Trend Watch: Everyone’s Getting Naked at Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu

We’ve seen a handful of stories about this trend, most recently a harrumphy Daily Mail piece titled Naked tourist trend forces authorities to release rules about sacred site nudity.

The rules basically state, Stop getting naked at our sacred sites.

Most of the uproar surrounds incidents at ancient temples in the Angkor region of Cambodia. There have been at least four public incidents there this year.

* In January, local officlals got angry when “racy photos depicting a topless Apsara dancer reclining amid Angkorian ruins” at Banteay Kdei temple were posted to Facebook. The Phnom Penh Post reported, “The controversial photos bear a watermark for WANIMAL, which Apsara Authority officials said they believe to be a Chinese company. An account for Wanimal on the Chinese photo-sharing site Lofter features a series of images of naked or partially clothed women in exotic backgrounds.”

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* Also in January, three French tourists were arrested and deported for taking naked photos of each other at the Banteay Srei temple.

* Then in February, guards arrested two sisters from Arizona “after seeing them snap photos of each other’s naked backsides in the temple of Preah Khan”. They were deported as well.

* Also in February, local officials discovered three more naked photos online “on the website of 25-year-old German photographer Simon Lohmeyer, [one of which] shows a couple naked at the ancient temple, posing with monkey masks.” It’s not clear when those photos were shot.

* And in May, an Italian guy, an Argentinian guy and a Dutch woman were arrested at Ta Prohm temple for taking naked photos of each other. No word on the outcome, but they probably got deported too.

For every pack of dimwits who get caught, there are probably many similar photo shoots going undetected. So this looks like an honest-to-god craze.

Meanwhile, officials in Peru have been having the same problem at Machu Picchu, at least according to this 2014 CNN story titled “Peru to tourists: ‘Stop getting naked at Machu Picchu!'”

One website devoted to this trend, Naked at Monuments, posted in 2012 a rundown of top 7 historical monuments for posing naked, ranked by difficulty (easiest = Great Wall of China; hardest = Hagia Sofia).

Most of the news stories include quotes from local government officials decrying tourist nudity for “dishonoring” their cultural traditions. They’re government officials, it’s their job to act stuffy and self-righteous. Flouting authority and tipping sacred cows are certainly part of the appeal of landmark exhibitionism, but cultural insult vs harmless joyful anarchism are in the eye of the beholder. The key to winning this game is not getting caught.