KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA
Kingdom Of Cambodia is formerly known as Kampuchea. Kampuchea derived from Sanskrit is Kambujadesa.
-Official Name: KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA
-Motto: Nation Religion King
-Population: 13,395,682 people (2008 by NIS)
-Capital: Phnom Penh 1,501,725 people by Phnom Penh Municipal
-Currency: Riel (KHR)
-Religion: Theravada Buddhist 95%
-Province: 23 and 1 Capital
-Country code: +855
-International airport: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
-Time zone: GMT +7 hours
-Climate: over the year temperature average 27.5 degrees centigrade.
-Hot season: March-May
-Rainy season: June-October
-Cool season: November-February
-Electric current: Standard voltage is 220 volts.
-Clothing: Take cool casual cloth. It is preferable for women to cover their arms and legs, particularly when visiting a temple.
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia and covered an area of 181,035 square kilometers(69,898 square miles) and lies entirely within the tropics between latitudes 10o and 15o N, longitudes 102o and 108o E. It is bordered to the North by Thailand and Laos, to the East and the South by Vietnam, and to the South and West by the Gulf of Siam and Thailand. It has 443-kilometer (275 miles) coastline.
Total population is 14 millions. Ninety per cent of residents are Khmer; the rest are Cham (Khmer Muslim), Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Phnorng, Kuoy, Stieng, Tamil, etc. Chinese influence is strong, particularly in the business sector. Population density is 78/ km2.
Like most of Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s climate is hot and warm almost all year round. The climate is dominated by the annual monsoon cycle of rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season lasts from May to October, and the dry season from November to April. December to January are the cool months while the hottest period is in April. The average temperature is 27-28ºC. The monsoon season may carry some rains but these quite often occur during the late evening and overnight and are unlikely to spoil your enjoyment.
♦The Wet Season
The wet season comes courtesy of the southwest monsoon which blows from May to October, bringing with it some 75% of Cambodia’s annual rainfall. Not surprisingly, the wet season is characterised by rain, and during the peak of wet season from July to September it can rain as much as two out of every three days. However, the rainy days are usually just a few hours of heavy downpour and not all-day rain, although the latter do occur.
From a more cheerful perspective, monsoonal Cambodia is also a beautiful country to travel around in. The roads are not dusty and the lush greenery of the country returns. Angkor Wat in particular can be stunning during the wet season — the murals have a more unique appearance and feel. Observing Angkor Wat with a lightning storm as a backdrop is an electrifying experience. There are also fewer tourists going about in the country, so if you prefer to dodge the crowds, wet season can be a good time to visit. Regionally, the Cardamom Mountains get the heaviest rain in the country, while the entire coastline gets rough seas and a lot of rain.
♦The Dry Season
The dry period runs from October to April, when the dusty northeast monsoon arrives. Blowing like a hair-dryer set to high, the northeast monsoon dries out the country very quickly. While November and January are quite cool (high C20s) by April, the weather can be scorching and very dry. Characterised by heat and dust, this season coincides with Cambodia’s peak tourist season when travellers arrive in their droves between November and January to take advantage of the lack of rain, enjoy the sun and the relatively cooler months. Cambodia’s beach strips at Kep, Sihanoukville and Ko Kong bask in brilliant sunshine with clear calm waters and if you’re a beach person, dry season is the best time for you.
Capital and Other Provinces
Capital and provinces are Cambodia first-level administrative divisions. Cambodia areas are divided into 24 provinces and one capital. Municipalities, Districts (Srok or Khan) are the second-level administrative divisions of Cambodia. The provinces are divided into 26 municipalities and 159 districts, and the capital is divided into 8 Khan. The districts in turn are further divided into communes (Khum) and Sangkat. The municipalities and Khan are divided into Sangkat.
The flag of Cambodia symbolizes the country’s religious dignity and royalty. Two large blue stripes representing royalty, embrace an even larger red stripe which represents the nation. The image of the white temple represents the nation’s religion. Generally speaking, the colors and image on the Cambodian flag personify the country’s slogan: Nation, Religion, King.
Romduol, a small yellowish-white flower, is the national flower of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Since ancient times, Cambodian women have often been compared to the Romduol flower because of its attractive fragrance; a unique scent that is prominent in the late afternoon and can travel over long distances with the wind. With its sturdy stems that measure up to 30cm, the Romduol plant can grow to a height of 12 meters. These plants are being planted to enhance public parks.
Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. The Cambodian language is derived from the Mon-Khmer (Austro-Asiatic) language family. It is renowned for being one of the largest set of alphabets; it consists basically of 33 consonants, 23 vowels and 12 independent vowels. Tourists may wish to learn a few spoken phrases before or when visiting Cambodia. However, English is widely spoken and understood. French is the second language after English; most elderly Cambodians speak French. The Chinese language is also widely spoken.
Culture & Traditional
♦Customs and Tradition. Cambodian culture and tradition have had a rich varied history dating back many centuries. Over the years, the people of Cambodia developed a set of unique tradition from the syncretism of indigenous Buddhism and Hinduism. Cambodians have been raised to respect their culture and are very traditional in their way of life. Tourists will see the well mannered Cambodian expressing a friendly “Chumreap Suor” when they meet one.
Cambodians traditionally greet with a Sampeah, which involves pressing the palms together before the chest with a slight bow and greeting with a polite ‘Chumreap Suor’. Customarily, the higher the hands are held and the lower the bow, the more respect is conveyed. Except when meeting elderly people or government officials, between men, this custom has been partially replaced by the handshake. Women usually greet both men and women with the same traditional greeting. Although it may be considered acceptable for foreigners to shake hands with a Cambodian, it is more appropriate to respect the custom and respond with a ‘Chumreap Suor’.
There are many classical dance forms in Cambodia, of which a highly stylized art form was once confined mainly to the courts of the royal palace and performed mainly by females. Known formally in Khmer as Robam Apsara, the dancers of this classical form are often referred to as Apsara dancers. This dance form was first introduced to foreign countries and best known during the 1960s as the Khmer Royal Ballet. The first royal ballerina was Princess Norodom Bopha Devi, a daughter of King Norodom Sihanouk.The Apsara Dance is particularly inspired by the style from around more than a thousand Apsara carvings in the Angkor temple complex. As evidenced in part by these Apsaras (celestial dancers), dance has been part of the Khmer culture for more than a millennium. A visit to Cambodia is only complete when one has attended at least one such traditional dance performance.
Traditional Cambodian weddings are intricate affairs that consist of multiple ceremonies lasting three days and three nights. The wedding begins with the groom and his family traveling to the bride’s home bearing gifts to the bride’s family as dowry. Family members and friends are introduced, and wedding rings exchanged. Customarily, three traditional songs accompany this first segment; the first song announcing the arrival of the groom and the next is on the presentation of the dowry followed by a final song to invite the elders to chew Betel Nut, an age-old Khmer tradition. Then it is the Tea Ceremony, at which the bride and groom offer tea to the spirits of their ancestors.To prepare the bride and groom for their life as a married couple, their hair must then be symbolically cut to represent a fresh start to their new relationship together as husband and wife. The master of ceremony performs the first symbolic hair cut; the bride and groom’s parents, relatives, and friends then take turn to symbolically cut the bride and groom’s hair and give them blessing and good wishes.The finale is the most memorable segment of the wedding. Family members and friends take turns to tie the bride’s and groom’s left and right wrists with ‘blessing strings’. The praises and wishes of happiness, good health, success, prosperity, and long-lasting love are acknowledged and witnessed by the loud sound of the gong and joyful cheers. Then, they throw palm flowers over the new couple accompanied by a traditional song. After the couple is pronounced husband and wife, the groom holds the bride’s fabric into the bridal room accompanied by a traditional song.At the close of this wedding ceremony, all of the guests are invited to a wedding reception accompanied by an orchestral concert. The Khmer wedding is a rowdy and joyous event. Nowadays most families reduce the three-day and three-night ritual to a one-day affair.♦Traditional Medicine
The Khmer traditional medicine is a form of naturopathy using natural remedies, such as roots, barks, leaves and herbs to motivate the body’s vital ability to heal and maintain itself. It has been used to treat various diseases for many years. The ancient Khmer people first formulated this medical lore during the Angkor period. It offers a holistic approach avoiding the use of surgery and drugs. Practitioners of this therapy are known locally as Krou Khmer.
Khmer traditional doctors are receiving recognition and training from the government at the National Center of Traditional Medicine. Medical books in Pali text have been gathered from all the pagodas throughout the country; collated and interpreted into the Khmer language at the center. The center welcomes traditional healers from across the kingdom to share knowledge and train healers to a uniform level and to assimilate their localized knowledge.
The Riel. Denominations are Riel 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500; 200; 100 and 50. Foreign currencies can be easily changed at hotels, airports, markets and banks.
Phone cards are available throughout Phnom Penh Capital and the cards can be purchased at many outlets. There are also several mobile phone systems.
• Country Code: 855
• Phnom Penh Code (IDD): 023
The visa on arrival valid for a thirty-day stay is issued to each tourist at a cost of US $20 and to each businessman at a cost of US $25 at the Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap Airport, and international border checkpoints. Visas can be obtained at Royal Cambodian Embassies or Consulates in foreign countries. Indeed, the free visa (K) is issued to the Cambodian who live overseas. The visa can be extended at the Immigration Department in Phnom Penh City.
There are many kinds of transport in Phnom Penh. The favored mode of transportation is still by taxi, car rental, bus, motorbike Cyclo. The Cyclo (maximum US $3 per hour) provides visits with a way to view the city at leisurely place. Rail transport is available. Travel by rail is only possible to reach Battambang province and Shianoukville. There are eight provincial airports throughout the country. River travel is becoming popular, along the Tonle Sap, Tonle Bassak, and Mekong River. Travel to some parts of Cambodia, tourists are advised to contact the Ministry of Tourism, Provincial Tourism offices at the information counters in Phnom Penh International and Siem Reap Airports.
Government offices are opened from 07:30am to 11:30am and resume from 14:00pm to 17:00pm, Monday to Friday. Private offices are usually opened for business from 7:00am to 20:00pm everyday. Banks are opened fro 8:00am to 15:00pm, Monday to Friday, and Saturday from 8:00am to 12:00 noon. It is closed on Sunday and public holidays. Markets are daily opened from the early morning to the evening.
It plays an important part in the lives of the people, and accompanies all of the dances, rituals and ceremonies.
More than 100 supervised hotels handle the yearly influx of nearly half million visitors from all continents. Accommodation price is moderate, but those seeking luxury will find five star deluxe hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Tour Guides Government-licensed tourist guides are available to help visitors pay a trip. These multi-linguistic guides accompany organized bus tours, or the guide or the visitor can hire car on an individual basis with the driver. Visitors are welcomed by more than 100 travel agencies and offered guides speaking English, French, Japanese, German, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese.
Cambodian cuisine includes noodles, soups, grills, stir-fried, curries, salads, desserts, lots of vegetables, tropical fruits, and of course rice which is the staple food for Cambodians. Cambodian culinary secrets are rarely written down; the recipes were instead handed down from mother to daughter. From an ancient origin has come a traditional cuisine of unsuspected treasures: a unique blend of flavors and colors that enhance the natural ingredients used.
Cambodians perfected the art of blending spice paste using many ingredients like cloves, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and turmeric. They add other native ingredients like galangal, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, cilantro, and kaffir lime leaves to these spices to make a rather distinctive and complex spice blend known as “kroeung”.
Although noodles are also popular, almost every meal includes a bowl of rice. A wide range of curries, soups and stir fried are usually served with rice. Being in a country that produces many rice varieties, tourists can enjoy the best aromatic grains and various types of glutinous rice. The latter is more commonly served with a salad or in desserts with fruits.
There are two other unique ingredients that give Cambodian cuisines their fabulous typical flavour. One is a pungent fermented fish paste known as pra-hok and the other, the kapi, a fermented prawn paste. These require an acquired taste for most but they are beloved by some who used them in many dishes or even taken as a dipping sauce. Collectively, these ingredients have become an important aromatic combination commonly used in Cambodian cuisines.
Typically, a Cambodian meal is served with rice and at least three other dishes. It usually includes a soup (samlor), served alongside the main dishes. Each of the individual dishes will either be sweet, sour, salty or bitter; these exist side by side in harmony, sometimes even within a single dish, to offer an original melody. Chili is usually left up to the individual to add. In this way tourists are subtly ensured that they get a bit of every flavour to satisfy their palates.
Khmer Arts & Handicraft
Traditional Cambodian arts and crafts including silk weaving, silverwork, stone carving, wood carving, lacquerware, pottery, ceramics, temple murals, basketry and kite-making have evolved from ancient times. A tradition of modern art began in Cambodia in the mid-twentieth century. The contemporary visual arts scene in Cambodia has experienced an artistic escalation.
Many farmers have expanded to weave baskets, make pots, and breed silk worms to produce silk for weaving. In recent years, more sculptors and painters have surfaced to produce marvelous pieces for tourists to take home. Silk weaving in Cambodia has a long history. The practice dates to as early as the first century when textiles were used in trade. Modern textile production skillfully mimics these historic antecedents and produce beautiful motifs that echo clothing details on ancient stone sculptures. By tourists’ demand, skill workers are producing silverwork in the forms of jewelry, souvenir items, especially boxes adorned with fruit and Angkor-inspired motifs. Usually the men produce most of the forms for such work and the women complete the intricate filigree.
Efforts to restore Angkor resulted in a new demand for skilled stone carvers to replace missing or damaged pieces and from that, a new tradition of stone carving has risen in recent years. While some modern carvings remain traditional-style, some carvers have been successfully producing contemporary designs to satisfy market demands.
Cambodian artists make beautiful kites. Kite-making and kite-flying tradition dates back many centuries and was revived in the early 1990s. It is now extremely popular throughout the country. Cambodian Kite-makers cleverly attach a bow to the kites and it resonates in the wind producing a musical sound. Many tourists take home with them such a kite as souvenir.
The village of Koh Anlong Chen (Chinese Island) on the Tonle Sap and the province of Kandal are especially renowned for skilled copper artisans. Their skill has been passed down from generation to generation.
These craftsmen cut and carve flattened copper into decorative art pieces. Pots, bowls, plates, ornamental swords, bracelets, and other souvenir items are crafted from flattened copper. While copper decorative swords are popular for Khmer weddings, copper-made decorative pots and bracelets are popular tourist souvenirs.
The race that produced the builders of Angkor developed slowly through the fusion of the Mon-Khmer racial groups of Southern Indochina during the first six centuries of the Christian era. Under Indian influence, two principal centers of civilization developed. The older, in the extreme south of the peninsula was called “Funan” (the name is a Chinese transliteration of the ancient Khmer form of the word “Phnom”, which means “hill”). Funan was a powerful maritime empire that ruled over all the shores of the Gulf of Siam. In the mid-sixth century, the Kambuja who lived in the middle Mekong (north of present day Cambodia), broke away from Funan. Within a short period, this new power known as Chenla, absorbed the Funanese Kingdom. In the late seventh century, Chenla broke into two parts: Land Chenla (to the north) and Water Chenla (to the south along the Gulf of Thailand) dominated by the Chinese. Land Chenla was fairly stable during the 8th century, whereas Water Chenla was beset by dynastic rivalries. During this period, Java invaded and took control part of the country.
At the beginning of the ninth century, the kings set up their respective capital in the present province of Siem Reap. For nearly six centuries, the kings enriched it by building temples one after another and each being more sumptuous than the other. Two hundred of these temples are spread all over in the Angkorian area some 400 square kilometers in the Siem Reap Province. The temples and their sanctuaries are best known for their architecture and sculptures.
The first founder of Angkor was King Jayayarman II (802-850), who built one of his residences on the plateau of the Kulen in 802. King Indravarman I (887-889), a nephew of King Jayavarman II, constructed a vast irrigation system at Lolei and then built the tower of Preah Ko in 879 and Bakong in 881. King Yasovarman (889-900), the son of King Indravarman I, dedicated the towers of Lolei to his memory in 893 and founded a new capital to the northwest which was to remain the very heart of Angkor. He built the Eastern Baray, a 7km X 2km size artificial lake also.
King Harshavarman I (900-923), the son of King Yasovarman, who took to the foot of Phnom Bakheng, consecrated the little temple of Baksei Chamkrong, and built Prasat Kravan in 921. King Jayavarman IV (928-941), uncle of King Harshavarman I, reigned in northeastern Cambodia near the present town of Koh Ker. He erected several majestic monuments. King Rajendravarman (944-968) returned to Angkor in 952 and built the Eastern Mebon and Prè Roup in 961. In 967, the Brahman Yajnavaraha, a high religious dignitary of royal blood, erected the temple of Banteay Srei, about 20 km northeast of the capital. King Jayavarman V (968-1001) founded a new capital around Takeo Temple.
In the eleventh century, King Suryavarman I (1002-1050) seized Angkor and founded a glorious dynasty. It was at this time that the Gopura of the Royal Palace of Angkor Thom was completed with the sober pyramid of the Phimeanakas at its center. He also erected the temple of Phnom Chiso, some parts of Preah Vihear, and Preah Khan in Kampong Svay District.
King Udayadityavarman II (1050-1066), son of king Suryavarman I, built the mountain temple of Baphuon and Western Baray. King Udayadityavarman’s brother, King Harshavarman III, succeeded him and ruled from 1066 to 1080 when violent strife led to the fall of the dynasty. King Jayavarman VI (1080-1113) continued to build Preah Vihear Mount in Vat Po and Phimai.
King Suryavarman II (1113-1150) extended his power from the coast of the China Sea to the Indian Ocean and built the temples of Angkor Wat, Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda, Preah Palilay, Preah Pithu and Banteay Samrè. After these dazzling achievements, the Khmer civilization began to decline due to internal strife and an attack by the Chams.
King Jayavarman VII (1181-1220) was the most fascinating personality in Khmer history. He re-established his rule over all of southern Indochina and is best known for his huge building program. He built Ta Prohm (1186) and Preah Khan (1191) as a dedication to his parents. Then he erected Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, the Terrace of the Leper King, the Terrace of the Elephants, Neak Pean, Ta Saom, Ta Nei, and a few monuments in other parts of the country. It was he who founded his great capital, Angkor Thom and in the center of which, he built the Bayon temple with its two hundred stone faces.
It is understandable that the country was exhausted after these enormous efforts. The decline of the Angkor era began after the death of King Jayavarman VII in the early thirteenth century. Due to Siamese invasion and the limitations of the irrigation system, Khmer power declined so drastically that the king was finally obliged to move to the vicinity of Phnom Penh in 1431. Then, resulting from a series of Siamese and Cham invasions, the country was placed as a French protectorate in 1863.
After regaining Independence in 1953, the country resumed several names:
- The Kingdom of Cambodia (under the Reachia Niyum Regime from 1953 to 1970)
- The Khmer Republic (under the Lon Nol Regime from 1970 to 1975)
- Democratic Kampuchea (under the Pol Pot Genocidal Regime from 1975 to 1979)
- The People’s Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989)
- The State of Cambodia (1989-1993)
- The Kingdom of Cambodia (1993 until now).