses, I’m looking forward to discovering local conservation efforts and to learn more about the balance between tourism and Cambodian society!



→ Conservation and Development Studies in Cambodia