WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT US
Travel&Leisure magazine has ranked Siem Reap as the world’s fourth best city in its recent listing – the first time Siem Reap has made a foray into the list. It’s a great accolade, but to the cynic such lists are meaningless and, as has oft been pointed out, one person’s best city can be another person’s shithole.
But tell that to the Thai media which has taken great umbrage that Bangkok, a long time star on the list, has now disappeared from said list.
Thai PBS reported, “Bangkok has lost out from last year's winner and also slipped from the top 10 overall list of world's best cities for 2014 by readers of the US magazine Travel&Leisure.
“Kyoto, the ancient Japanese capital famed for its historical landmarks, was ranked the best city in the world for 2014 instead “…Cambodia’s Siem Reap which was not listed on the magazine’s top 10 best cities in the world last year was named the fourth best city. Also in the poll of best cities for travel in Asia, Bangkok was also unseated by Kyoto to third place after Siem Reap.”
Meanwhile, a widely syndicated article this week that appears to have emanated from GlobalPost and was unfortunately datelined as “Siam Reap” also made a comparison of Siem Reap to Bangkok, but in the negative. The article once again raised the time-honoured furphy that, “Research suggests that a decade ago, air pollution here in Siem Reap, a city of about 250,000 inhabitants that accommodates temple tourists, was worse than in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, a city of more than 8 million.”
The article also suggested that the air pollution and accompanying acid rain was harming our temples.
But every year Siem Reap is assailed by deep and meaningful journalists, mostly here on junkets, who report that the temples are being loved to death by millions of tourists (ho hum), that ground water is being sucked up by a myriad of tourists to the degree that the temples are in danger of toppling, or that rampant air pollution caused mainly by the servicing of hordes of tourists is damaging the temples.
The irony in town is that while tourist officials here paint as rosy a picture as possible about Siem Reap and the temples to make a buck, temple conservationists paint as bleak a picture as possible to keep the donor bucks rolling in. Hence it’s easy to find someone who will publicly agree to a supposition, no matter how spurious.
Interestingly, on June 18 2009, Phnom Penh Post reported that the man responsible for the “worse pollution than Bangkok” claim, Japanese researcher Dr Shinji Tsukawaki, “has backed away from his recent claim that the town's foul atmosphere poses a direct threat to the temples.”
The Post reported, “Before presenting his research at a session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor two weeks ago, Tsukawaki told the Post that Siem Reap's polluted air ‘will cause some damage to the sandstone in the Angkor monuments.’
“But in a follow-up email last week, he acknowledged that the claim requires some heavy qualifications. ‘I do not think that air pollution would cause direct damage to the temples at this moment,’ Tsukawaki said. ‘However, in the case of acid rain, maybe in the near future, it will accelerate the weathering process of certain minerals in sandstone,’ he added.
“Tsukawaki has not confirmed the presence of acid rain in Siem Reap.”
Meanwhile, the article that circulated this week said, “Not only were the ancient stones crumbling under the steady beat of the millions [of tourists] that were expected, but mounting air pollution had caused acid rain that darkens the stone, and eventually leads to its decay.”