Tourism is the lifeblood of the Angkor Wat temple complex, but also quickly damaging its delicate infrastructure and Cambodia will have to eventually do more than reorganize sunset watchers for the site to remain sustainable.
Cambodia has joined hands with Australia in an effort to use the Internet to help preserve its fabled Angkor Wat temple complex, the Australian Embassy announced Thursday.
As part of a master plan to limit damage to the complex, a recently opened website, Angkor Sunset Finder, will give tourists recommendations for where in the 400-square-kilometer (160-square-mile) complex one can watch spectacular sunsets.
A handful of well-publicized spots from which to watch the setting sun attract too many tourists, endangering the place’s physical and aesthetic integrity. The website at angkorsunsets.com allows visitors to select several criteria — including what kind of atmosphere, distance from gate and crowd conditions — to get a recommendation of alternative perches from a listing of 34 vantage points.
Built between the ninth and 14th centuries, Angkor is not only a symbol of national pride, emblazoned on the Cambodian flag, but is also the country’s biggest tourist attraction, receiving about 2 million visitors a year. It is one of the landmarks of international significance on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The website is part of an Australian-assisted Heritage Management Framework plan initiated in 2008 “in response to a dramatic increase in tourism, new environmental challenges and the rapid development of the communities neighboring Cambodia’s Angkor World Heritage Site,” the Australian Embassy said in a statement.
Angkor welcomed only 250,000 visitors as recently as 2001.
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Photo credit: In this March 30, 2008 photo, tourists watch the sunrise at the famed Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province, Cambodia. Heng Sinith / AP Photo