UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Ruins of Angkor, are usually sites which are definitely worth seeing. However, I've come to realize that there are a few things which the famous ones have in common. Apart from the large crowds and expensive fees... there are usually many touts and hawkers selling everything from bracelets to souvenirs.
My experience at the Angkor temples was no different. They were honestly everywhere! There were small armies of people with postcards and magnets situated outside of each temple, and they would all come to you at once, which is actually a tactic. Most tourists would feel uncomfortable and nervous and would eventually end up buying a few of the articles, in order to escape.
I bought a few magnets, but only because I collect them. I'm not the type of person to be influenced or badgered into buying stuff that I don't need. However, what bothered me most, was the age of some of these vendors. Parents would send their young children, about aged 5 to 7, into the temple grounds with wares to sell, in hopes that their innocent faces would pressure the tourists into giving in. These children should be in school, not working throughout their childhood!
One of these young children approached me as I was heading into the Jungle Temple. She asked me to buy a bracelet from her for a dollar, because she needed to pay for school. I've done a lot of research about Cambodia before going there, and one of the things that I learned, was that this was only a 'line' to guilt you into paying for things. Education is free within the country, but most visitors are not aware.
I told the young girl, that I was aware that she didn't really need to pay for school. I then asked her why she wasn't at school, and I was told that she didn't want to go. Visitors who buy their products are unknowingly encouraging truancy, and this problem seems quite wide scale.
The numbers of children and older vendors who sell their products around the temples are staggering. I've counted over twenty in front of Angkor Wat at one point! They are also quite persistent, and a simple no is apparently not sufficient. They will actually argue with you over your refusal to buy something.
This is quite saddening, as it puts a damper on the actual experience. The joy of being around something so grand and ancient is slightly ruined by constant yells of sale pitches. I loved the Angkor ruins and I would return in a heartbeat. The large number of touts are not enough a deterrent, but first time visitors should be aware.