How Selfie Sticks are Ruining Angkor Wat

& how we are all part of the problem.

At 4 am I woke up this morning to get dressed in my temple clothes (flowy pants, tank top & scarf because you have to have your shoulders & knees covered to enter temples) & I hopped into a Tuk Tuk with Vincent, who was basically a stranger from France staying at my hostel that invited me to go to the temples with him. We arrived at Angkor Wat and the cues began. Oh yeah, I have a habit of saying cue instead of line now… Some English terms are starting to catch on in my vocab.

We bought our one-day pass for $20 & got back into the Tuk Tuk to drive to Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise.

Before moving forward, can we please take a moment to laugh at my pass photo? Chipmunk cheeks, anyone? I received a few giggles from the workers today when they checked my pass before every temple.


I knew it was going to be crowded, but I didn’t expect this. This is the lake that everyone crowds around to watch the sun rise behind Angkor Wat, it creates a beautiful reflection in the water.


As we were standing on the left side of the lake, which we read was the best place to watch the sunset, I began to only be able to see the magnificent sunrise in front of me through the lens of other people’s cameras.


For me, sunrises are supposed to be peaceful & beautiful. I wanted to watch the new day begin & I didn’t want to do that with a million selfie sticks banging around my shoulders. I walked to the other side of the lake & sat on a rock by myself to finish the sunset. No one was sitting at the front of the lake because they wanted to see the reflection in the water.

Here’s a selfie of me on the rock with the crowd of people behind me & no I didn’t use a selfie stick.


The crowds began to clear right as the new day lit up, which I took as the perfect opportunity to go back to the other side of the lake to get that Angkor Wat reflection picture all the selfie sticks were trying to reach earlier.


We walked around Angkor Wat rather quickly to try to get ahead of the crowds. Every photo we tried to take had a trillion other people in it. But that’s the problem we have created. We are more worried about getting the perfect shot, with the best lighting, than we are about breathing in the work of art in front of us. Nowadays, we are all guilty of this everywhere we go.

As I walked through staring at all the engravings and reliefs (pulling my former art history class knowledge out for this one), I was transported back one thousand years ago. My brain was spinning 100 mph trying to take in every intricate detail of these archeological sites. So many questions were running through my head, how did people create the largest religious site in the world, how many people built this, how long did these engravings take, I wonder if India is jealous that this impressive site wasn’t built in their country,  how did they create these moats around the temples?

Bayon was our next stop & my favorite temple. It is situated inside of Angkor Thom, an even larger complex than Angkor Wat. It is a maze-like temple with 216 four-faced buddha statues throughout it. This temple was constructed between 1181-219, which created a magnificent change in Angkor Wat history, as this temple signified the change of majority religion in Cambodia from Hindu to Buddhism.


Since we were ahead of the crowds, we were able to walk through the next few temples with some sort of peace. Today I discovered that I have a fascination with walls. I love to see how the walls transformed & changed due to weather, time, battles, mold, etc.


We spent the rest of the morning exploring the temples & attempting to take in every detail, which was nearly impossible. Another favorite temple was Ta Prohm, known for the trees growing through the ancient ruins. This temple seemed to be more ruined & corroded than the other temples. It also had a lot of reconstruction done to it. I can’t help but wonder if the trees & its roots are what destroyed the temple. Here’s one tree that has taken over a part of the temple with two people posing in front of it. Is it just me or does this look like the Asian version of American Gothic (the famous Western painting with the man holding a pitch fork). Just look at this photo. The longer you look the more peculiar it becomes. Ahh, the little things in life that make me giggle.


Overall it was a wonderful day, but I wish we could all just enjoy the moment rather than looking at it through the lens of our cameras. I am guilty of this too since I took a few selfies of my own today. But to my defense, I did make a conscious effort to keep my phone away & take in the magnificent sites before me.

One thought on “How Selfie Sticks are Ruining Angkor Wat

  1. Heidi Taylor says:

    You use sunrise ans sunset interchangeably. Which was it? Since you state “morning” so I assume you mean sunrise.


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