When you think of Cambodia you think of the temples of Angkor Wat in Angkor Thom, the name of the entire city. But you don’t think of a monkey attack!

I imagined exotic vistas, imposing stone carvings peeking from lush jungles…and yes, maybe a couple of Angkor Wat macaque monkeys.

But nothing like what really happened. Nothing like the great monkey attack of Angkor Wat.

Image of Angkor Wat temple reflected on the water before it.
The main temple at Angkor Wat

We arrived by air and exhausted in Siem Reap around 9 PM with our hassle-free Cambodia visas on arrivalSiem Reap is the gateway for the Angkor Wat temple complex about four miles away. And Angkor Wat is on everybody’s Cambodia bucket list.

Travelling to Siem Reap by bus or car from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is another option.

We had opted for a direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City, the last leg of a long journey through Vietnam by train, boat, bus, car, foot and tuk-tuk, the ubiquitous southeast Asian rickshaw. All we wanted was to decompress.

You can’t stay in the actual complex. Angkor Wat is such a massive tourist draw that Siem Reap has its own airport. You can fly direct to Siem Reap from all southeast Asian capital cities and many secondary cities as well.

The APSARA NATIONAL AUTHORITY, under the guidance of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has done an outstanding job of managing the Angkor archaeological park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

They ensure that the Angkor archeological park remains pristine and is not damaged from excessive tourist visits. I wish they were as conscientious about addressing the issue of the wild monkeys.


From the Siem Reap airport we found a tuk tuk driver to take us to our accommodation. The ride into Siem Reap is surprising. Discover more about travelling in Cambodia by reading these Cambodia tips.

The city looks like a mini-southeast Asian version of Las Vegas. Flashing neon lights are everywhere on the main road advertising luxury hotels, elaborate shows, and sumptuous buffets.

We had booked a budget guest house. These are establishments where local people rent out rooms in their homes to paying guests with breakfast included.

These can be hit or miss but I’ve found most to be clean, comfortable and centrally located which is really all you need.

Where to stay in Siem Reap close to Angkor Wat.

The hosts were nice, gave us a couple of towels and said goodnight.

In the morning we were in a rush to get out and see Angkor Wat but right outside the house, I saw a monkey holding her baby.

She and the little baby monkey were so cute and this scene was so typical of the Angkor area in Angkor Park that I took a picture and gave the monkey a little piece of fruit I had with me.

I remembered reading information banners placed at the entrance of the Angkor area saying “Don’t feed the monkeys and other wild animals” but I figured, what harm can it do? It was just a mother and her little monkey.

That was my big mistake.


The magnificence of Angkor Wat cannot be overstated. It is a vast complex of massive temples built between 1130 and 1150 as a Hindu structure dedicated to the god Vishnu.

As the political and religious vagaries of the area shifted so did the temple’s dedication and by the late 12th century, it was Buddhist. It is an amazing destination and definitely one of the bucket list places to visit once in a lifetime. 

Some people think the Angkor Wat temple is just the main structure that graces the Cambodian flag. Actually, the area itself, Angkor Thom, is a complex covering over 400 square miles with many other temple complexes.

Some of the “must see” include Ta Prohm, where Tomb Raider was filmed, Banteays Srei and Kdei and Bayon.

All told the area is larger than the 5 boroughs of New York City combined!

You need a long time, certainly more than a day to see the entire complex comfortably. A three-day pass at $40 is actually a bargain. You can also buy a one day pass for $20.

After a day of temple hopping we caught a traditional dancing show and dinner at one of the local hotels and headed back to the guest house.



In the morning we were anxious to head back to Angkor Wat but when we left the house we saw two huge macaque monkeys and one even bigger monkey warrior blocking our entrance to the road.

We shooed them but they didn’t budge. We tried walking around them but they again blocked our path. We decided to walk straight through them making a lot of noise and waving our arms.

As we readied ourselves a monkey came from behind, jumped on my back and tore off my hair beret while another grabbed at my backpack which contained fruit.

By now I’m screaming “get it off!…get it off!”

We ran to the road – me in flip flops -pursued part way by a troop of monkeys. In the safety of the main road I looked back and saw the mother monkey I had seen the first day, still holding her baby, looking at us.

This was not cute anymore.

These guys were playing for keeps. Clearly the mother monkey had alerted her cohorts to the presence of two human patsies that gave away food.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened and how aggressive monkeys in Cambodia could be.

You plan for many unexpected incidents on a foreign trip. But who plans for a monkey attack at Angkor Wat!

The monkey attack was the major topic of conversation that entire day of temple tripping. When we cautiously returned to the guest house that evening there were no ferocious monkeys to be seen.

Apparently tourist harassment was only a morning thing.

Next morning was our last in Siem Reap. We peeked out our window hoping to avoid any more unexpected incidents involving monkeys. Suddenly we heard a screech pierce the morning calm.

The monkeys started to amass in the clearing in front of our room.

They had actually been stalking us. I swear I am not making this up. This was just such a bizarre experience. We nervously joked that we could never leave the room and would simply have to learn Cambodian and order take out forever.

There must have been 15 monkeys out there. The Angkor Wat monkey troop was in full force. And those were just the ones that we could see! They appeared to have a clear goal, to find the backpacks with food.

I spied the mother monkey with her baby. She was probably the ringleader.  Suddenly the woman that checked us in the first day showed up with a large dog of unrecognizable pedigree.

They walked toward our room and the monkeys dispersed long enough for us to get to the main road with our bags.

As we left, the woman told us that monkeys in Cambodia sometimes get frisky if you feed them, especially the monkeys at Angkor Wat. Yeah, right.

Have you ever had an unexpected incident – good or bad – involving animals on a trip?

Angkor Wat from a distance reflected on the water
Angkor Wat from a distance

Learn more about Angkor Wat before you arrive in order to maximize your trip.  Bring these reference companions along with you.

Last updated December 2023.

 Is Cambodia and Angkor Wat on your bucket list? What are your thoughts on the great monkey attack of Angkor Wat?


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12 Responses

  1. I love your monkey attack story… monkeys are really something else! I’m thinking of visiting Southeast Asia this year.

      1. You have to be very very careful when you’re around them because they will attack and they are very unpredictable and very territorial.

        1. Yes, you’re right! They were almost like an intelligent, strategic street gang. I’ve seen them steal glasses!
          That was a wild experience. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Maybe they became so troublesome that they were removed. That was a while ago. Thank you so much for reading.

  2. All have heard the saying “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS” To many Disney films, and others portraying wild animals as cute, cudley, and friendly, AGIAN ” DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS” Have a safe trip. 10 or more killed by bears in CA Yosemite park because of fools feeding the bears! Its is not a petting ZOO.

    1. Hi, Mercedes. You will love this beautiful country. The monkeys are active all the time but there is no need to worry. They are friendly. Enjoy!

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Talek Nantes

This blog was created to inspire your travels and to explore experiences in fascinating locations. What you will find are thoughts on how to immerse yourself in local culture, food, history and people. On your way to these adventures I hope to provide you with useful information to help you get there. Come see the world with me!

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