Cambodia occupies an area of 181.035 square kilometers and located on the Indochina Peninsula and borders Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. The Gulf of Siem is off the West Coast. The country consists chiefly of a large alluvial plain ringed by a mountains and the Mekong River. The plain is centered on Tonle Sap Lake, with is a natural storage lake for the Mekong.
CLIMATE : Situated in the tropical zone, Cambodia has sun almost year round. Each season has its own beauty and refreshing weather changes. The average temperature is 30 degrees C, the minimum is about 16 degrees C. There are two main seasons: The Monsoon Season and Dry Season. The rain season on last from May to October, due to southwestern monsoons, temperature range from 27 – 35 degree C with humidity up to 90%. The hottest month is April when the temperature can reach 38 degree C. The cool dry season ranges from 17 – 27 degree C (night day). December and January is the coolest period. (Nov–Feb: cool/dry, Mar–May: hot/dry, Jun–Aug: hot/wet, Sep–Oct: cool/wet).
TIME : Time in Cambodia is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+7).
HISTORY OF CAMBODIA : 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 enforces 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 imperishable 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 explains vividly how the person 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 Siem Reap 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.
POPULATION : The population is approximately 15 million. The Khmer ethnic group constitutes 90 – 95% of it. The population also includes a diversity of ethnic backgrounds: Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham (Muslims) and ill tribes called Khmer Loeu.
RELIGION : The official religion of Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism with is also practiced in neighboring Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. King Jayavarman VII introduce Theravada Buddhism into Cambodia the 12th century. The sight of saffron-robed monks is common throughout the Kingdom and almost every village has a Buddhist temple. The country also has minority religions such as Islam, Christianity.
Cambodia's official language is Cambodian, or Khmer. This language belongs to the Mon-Khmer (Austro-Asiatic) language family and is relatively confusing and difficult for Westerners to manage. French had been the second most popular language until the 1990s, when English made an introduction. Vietnamese and South Chinese dialects are other languages spoken.
MONARCHY : Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy, and its constitution provides for a multiparty democracy. The Royal Government of Cambodia, formed on the basis of elections internationally recognized as free and fair, was established on September 24, 1993. The executive branch comprises the king, who is head of state; an appointed prime minister; ten deputy prime ministers, 16 senior ministers, 26 ministers, 206 secretaries of state, and 205 undersecretaries of state. The bicameral legislature consists of a 123-member elected National Assembly and a 61-member Senate. The judiciary includes a Supreme Court, lower courts, and an internationalized court with jurisdiction over the serious crimes of the Khmer Rouge era. Administrative subdivisions are 23 provinces and 1 municipality.
CURRENCY : Cambodian currency is Riel (US$ 1 = 4,000 Riels). However the US dollar is widely accepted. If you are traveling to the Outskirts, it is advisable to use US dollars (get small note) although the Riel is accepted. One US dollar = approximately 4000 Riel.
TRAVEL TIPS :
Visa can also be obtained at Royal Embassies and Consulates of Cambodia or on arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap Airport and international border check points. All you have to bring along passport and 1 photograph (4x6) and fill up the forms. A month Tourist visa costs US$30, a business visa cost US$ 40 and may be extended indefinitely
Airport International Gate Way by Air: 1- Phnom Penh International Airport, visa on arrival available & E-visa accepted. 2- Siem Reap International Airport, visa on arrival available & E-visa accepted. 3- Sihanoukvile International Airport, visa on arrival available & E-visa accepted.
• International departure tax: US$ 25/person • Domestic departure tax: US$ 6/person
Tipping isn’t obligatory but is widely practiced with tour guide, driver also in hotels and restaurants in addition to the service charges shown on bills.
CAMBODIA RELIGION : Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia which is practiced by 95 percent of the population-- just like that of Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka. However, Christianity and Cham Muslim are being active and popular among a large number of population as well in the capital and provinces, showing a sign of growth. Buddhist monks are highly disciplined and must follow 227 rules in addition to the ten basic precepts of being a good Buddhist. Monks cannot take part in entertainment. They lead simple lives dedicated to Buddhism and the temple. Buddhists see the universe and all life as part of a cycle of eternal change. They follow the teaching of Buddha, an Indian prince born in the sixth century B.C. Buddhists believe that a person is continually reborn, in human or nonhuman form, depending on his or her actions in a previous life. They are released from this cycle only when thy reach nirvana, which may be attained by achieving good karma through earning merit and following the Buddhist path of correct living. Earning merit is an important of Buddhist life. Buddhists in Cambodia earn merit by giving money, goods, and labor to the temples, or by providing one of the two daily meals of the monks. Children often look after the fruits trees and vegetable gardens inside their local wat, or temple. Boys can earn merit by becoming temple servants or novice monks for a short time. Most young men remain monks for less than a year.