Angkor Wat, a history of crowds

EcoGo - Angkor Wat Site - PATA

Overcrowded in its day

Is Angkor Wat on your bucket list? The amazing temple capitol of the Khmer Empire, lasting from the 9th to 16th centuries, is worth visiting. The core city housed some 500,000 inhabitants and covered at least 400 acres. One million people also lived in the constellation of suburbs, possibly creating the largest pre-industrialized city on the planet.

According to archaeologist Christophe Pottier, the Khmer Empire vanished due to droughts and overcrowding throughout greater Angkor Wat. Radar studies revealed intricate hydraulic systems to support the population. Reliable monsoon weather became irregular by the 14th century, likely leading to the empire’s demise.

Natural overgrowth successfully hid some 74 temple areas, fascinating architecture, religious evolution and cultural history. We’re fortunate the temple capitol was rediscovered and partly excavated centuries later.

Overcrowded in its honor

Before the late 1980s, few travelers set foot in the Angkor Wat area. As Cambodia entered a peaceful period, it became more accessible to travel and stay nearby. Yet this UNESCO World Heritage Site now draws more than two million tourists annually — double who lived there in Khmer times.

The area clearly suffers from crowds queuing to visit the main temple. More than 5,000 daily visitors easily herd together and follow established daily routes and schedules. Of course, some visitors avoid rushes by touring during off-hours or the off-season.

Traveling more independently

At EcoGo, we appreciate this Globe and Mail overview since it includes visitor suggestions. You don’t have to become a Angkor Wat expert to try them out, either.

  • Stay on after sunrise when most tour buses return to town for breakfast. Timing is crucial! Also, for the rest of Angkor (as opposed to Angkor Wat) there are many smaller little-vYisited temples you can enjoy to yourself.
  • Mountain bike. You can get to areas the drivers won’t go and the regular bikes can’t. Maybe $3 more each day.
  • Get a private guide and do the “tour” in reverse. We got to each spot just as the crowds were leaving and had them to ourselves.
  • Hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day and let him suggest a route for the temples on your list. He wants to avoid the crowds too! That’s assuming you’re looking to see multiple temples and not just Angkor Wat.
  • I visited in the off-season…and experienced very little crowding. It was magical.
  • It’s a big place. Just keep walking and eventually you’ll be blissfully alone.

This post was written by Nicole

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 at 12:12 am

Categories: EcoGo Dispatches,Ecotourism Destinations Tags: ,