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Cambodia Attractions

 cambodia_flag Cambodia Travel Information
Cambodia is fast establishing itself on the Southeast Asian tourist trail. The stunning temples of Angkor Wat are the drawcard for most visitors, but the country has much more to offer: undeveloped golden beaches, unspoilt forests, a balmy climate, and a relaxed atmosphere. Cambodia encompasses a surprisingly diverse range of terrain and scenery.
 Rice fields are the feature of this predominantly flat and agricultural land, though there are significant highland areas, as well as the massive Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, which dominates the heart of the country. In the east the mighty Mekong River forms a natural divide, beyond which rise the mountainous, heavily forested hills of the far northeast. The southwest is hilly and remains covered in jungle, while parts of the southeast are regularly inundated, as the Mekong and its sister river the Bassac overflow their banks.
 For all its natural beauty and rich heritage, Cambodia has suffered a tragic recent past at the hands of the fanatical Khmer Rouge – the population endured mass killings when the Khmer Rouge came to power in the 1970s, followed by a protracted guerrilla war which only ended in 1998. The whole country is now finally at peace, though the lack of infrastructure and skills is sorely evident in the potholed streets, the damaged buildings and the sometimes truly appalling roads. Much has still to be done before the country is properly back on its feet, and before most of the population see a tangible improvement in their standard of living. There are positive signs, however: thronging markets testify to renewed private enterprise, and in Phnom Penh, at least, a modest middle class has re-emerged. This recovery is in no small way down to one of the country’s greatest assets, the Cambodians themselves, eternally optimistic, tenacious and, to visitors, endlessly welcoming. Despite the dereliction of the Khmer Rouge years, visiting Cambodia doesn’t have to be a hard slog. The country offers a decent range of places to stay, and Cambodian food, influenced by the cuisines of France, China and Thailand. The revival of traditional artisanship is evidenced by the numerous craft shops. The majority of country’s towns still retain some old-world charm, and the gentility of the former French colonial period can still be glimpsed in the quaint shop house terraces and colonial architecture – the most tangible legacy of French rule is the piles of crusty baguettes heaped up in baskets and hawked around the streets in the early morning.


• Country Conventional Name: Kingdom of Cambodia (Locally called Preahreacheanachakr Kampuchea). In short by local: Kampuchea
• Capital: Phnompenh
• Government: Contitudenational Monarchy
• King: Norodom Shihamoni
• Prim Ministry: Hun Sen
• Location: Southeast Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand to the south, Thailand to the east, Vietnam to the West, and Laos to the North
• Climate – Tropical
Rainy Season: June to October
- Cool Season: November to February
- Hot Season: March to May
- Monsoon season: May to November); Dry season (December to April) – Average Temperature: 32 degree
• Size: 181,035 square kilometers, with coastal line of 443 km.
• Population: 11,626,520 (1999)
- Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, and Chinese, Chams (Khmer Island), Hilltribes, Chinese constituted remaining 5%
- Population growth rate: 2.49% (1999 est.)
- Birth rate: 41.05 births/1,000 population (1999 est.)
- Death rate: 16.2 deaths/1,000 population (1999 est.)
- Military Age: 18 years of age
• Religion
Officially Theravada Buddhism 95%; others Islam and Christianity
• Language
Officially Khmer – others: English, French, Chinese and Vietnamase
• Literacy: 35% of total population
• Time: +7 GMT
• Voltare: 250v/50Hz
• Code: +855
• Communication: The handphone has become a necessity in Cambodia.Phone cards can be bought at hotels post offices and supermarkets for use at public phones: Hello (081, 015, 016), Camsin (011, 099, 077), Metfone (097), Smartmobile (093), QB (013), Starcell (098, 018), Boom (010, 030)
• Visa: 20USD for one month, issued at most boders and all airport
Economy (Estimated)
• GDP:
purchasing power parity—$7.8 billion (1998 est.)
- Agriculture: 51%
- Industry: 15%
- Services: 34%
• Inflation rate: 15% (1998)
• Labor force: 2.5 million to 3 million
• Labor force: agriculture 80%

• Industries: rice milling, fishing, wood and wood products, rubber, cement, gem mining, textiles
• Natural resources: Timber, gemstones, some iron ore, manganese, phosphates, hydropower potential

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. Phnom Penh is truly cosmopolitan with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Nepalese, Indian, Turkish, Mexican, French, Western and other restaurants dotted around the capital.


Events & 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 the year.

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)
Royal Ploughing Day (May)
Independence Day (November 9)
Chinese New Year (January or February)
National Day (January 7)
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).

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 from 2500 Riels to 3700-3900 per one US dollars (at the time of this writing), meaning Cambodia is an even better value for money tourist destination than before. Popular local and international currencies can be exchanged openly and freely. Major credit cards are only accepted in a few places so traveler cheques or cash are recommended.

Traveler Cheques (TC) – You can exchange TC at any bank in Cambodia, but you have to pay about 2-4% extra for converting it into US$ bill.

As an advice, you should carry USD cash (with $20 and $100 notes) in addition to traveler cheques and credit card. Do not exchange all of your cash into the local currency at one time, but gradually. It is very difficult to exchange back to foreign currency – practically impossible for ordinary tourists!

List of Banks in Cambodia and contact address:
Cambodian Commercial Bank

N°26 Monivong Street – Tel: (23) 426145
Cambodia Mekong Bank
N°1, Street 114 – Tel: (23) 430518
Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia
N°24-26 Norodom – Tel (23) 724466
Currently Foreign Trade Bank is the only bank that accepts Visa cards
Standard Charters Bank
N°89, Norodom – Tel: (23) 216685

Getting There
There are direct flights to the capital of Phnom Penh from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Kualalumpur, Singapore, Hongkong, Vientiane and Guangzou. All of these cities serve as gateways to Cambodia meaning Cambodia is easily reached from further a field. Cambodia can also be reached by road from Thailand and Vietnam. Another exotic way to reach Cambodia is by river boat or sea cruise.

Direct flights exist from Bangkok to Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat.

Historical Background

The Khmer or Angkor Civilization came into existence during the period from 802 to 1431 A.D. and stretched as far as the modern Thailand-Burma Border in the West and Wat Phou of Laos in the North during its peak.

Its emergence lies in the fact that the ancient Khmer rulers adopted a right political doctrine of its time, which enforce the unity among people. Moreover, they had developed an intelligent irrigation system to control the water of the great Mekong River for agricultures, which enhanced its prosperity. The Khmer Civilization had long been perished over 5 centuries ago, but it left outstanding monuments such as the great Khmer temples of Angkor Wat and Bayon and numerous unique sculptures like Apsara.

The word “Angkor” is derived Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language, of “Nagara” which means “City“. Angkor Wat literally means “City of Temple” and Angkor Thom The Magnificent City“.

No doubts, the ancient Khmers were great masters of stone carving. As we can see today the unarguable evidences of various Angkor temples lying on the vast plain of Siemreap, or even beyond its present-day border to the Preah Vihear at Dangrek Mountain, Phnomrung and Phimai in Thailand and Wat Phu in Laos. All these were created and carefully crafts by the ancient Khmers in successive centuries. This seems to contradict with the normal and easy-going life of the local Khmer people and villagers of their time. What drive them to put such an extraordinary efforts and time will be explained in the next chapters.

The study of Khmer civilization in depth is not easy and pain-taking by the historians and archaeologists. Most of the writing, found after the excavation of Angkor, were carved in the stones which became the unperishable materials against time. Although these evidences are important for us to understand the basic constituency of Khmer society and its chronology, they were mainly concerned with religious rituals, King’s praise, and literature of Indian epics of “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata“. There were little things saying about the ordinary life of the local people.

Interestingly, we learn about the daily way of life of the ancient Khmers, not from the Khmer themselves, but from the Chinese annals. In the middle of 13th century during Chinese Yuan Dynasty, a Chinese ambassador named Zhou Daguan traveled to Angkor, stayed with the local villagers, and explored this empire for a year before his return. He wrote in his Chinese chronicle about this amazing empire, and explain vividly how the people lives with the clear portrayal of the Khmer society during those days.

The center of the Khmer Civilization is at the Angkor Wat area which is situated on the plain of present-day Siemreap province north of the Great Lake of Tonle Sap. Throughout the course of Khmer history, the kingship was frequently attained by violent means with bloodshed throne. There were successive capitals built by different kings in the region, not far from each others; these capitals are at area of Angkor Wat and Roluos with the different names such as Harihalara, Yasodharapura, Jayendanagari, Angkor Thom and a few unknown names.

Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and several other Khmer temples are undoubtedly the relics of the past Khmer Civilization. In order to help travelers as well as readers to get a clearer picture of Cambodia and these temple complexes, we have put up several articles on Khmer Civilization which covers the historical background, successive eras from the beginning till the end, reasons of rise and fall of this civilization and a chronology


1. Phnompenh

Cambodia’s modern capital is a vibrant bustling city nestling majestically on the banks of the confluence of the two mighty rivers of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap. These rivers then split again as the Mekong and the Tonle Bassac at a place known to the Khmers as Chaktomuk, meaning four faces. Phnompenh is a veritable oasis compared to the modernity of other Asian capitals. With wide tree-lined boulevards and low-rise buildings Phnompenh still harks back to the colonial days of this former French playground and the many older French colonial buildings, much in evidence, add to the ambiance.

The area surround the Royal Palace has magnificent Khmer towers and remains particularly delightful. There are many open spaces and parks in the center which the locals use for recreation and relaxation. Pedaled rickshaws, called cyclos, still ply the streets as in colonial days and provide an excellent opportunity for sightseeing and people watching as well as the taxi service.


Major Sights and Attractions in/around Phnompenh
§ Silver Pagoda
§  National Museum
§  The Royal Palace
§  Wat Phnom
§  Tuol Sleng Museum (Formerly Toul Svay Prey School)
§  Killing Fields of Choeung Ek (Boeung Choeung Ek)
§ Independence Monument
§  Tonle Sap Riverfront
§  National Library
§  Markets: Central Market, Tuol Pong Thom Market, Russia Market, and the Olympic Market.
§  Mekong Land
§  Kien Svay
§  Mo Ha Liep Resort Center
§  Udong
§  Phnom Chisor
§  Tonle Bati / Taphrom Temple

Siemreap and Angkor
The town of Siem Reap, the provincial capital, is a pleasant sleepy backwater serving as a base for visitors to the ancient capital of Angkor. With the recent completion of international standard hotels including the renovation of the famous Grand Hotel D’Angkor, the more than one hundred ancient temples and monuments in the vicinity can be enjoyed in style and comfort. Well organized guided tours ensure visitors make the most of their holidays regardless of length of stay. Though not essential, a well informed professional guide will enhance any tour, providing insight and history often not available in guide books. Many of the temples and best viewed at different times of the day due to their geographical orientation and the angle of the sun.


Major Sights and Attractions
§  Angkor Wat
§  Angkor Thom and Bayon
§  Ta Phrom
§  Phnom Bakheng
§  Banteay Srei
§  Big and Small Circuits
§  Phnom Kulen
§  Rolous Group

Southern Coast

The pretty riverine town of Kampot is just five kilometers from the sea and serves the very popular seaside resort of Kep. Once a fashionable haunt of the French elite, it was known as La Perle de la Cote d’ Agathe and has stunning offshore islands and a beautiful bay, King Sihanouk owned one of these islands and would often use it for entertaining. This region is famous for its production of durian, the foul smelling fruit, and reputedly has the best seafood in the country.

Kompong Som (Sihanoukville)
Kompong Som, Cambodia’s only maritime port is 232 kilometers from Phnompenh and accessible via one of the best inter-provincial roads in the country. Kompong Som is not only a seaport but an area famous for its picture-postcard tropical beaches. Situated as it is on a headland, visitors can choose from a range of beaches, several of which can often remain completely deserted. The most popular are Ochatial beach and Sokha Beach due their immediacy to the town.

Local fishermen will take visitors to any one of the nearby islands where the coral, teeming with tropical fish, is perfect for snorkeling, diving, and fishing. There are many restaurants catering to various national tastes but its well worth trying the freshly caught crab, shrimps and other seafood the region has to offer.
The resort was established in 1964 and can be visited all year round to appreciate the warm sands, cool breezes and
clear blue skies.


Bokor Hill Station
In keeping with the colonial practices of the time, many of the French elite, unwilling to become accustomed to the heat of Cambodian summer, retreated to the Bokor Hill Station set in the Elephant Mountains. At an elevation of just over 1000m it is famous for its pleasant climate, clear streams and tranquil surroundings. Visitors will be taken in by the stunning panoramas, forested vistas and breathtaking views of the sea. The best time to visit is between November and May.