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Introduction Cambodia: Land of Angkor

For over five hundred years, Angkor was at the core of one of humankind's greatest civilizations. The mighty “Devaraja” or God-kings ruled a vast swathes of what is now Southeast Asia from their heartland in the northern plains of Cambodia. They built immense and dazzling cities and temples decorated with intricate stone carvings to honour both their gods and themselves. At its height in the late 12th century , Angkor is believed to have been home to about one million people. One of the largest cities on earth at that time.

Like other great empires before and since, the mighty Khmer civilization eventually declined. In the 15th century, the Ayutthaya Thais sacked the city several times until eventually it was abandoned and entire population, including the Royal Court moved to current day Phnom Penh. Once abandoned, the jungle quickly reclaimed the temples and they remained lost to the outside world until their rediscovery in 1860 by the French explorer Henri Mahout.

It has been said the temples of Angkor represent the finest architectural artistry in human history. To comprehend their grandeur and magnificence requires imagination. Imagine the Great Egyptian Pyramids at Giza if every stone were carved with portrayals of fantastic myths and legends. To better grasp the sheer scale, both St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London would fit easily inside the perimeter walls of Angkor Wat.

The country of Cambodia itself remained a quiet, undisturbed backwater for much of the last century. Now emerging from years of isolation, the country offers a true taste of Southeast Asia before the arrival of mass tourism and rampant commercialization.

Together with the other countries of Indochina, Cambodia has had its fill of tragedy. Yet its people are nothing if not pragmatic and forward looking. Cambodia today has much to offer the curious and adventurous traveller.

General Information
Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 sq mi) and lies entirely within the tropics. It borders Thailand to the north and west, Laos to the northeast, and Vietnam to the east and southeast. It has a 443-kilometer (275 mi) coastline along the Gulf of Thailand. Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia with population approximately 2 Million, 290 square kilometers. It is considered the center of Industry, Administration, Commerce, and Tourism.

Climate and Seasons
Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate with wet and dry seasons. November to February is cool and dry season while March to May is hot and dry. Hot and wet is from June to August, and September to October is the cool and wet monsoon season.
Note: The climate is changing all over the time due to the world climate change.

About 90% of the 14,241,640 (est. July 2008) million population is ethnic-Khmer. The rest of the population is comprised of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham, and Cambodia's ethnic minority groups. Minority groups include the Saoch, the Pear, the Brao, and the Kuy, nearly all of which live in the country's mountainous regions.

Cambodia's national language is called Khmer and unlike the other languages of the region is not a tonal language. The written script originated in southern India. As in other former French colonies the educated older generation often speaks very good French while the younger generation prefers English. Outside the major centers of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap most people speak only Khmer.

Buddhism was reinstated as the national religion in the late 1980s having been banned, like all religions, under the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Nearly 95% of the population today are Buddhists with the remainder made up of Catholics, Muslims and Cao Dai followers.

We use Siem Reap Airways, a daughter-company of Bangkok Airways. This airline uses French-Italian ATR turboprop planes (Avions de Transports Regionaux), a type of plane well suited for the local conditions, airports and distances. The configuration is 70-seats (ATR 72) in rows of 4 seats with a middle aisle. Entry-exit is at the back of the plane. Standard One-class configuration. Some flights of Siem Reap Airways between Phnom and Siem Reap are operated with an Airbus A 320-200 (162 seats) or a Boeing 717-200 (125 seats).

The following airlines currently fly into Cambodia: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, China Airways, EVA Air, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air, Korean Air, China Southern, Dragon Air, Vietnam Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Lao Air, Jetstar Asia, Shanghai Air and Angkor Airways.

An international airport tax of 25 USD per person is payable in cash in when departing Cambodia on an international flight. Departure tax is 6 USD for all domestic flights.

Visas for a stay of up to 28 days are issued on arrival at Pochentong Airport in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap Airport. The cost is 20 USD and requires the filling in of an application form and two passport photos. Visas can now also be obtained at the land entry points at Poipet border and Koh Kong from Thailand and Bavet from Vietnam). Clients wishing to travel to Cambodia now have the option of applying for their visa online at E-Visa was launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and involves an application form, payment by credit card and visa approval within three business days. Please note that the single entry tourist visas will be valid for three months from the date of issue for a visit of 30 days and are only applicable for visitors entering Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports. Passports must be valid for at least six months. The e-Visa Website also allows users to check on the status of their online application

The currency of Cambodia is called the riel. There is however no need to change your currency into riels as in common with most Asian countries, US dollars are accepted in many places and are used to pay for airline tickets, airport taxes, visa fees, hotel and restaurant bills. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 15:00 and Saturday morning until 12:00. ATM machines are close by on street corners throughout Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. In the major cities there are exchange bureaus and most hotels will change US dollars although for other currencies it is usually necessary to visit a bank. Traveller's cheques can be exchanged at banks and some hotels but can be difficult to change outside of the major cities. Visa Card and MasterCard are now accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. However, as in Vietnam, US dollars cash are still the most reliable form of money to carry.

Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Cambodia. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and the umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.
Shoes (and socks!) must be removed before entering any religious building or private home. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off. We provide small towels to clean your feet before putting back on your shoes.

Cambodia uses 220V, and a mixture of flat 2-pin, round 2-pin or 3 pin plugs. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor. Power outages are quite common but most hotels have their own generator.

There is not much in the way of western style entertainment in Cambodia but Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have good restaurants and quite a few bars and nightclubs. In the rest of the country, entertainment is mainly confined to the hotels and mainly tourist-orientated restaurants.

As in many Asian countries, the staple food of the Cambodian diet is rice. This is usually served with dried, salted fish, chicken, beef or pork. Fish is often fresh from Tonle Sap Lake and is eaten with a spicy peanut sauce called tuk trey. Popular dishes include sam chruk, a roll of sticky rice stuffed with soya bean and chopped pork, and amok, a soup of boneless fish with coconut and spices.

No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in Cambodia and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track. Please consult with your usual doctor or a doctor specialized in tropical countries before travelling.

Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07:30 or 08:00 until 17:00 and often close for lunch between 12:00 and 14:00. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.

Medical facilities are rather limited in Cambodia and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling. Such an insurance should absolutely cover the cost of an evacuation flight out of Cambodia (most of the time to Bangkok or Singapore) which is sometimes necessary either on a regular flight or on a special flight. For adventure tours such as cycling proof of purchase of a travel insurance policy will be required. In Siem Reap the Royal Angkor International Hospital (affiliated with the Bangkok Hospital Medical Center) has been fully operational since November 2007.

Internet access is available in most major cities in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap there are many Internet cafes from which to stay in contact with your home. In outlying regions, many hotels provide Internet access.

Normal print films are available in Cambodia but professional quality films (like slide films) are very difficult to find and it is better to bring your own. In cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-ROM in case you run out of memory.


January 1

New Year's Day

January 7

Vietnamese Liberation Day

March 8

International Women's Day


Khmer New Year (three days in mid-April)

April 26

Visak Bochea Day

April 30

Royal Ploughing Ceremony

May 1

Labour Day

June 1

Children's Day

June 18

Queen's Birthday

September 24

Constitution Day and King's Coronation Day

October 12 - 14

Pchoum Benh Festival

October 23

Paris Peace Accords

October 30 - November 1

King Sihanouk's Birthday

November 9

Independence Day

November 25 - 27

Water Festival

December 10

Human Rights Day

Cambodia is known for good silverware, textiles, wooden sculpture and stone carvings. The two main centers of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are the best places to look for souvenirs. A uniquely Cambodian souvenir that many visitors like to take home is the checked scarf made of cotton or silk called the krama.

Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices although be warned these services are expensive in all four countries. Away from the major cities it may not always be possible to make international calls. Internet cafes are becoming popular in the major cities and many travelers now prefer to keep in touch by e-mail. Postcards can be bought at all the main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks.

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in these developing nations. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.

Cambodia has two monsoons, the southwest monsoon from May to October brings heavy rains and the northwest monsoon from November to April spreads dry weather throughout the country. Temperatures vary from around 24ºC-35ºC with the coolest period between November and January and the hottest from February to April.

It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhea medicine.