“Steeped in history and mystique”
Cambodia is known for warm, beguiling smiles that have weathered great hardship, now Cambodia is Asia’s fastest growing tourist destination. After about 35 years of non-stop war, this beautiful country is finally re-emerging from the darkness.
Cambodia is a land of superlatives. The ancient temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon and other ruins of the Khmer Empire rank amongst the world’s grandest and most magnificent World Heritage Sites. But this magnificence stands in shocking contrast to the Killing Fields, Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and other remnants of Cambodia’s more recent history.
Cambodia might be quite low-key compared to its more popular neighbor, Thailand, yet it has plenty of charms of its own, travelers encounter a country where the luxurious present meets the ravaged past.
Cambodia is truly a land of light and dark, of wonder and of tragedy – awe-inspiring, heart wrenching and completely unique.
When to Visit
Cambodia can be visited at any time of year. The ideal months are December and January, when humidity levels are relatively low, there is little rainfall and a cooling breeze whips across the land.
CAMBODIA’S PLACES OF INTEREST
One of the most beautiful historical monuments in the world. Located about 192 miles northwest of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, the temple has preserved its traditions and customs almost unchanged. Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city.
Capital of the province of the same name, this small, French colonial-style town is situated picturesquely along the banks of the Siem Reap River. It is a pleasant, laid-back and inexpensive place in which to base an exploration of this important historical area.
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and one of Asia’s most compelling cities with plenty of things to do, a wonderful mix of Khmer and French colonial architecture and a new atmosphere as bars and restaurants open up along the picturesque riverfront.
Cambodia’s premier beach town. Sihanoukville’s white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beach atmosphere to provide a great little tropical getaway.
Battambang town is at the heart of Cambodia’s ‘rice bowl’, and even though it is the country’s second biggest town, it still has a very local, less tourist and provincial atmosphere. Much of the architecture is French colonial and traditional Cambodian.
PRASAT PREAH VIHEAR
A sacred shrine which is located on the very high and smooth plateau along the Dang Rek Mountain which is near to the Thai-Cambodia border. The atmosphere around this temple is cool, smoggy, temperate, and perfect landscapes.
Koh Kong is found at the southern part of the country. It features pristine mountains where tourists can trek and hike. The place also features archaeological and historic sites like museums.
KAMPONG SPEU CITY
Kampong Speu City is the capital city of Kampong Speu province, which is located at the Tang Tonle Village of Cambodia. Kampong Speu is famous for its generous supply of palm sugar and wine. It is also a popular natural and cultural resort haven.Kampong Speu City is one of the most popular travel sites in Cambodia that you will definitely want to try.
Koh Ker Temple in Cambodia is a huge temple complex that served as the capital of the Khmer empire for a brief period between 928AD and 944AD. It is located 118kilometers northeast of Siem Reap. These temple is indeed impressive. There are more than 42 temples to see here.
BOKOR NATIONAL PARK
Located at the southern tip of the Elephant Mountains near the Cambodia Vietnam border and is one of Cambodia’s largest protected natural areas, quite prosperous in the terms of the prevalent flora. Sitting atop a 1080 meter hill is the Bokor Hill Station, a famous altitude resort during the French Protectorate and Prince Norodom Sihanouk regime in the 1960′s.
Preah Khan means ‘sacred sword,’ is a huge, highly explorable monastic complex, full of carvings, passages and photo opportunities. It originally served as a Buddhist monastery and school, engaging over 1000 monks. For a short period it was also the residence of King Jayavarman VII during the reconstruction of his permanent home in Angkor Thom.
Has a unique natural beauty and wealth of natural resources that can be found at the northeast of Phnom Penh. A land of mountains and rain forests – home to a variety of wildlife including some rare tigers and elephants, and perhaps even a few “kouprey”, the mysterious jungle cow. Located approx. 600 km north of Phnom Penh . It is bordering with Vietnam and Laos.
CAMBODIA GENERAL INFORMATION
COUNTRY NAME: The Kingdom of Cambodia
LOCATION: Southeast Asia, bordered by Vietnam, Thailand and Laos and the South China Sea
CAPITAL: Phnom Penh
TIME ZONE: GMT +7 hours
COUNTRY CODE: +855
POPULATION: 14,805,358 – 2009 estimates
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 until 1975.
Thervada Buddhism (97%), Islam, Christianity, Animism
The population consists of ethnic Khmer at the largest, followed by ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, Cham, Muslim and Hilltribes residing at far remote northeast. Most Khmers accounted for 80 percent are farmers growing rice. Vietnamese provide the country with skilled workers, while Chinese dominate most of business ownership. The hill tribes live at rural area in the northeast practicing slash and burn agriculture
GOVERNMENT: Constitutional Monarchy
Cambodia lies in a tropical zone between 10 and 14 degree of latitude north the equator. The temperature is fairly uniform throughout the year and averages 25 degree centigrade (77 degree fahrenheit). The relative humidity is higher at night and usually in excess of 90 percent, during the day the average humidity is 80 percent.
Cambodia covers an area of some 181, 035 square km, which is bordered by Thailand to the West, by Vietnam to the East, by Laos to the North and by Gulf of Siam to the South. The country’s terrain mostly consists of low and flat plains which is mainly fertile by the Mekong and Tonle Sap river, whereas highland and mountains surrounded by evergreen forests lie at the North and South.
The unit is the RIELS. Riel demoninations are 100, 200 and 500. Exchange rates are subject to fluctuation. US$ are generally accepted thoughout the country. In Phnom Penh, some credit cards can be used and limited services and purchasing and cashing traveler checks.
- Industry: Tourism, garments, rice milling, fishing, wood and wood products
- Agriculture: Rice, rubber, corn, vegetables
- Exports: Timber, garments, rubber, rice, fish
CAMBODIA WORKING HOURS
Government offices: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday
Business offices: 08:00 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday
Shops: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 7 days a week
Banks: 8:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday
Markets: 6:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. 7 days a week.
Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
PASSPORT & VISA
Visas can be obtained at Royal Embassies and Consulates of Cambodia
Visa on arrival: valid for 30 days, is issued at Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport and most international border crossing.
Visa fee: Business visa: USD25, Tourist visa: USD20.
- Foreigner: USD25
- Cambodian: USD18
- Foreigner: 6USD
- Cambodian: 5USD
Cambodia can be accessed through the Phnom Penh International Airport and the Siem Reap International Airport; both of which provide full services for passengers on international flights operated by many international airlines.
There are three points of entry by road: Moc Bai and Chao Doc on the Vietnamese border and Poipet on the Thai border. Another crossing from Surin Province in Thailand is intermittently open, crossing into the Cambodian village of O’smach, as is a crossing north of Stung Treng into southern Laos, but these checkpoints are not reliable. Usually the trip between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh takes five or six hours by taxi.
Visa regulations at the Vietnamese border are unreliable. Sometimes it is possible to obtain a visa and sometimes not. To save time and trouble, it is best to obtain a Cambodian visa in advance. A Cambodian Consulate operates in Ho Chi Minh City. It is possible to obtain a Cambodian visa at the checkpoint in Poipet, but if time permits, it is better to have one issued through the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok in advance.
Officials at the border can become something of a law unto themselves, and having a valid visa can avoid delays and added costs. At the moment this is not a good way to enter as the roads leading to both Siem Reap and Battambang are in dreadful condition.
By Sea: It is now possible to enter Cambodia by boat. Speedboats travel between Ban Hat Lek in Trat Province, Thailand, and Koh Kong Town. As in Poipet, the Cambodian visa is issued on arrival at the border. From Koh Kong there are boats twice daily to Kompong Som (Sihanoukville).
Royal Phnom Penh Airlines runs a limited domestic operation, with flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Battambang, Koh Kong, Stung Treng and Ratanakiri. There are at least four flights per day to Siem Reap. Domestic airport tax at Phnom Penh is US$10, and to other airports US$4 at publication (2003).
There are three air-conditioned bus services now offering comfortable tr ps between Phnom Penh and the seaside resort of Kompong Som (Sihanoukville). The road to Kompong Som (Sihanoukville) is by far the best in the country. There are buses to Siem Reap, but as the road is still in poor condition it is a long and tedious journey. For shorter trips to, say, Oudong or Kompong Chhnang there are air-conditioned buses, and these roads are in better condition than those further upcountry.
Travel by rail in Cambodia is to be avoided. The rolling stock is old, slow and uncomfortable.
Comfortable modern boats now ply the routes between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap/Stung Treng, a journey of some six hours. Boats for Siem Reap depart just beyond the Japanese Bridge at the northern end of Phnom Penh. Travelling up the Sap River you will pass Cham fishing communities, and as the boat enters the Tonle Sap large Vietnamese and Khmer boat communities can be seen. There is a daily boat to Kompong Cham with a journey time of two hours.
In Phnom Penh the “cyclo” or pedicab can be seen on every street corner. It costs a little less than a moto, but is not as quick. The cyclo has three wheels, and the driver sits behind the passenger. Cyclos can be hired by the hour or by the day and are a great way to see the sights (not applicable to Angkor). Agree a price in advance.
Motorcycle taxis, or “motos”, as they are known, can be found all over the country. The drivers are usually recognisable by the fact that they wear hats of some sort (crash helmets are not compulsory in Cambodia), and the motorcycles have larger seats than usual. Because taxis are sometimes hard to find in Phnom Penh the moto is the best way to get somewhere quickly. Many moto drivers speak some English. Always agree the fare beforehand, and remember: hold on tight; there are lots of potholes in the roads. Motos wait at the airport, and this can be a viable way into town if you arrive alone.
Hotels and travel agents can arrange cars with drivers. It is still not possible to hire your own vehicle, which is probably a good thing as Cambodia’s roads are dangerous. Motorcycle hire is now becoming possible outside Phnom Penh.
January 1 – New Years Day
January – Commemoration Day of the last sermon of the Buddha; date determined by the lunar calendar.
January 7 – national holiday in commemoration of the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
March 8 – Women’s Day; national holiday with parades.
April – Chaul Chhnam; traditional Cambodian New Year, equalling Songkran in Thailand; the celebrations last for three days during which Cambodians douse each other liberally with water; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.
April – Visak Bauchea; commemoration of the birth and the first sermon of the Buddha; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.
April 17 – Independence Day; national holiday in commemoration of the fall of the Lon Nol dictatorship on April 17, 1975.
May 1- Labour Day
June 19 – Memorial Day of the founding of the revolutionary forces of Cambodia in 1951; parades in Phnom Penh.
June 28 – Memorial Day of the founding of the Revolutionary People’s Party of Cambodia in 1951; parades and celebrations in Phnom Penh.
July – beginning of the Buddhist Lent; the exact date depends on the lunar calendar. The day is preferred by Cambodian and Buddhist men of neighbouring countries for becoming monks, mostly on a temporary basis.
September – the day of the final celebrations of the Buddhist Lent; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.
September – Prachum Ben; a kind of Cambodian All-Saints-Day in commemoration of the dead and ancestors; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.
October and November – Water Festival; this festival celebrates the turn of the current of the Tonle Sap river. The Tonle Sap river connects lake Tonle Sap with the Mekong. For most of the time the river flows from lake Tonle Sap into the Mekong. However, during the rainy season from about June to October the Mekong carries a high water level, and in response the Tonle Sap river flows in reverse direction, from the Mekong back into lake Tonle Sap. This causes lake Tonle Sap to swell to more than twice its regular size. At the end of the rainy season, when the water level of the Mekong drops again, the current reverts and the water added to lake Tonle Sap during the rainy season flows back into the Mekong.
DO’S & DON’T IN CAMBODIA
- Ask for permission before taking photographs of any Cambodian people or monks.
- It is customary to remove your shoes when entering a place of worship such as a pagoda or temple. Additionally, visitors should dress appropriately when inside a religious site (upper arms and legs should be covered, hats removed).
- It is respectful to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
- Though not always expected, a respectful way of greeting another individual is to bow the head slightly with hands pressed together at the chest (known as “Sampeah”).
- If invited to dine in a Cambodian family’s home, it is polite to bring a small gift for the host such as fruit, dessert, or flowers.
- If invited to attend a Cambodian wedding, it is customary to bring cash as a wedding gift.
- When using a toothpick at the table, use one hand to cover your mouth.
- Keep business cards ready, and present them with both hands. Accept business cards with both hands.
- Don’t use your feet to point at someone.
- Don’t touch a Cambodian person on the head.
- Don’t begin eating if you are a guest at a dinner and the host has yet to take a bite.
- Women should never touch male monks or hand something directly to them.
- Keep public displays of affection to a respectful minimum.
A Word of Warning: Though Cambodia is now more peaceful than at any time in the last 30 years, visitors should still exercise caution – particularly in the capital. Confine tourism activities to the daytime, since the dimly-lit streets can be dangerous at night. In the more rural areas, stick to well-established pathways (or better yet, travel with a qualified guide), since there are still countless landmines left over from the war years. Hazards aside though, a little prudence is all that’s required to enjoy a safe and happy holiday in this remarkable country.