Welcome to Cambodia

  • The Kingdom of Cambodia formerly known as Kampuchea is a country in South East Asia with a population of over 14 million people. The kingdom's capital, political, commercial, industrial and largest city is Phnom Penh. Cambodia is the successor state of the once powerful Hinduand Buddhist Khmer Empire, which ruled most of the Indochinese Peninsula between the 11th and 14th centuries.


Total area: 181,035 sq Km Population: 14 millions people

Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 sq mi) and lies entirely within the tropics. It borders Thailand to the north and west, Laos to the northeast, and Vietnam to the east and southeast. It has a 443-kilometer (275 mi) coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.
The most distinctive geographical feature is the lacustrine plain, formed by the inundations of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), measuring about 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 sq mi) during the dry season and expanding to about 24,605 square kilometers (9,500 sq mi) during the rainy season. This densely populated plain, which is devoted to wet rice cultivation, is the heartland of Cambodia. Much of this area has been designated as a biosphere reserve.
Most (about 75%) of the country lies at elevations of less than 100 metres (330 ft) above sea level, the exceptions being the Cardamom Mountains (highest elevation 1,813 m / 5,948 ft) and their southeast extension the Dâmrei Mountains ("Elephant Mountains") (elevation range 500–1,000 m or 1,640–3,280 ft), as well the steep escarpment of the Dângrêk Mountains (average elevation 500 m / 1,640 ft) along the border with Thailand's Isan region. The highest elevation of Cambodia is Phnom Aoral, near Pursat in the center of the country, at 1,813 meters (5,948 ft).
Cambodia's climate, like that of the rest of Southeast Asia is dominated by Monsoons, which are known as tropical wet and dry because of the distinctly marked seasonal differences.
Cambodia's temperatures range from 21 to 35 °C (69.8 to 95 °F) and experiences tropical monsoons. Southwest monsoons blow inland bringing moisture-laden winds from the Gulf of Thailand and Indian Ocean from May to October. The northeast monsoon ushers in the dry season, which lasts from November to March. The country experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October with the driest period occurring from January to February.
Cambodia has two distinct seasons. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, can see temperatures drop to 22 °C (71.6 °F) and is generally accompanied with high humidity. The dry season lasts from November to April when temperatures can rise up to 40 °C (104 °F) around April. The best months to visit Cambodia are November to January when temperatures and humidity are lower. Disastrous flooding, due to extremely heavy rainfall, occurred in 2001 and again in 2002. Yet almost every year there is flooding to some degree.
Wildlife of Cambodia
Cambodia has a wide variety of plants and animals. There are 212 mammal species, 536 bird species, 240 reptile species, 850 freshwater fish species (Tonle Sap Lake area), and 435 marine fish species. Much of this biodiversity is contained around the Tonle Sap Lake and the surrounding biosphere.The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is a unique ecological phenomenon surrounding the Tonle Sap. It encompasses the lake and nine provinces: Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Banteay Meanchey, Krong Pailin, Otdar Meanchey and Preah Vihear. In 1997, it was successfully nominated as a UNESCOBiosphere Reserve.Other key habitats include the dry forest of Mondolkiri and Ratanakiri provinces and the Cardamom Mountains ecosystem, including Bokor National Park, Botum-Sakor National Park, and the Phnom Aural and Phnom Samkos wildlife sanctuaries.
The country has experienced one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Since 1969, Cambodia's primary rainforest cover has fallen from over 70 percent to just 3.1 percent in 2007. In total, Cambodia lost 25,000 square kilometres (9,700 sq mi) of forest between 1990 and 2005—3,340 km2 (1,290 sq mi) of which was primary forest. Since 2007, less than 3,220 km2 (1,243 sq mi) of primary forest remain with the result that the future sustainability of the forest reserves of Cambodia is under severe threat, with illegal loggers looking to generate revenue.



Cambodia dates back to the ancient city of Angkor, the capital of Khmer Empire from the late 9th century until the early 13th century. In the 9th century, the Khmer Empire stretches over a vast territory that today covers Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. During these periods, Angkor is a hub of a great human civilization that encompasses complex religious and political and social systems depicted on Angkor temple stone walls, bas relief, and sculptures today. In the first half of the 12th century, the Chams from the East (now Vietnam) invade and sack Angkor. Thereafter, the Thais from western part of Khmer empire start attacking and looting Angkor. The sacking and looting of Angkor is followed by frequent invasions by the Thais and the Chams. The power of Angkor Empire began to crumble after the death of King Javarman VII (1181 - 1215) in the 12th century. After the Thais' capture and sacking of Angkor in 1431, Khmers are forced to move their capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh. The loss of Khmer peripheral territory and land continues until 1863 when France steps in and colonize the region. The French establishes a protectorate called Indo-China (Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos). Cambodia gains independence from France in 1953.
King Sihanouk Era
Prince Norodom Skihanouk, King (1941 - 1955) and head of state (1960 - 1970), tries to maintain neutrality of Cambodia in 1960's hoping to steer Cambodia away from the regional conflict, the Vietnam war. Vietcong guerrilla forces that are stationed within Cambodia are attacked by South Vietnam army supported by the United States that considere Sihanouk's approval of Vietcong presence within Cambodia territory as a hostile act and a threat to its interest in the region. The relation between the United States and Cambodia is deteriorating and eventually severed in 1965. Under a covert operation supported by the CIA, King Sihanouk, while on a foreign trip, was deposed on March 18, 1970 by Lon Nol, a pro-US prime minister. The monarchy is abolished and Cambodia is proclaimed "Khmer Republic". King Sihanouk, banished by the pro-US government under the leadership of Lon Nol, forms a government-in-exile with the leaders of Communist Khmer Rouge already formed in Cambodia jungle. An open war begins between the Khmer Republic and the Khmer Rouge guerrillas supported by North Vietnam and China. To support Lon Nol's regime, the United States provides military and economic aids with an effort not only to repel the communists out of Cambodia but also to curb the spread of Communism in South East Asia.
The Khmer Rouge
Lon Nol's regime (1970-1975) is politically and militarily weak and is plagued with wide-spread corruption. On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge forces capture Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge introduce a utopia, agrarian regime led by Pol Pot, a communist educated in France. Cities and towns are emptied. People are marched and forced to live in labor camps. Intellectuals, government workers, and students are considered upper class and they are arrested, imprisoned, or executed. About 1.7 million Cambodians are believed killed, according to the United Nations.
In 1978, Armed clashes break out between Khmer Rouge forces and the Vietnamese troops along the Cambodia-Vietnam border trigging the Vietnamese's large-scale invasion of Cambodia. The invasion, with the help of a small group of rebels that break a way from the Khmer Rouge, is known as a revenge by the Vietnamese to get rid of the Khmer Rouge regime. The Vietnamese overthrow the Khmer Rouge in January 1979 and a Vietnamese-backed government led by Heng Samrine, a former Khmer Rouge commander, is installed. With the military and economic aids from the Soviet Union, the Vietnamese occupy Cambodia until 1989 when they decide to withdraw from Cambodia in 1989 as a result of international pressures as well as a loss of military aids from the Soviet Union that suffers political and economic crisis.
The Peace Accord
Hun Sen, a pro-Vietnamese and a former Khmer Rouge commander, emerges as a new leader of a post-Vietnamese occupation government in late 1980's. Peace accord between the Cambodian Resistance factions and Hun Sen's government is singed in Paris in 1991 paving the way for a general election in May 1992 under the auspices of the United Nations. The political party led by Hun Sen loses the general election and it disputes the election results monitored by the UN and international observers. Cambodia is in political chaos again and King Sihanouk, known among Cambodians as a father of reconciliation, intervenes and suggests a national reconciliation, a political resolution for the sake of national interest. Prince Norodom Rhanarid, the leader of the winning party, agrees to share power with Hun Sen in an interim government in which they are both Prime Ministers until 1998. On September 21, 1998, the National Assembly adopted a constitutional monarchy and proclaimed "Kingdom of Cambodia" with King Sihanouk as King and Head of State.
Post U.N. Elections
Hun Sen stages a military coup on July 5, 1997 ousting his co-prime minister Prince Norodom Rhanarid who then exiles. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot who has been denounced by his former comrades and sentenced to house arrest for his rules of atrocity against the Cambodians during his reign of terror dies on April 15, 1998. A general election is held on July 26, 1998 in which the three major political parties led by Hun Sen, Rhanarid, and Sam Rainsy participated. Hun Sen, who wins the 1998 disputed election, is denounced by international communities as a rigging the election results. However, Hun Sen break a deal of cooperation with Prince Rhanarid to form a majority coalition government leaving Sam Rainsy as an opposition party. Cambodia is formally admitted to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on April 30, 1999.
Cambodia general election is scheduled every five years starting from July 2003. The July 2003 election results in a stand-off between Hun Sen's party and the democrats consisting of Ranaridh's and Sam Rainsy's parties. Ranaridh, who in the beginning joins hands with Sam Rainsy, later breaks ranks with Sam Rainsy and strikes a deal of a power-sharing with Hun Sen in June 2004 leaving Sam Rainsy the only opposition leader in the Cambodia parliament.

Social organization

Khmer culture is very hierarchical. The greater a person's age, the greater the level of respect that must be granted to them. Cambodians are addressed with a hierarchical title corresponding to their seniority before the name. When a married couple becomes too old to support themselves, they may invite the youngest child's family to move in and to take over running the household. At this stage in their lives, they enjoy a position of high status.Legally, the husband is the head of the Khmer family, but the wife has considerable authority, especially in family economics. The husband is responsible for providing shelter and food for his family; the wife is generally in charge of the family budget, and she serves as the major ethical and religious model for the children, especially the daughters. Both husbands and wives are responsible for domestic economic tasks.

In Khmer culture a person's head is believed to contain the persons soul--therefore making it taboo to touch or point your feet at it. It is also considered to be extremely disrespectful to point or sleep with your feet pointing at a person, as the feet are the lowest part of the body and are considered to be impure.
When greeting people or to show respect in Cambodia people do the "sampeah" gesture, identical to the Indian namaste and Thai wai
Customary Cambodian teachings include: that if a person does not wake up before sunrise he is lazy; you have to tell your parents or elders where you are going and what time you are coming back home; close doors gently, otherwise you have a bad temper; sit with your legs straight down and not crossed (crossing your legs shows that you are an impolite person); and always let other people talk more than you.
90% of its population is of Khmer origin and speaks the Khmer language, the country's official language. The remainder include Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham and Khmer Loeu.
The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austroasiatic language group. French, once the language of government in Indochina, is still spoken by some older Cambodians. French is also the language of instruction in some schools and universities that are funded by the government of France. Cambodian French, a remnant of the country's colonial past, is a dialect found in Cambodia and is sometimes used in government.
Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist with 90% of the population being Theravada Buddhist, 1% Christian and the majority of the remaining population follow Islam, atheism, or animism.
Buddhism has existed in Cambodia since at least the 5th century CE. Theravada Buddhism has been the Cambodian state religion since the 13th century CE (excepting the Khmer Rouge period), and is currently estimated to be the faith of 90% of the population.
Clothing in Cambodia is one of the most important aspects of the culture. Cambodian fashion is divided by the people's differing castes and social classes. Cambodians traditionally wear a checkered scarf called a "Krama". The "krama" is what distinctly separates the Khmer (Cambodians) from their neighbors the Thai, the Vietnamese, and the Laotians. The scarf is used for many purposes including for style, protection from the sun, an aid (for your feet) when climbing trees, a hammock for infants, a towel, or as a "sarong". A "krama" can also be easily shaped into a small child's doll for play. Under the Khmer Rouge, krama of various patterns were part of standard clothing.
The long-popular traditional costume known as the Sampot, a Chinese-influenced costume which Cambodians wore since the Funan era, has lost popularity. However, Khmer People's clothing also changed depending on the time period and religion. From the Funan era back to the Angkor Era, there was a strong invasion of Hinduism which influenced Cambodian fashion to have upper naked, wear Sampot and wear their jewelry like bracelets and especially, collars like Sarong Kor, a symbol of Hinduism.
Khmer cuisine is similar to that of its Southeast Asian neighbors. It shares many similarites with Thai cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine and Teochew cuisine. Cambodian cuisine also uses fish sauce widely in soups, stir-fried cuisine, and as dippings. The Chinese legacy of Stir frying can be noted in the use of many variations of rice noodles; while Curry dishes known as kari (in Khmer, ការី) that employ dried spices such as star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and fennel were borrowed from the Indians and given a distinctive Cambodian twist with the addition of local ingredients like lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, shallots and galangal.Pork broth rice noodle soup known simply as ka tieu (គុយទាវ) is one of Cambodia's popular dish. Also, Banh Chiao is the Khmer version of the Vietnamese Bánh xèo.
Especially in the 60s and 70s, the 'big two' duet of Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea had been a large hit in the country. However after their deaths, new music stars have tried to bring back the music. Cambodian music has undergone heavy westernization.
The Cambodian pinpeat ensemble is traditionally heard on feast days in the pagodas. It is also a court ensemble used to accompany classical dance for ritual occasions or theatrical events. The pinpeat is primarily made up of percussion instruments: the roneat ek (lead xylophone), roneat thung (low bamboo xylophone), kong vong touch and kong vong thom (small and large sets of tuned gongs), sampho (two-sided drum), skor thom (two large drums), and sralai (quadruple-reed instrument).
Cambodian Dance can be divided into three main categories: classical dance, folk dances, and vernacular dances.
Khmer classical dance is a form of Cambodian dance originally performed only for royalty. The dances have many elements in common with Thai classical dance. During the mid-20th century, it was introduced to the public where it now remains a celebrated icon of Khmer culture, often being performed during public events, holidays, and for tourists visiting Cambodia.this classical Dance is famous for its using of hands and feet to express emotion which known as there are 4,000 different gestures in this type of dance.
Shadow Theatre
Nang sbek (shadow theatre) is closely related to the Nang Yai of Thailand, waying of Malaysia and Indonesia like the Islands of Java and Bali, thus implying that nang sbek may have came from an Indonesian or Malaysian origin from many centuries ago. Nang sbek is also a dying art form and may disappear because of the decline in popularity over the years with the introduction of modern entertainment. Before the spread of modern technology such as movies, videos and television the Khmers enjoyed and watch shadow theatre apart from the other sources of entertainment available around during that time.


The most popular time of year to visit the region is between November and April. With the exception of the mountainous colder parts of Yunnan and Myanmar, the weather is at its most comfortable during this time. However, this means that in some places, accommodation may be harder to find in the high season.
The hot season, from March to May is very dry, but in some places, During this time, some rivers are harder to navigate, and boat journeys in remote places may not be possible.
The rainy season, generally from June to September is for many people the best time to travel - despite the fact that it rains, it never gets that cold, and nearly all hotels and guesthouses have rooms available - often a lot cheaper than during the high season.
What to bring
Light clothing made from natural fibres is the best clothing for the region. You will find that all hotels, no matter how small offer a laundry service or can at least arrange someone to launder your clothes for you -in many cases, this may be out by hotel chambermaids free of charge. All towns have laundry services and will usually return your clothes to you within 24 hours. Please remember that you should normally wash your own undergarments. In the rainy season, clothes may take longer to dry.
Warm clothing - for the months of December and January, a light jacket is often necessary in the lowlands - more warm clothing may be needed if travelling in the highlands. Most towns have markets where you can buy a warm jacket for a fraction of the price you would pay at home. All Mekong countries sell sarongs of some form or another that can double as scarves, dressing gowns and towels.
People in the region dress modestly. Women visitors are not expected to wear skirts, but miniskirts and revealing shorts, may often be viewed as 'not polite'. The best plan is to dress modestly like the locals. 
Footwear - bring sandals or slip ons to take off easily when entering temples. Flip flops can be bought very cheaply just about anywhere.
An small collapsible umbrella is sensible for the rainy season.
A flashlight is a good idea, in case of power cuts.
Electrical multi adaptor if you plan on bringing electrical appliances - there are many different types of plug sockets used in the region. For example, we know of hotels in the region built by Singaporean companies that use Singaporean (UK) standard plugs, rather than local standards - so be prepared!
Video tapes and camera film can be found in easily in Cambodia, but may be more difficult to come across in remote parts of the other countries. Specialist products are often hard to come by. We advise you to bring plenty of film and video tape.
Toiletries can be found in all towns, but outside major cities, they are limited in supply. We suggest you bring your own. In Cambodia, toiletries can be found everywhere.
Insect repellant can be found in towns, but many visitors have their own favorite brands - bring your own.
A first aid kit is a very good idea.
Mobile phones - some GSM roaming agreements exist in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Check with your service provider before travelling. 
Modems - beware of proprietory telephone systems that look standard frying both your modems and your notebooks. Check with the hotel if their telephone system can be used for modems.
Visa needed, requiring passport and two two-inch photos, valid for one month, cost US$30 and taking approx. 3 days to process. Visa on arrival also available at Wattay airport, Friendship bridge, Luang Prabang airport and at Chong Mek. (Entry formalities are likely to be relaxed further as tourism expands, so check with the nearest Lao embassy for latest information).
Please contact our visa team for more information regarding visa application for Cambodia.
Cash remains the most realistic way to take money into the region. The key currency is US dollars, but ensure that you take new edition currency as old edition $50 and $100 bills are often not accepted. Do not order local currency from your home country. All major airports have banks, and all banks accept US dollars.
Travellers cheques - are accepted in banks of major capital cities in the country. Please bring your original passport for exchanging the traveller cheques.
Credit cards -are widely accepted in Laos, but beware that smaller enterprises will surcharge if you use a credit card. Consider paying a sum into your credit card account to give you a positive balance that you can draw on overseas. Credit cards are accepted in major hotels in other countries.


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