Cambodia covers an area of some 181, 035 square km, which is bordered by Thailand to the West, by Vietnam to the East, by Laos to the North and by Gulf of Siam to the South. The country's terrain mostly consists of low and flat plains which is mainly fertile by the Mekong and Tonle Sap river, whereas highland and mountains surrounded by evergreen forests lie at the North and South.
Mekong river (Northeast and Southeast) and Tonle Sap (Great Lake, Central Part of Cambodia) which feed most of Cambodian population in terms of fish, crops and plant cultivation, meet the Mekong River at Phnom Penh, forming a lovely unique site for celebrating cultural and social activities every year and so for various industrialization sites.
The Dangreks (Northern area), the Cardamons ( Northern and Eastern) and the Elephant Mountains (Southern) provide the Kingdom with a great deal of benefits such as obscure wild monsoon which carries storms and cyclone, wildlife and various high class species of tropical trees, streams and waterfalls, and also hideouts for rebels throughout the history and other mysterious things which is worthy of taking adventure into.
The population consists of ethnic Khmer at the largest, followed by ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, Cham, Muslim and Hilltribes residing at far remote northeast. Most Khmers accounted for 80 percent are farmers growing rice. Vietnamese provide the country with skilled workers, while Chinese dominate most of business ownership. The hill tribes live at rural area in the northeast practicing slash and burn agriculture
The Cambodian language is Khmer, which is inherited itself - and advanced in education with application of Indic languages Pali and Sangkrit from India. Also, the Khmer language is influenced by spoken and written Thai. Some technical languages are borrowed from French. However, English is commonly communicated in hotels and business compounds at present days.
4. Climate & Seasons
Situated in the tropical zone, Cambodia is bathed in sun almost all year around. There are two main seasons: the rainy season and dry. Each season brings about a refreshing change. The humid, rainy season lasts from April to October. Temperatures range from 27-35 degrees Celsius. The hottest month is April when the temperature can reach 41 degree C these days. The cool, dry season lasts from November to March, with temperatures ranging from 17-27 degrees C. December to January is the coolest period at about 27 degrees C.
5. Holidays & Special Events in Cambodia
International Half Marathon (10km run) at Angkor Wat ( Late December every year)
The Kingdom is proud of the host nation offering the organization of International Half Marathon at Siem Reap on the site of Angkor Wat late December ( around the 20th) every year. Participants from all over Cambodia and the world enjoy the 10 km running of the International Half Marathon around the compound of Angkor Wat, wherein large evergreen tropical trees, cool weather and the beauty of the Angkor Wat with thousands of participants and spectators are of special and great interests. The 1997 International Half Marathon brought in more than 1,000 participants from all over Cambodia and from 15 foreign countries from different continents. The figure hope to accelerate for the 1998 event--- a chance eagerly anticipated by locals and international travelers alike to enjoy the spot of Angkor Wat, one of the world's leading archeological complex wonder and the spiritual heart and identity of the Khmer people. The Khmer New Year Days (April 14 - 16) The spirit of the Khmer New Year is celebrated in Cambodia as a wholemarking the turn of New Year. All Buddhist temples are crowded with people nicely dressed up in different colors offering food to Buddhist monks. Every home, beautifully decorated, putting up the shrine full of fruits and
drinks to please and earn the bless from the spirit of Heaven's God as the new year is heading. City streets are well decorated in local style, shinning in night lights different from any day in the year. The 3 day celebration marks the bless and rice harvest done during the year. It is a good time, tourists should spend time to truly understand the role and practice of Buddhism together with certain concepts of Hinduism in Cambodia at the Buddhist temples and the Cambodian households who warmly welcome all foreigners. Also, it is the right time to watch the cultural show: traditional games played in most corners of the temples and tourist sites.
Royal Ploughing Festival (May 14)
It is the belief based on astrology that animal Ox plays an important role in determination the fate of agriculturally crops in each season of harvest. Thus every year in May, this cultural ceremony is organized in royal manner and the King plays the key role in driving ox depicting the real plaughing activities in the process of growing rice in Cambodia. There is a scene in which the ox is given a varieties of crops such as rice, corn and beans and should the ox eat the given crops, harvest will be high in the year. If any crops are not eaten, the country will suffer the low harvest or disaster in the year. Normally, the venue is at the large field at the Northern wing of the Royal Palace.
Pchumban Days (September 19-21)
Pachumban or the Soul Day is one of the most culturally significant event of the year celebrated in September in the name of Buddhism. Unlike Khmer New Year, Pchumban event gathers concentration on blessing the souls. It is the special event that every Cambodian household must report to Buddhist temple with food offered to Buddhist monks in favor of blessing the souls of ancestors, relatives and friends alike who have passed away. Every pagoda is crowded with local people taking turn to offer the food and some staying their for complete activities, particularly listen to the Buddhist sermon.
King Sihanouk Birthday Celebration (October 31 - November 1)
The celebration extends over three days. People from all corners of Cambodia take part in the festivities held throughout capital and early night beautiful giant fireworks display at the river banks, closed to the palace.
Water Festival (November 2- 4)
It is the vast celebration in the capital over three days. Water Festival also known Boat Race Festival draw in thousands of people from all walks of life to the banks of Tonle Sap and the Mekong rivers. The activity during the day is boat races said to date back to ancient time marking the victory of the Khmer powerful marine forces during the Khmer empire--- and said as thanksgiving made to the spirit of Mekong river for providing the country with fertile land and a great deal of fish and so for its reverse flow. At the whole nights, people gather in the streets along the river and at the national parks to enjoy various music and dances performances and along the riverbanks to enjoy the view of the night display, the decorated lights on boats depicting the nation's various identities and achievements. Every home at night is also seen a shrine in which pounded rice and local cake with coconut fruit are placed to please the spirit of the moon as in the name of Buddhism said to be home of the Buddha (according to Cambodian tale). Giant fireworks also display. It is a mass annual gathering bylocals and foreigners.
Thearavada 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. Daoism and Confuism are also commonly practiced among the Chinese people.
The Khmer (Cambodian) art is inherited itself together with influence by the ideas of Indians long before the existence of Khmer Empire in the 3rd century AD., Javaneses ( Indonesian) in 802 and French (1863). To deeply understand the Khmer arts, it is necessary to look at complex temples, particularly Angkor Wat, buildings, classical dances and textile (cotton and silk) industry, the products and display of which are widely available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Apart from Angkor Wat which features uniquely arts of Cambodia, we recommend our tourists as follows while in Phnom Penh:-
Cambodia Fine Art School inside the capital near the old Olympic Stadium and the Royal Palace and in adjunct to the National Museum is of a great resource for the teaching of various Khmer arts, thus a tour inside the schools would be useful for tourists to truly understand the teaching process of Khmer arts, particularly Khmer classical dances and architecture.
Weaving Village located along the Mekong river--- about 10 minutes away from the Mekong Island by boat, is seen impressive settings of the hand-made Khmer textile production which share the largest supplies of finest silk, cotton products in the Kingdom markets. The production is mostly done by women with patience and the weaving devices and process and the incredible role of women producing finest fabric products would greatly impress tourists.
8. History of Cambodia
While no one knows exactly how long people live in what is now called Cambodia, it is believed that the first settlement of Cambodians began long ago before 4200 B.C. These early people are believed to come from India, China and Southeast Asia. Very little is known about daily life of prehistoric Cambodians: for example diet containing a great deal of fish, houses was raises above the ground accessible by ladder as can seen in what is northeast Cambodia; growing rice and; root-crops by so-called slash-and burn method.
In the 1st century A.D. these inhabitants formed the first Cambodian civilization known as Funan as a result of Indianized cults, during which Cambodia had for the first time its comprehensive administrative structure, coherent written languages as Khmer and Sangkrit. No doubt, indianisation had profound effect on cultures and belief of Funan's Cambodians.
Funan lasted until the 6th century, which thereafter another sate called Chenla from which Cambodia take its name, existed with aggressive growth and eventually absorbed Funan. In the 7th century (667) after the death of King Jayavarman I, Chenla split into two parts: Water Chenla whose land lies in what is now South Cambodia and Land Chenla whose land lies around Tonle Sap and Upper Mekong River. Javanese invaders took over Water Chenla, then members of Chenla court were taken to Java.
King Jayavarman II (802-850) returned from Java and took power, and started to build his capital, from which Angkor period was inaugurated. Angkorian Kings had continued aggressive construction of temples after King Jayavarman II until the death of the last and great Angkorian King Jayavarman VII (1181-1201), who built most of Angkor temples and well respected for his defense against invasion by neighbor, particularly Chams/Muslims who then inhabited in what is now called South Vietnam.
The death of King Jayavarman VII marked the fall of Angkor, which then Cambodia suffered series of historical tragedy for nearly 700 years due to war between its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, and due to internal conflicts between the royal courts. The heavy looting of Angkor were obvious, and Cambodian land has been torn between.
July 1863, France forced King Norodom to sign a treaty putting Cambodiaunder French protectorate, which eventually made a total colony. France ruled Cambodia for nearly 100 years, during which Cambodians were unhappy due to several reasons, especially application of citizen taxes. This had caused revolution throughout led by royal courts but the attempts were unsuccessful.
During World War II (1945), Japanese troops entered Cambodia, then France was temporarily driven way. Japan presence was not long due to its defeat in World War II, which was then seen the return of France. At last, King Norodom Sihanouk, who was crowned King by France in 1941, was able to gain independence from France on November 9, 1953.
King Sihanouk then abdicated in 1955 in favor of heading political party Sangkum Reastr Niyum which he founded toward national reconciliation. His father was named the king in stead. Winning national elections, King Sihanouk took power and led the country toward success at its peak surpassing other nations in Southeast Asia at the time for nearly 20 years.
In March 1970, King Sihanouk was deposed by Gen Lon Nol who was backed by Americans. Monarchy was then abolished, replaced with republic. Civil War has begun thereafter which has lasted up to present for nearly 40 years. In April 1975, the Khmer Rouges founded by Pol Pot took power. Cambodia had gone through an era of darkness, a nightmare of the Killing Fields which is equally defined as genocide. The Khmer Rouges shut off relationship with the world and the nation's infrastructure was totally ruined. Nearly three millions of Cambodians were killed, and the rest were on brink of extinction.
In January 1979, Cambodia were liberated from the rule of the Khmer Rouges, who has been since pushed into the jungles. This victory, which is by no means putting an end of civil war, was possible with the help from Vietnam, who then installed Cambodia's puppet government fighting against the Khmer Rouges who joined its allies led King Norodom Sihanouk along Cambodian-Thai borders.
In 1991, All factions under pressure from the international community agreed to sign peace agreement known Paris Peace Accords which temporarily put an end to civil war. In 1993, general elections was held under supervision and administration of the United Nations, whereby a new coalition government led by two prime ministers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Mr.Hun Sen, were formed. Sihanouk was reinstated as King in form of constitutional monarchy. The new coalition government ceased in 1997 after a armed confrontation, which resulted in disposal of Prince Norodom Ranariddh and that civil war has been renewed. This prompted the United States to put Cambodian seat at the United Nations vacant, awaiting the result of new national elections to be held in July 26, 1998.