Angkor

According to National Geographic, in 13th century, Angkor was the largest city in the world: nearly 1,000 square kilometers with more than 700,000 inhabitants. In the 16th century, the holy city was suddenly found dying. Wars against Ayutthaya and Champa had clearly troubled the kingdom that once controlled a very large territory. However, this city seemed to be abandoned because of another reason: natural phenomenon. Climate disasters, experts say, may have swept these incredible infrastructure.

Angkor is today an example of how human knowledge and imagination once flattened by series of climate tragedy. In the 20th century, after two decades concealed by the Khmer Rouge regime, this ancient city bounced back to life thanks to tourism. In 1993, Angkor was added into the UNESCO World Heritage list. Restoration goes well. At once, some new threats arise. Nowadays, the center of this area is Siem Reap that increasingly boisterous. In terms of number of visits, Angkor recorded as the most growth destination among the World Heritage sites.

Angkor became the champion of tourism in Indochina—about two million visitors per year. A number that seems to be increasingly stimulated by its inheritor, one of the world’s poorest countries. Mass tourism brought the legs in shoes, stepping on the ruins which are hundreds to a thousand years old. Mass tourism delivered the oily hands who touch the reliefs on the temple walls. Mass tourism created the modern marks which slowly tarnish the authenticity of the holy sites. Religious and cultural backgrounds behind this grand structure are nowadays somewhat neglected. This ancient holy city is now usually celebrated only with selfies. Conservationists are worried. Would this potentially-damaging-acceleration be manageable?  •  Tearsheets