Cambodia’s tourist business has been growing over the last couple of decades. It is an obvious country to include within Indochina tour packages but after the horrors of the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge regime it took a few years before travellers thought about the country, despite the obvious attractions, most notably the much-photographed Angkor Wat. All Cambodia tour packages obviously include the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor yet the Country has so much more to offer.
There is no hiding the years of conflict completely yet the beautiful natural environment as well as the historical and religious sites do a good job in providing very positive memories from a holiday in Cambodia.The transport network is still developing but any inconvenience is more than compensated by the many delights the country holds.
Cambodia has borders with three countries, Vietnam to the east, Thailand and Laos to the north with a coastline on the Gulf of Thailand. The south west monsoon brings plenty of rain between May and October, the wettest period being the final weeks before generally dry weather comes in November.
Cambodia has a low-lying central plain surrounded by uplands and low mountains, Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the upper part of the Mekong River delta. In the wet season Tonle Sap covers over 20,000 square kilometres at a depth of 8 metres. In the north, there is a sandstone escarpment running east-west over 300 kilometres and rising to above 500 metres. The Mekong is in the eastern section flowing south down into Vietnam. Further east the land rises into forested highlands that continue into Laos and Vietnam.The south west is sparsely populated and contains the highest point in Cambodia, Phnom Aural at 1,800 metres.
The population of Cambodia, around 14 million, is largely Khmer though there are minority groups such as Khmer Loeu, hill tribes, Vietnamese, Chinese and Chams making up a total of around 10% of the population.
Buddhism is the dominant religion and that is reflected in the number of wonderful pagodas around the Country. The capital is Phnom Penh with a population of around 1.5 million while the majority live a rural life, dependent upon agriculture. A good Cambodia travel agency will ensure that their Cambodia tours include a mix of city and rural.
Rice forms the basis of many Cambodian meals but there are several different kinds including the sticky rice used to make desserts with fruits such as durian and mango. There are rice cakes, rice noodle soup, plenty of herbs and spices. Fish is important with Cambodia have numerous waterways and the range of vegetables is excellent. Pork is probably the most popular meat.
Street food is a feature throughout South East Asia and busy stalls are guaranteed to be selling healthy and fresh food. Those on a Cambodia family tour will enjoy eating in the street.
Notable Dates& Events
Festivals have helped to create national understanding of a common culture. Cambodians go to towns and cities from the villages at every opportunity for celebration.
• The Water Festival on the last full moon in October/early November lasts 3days; brightly coloured boats racing, fireworks and thanks for fertile land and plentiful fish.
• Pchum Ben in September celebrates the lives of ancestors and friends.
• King Sihanouk's Birthday Celebration is October 31
• Khmer New Year's Day is Mid-April.
• Angkor Festival late in the year has performances of stories and legends, dance and national costumes.
• Royal Ploughing Day in May has a large ceremony in front of the Royal Palace.
• Independence Day November 9 1953 when the French finally left.
• Chinese New Year in January or February is important because of the number of people of Chinese descent living in Cambodia.
• National Day in January 7 celebrates the end of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
There are other holidays such as International Labour Day (1st May), International Women’s Day (8th March), International Human Rights’ Day (10th December), the Birth, Enlightenment and Death of Buddha in late May and Genocide Day (9th May).
Cambodians are naturally very happy people, despite so many bad experiences in their history. They are happy for a ‘’party’’ any time.