Angkor Wat is 'just a bunch of fancy rocks on top of other fancy rocks', or so you'll read on TripAdvisor. While most visitors rave about Cambodia's ultimate World Heritage site, more than a few are less impressed — and quite possibly insane.

MANY HOTEL AND restaurant managers have a weird, dysfunctional relationship with TripAdvisor. They curse at bad reviews but do all they can (pressuring friends to scribble positive opinions, complaining about complainers) to get higher ratings.

But it’s not just businesses that the swivel-eyed, TripAdvising horde — more than a few hiding behind pseudonyms and avatars — attack willy-nilly. Even the world’s must-see landmarks and bucket-list marvels get it in the neck.

Take a peek at the TripAdvisor page for the Grand Canyon. According to one reviewer, “It’s just a hole in the ground. A big hole, mind.” To another visitor, it’s “just an overblown sandy ditch”.

From the top of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the planet’s architectural icon of romance, glamour and the industrial age, “the view is ok — if you like views”, while Sydney Opera House is “nothing special; looks better on TV”.

So how does Unesco World Heritage site Angkor Wat fare in this brave new world of off-hand opinions and ridiculous reflections? For the purpose of these words, we’ll look only at one-star reviews, which TripAdvisor categorises as “Terrible”.

WRITING FROM ANGKOR Wat on TripAdvisor, Ken F, possibly from the United States, bitches, “It’s just a bunch of fancy rocks on top of other fancy rocks, inside a hot jungle. I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing, sure. I prefer American rocks.”

Daniel D deems Angkor “nothing out of the ordinary”, which makes one wonder what his hometown of Karlshamn in Sweden has to offer (there’s Stärnö Power Station that, according to Wikipedia, boasts three chimneys and a static inverter — whatever that is — for a power cable to Poland).

Gary L of Vancouver, meanwhile, thinks Angkor Wat an “utter disappointment”.

“Forget taking any memorable pics,” Gary whines, “as you will most likely get photo-bombed by dozens of Eurotrash wearing puffy yoga pants.”

Lisa S from Sydney finds Angkor “spoilt by too many tourists in peak season”. We have an easy fix for that whip-smart opinion: visit in the low season, Lisa.

And under the heading “Sunrise”, Adrian A (home location unspecified) — who perhaps had got out of the wrong side of his hostel dorm bed one morning — grumbles, “The only good thing about starting early is that you will finish early,” while James S of Northampton, England, bellyaches that the ancient “temples are just ruins really” and “a quick look on Google Images will suffice”.

Smudge41 of Scotland offers a leftfield assessment: “The best way I can describe the ‘Angkor Wat at sunrise’ experience is that it is a bit like having sex outdoors: 1.) Magical, even a bit spiritual, if it is just you and your partner involved; 2.) Rubbish if it is raining; 3.) Something you will always remember, but for all the wrong reasons if you do it among a group of 500 Japanese tourists with selfie sticks.”

Hmmm! This one might be a hoax. What Scot is not permanently prepared for rain.


Ta Prohm is — according to one enlightened TripAdvisor user — “an aging pile of rubble left to the beggars” 


And on and on it goes … Nathan S (unspecified location) is not impressed by the Bayon temple (that’s the one with all the massive human-face carvings). The reason for his one-star rating? The clothes that he chose to wear when visiting. “Couldn’t gain access as had my shoulders uncovered, so wear a T-shirt,” he advises. Thanks, Nathan. You are surely the Tony Wheeler of the smartphone generation.

Kim K of Portland also states the blindingly obvious, pointing out that at the Bayon “there are dozens of tourist groups during the day”, an observation that surely requires the robust response, “No shit, Sherlock.”

Eco-confused Sheree H of Brisbane (who might also be getting her temples in a muddle) gripes that the Bayon is “in sad disrepair, trees have taken over and there are no signs of poisoning them”.

Grouchy Robert_Anya, who claims to be from Siem Reap but we suspect he could be Dutch, declares that Ta Prohm (famous as the “Tomb Raider temple”) is “an aging pile of rubble left to the beggars” and laments “mainly boring trees”.

And Boone406 of Montana spotted that the Bayon is “really old”, though we admit his TripAdvisor post is likely to be tongue-in-cheek.

“If you are looking for really old carvings, temples and weathered stone, this is the place,” Boone406 continues. “The faces were nice and all, but the whole place feels really ancient. No Internet access and zero electricity. It’s high enough [and] I feel like if they added a dish on top they’d be able to get satellite Internet and some decent channels.”


The vast majority of reviews of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Ta Prohm fall into TripAdvisor’s ‘Excellent’ and ‘Very Good’ categories


NOW, WITH ALL that said, the vast majority of reviews of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Ta Prohm fall into TripAdvisor’s “Excellent” and “Very Good” categories. Crunch the numbers and — at the time of writing (February 20, 2016) — those who have given Angkor Wat just one star account for a miniscule 0.17 per cent of the total (or one in 588 visitors).

For the Bayon, the “Terrible” rating falls to 0.11 per cent, rising slightly to 0.18 per cent for Ta Prohm.

Compare those numbers to other must-see sights internationally and the temples come out very well, outclassing the aforementioned Grand Canyon (“Terrible”, according to 0.36 per cent of all TripAdvisor assessments), the Eiffel Tower (0.53 per cent) and Sydney’s Opera House (0.44 per cent).

Britain’s Stonehenge (two laser-guided TripAdvisor opinions point out that it’s “rocks in a field” and “just a load of old rocks”) does poorly with 3.3 per cent, and Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza hit 1.6 per cent (“you can see the pyramids in pictures and videos, and they’re a lot more enjoyable this way than to travel all the way to [see] them”).

Then there’s New York’s must-visit testament to freedom and hope, the Statue of Liberty … 0.76 per cent (“its just a statue — I don’t get it”). Rome’s Colosseum … 0.34 per cent (“there is actually nothing on the inside” — what did you expect in the 21st century? Christians being fed to lions?).

But Siem Reap should not rest on its laurels. Tumon Beach on the Micronesian island of Guam has, so far, never suffered a single “Terrible” review on TripAdvisor. Tomgreene of Hawaii, however, refused to let his enjoyment of Tumon stand in the way of a pithy — and dopey — putdown.

“It’s a great beach,” he writes in his three-star assessment. “Just too sandy.” ◉

This text was for a Siem Reap website I made for fun in 2015-16 (and now defunct). Some TripAdvisor comments have been edited for clarity.