Between the intricate shrines of Angkor Wat, the diverse landscapes of the countryside and the kindness of its people — and despite the horrors of its recent history — Cambodia knocks a lot of people off their feet. It certainly had that effect on me when I first visited a few years ago and then again when I returned this winter. Yet it was impossible not to notice the school-age children begging barefoot at the major tourist sites, underage local women escorting Western men on sex tours, and the proliferation of seemingly unsustainable large-scale resorts being built on the pristine southern coast.
It’s a classic traveler’s question, one that is especially pronounced in developing or poor countries: Is your visit to a destination ultimately helping or hurting the place and its people? Is it possible to travel ethically in such places?