Cambodia Travel Guides – About Cambodia
Previously known as Kampuchea, the beautiful country of Cambodia is located in the Southeastern part of Asia. It shares its boundary line with Laos, Thailand, the Gulf of Thailand and Vietnam. The city of Phnom Penh, which is the biggest city, serves as the capital of Cambodia. The country is extremely popular among international tourists for its breathtaking scenic beauty and picturesque landscape. The country’s rich past, pristine beaches and remote forests, every year draw hundreds and thousands of tourists from different parts of the world. Besides, the warmth and hospitality of the local Cambodian people are believed to cast a spell on the weary travelers.
- The kingdom of Cambodia is located in the southwestern part of the Indochinese peninsula and it spreads over 181,035 square kilometers. The southwestern part of the country is encircled by the Gulf of Thailand, while at the northwestern and western part it is surrounded by Thailand. On the eastern side, Cambodia is bounded by Vietnam while on the northeastern side it is bordered by Laos. The geographic coordinates of Cambodia are 1050E and 130N. The landscape of the country is characterized by mountains on the north and southwestern part and low plains. The central region of Cambodia is extremely fertile and owing to the presence of the large Tonle Sap Lake and the rich delta created by the great Mekong River, it is perfect for paddy cultivation. The eastern terrain of the country mainly includes high rising plateaus and deep forested mountains. The areas that lie close to the riverbanks are generally the most populated regions.
History- The kingdom of Cambodia, formerly known as the Funan Kingdom is believed to be built in the first century BC. This ancient realm was deeply influenced by Indian art, political system and culture. It also drew a great deal of inspiration from Indian architectural styles, alphabetical system and religion. Between the 1st century BC and 6th century BC the ancient kingdom of Funan prospered enormously.
In the 9th century, Jayavarman II, who was a Khmer prince avowed himself as the king of the newly built Funan Kingdom. He founded a sect, which worshipped the Hindu God Shiva. During his reign, Jayavarman II sculpted many amazing sculptures and architectural wonders. His 26 successors on the other hand constructed a huge irrigation system near Angkor. They also constructed several incredible temples, adorned with marvelous wall paintings and inscriptions.
During the 12th century, the kingdom of Cambodia expanded enormously and it extended to other areas like Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. Today, the existence of Khmer natives in Laos and Thailand acts as an evidence to how prosperous the kingdom of Cambodia once was.
Later during the beginning of the 14th century, the rising power of the Thai kingdoms slowed down the development and progress of Cambodia. This marked the end of the Golden Age and the beginning of the Dark Ages for the Funan Kingdom. Some believe that the main reason why the kingdom of Cambodia eventually crumbled down was because of the invasion of Theravada Buddhism. During that time, this was completely in contradiction of the societal structure of Cambodia.
From that time onwards till the 19th century, Cambodia was constantly attacked by Thai and Vietnamese rulers, who relentlessly waged wars to take control over Cambodia. In the 1830, a huge war was fought between the Vietnamese and Thai rulers. The war was so fierce that King Norodom of Cambodia was eventually forced to sign a treaty with the French, in order to put an end to the fierce Viet-Thai battle. This treaty gave the French the right to become a protectorate and till the mid of the 20th century they had complete control over the kingdom of Cambodia.
Economic- Currently, Cambodia is considered to be one of the poverty-stricken and poorest countries in the entire world. The civil war that broke out during the late 20th century has rendered great damaged to the country’s political life and economy. The country’s soil and climatic conditions are perfect for growing rice, in addition to sugar palms, tobacco, tapioca, cotton, peanuts, vegetables, corn and cashews. Other main occupations of the people of Cambodia are raising livestock, like buffalo, cattle, hogs and poultry as well as fishing.
In the past, the key items that Cambodia exported were rubber and rice. However, owing to the 1970 civil war there was a rapid decline in the country’s exports, since it caused the majority of the country’s rubber plantations to shut down. Nonetheless, during the 1990s, with the help of a nationwide recovery program the rubber plantings in Cambodia once again were able to spring back to life. Today the country continues to export rice and rubber in large quantities to different parts of the world. In the last few years, the country has also been able to successfully revive its fishing and the livestock industry, which has significantly helped to curb the food shortage in Cambodia.
In recent times, the improvement of transportation in Cambodia has enabled the country to exploit its vast forest resources. Today, the country also exports sizable quantity of timber to various other neighboring countries. There is a shortage of mineral resources in the country, but limestone, phosphate rock, salt and semiprecious stones encourage significant mining operations. The key industries in Cambodia are primarily rooted in fish, timber and agricultural products in addition to rubber processing. Light production and tourism also play a significant role in boosting the country’s economy.
The kingdom of Cambodia is well connected to Vietnam, Thailand and Laos by waterways, railways and by roads. The key items that the country exports are Timber, clothing, rubber, fish, rice, leather footwear and tobacco. Conversely, some of the major import items are cigarettes, petroleum products, gold, machinery, construction materials, pharmaceuticals and motor vehicles. The country mostly trades its products with nations like Hong Kong, the United States of America, France and China.
Climate- The kingdom of Cambodia experiences tropical climatic conditions, since it is located within the tropical zone. The country experiences moderately uniform temperature throughout the year, with an average of 25o centigrade. While during daytime, the humidity level more or less is around 80 percent, while at night it goes beyond 90 percent. Like other Southeast Asian countries, the climatic conditions in Cambodia remain humid and hot nearly all round the year.
Seasons- The best time to visit Cambodia is during January and December, since these two months tend to be the coolest months. Moreover, during the winter months the level of humidity also remains quite low, while a cool refreshing breeze lashes across the country. Apart from the winter season, the two other major seasons in Cambodia are the summer season and the monsoon season. The summer season starts from November and continues till April, while the winter is short lived and it lasts only for two months January and December. Between May and October the country receives the maximum amount of rainfall.
Language- The main language in Cambodian is Khmer, which is the native language. Owing to the prolonged French reign, the country also has a French-speaking colony. On the other hand, in business spheres and also in hotels people generally prefer to communicate mainly in English.
Religion- Most of the inhabitants of Cambodia are Buddhists and they are strong followers of the Hinayana and Thervada Buddhist school of teaching. Buddhism was introduced in the country way back in the 13th century and till the year 1975 it was considered as the national religion.
Cuisines- Cambodia has numbers of unique local cuisines, which are extremely popular among tourists. In the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, the majority of the restaurants serve excellent Vietnamese and Chinese dishes in addition to many mouthwatering local cuisines. The staple food in Cambodia is rice. The majority of the local dishes in the country are prepared in a specially designed wok called the chnang khteak.
Culture- Cambodian boasts a very rich tradition and culture, which dates back to several centuries. In the passing years, the inhabitants of Cambodia formed a number of distinctive tradition and culture, which they derived by merging local Hinduism and Buddhism. The people of Cambodia respect their culture a lot and they are extremely proud of their rich culture and heritage.
Traditionally the extremely warm hearted and well-mannered Cambodians greet each other with a friendly ‘Sampeah’. This involves people bowing down slightly with both of their palms pressed together close to their chest and greeting others with a courteous ‘Chumreap Suor’
Normally, to convey more respect, the people of Cambodia hold their palms higher to their chest and prefer to bow a little more lowly. However, this traditional custom is replaced by formal handshake when the men greet government officials, elderly people and other male visitors. However, women normally prefer to welcome both women and men with a gracious Sampeah. Even though these days it is considered okay for tourists to perform handshakes with locals, but it is always more right and proper to follow the custom and greet each other with a traditional ‘Chumreap Suor’
Population- Approximately the population of Cambodia is over 14 million. The majority of the inhabitants are Khmer, while a small percentage of the residents are Chinese, Charm, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Phnorng.
Currency- Cambodian currency is known as the Riel and it is available in 500, 100 and 200 denominations. The exchange rates for Riel tend to fluctuate from time to time. All over the country US$ are usually accepted. In the city of Phnom Penh, tourists can use specific types of credit cards for making purchases and paying bills.
Getting in and out- There are two international airports in Cambodia, one is known as Phnom Penh International Airport and it is located in Phnom Penh and the other is known as Siem Reap International Airport and it is situated in the city of Siem Reap.
There are a number of international flights connecting Cambodia with Singapore and Bangkok. It is always advisable for people travelling from North America and Europe to buy a flight ticket to one of the Southeast Asian country and from there they can fly to Cambodia in one of the budget airlines. In this way they will be able to save a lot of money. Some of the economical flights that connect Cambodia to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are Jetstar and Air Asia. Jetstar operates regular flights from Singapore to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, while Air Asia operates flight from Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur.
Getting around- The best way to explore Cambodia is by local means of transport, which includes motodups or Motorbike taxis. However, the fares of motorbike taxis tend to vary significantly. Hence, it is always advisable for tourists to bargain and fixed the rates in advance prior to travelling in them. Another popular means of transport in Cambodia is by Tuk-Tuk, which is a small cart driven by a bicycle. The rates of the Tuk-Tuk depend mostly on the number of people travelling in it as well as on the destination. Tourists can also hire electric bicycles and bicycles for travelling to nearby places. Though mini-bus taxis and cars are not used extensively. However, if required, they can be easily arranged.
Attraction places to see while visiting Cambodia-
Sihanoukville is one of the most popular tourist attractions when it comes to travel to Cambodia. The laid back atmosphere of this small town and its pristine beaches draws large number of foreign travelers each year. It is a perfect place to unwind and spent the holiday in complete tranquility and serenity. Sihanoukville, also called as Kampong Som is situated in the southern part of the country, close to the Gulf of Thailand. It is almost 185 kilometers away from the city of Phnom Penh. Vacationers can sail to adjoining islands by means of water taxis to participate in pleasure activities like game fishing, diving and snorkeling. So if you have a chance to visit Cambodia, you need to travel to Sihanoukville too.
The picturesque town of Sihanoukville is extremely popular among both local people as well as among foreign tourists. The center of the town, which is located on the top of a small hill, is considered to be the most happening place. Sihanoukville is bordered by small tropical islands and scenic beaches on all three sides. It is filled with jam-packed beaches, good bars and restaurants, excellent seafood, casinos, Buddhist Temples and plush hotels.
The best time to visit Sihanoukville is between November and February, when the weather is sunny and cool. It is better for tourist to avoid travelling to Sihanoukville between August and October, since during this time of the year the town receives heavy rainfall.
The next popular tourist destination to travel to Cambodia is Koh Rong Samloem Island. This picturesque island is located near to the Gulf of Thailand and is around 40km away from the town of Sihanoukville. The pristine beaches, the sperkling white sand and the turquoise blue water of the ocean makes this island a perfect holiday destination for international travelers. If anyone is in search of untouched, unspoiled, deserted scenic location to spend the holidays, then Koh Rong Samloem Island will prove to the perfect option.
The island’s Waterfall Bay is believed to be a paradise owing to its gorgeously attractive bay, which stretches for many kilometers. Another extremely popular and beautiful beach in Koh Rong Samloem Island is the North West Bay. This particular beach is believed to be the most picturesque beach in the entire Cambodia. The central part of the island is covered by a dense jungle with charming waterfalls and large number of coconut palms.
There are no concrete roads in the island. Instead, one has to travel along the sandy tracks. Apart from a couple of bars the island also has a wide variety of shops selling cigarettes, drinks and so on. The inhabitants of the island are extremely friendly and sociable. As a matter of fact, the island of Koh Rong is the one and only Cambodian island, which is actively looked after by the state government.
Another famous tourist destination when visiting Cambodia is Siem Reap. The place received instant fame among international travelers owing to a Hollywood movie, called Lara Croft. The place is covered by a dense jungle, which includes a variety of tropical plants and animals. The small quaint town of Siem Reap has a ‘Pub Street’, which is a perfect place for making friends as well as for enjoying drinks.
Even though the small town of Siem Reap is undergoing rapid development, but it still manages to hold on to its colonial charm and beauty. The place is known for its shady boulevards, magnificent French, and Chinese architecture. There is a quite river running right through the town. Currently a lot of plush resorts and hotels have cropped up to provide luxurious accommodations to international travelers. The town is known for organizing traditional dance shows especially for tourists. It is also famous for its silk farms, craft shops, nearby fishing villages, rice-paddy countryside and local markets selling wide varieties of items.
The highly popular place for which Cambodia has gained international recognition is the Angkor Wat. This is an extremely famous tourist destination and it is surrounded by jungles, rice fields and lakes on all the sides. This man made wonder is truly breathtaking and has a mystical appeal. This unique temple was constructed by the Khmer dynasty, between 800 and 1200 AD. The site includes over 200 restored temples and over 1000 ancient structures, which are currently in dilapidated state. Travel to Cambodia is your top destination in the next vacation list!Read More