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Monkey-ing Around At Angkor Wat


by Vanna Perrine



Angkor Wat, located in the northwest region of Cambodia, is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also one of the most iconic and famous landmarks in Southeast Asia. Renowned for its intricate architecture and rich historical significance, Angkor Wat attracts millions of visitors from around the world each year.


While Angkor Wat itself is a captivating attraction, it is the presence of another unique and intriguing species that adds an extra element of excitement to the experience – monkeys. These mischievous creatures, often spotted frolicking among the ancient ruins, have become an integral part of the Cambodian cultural landscape.


In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history of Angkor Wat, explore the significance of monkeys in Cambodian culture, discuss encounters with monkeys at Angkor Wat, and highlight the impact of their behavior on tourists. We will also shed light on the efforts taken to manage the monkey population and ensure a harmonious coexistence between humans and these playful creatures.


Get ready to embark on a journey filled with intriguing tales, adorable encounters, and a deeper understanding of the intertwining relationship between Angkor Wat and its resident monkeys.


The History of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, meaning “City of Temples,” was built in the 12th century during the Khmer Empire, under the reign of King Suryavarman II. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu but later transitioned into a Buddhist temple complex. Spanning over 400 acres, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.


The architectural marvel of Angkor Wat showcases the intricate craftsmanship and engineering brilliance of the Khmer people. It was designed to symbolize Mount Meru, the mythical abode of the gods, with its five towering spires mimicking the peaks of the sacred mountain. The temple complex consists of several levels, courtyards, galleries, and is adorned with ornate bas-reliefs illustrating Hindu and Buddhist mythology.


During its height, Angkor Wat was the epicenter of the Khmer Empire, which stretched across much of Southeast Asia. However, the decline of the empire resulted in the abandonment of Angkor Wat, and it was engulfed by the encroaching jungle for centuries, until its rediscovery by French explorers in the 19th century.


Today, Angkor Wat stands as a testament to the extraordinary architectural achievements of the Khmer civilization. Its grandeur and beauty draw millions of visitors each year, eager to immerse themselves in its rich history and awe-inspiring beauty.


The Importance of Monkeys in Cambodian Culture

Monkeys hold a special place in Cambodian culture and folklore, with their presence deeply rooted in ancient traditions and beliefs. In Cambodian mythology, monkeys are considered sacred and are believed to possess magical powers. They are often associated with stories of bravery, intelligence, and cunning.


One of the most famous tales involving monkeys is the Ramayana, an epic Hindu mythological story. In this story, the monkey god Hanuman plays a crucial role in rescuing the princess Sita from the demon king Ravana. Hanuman’s bravery and loyalty are celebrated in Cambodian culture, and his image can be found in various temples and monuments across the country, including Angkor Wat.


In addition to their mythical significance, monkeys are also an integral part of traditional Cambodian festivals and rituals. During the annual Water Festival, which marks the end of the rainy season, monkeys are revered as symbols of good luck and prosperity. It is believed that observing monkeys during this festival will bring blessings and a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year.


Monkeys are not only revered in mythology and festivals but are also celebrated in daily life. Their playful and agile nature is often seen as a symbol of joy and flexibility. Their antics and acrobatics bring smiles to the faces of locals and tourists alike, representing the carefree and adventurous spirit that Cambodians hold dear.


Furthermore, monkeys have also become an icon of Cambodian wildlife conservation efforts. They serve as a reminder of the diverse and unique biodiversity found within the country’s ecosystems. Their presence highlights the importance of preserving natural habitats and creating sustainable environments for animal species to thrive.


Overall, monkeys hold a significant place in Cambodian culture, representing values of bravery, intelligence, and happiness. Their presence in folklore, festivals, and daily life reflects the deep connection between Cambodians and the natural world.


Monkey Encounters at Angkor Wat

When visiting Angkor Wat, it is almost impossible to escape the playful antics of the resident monkeys. These furry creatures have made the temple complex their home and can be seen swinging from tree branches, scampering along the ancient walls, and sometimes even venturing near the tourists.


One of the common areas where visitors are likely to encounter monkeys is the entrance to Angkor Wat. Here, the monkeys often gather, attracted by the presence of food and the commotion of tourists. They are known to be quite opportunistic and are skilled at snatching snacks from unsuspecting visitors.


As you explore the various parts of Angkor Wat, including the courtyards and galleries, you will undoubtedly come across monkeys going about their daily routines. It is important to keep a safe distance and resist the temptation to feed or touch them, as they are wild animals and can become aggressive if they feel threatened.


While monkey sightings can be entertaining and provide unique photo opportunities, it is essential to remember that they are not mere attractions but an integral part of the delicate ecosystem within the temple complex. Their presence reflects the ongoing coexistence between humans and nature in this ancient site.


It is advisable to keep your belongings secured and avoid carrying food items openly to minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention from the monkeys. By practicing responsible tourism and respecting the wildlife, we can ensure a harmonious interaction between visitors and the monkeys at Angkor Wat.


So, as you explore the breathtaking ruins of Angkor Wat, keep a keen eye out for these mischievous creatures. Observe their playful behavior from a distance, respect their natural habitat, and marvel at the unique connection between the ancient temple and its furry inhabitants.


The Mischievous Behavior of the Monkeys

As you wander through the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, you will soon realize that the monkeys have a mischievous streak that adds an element of excitement and unpredictability to your visit. These playful creatures are known for their clever tactics and entertaining antics that can both charm and surprise visitors.


One of the most common behaviors exhibited by the monkeys is their curiosity and knack for exploration. They are known to venture into visitor areas, climbing on walls and structures, and even rummaging through bags in search of food or interesting objects. It is not uncommon to witness a monkey rummaging through a backpack or playfully investigating a water bottle left unattended.


Another mischievous habit of the monkeys is their agility and skill in snatching food from unsuspecting visitors. Many tourists have experienced the frustration of losing a snack or a fruit purchased from the nearby stalls, as these nimble creatures swoop in and claim their prize with lightning-fast reflexes. This behavior has earned them a reputation as skilled thieves.


Monkeys at Angkor Wat are also known to engage in playful interactions with each other. You may witness a group of monkeys chasing each other through the trees, engaging in mock fights, or engaging in grooming sessions. These interactions provide an insight into their social dynamics and hierarchical structures within their groups.


However, it is important to note that while their behavior may seem cute and amusing, interactions with monkeys should be approached with caution. They are wild animals and can become defensive or aggressive if they feel threatened or cornered. It is advisable to maintain a safe distance and avoid any actions that may provoke them.


Despite their mischievous behavior, the monkeys of Angkor Wat are an inherent part of the temple complex’s charm. Their presence adds a touch of liveliness and enchantment to the ancient ruins, creating unique and memorable experiences for visitors.


So, while you explore the wonders of Angkor Wat, keep an eye out for the monkeys and enjoy their playful demeanor from a respectful distance. Just be mindful of your belongings, keep any food securely stored, and embrace the delightful encounters with these mischievous creatures.


The Impact of Monkey Activities on Tourists

The presence of monkeys at Angkor Wat undoubtedly adds excitement and charm to the visitor experience. However, their activities can also have various impacts on tourists, both positive and negative.


On the positive side, the monkeys provide unique photo opportunities and memorable encounters. Their playful behavior can bring joy and entertainment to visitors, creating cherished memories of their time at Angkor Wat. The interactions with monkeys also offer a fascinating insight into the biodiversity of the temple complex and allow for a deeper connection with nature.


However, it is essential to be aware of the potential negative impacts of monkey activities on tourists. One of the most common issues faced by visitors is the risk of monkey-induced property damage. These curious creatures may snatch and damage personal belongings, such as hats, sunglasses, and water bottles. It is crucial to keep a close eye on your possessions and secure them to minimize the risk of damage or loss.


Another concern is the potential for monkey bites or scratches. While monkeys generally try to avoid contact with humans, they may act defensively if they feel threatened or perceive a potential food source. It is important to maintain a safe distance, avoid direct interaction, and never attempt to feed or touch the monkeys. In the event of a monkey bite or scratch, it is advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Furthermore, some visitors may accidentally provoke monkeys by feeding them or attempting to get too close for a photo opportunity. Feeding the monkeys is not only detrimental to their natural diet and behavior but also encourages their dependency on human food sources. It is essential to respect the wildlife and refrain from feeding or disturbing them in any way.


The management of waste is another significant concern related to monkey activities. The presence of food scraps or garbage left by tourists can attract monkeys, leading to increased interactions and potential conflicts. Proper waste management practices, including the use of designated trash bins and not littering, are crucial in mitigating this issue and ensuring a clean and safe environment for both humans and monkeys.


Overall, while monkey activities can enhance the visitor experience at Angkor Wat, it is important to be mindful of the potential impacts and act responsibly. Respecting the monkeys’ natural behaviors, keeping a safe distance, securing personal belongings, and adhering to ethical guidelines will contribute to a harmonious coexistence between tourists and the resident monkeys.


Efforts to Manage the Monkey Population

Given the challenges and potential conflicts associated with the monkey population at Angkor Wat, efforts have been made to manage their numbers and promote a harmonious interaction between humans and monkeys.


One of the key strategies in managing the monkey population is through education and awareness campaigns. Visitors are informed about the importance of not feeding or touching the monkeys, as well as the potential risks and consequences of such actions. Signage and information boards are placed at various points within the temple complex, reminding visitors to respect the wildlife and adhere to responsible tourism practices.


Additionally, park rangers and guides are trained to educate tourists about the proper behavior around monkeys. They emphasize the need to keep a safe distance and avoid any actions that may provoke the animals. This educational approach aims to foster understanding and appreciation for the natural behaviors and habitat of the monkeys, reducing the likelihood of negative interactions.


Efforts have also been made to manage food sources within the temple complex. Vendors and food stalls are regulated to minimize the availability of monkeys’ access to easily obtainable human food. By reducing the dependency of monkeys on human food sources, their natural foraging behaviors are encouraged, promoting their overall well-being and reducing potential conflicts with tourists.


In some instances, non-lethal deterrent methods such as acoustic devices or visual deterrents have been implemented to discourage monkeys from approaching visitor areas. These measures help create a boundary between monkeys and tourists, minimizing the potential for conflicts or property damage.


Furthermore, ongoing research and data collection are conducted to monitor the monkey population and their behavior patterns. This information is vital for understanding their habitat requirements and assessing the effectiveness of existing management strategies. Adjustments to these strategies can be made based on scientific findings to ensure the preservation of the ecology and the well-being of both monkeys and visitors.


Ultimately, the goal of managing the monkey population at Angkor Wat is to strike a balance between preserving the cultural and natural heritage of the site while ensuring the safety and enjoyment of visitors. Through education, responsible tourism practices, and continuous monitoring, efforts are being made to create a sustainable and respectful coexistence between humans and monkeys in this historic and revered location.



Angkor Wat, with its awe-inspiring beauty and rich historical significance, is a magnet for tourists from around the world. The enchantment of this ancient temple complex is further enhanced by the presence of monkeys, which have become an integral part of the Cambodian cultural tapestry.


Throughout this article, we have explored the history of Angkor Wat and its significance as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have delved into the importance of monkeys in Cambodian culture, recognizing their mythical symbolism and their role in festivals and traditions.


Monkey encounters at Angkor Wat provide visitors with unforgettable experiences. We have discussed their mischievous behavior, from their playful exploration of visitor areas to their skill in snatching food. While their antics are entertaining, it is vital to maintain a safe distance and respect their wild nature.


The impact of monkey activities on tourists can be both positive and negative. While they add joy and excitement to the visitor experience, there can be instances of property damage and potential health risks. Responsible tourism practices and education play a crucial role in minimizing negative impacts and fostering a peaceful coexistence.


Efforts to manage the monkey population include educational campaigns, regulated food sources, and non-lethal deterrent methods. By raising awareness and implementing sustainable practices, we aim to ensure the conservation of the temple complex and the well-being of both visitors and monkeys.


In conclusion, the presence of monkeys at Angkor Wat adds a touch of magic and liveliness to the already captivating experience of exploring this ancient wonder. By embracing responsible tourism and respecting the wildlife, we can continue to appreciate and cherish the intricate beauty of Angkor Wat while preserving its rich cultural heritage for generations to come.