Angkor Wat’s Deported Nudists Are Part of Growing Naked Tourism Trend

Would you strip down for a vacation snapshot?

This topless photo was taken at temple of Banteay Kdei at Angkor Wat. Photo: WANIMAL.
This topless photo was taken at temple of Banteay Kdei at Angkor Wat. Photo: WANIMAL.

Looking to give your next vacation selfie a little something extra? Consider the naked tourism trend, which has been troubling authorities at major tourist attractions such as Peru’s Machu Picchu and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

After Cambodian authorities handed a trio of Frenchmen a suspended six-month prison sentence and deported them (see Cambodia Deports Three Frenchmen Over Naked Photos at Angkor Wat), Cambodian pundits are debating how to address the issue. At least seven foreigners have disrobed at the World Heritage site in the last month alone, including a couple wearing only animal masks, who captioned their photo “hakuna matata,” the Swahili phrase meaning “no problem.”

Naked tourism first made headlines in 2014, when several stripping tourists were detained at Machu Picchu. “There are places in the world that people can get naked, but not all places are [appropriate] for getting undressed,” Alfredo Mormontoy Atayupanqui, director of archaeological resources for Peru’s Ministry of Culture, told CNN.

This behavior isn’t limited to major historical monuments: traveler Amichy Rab has a whole website, “My Naked Trip,” documenting his nude wanderings through South America. In August, the Guardian reported on photos of naked Italian men drunkenly cavorting through the streets of Barcelona, with columnist Jonathan Jones noting that “it’s as if, in the age of the selfie, no one can stand to be a mere spectator” (see Dustin Yellin Got Naked at a Christmas Carnival).

Philip Pearce, a professor of tourism at Queensland’s James Cook University, told the Phnom Penh Post that naked tourism appeals to travelers because “it is a ‘clever’ twist on the theme of achievement and ‘I am/have been here’ statements by also proclaiming I am liberated and can break the rules in an exotic place.” He believes the trend will likely fizzle if it is ignored.

Kong Vireak, director of the National Museum of Cambodia, however, is in favor of enforcing the country’s laws prohibiting public nudity through added security measures, calling the trend an offense to Khmer culture. “If I went into a Catholic Church and did the same thing, how would people feel?” he asked the Post. “This is not just an archaeological site but a live site where many Cambodians go to worship. it is a sacred place and foreigners have to respect our culture.”

Even visitors with their clothes on are inspiring new rules and regulations in cultural institutions by bringing selfie sticks to museums, potentially endangering fellow museumgoers and works of art (see Are Museum Selfies Endangered? Museums Ban Selfie Sticks).


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