The Kingdom of Wonder

Once the greatest empire in Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s colorful history and awe-inspiring sites make it one of the most exciting countries in the region to visit.

The main tourist attraction of Cambodia is the ancient archaeological ruins of Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, the natural beauty of this country extends beyond Angkor and includes virgin forests, waterfalls, and remote hill-tribe villages in the northeastern provinces, making this a rewarding adventure and ecotourism destination. The southern region’s coastline earns popularity for its white sand beaches in Sihanoukville and surrounding areas, while the eccentric capital city of Phnom Penh is the business and social hub of the country.

Cambodia is raw, alive, beautiful and challenging, never taking you too far from a feeling that you're almost a part of history in the making, not merely an observer.

 

Cambodia will steal your heart

With one of the friendliest populations in the region Cambodia really never fails to charm, there must be something in the air that intoxicates. After the horrors of the Khmer rouge Cambodia is now a young country on the move. The young population is a driving force behind development. Cambodia can offer an exhilarating experience even for the most seasoned adventurer it also has one of the most famous ancient relics in the world Angkor Wat as well as the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap Lake which is the lifeblood of the local people.

People

Cambodia is the most ethnically homogeneous nation in Southeast Asia. The country remains a predominately agrarian society with 80% of the population living in the countryside working in agriculture and fishing. More than 95 percent of its 15 million citizens are ethnic Khmers. The Vietnamese form the largest minority group, followed by Chinese Cambodians and Cham. Remote mountain areas are home to a number of smaller ethnic groups. The dominant religion is Theravada Buddhism.

Religion

Approximately 95% of Cambodia's population follows Theravada Buddhism, heavily influenced by Shaivism and Vaishnavism and by animism, with Islam, Christianity, and tribal animism making up the bulk of the remainder.

Landscape

Cambodia shares borders in the north with Laos, to the west with Thailand, in the east with Vietnam and in the southwest with the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia’s landscape is a blend of rice paddies, sugar palm plantations and remote jungles. While most visitors come to see the marvels of Angkor Wat, Cambodia offers plenty of natural beauty for those willing to explore.

Bordering the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest, Cambodia offers some lovely beaches, while to the north and northeast are mountainous. Life in Cambodia has always revolved around two bodies of water: the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake. Tonle Sap, the name of which means ‘Great Lake’, is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

 

Climate

Cambodia has a tropical climate that is warm and humid with two distinct seasons: rainy season and dry season. During the peak of the rainy season (June to August), the humidity is higher and the temperatures can reach the upper 30°C (86°F) from September to early November, when it is wet and slightly cooler. Seasonal flooding in Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia occurs in September and October which may cause disruption to travel. The dry season (November to May) is pleasant from November to February and becomes hotter from March to May, where temperatures can soar as high as 38°C (100°F).

History

Cambodia has had a tumultuous history, from being the most powerful kingdom in Southeast Asia between the 9th-12th centuries to the recent tragic genocide where the population was nearly annihilated by Pol Pot in the 1970s.

At its most powerful, the Kingdom of Funan (1st to 6th centuries) covered much of present-day SE Asia and even had contact with the Roman Empire. Funan developed into the state of Chenla (a mass of warring principalities) and was finally replaced by the even more powerful Kingdom of Angkor in the 9th century. The legacy of this era is what draws most visitors to Cambodia; from the 9th to 13th centuries Angkor’s rulers presided over the construction of one of the most astonishing architectural achievements in the world. While more than 100 temples remain, these magnificent structures are but a mere shadow of the fabulous religious capital that once stood here. Hundreds of wooden palaces, houses and public buildings are long gone.

In 1864 the French added Cambodia to their colonies in Indochina. Independence was declared in 1953. In 1969 the war in neighboring Vietnam spilled over into Cambodia, as American and South Vietnamese troops invaded to attack the northern Vietnamese forces operating in Cambodia.

On April 17th, 1975, a Cambodian resistance group, the Khmer Rouge, took control of the capital, and proceeded to implement one of the most destructive campaigns of social re-engineering ever recorded. As the Khmer Rouge wished to create a peasant-led, agrarian cooperative, Cambodia’s cities were forcibly emptied and people were resettled in rural labor camps. Anyone with foreign ties or education was liable to be executed. By the time Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, almost one in five Cambodians was dead.

In the middle of 1993 the United Nations oversaw elections in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge’s leader, Pol Pot, died of natural causes in April 1998.

Today Cambodia is a member of the WTO, ASEAN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The per capita income is rapidly increasing, with tourism and textiles making up the top 2 industries of the economy.

Lifestyle

Eating

Khmer cuisine is closely related to her neighboring countries, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, although it is not as spicy.  Curries, stir-fried vegetables, rice, noodles and soups are staples of the Khmer diet. Coconut milk is the main ingredient of many Khmer dishes. One of the most popular dishes is amok, a thick soup of boneless fish with coconut and spices. Both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh boast a wide range of high quality restaurants serving European and Asian cuisine. Local Cambodian beer is close to European beers and popular with most Western tourists. A complete range of Western spirits is served in all establishments. Virtually every restaurant and bar features Western cocktails. Beers cost from 50 cents to $1.50 in local establishments. Spirits and cocktails can be had for less than $3.50.

Drinking tap water is not advisable. Bottled drinking water is widely available for a reasonable price. The majority of hotels and restaurants will use hygienic ice, however, if eating at a market or on the street it may be best to avoid ice.

Shopping

Cambodia is still developing, and so local sellers can sometimes be very persistent when trying to make money, especially around tourists whom they perceive as very wealthy. Vendors will probably overcharge you, but rather than becoming irritated, join the game and bargain with a smile! It is also recommended to check prices of the same items in the neighborhood before reaching a deal, especially for more expensive items.

If you being followed by street vendors and do not wish to make a purchase, often the best course of action is to say “no” firmly and politely, and continue on your way. Do not hesitate or linger, as this will encourage the seller to try and engage you further.

If you choose to ship items home, we highly recommend that you buy shipping insurance and check the policy details. As shops are not responsible for damages incurred en route, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Shopping

Cambodia is still developing, and so local sellers can sometimes be very persistent when trying to make money, especially around tourists whom they perceive as very wealthy. Vendors will probably overcharge you, but rather than becoming irritated, join the game and bargain with a smile!  It is also recommended to check prices of the same items in the neighborhood before reaching a deal, especially for more expensive items. Beware of buying gold, silver or gems, especially in the Old Market area, it is normally brass and glass!

If you are being followed by street vendors and do not wish to make a purchase, often the best course of action is to say “no” firmly and politely, and continue on your way. Do not hesitate or linger, as this will encourage the seller to try and engage you further.

If you choose to ship items home, we highly recommend that you buy shipping insurance and check the policy details. As shops are not responsible for damages incurred en route, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Etiquette

Cambodians consider it disrespectful to touch someone on their head. It's also impolite to gesture with your feet or prop them up on furniture; to do so implies that you look down on the people sitting around you.

Revealing clothing is unacceptable off the beach. Shorts are generally fine, as long as they aren’t too short.

When visiting pagodas and temples, shorts and tank-tops are unacceptable. Your knees and shoulders must be covered. Footwear and socks must be removed in pagodas. Shoes are usually removed upon entering private homes too.

Public displays of affection between men and women may embarrass your host. On the other hand, it’s perfectly normal for a pair of men or a pair of women to link arms or hold hands.

When greeting people in Cambodia, it’s customary to use the sampeah gesture: bring your palms together at chest level and bow slightly in the direction of your acquaintance.

Beckoning someone by crooking your finger is considered rude. The correct way to call someone over is to extend your hand with the palm down and flap your fingers towards your wrist. To ask for the bill in a restaurant or shop, extend one hand in front of you with the palm raised and pretend to write on your palm with the other hand.