Travellers Should Always Show Respect

09/02/2015 14:33 GMT | Updated 10/04/2015 10:59 BST

Travelling is a privilege, each experience something to be devoured, savoured and remembered. And one of the most rewarding things about travel is immersing yourself in local culture and tradition.

It takes an extraordinary lack of respect, then, to decide to take photos of yourself mooning somewhere like Angkor, which is one of the most spiritual places you're ever likely to visit. And yet that's exactly what two American tourists have done; and their actions follow on from the deportation of three French tourists for exposing themselves in Angkor.

I visited Angkor for the first time last year; I don't have a religious bone in my body but take it from me, it's a place that inspires reverence and awe, not the urge to strip off.

At Angkor Wat, for example, as well as the ancient temple complex, you can still see bullet holes in the walls left by the Khmer Rouge, a poignant reminder of the appalling atrocities endured by the Cambodian people during the Pol Pot regime; the Cambodian people's dignity, warmth and generosity of spirit is utterly humbling.

One can only imagine their confusion and disbelief that tourists they have welcomed into their country would show such a total lack of respect at a sacred temple by whipping out their buttocks and taking photos.

Travel doesn't just broaden the mind, it enriches it. If you're visiting sites of cultural significance, temples or churches, it's basic, surely, that you show appropriate reverence. You may not agree with the principle of covering your head or your knees or your shoulders, but if you're asked to honour the local customs and traditions then that's simply what you do. You're a guest in a foreign country; deciding to flash your buttocks, breasts or wedding tackle instead is offensive, ignorant and definitely not cool. (And with so much information available online, ignorance of local customs isn't really a defence. If you visit somewhere called 'temple', for example, then you know exactly what it is you're visiting and how you should behave.)

Of course, if you see something that shouldn't be tolerated on your travels - child or animal cruelty, for example, it would be impossible not to speak out, to blog and tweet about it and let the world know what you've witnessed. That's our responsibility as travellers in the digital age. And if you find the local laws and customs of a country completely intolerable and there is no imminent chance of change then perhaps your only option is to boycott it until something does, to protest and campaign.

But showing deliberate disrespect in a place of religious and cultural significance isn't just stupid and immature; it's downright rude. A passport gives you the right to travel, but it doesn't give you the right to offend.