The Kingdom of Cambodia is an independent country
with a population of more than 7 million people. With a surface
area of 181,035 sq. km and once a French colony, is the least
known Indochinese country. Cambodia has a distinct geographical
personality: it is a wide basin surrounded by highlands. In this
basin the farmer has created a simple life - an original civilization
and philosophy of mildness. After many years of war, people rediscovered
the meaning of "PEACE" They started to rebuild and
reconstruct in all fields. Cambodia is divided into 20 provinces
and rich in resources, forests, rubber, gems, fish and . It is
bordered to the North by Thailand and Laos, to the East and South
by Vietnam, and to the South and Southwest by the Gulf of Thailand.
Much of Cambodia is relatively flat with vast tracts of land
given over to rice production. Other areas of Cambodia are mountainous,
including the Dangrek, Cardomen and Elephant mountain ranges.
the Kingdom of Cambodia is now safe to travel and tourism
has once again become possible. Indeed, the country and Phnom
Penh in partucular is undergoing something of a renaissance.
Often overshadowed by the traumatic events of its recent past,
Cambodia as home of the Khmer culture remains one of the most
important and exotic countries in South East Asia.
Climate and Seasons
As a tropical country, Cambodia is bathed in almost all year
sunshine and has a high average temperature. There are two distinct
seasons, the dry and the monsoon. The monsoon lasts from May
to October with southwesterly winds ushering in the clouds that
bring seventy five to eighty percent of the annual rainfall often
in spectacular intense bursts for an hour at a time with fantastic
lightening displays. The dry season runs from November to April
averaging temperatures from 27 to 40 degrees Celsius. The collest
and most comfortable for those from cooler climates is from October
The Cambodian language, Khmer, is part of the Mon-Khmer family
and has its origins in Sanskrit and Pali. It is spoken all over
the country except in some tribal areas where local indigenous
languages are used. In larger towns and cities English is spoken
by an increasing number of educated people. French is spoken
by some of the older members of society and Chinese by many of
the business people.
Rice and Fish are the main staple of the typical Cambodian
diet though many dishes are prepared with beef, pork or chicken.
Sea food is abundant in coastal areas with shrimps and crab among
the favorites. Local specialties include Amok (fish-cooked in
coconut milk) and a variety of soups, and curries similar in
taste though not in spiciness to Thailand.
The majority of the people of Cambodia are followers of Thervada
and Hinayana school of Buddhism which was introduced to Cambodia
between the 13th and 14 centuries and was the state religion
Currency and Banking
The official currency in Cambodia is the Riel which come in
denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 50000
and 100000 notes. However, in the major towns and cities, US
dollars can be freely spent though travelers are recommended
to use smaller denomination notes as change may be difficult.
Most places will refuse old, tatty or damaged US bills. Due to
the economic problems in the region, the currency has slipped
3900 riel per one US dollars in September 01. Popular local and
international currencies can be exchanged openly and freely.
Major credit cards are only accepted in a few places so travelers
cheques or cash are recommended.
ANGKOR WAT AND SIEMREAP
The glorious and world-famous Angkor Wat situates in Siemreap
Province and is just a few kilometers from the town. One can
reach Siemreap by taking daily direct flight from Phnom Penh.
Temples of Angkor were built between 7th and 11th century when
Khmer civilazation was at its height of its extraordinary creativity.
Angkor Wat is the cultural home of the Khmer people and one of
the ancient wonders of the world. Its magnificent architecture
was the evidence of the Khmer's strong belief in religions -
Hinduism and Buddhism. First discovered by Western archeologists
in the late 19th century, the lost city of Angkor is just re-opening
to the exploration to the modern civilization.
The fortified city of Angkor Thom, some 10 sq km in extent,
was built in its present form by Angkor's greatest builder, Jayavarman
7 (reigned 1181 to 1201), who came to power just after the disastrous
sacking by the Chams of the previous Khmer capital, is enclosed
by a square wall eight metres high and 12 km in length and encircled
by a moat 100 meters wide, said to have been inhabited by fierce
crocodiles. The city has five monumental gates, one in the north,
west and south walls and two in the east wall. The gates, which
are 20 metres in height, are decorated on either side of the
passageway with stone elephant trunks and crowned by four gargantuan
faces of the bodhisatva Avalokitesvara.
The country's capital Phnom Penh is renowned for its beauty,
particularly the area surrounding the Royal Palace where magificent
Khmer towers share the boulevard with coloured French villas
overlooking the banks of the Tonle Sap river.
HOW TO REACH CAMBODIA & ANGKOR WAT
There are direct flights to the capital of Phnom Penh from
Bangkok, Hanoi, Hochiminh City, Hong Kong, Kuahlupur, Singapore
and Vientiane. From Phnom Penh, one can take direct flights to
Siemreap (Angkor), which are now operates on daily basis. Because
of its vast architectures and plentiful of myths and informations,
visiting of the great Angkor Wat with a knowlegable and well-trained
guide is highly recommended and fun.
Events and Festivals
Cambodia has a wealth of traditional and international festivals.
Most of these are a time of great rejoicing for the predominantly
rural populace, many of whom flock to the capital to join in
the celebrations and witness the organized fireworks displays
which accompany the festivals. It is at these times the nation
unites with a shared common understanding of values and traditions
and they are looked forward to with great expectation. Even in
times of hardship people try even harder to make these times
special. All the traditional festivals are influenced by the
concepts of Buddhism, Hinduism and royal cultures. The following
are the most important of the celebrations organized throughout
Water festival (October or November)
Pchum Ben (September)
King Sihanouk's Birthday Celebration (October 31)
.Khmer New Year's Day (Mid April)
Angkor Festival (November or December): This festival is a
showcase of performing arts with Angkor Wat as a backdrop. Performers
from all over Asia attend this festival performing great epic
stories from myths and legends, including the Ramayana, with
their own national dance costumes and musical and rhythmic inter-pretations.
Royal Ploughing Day (May)
Independence Day (November 9)
Chinese New Year (January or February): Due to the large number
of people of Chinese descent who run much of Cambodia's business
enterprises; and also Vietnamese immigrant communities, the Chinese
New Year is widely celebrated, especially in Phnom Penh.
National Day (January 7):One of the more recent additions
to the festival calendar, this day marks the end of the Khmer
International Half Marathon (Late December)
Other Holidays and Festivals
Cambodia also celebrates other special days including: International
Women's Day (8 March), International Worker's Day (1 May), Genocide
Day (9 May), Vesak Bucha Day - the anniversary of the birth,
enlightenment, and death of Buddha (Late May), Ploughing the
Holy Furrow (Late May), Chol Vassa - Buddhist Lent (July), and
International Human Rights Day (10 December).