Cambodia is not only one of the most colorful travel destinations in the region but also one of the fascinating countries in the world boasting truly spectacular sights. Heir to the ancient Khmer Empire, modern-day Cambodia is benefiting from two decades of relative stability, having endured civil war and the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
Cambodia Area and Population
- Area:181,035 sqkm
- Population: 14.5 million
- Capital: Phnom Penh
- Language: Khmer
- Currency: Reil
The capital and largest city are Phnom Penh, the largest religious complex in the world, the temples of Angkor in the west, the beaches of the southern coast, and the ethnic minorities of the North-eastern provinces.
Cambodia’s landscape is characterized by a low-lying central plain that includes the Tonle Sap basin and the upper reaches of the Mekong Delta and the Bassac River Systems, which crosses the country from North to South. Two third of the country’s population lives in the lowlands, where the rich sediment deposited during Mekong’s annual flooding makes the agricultural lands highly fertile. Its geographical location makes Cambodia an easily accessible ecotourism destination for travelers in neighboring countries and other parts of the world. Tourists visit Cambodia are not only attracted by the stunning wonderful temples, ancient cities and but also by the friendly people and cultures of the country as a result, the Cambodia package tour is now hotter than ever.
Best time to visit Cambodia
The history of Cambodia began in the first century A.D with the establishment of a State called Funan. Funan is still renowned as being the oldest Indianized State in the whole of Southeast Asia. Modern-day Khmer customs and language evolved from this period in time.
Sanskrit, which is part of the Mon Khmer family dialect, was the written and spoken language of that time. The officially known religion began with Hinduism, which over the years evolved into Buddhism. Distinct characteristics of that period still remain today. These features can be recognized in ancient buildings, and ancient farming methods, as well as country clothing.
The State of Funan was situated in what is known today as the southern province of and lasted for a period of 600 years. This dynasty gave way to the powerful Angkor Empire that was eventually responsible for establishing the Khmer Kingdom, as we know it today.
The following generation of powerful kings that belonged to the Angkorian dynasty is believed to have come from India and the Javanese part of today’s Indonesia. The dynasty reigned for a period of 650 years, and their empire covered much of South East Asia, as we know it today. Their territory stretched from Burma, which lies east, to the South China Sea and further north, right up to Laos.
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Khmer kings, during this golden period of rule, built the most ornate and extensive temples or parasites known to mankind. These spectacular constructions were built throughout the kingdom, Angkor Wat is, of course, the most famous. Amongst the most successful of the Angkorean kings was Preah Bat Jaya Varman II, Preah Bat Indra Varman I, Preah Bat Surya VarmanII, and Preah Bat Jaya Varman VII. Besides building the most majestic monuments on earth, they were also responsible for huge agricultural feats of engineering which included sophisticated irrigation systems, great water reservoirs, and countless canal systems that guaranteed food transport. Some of these systems are still in use even today.
Angkor became the capital of a great kingdom and the centre for government, education, religion, and commerce. However, in the late 13th century a sudden shift of power took place. Angkor was invaded and eventually, completely ravaged. Mankind’s most predominant creation on earth was plunged into total destruction. The entire population and wealth of a once proud civilization was abandoned and covered by tropical forest.
Following the abandonment of Angkor, Cambodia’s capital population migrated south to Long Vek, then further to Ou Dong, and eventually to Phnom Penh. The destruction of the mighty Angkorian capital also caused a decline, adaptation, and eventual replacement of Hinduism. Theravada Buddhism became the national religion.
From the 15th century to the 17th century, Cambodia often found itself encroached by neighboring Thai and Vietnamese forces. They resisted, but eventually succumbed to a European colonial power. In 1863, Preah Bat Norodom signed a Protectorate Treaty which France, which consequently placed Cambodia under French rule for the next 90 years.
After the death of Preah Bat Norodom in 1904, Preah Bat Sisowath, cousin to King Norodom, was subsequently crowned as the new king of Cambodia.
However, the throne returned to the Norodom family with the following coronation of Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk, our current monarch, in 1941. At that time he was only 18 years old.
Shortly after that, during the Second World War in 1945, the Japanese ousted the French. King Norodom Sihanouk took the opportunity to free Cambodia from foreign control. For many years following, His majesty campaigned tirelessly for this objective and was eventually rewarded. Cambodian was granted its independence in 1953. The Independence ceremony marked the end of 90 years of French protectorate rule. In 1959, King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the throne, turning the position of Kingship over to his father, Preah Bat Norodom Soramarith. Then, Prince Norodom Sihanouk became the Head of State and ruled the government.
From 1950 through to 1970, the Kingdom of Cambodia was self-sufficient and prosperous. It excelled in many areas of development. Cambodia was then known as the jewel of the Orient. Unfortunately, prosperity was very short-lived. As the war started to escalate in Vietnam, Cambodia’s borders increasingly became the targets of American and Vietnamese aggression. On March 18th, 1970, General Lon Nol, backed by the Americans, overthrew the Head of State Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Consequently, Cambodia became deeply involved in the war, fighting mainly against the Khmer Rouge fighting faction, Lon Nol’s control over Cambodia’s government lasted for a period of barely five years, being eventually overthrown by the Khmer Rouge, headed by Pol Pot on the 17th of April 1975.
History repeated itself once again as soon as Pol Pot invaded. The entire population evacuated the city leaving a once vibrant capital in ruin and decay. After the evacuation, The Khmer Rouge tricked Prince Norodom Sihanouk into returning to Phnom Penh to be Head of State, but he was not allowed to Phnom Penh to be Head of State, but he was not allowed to leave the Palace walls-in effect he was placed under house arrest. The Khmer Rouge then proceeded to implement a “reign of terror” on Cambodia’s entire population. People were brutally forced to work as slaves in the rice fields. These people had to endure long periods of hard, painful labor while effectively being starved at the same time. Pol Pot’s Kampuchean force labor camps tortured, killed, or starved to death an estimated 2 million people, including women and children who they savagely put to death indiscriminately.
In 1989, the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia and the country was re-named “State of Cambodia.” In 1991, a Paris Peace Accord created the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) which was backed by some 22,000 United Nations troops to prepare the first, free, and fair general election. In May 1993 UNTAC supervised Cambodia’s first general election. Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk Was subsequently reinstated as King. A second general election was held in July 1998.
Today, the Kingdom of Cambodia is once again a peaceful place to visit. It is, at present, in the process of getting rebuilt. Cambodia now incorporates a Constitutional Monarchy State with His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk effectively remains the symbol of national unity for the people of Cambodia who hold him dear to their hearts.
Source from Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia.
More About Cambodia Country
Cambodia Travel Tips
ATM & CURRENCY
Cambodia Trades In US Dollars If you’re an Australian in Cambodia, you may cry every time you make an ATM withdrawal. With the exchange rate being so poor (at the time of writing this), if you withdraw $200, you’ll be debited almost $280 including the ATM fee of $5, which is standard across most banks in Cambodia.
Minimize fees by limiting ATM withdrawals or avoid taking out small amounts of money. If you pay for your expenses with a credit card, check what fees will be added – most charge 2-3%. The good news is that food in Cambodia is very cheap, and delicious. Breakfast is included with the cost of most accommodation, and when eating out, 5 meals and drinks cost around $30 USD (sometimes less) at most reputable and family-friendly restaurants.
Getting Around With Tuk Tuks are how people get around in Cambodia. When getting picked up at the airport, your hotel may send a tuk-tuk. If you have a family of four people or more, check that the hotel will be sending you two tuk-tuks. Four people plus luggage will not fit in one tuk-tuk. Most hotels offer a free airport pick-up and drop-off, if not by tuk-tuk, by car.
But beyond that, everyone gets around in a tuk-tuk — and it’s a great way to get right amongst the action. If your hotel or accommodation doesn’t include free tuk-tuk rides (a fair few do), then most trips around town should cost $2 USD one way, or if you go a bit further outside of town, $3 USD. Some cheeky drivers will try to get more out of you, but know that this is the going rate, and you can easily hop out and say you’ll just get another one.
Grab A SIM Card For Data Cambodians don’t always speak great English, so having data on your phone makes life so much easier. You can show tuk-tuk drivers where you need to go by putting in restaurants or attractions into Google Maps. It will only cost you $5 USD for a basic plan for travelers, allowing for 1.5 gigs. There are Smartphone shops everywhere, and they offer a reliable service.
Most holidaymakers travel to Cambodia via plane, which is fine. However many travelers are attracted to the super cheap prices to bus into Cambodia via countries like Vietnam.
However, the ground border is full of corrupt officials. Even those who organized their visa before they arrived, they ended up getting scammed into buying it again. It’s very hard, they speak little English (apparently) and refuse to let you get away without paying what they ask. Don’t let things like this put you off Cambodia. Corrupt systems are not a reflection of a country or it’s people. For the record, a tourist visa is currently $30USD (extendable once), and an ordinary visa (extendable indefinitely) is $35USD.
Which is true — there are not really any hotels with kids clubs or playgrounds. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing time here with children of all ages. To make the most of it, be sure to choose a place that has spacious rooms, a pool and other activities kids can enjoy.
Some offer pool tables (for older kids), cooking classes, and other activities. You can also do all of these things outside your hotel too. So while it may not be a big family destination, there is so much you can do, that it doesn’t really matter.
Phnom Penh has the best indoor play center I have ever seen! It’s located in an ultra-modern, newly built shopping center named the Aeon Mall. It’s just like you would expect to see in Australia. Decked out with the latest brand names, you can even get a Boost Juice! Our eyes literally fell out of our head — after 6 months of travel around South East Asia, it felt like home. Even some of Cambodia’s medical facilities can be surprising. If you do your research, there are dental clinics and doctor’s surgeries that are run by western trained doctors (including ex-pats from all over the globe). So if you’re ever in trouble, you can relax in the knowledge that there are quality trained professionals around. Locally operated hospitals and traditional Cambodian doctors and dentists should be avoided; hygiene standards are not the same as back home.
It’s not hard to be nice to these really amazing people, but the sad fact is that they are usually grossly underpaid. One of the staff at a hotel we visited confided that he earned $30 USD per month. My heart sank. We asked how he lived on that amount of money, and he answered that he doesn’t eat breakfast, and the rest of his diet is often rice and vegetables. Truly heartbreaking. It’s not expected to tip, but generosity is certainly not lost in Cambodia.
If you need (or want!) to extend your visa beyond your initial 30 days, you can get this done via a travel agent. Your hotel or accommodation will usually know an agency they trust, and it will be done within a week. Just be sure you have copies of all your passports before you hand them over, in case they happen to go missing. If you want to extend your visa, expect to pay $45 USD.