July 12, 2011

Cambodia's Ancient Wonders Suffer Modern Ills


The blistering heat at Cambodia's Angkor temples eases, and the sun's last soft shimmer will soon brush some of the most wondrous monuments ever created by man. A moment for peaceful reverence? Hardly.

A traffic jam of up to 3,000 tourists surges up a steep hillside, trampling over vulnerable stonework and quaffing beer at a sacred hilltop that provides spectacular sunset views of the massive beehive-like towers rising from the main temple in this ancient city: Angkor Wat.

Below, guides describe its wonders through blaring loudspeakers in a host of tongues as buses circle what is said to be the world's largest religious edifice, one of hundreds erected by Angkor's kings between the 9th and 14th centuries.

"Nobody should be allowed to walk on 1,000-year-old stones," says Jeff Morgan, executive director of the U.S.-based Global Heritage Fund.

He says limits on tourists at the temples are decades overdue.


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