WHY VISIT CAMBODIA
Tourism in Cambodia is in its infancy although the country has very interesting tourist attractions that are recognized throughout the world. Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, was considered the most pleasant town of French Indochina. Located at the confluence of the Mekong, it has everything it takes to please. The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is home to the famous Silver Pagoda, whose 5 000 tiles are all made of silver and weighing a kilogram each. It also houses the “Emerald Buddha” and a gold Buddha weighing about 90 pounds. The National Museum is also worth visiting. The architecture of some buildings reminds everyone that Cambodia during its history was indeed a French colony. Those who have the courage can go see the graves of Choeung Ek-south-west where a pyramid formed by 8000 skulls was erected. But visit Cambodia is not just to see Phnom Penh. The visit to the architectural wonders of Angkor is the highlight of a trip to Cambodia. Located near the town of Siem Reap, the tourist site contains dozens of temples with ornaments your breath away. You need at least five days to see the entire site.
Sports and tourism practices are still quite limited. The town of Sihanoukville has the most beautiful beach in Cambodia, beach Ochatial. Proponents of relaxation will find their pleasure. You can even do scuba diving. A hike in the Ratanakiri will lead you along the volcanic lake Ya Lom.
WHAT TO SEE IN CAMBODIA
Top destinations in Cambodia are:
- Angkor & Siem Reap
- Phnom Penh
- Koh Ker
WHEN TO GO TO CAMBODIA
The best period to visit Cambodia is from December to April.
The climate of Cambodia is characterized by the presence of two very influential monsoons which alternately mark the seasons. From May until October, the monsoon from the southwest becomes dominant. The effects of the monsoon are felt by the presence of heavy rains and strong winds. The humidity is very active during this period. In contrast, there is the northeast monsoon is blowing from November to March and brings very little rainfall.
Taking into account the weather, the months of December and January are the best times to travel to Cambodia because during this period, rains are rare and humidity is somewhat cumbersome. Starting from February, the heat and humidity become unbearable, but the best attractions are less crowded and you’ll have time to admire them.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Cambodia.
- Chinese New Year (January or February): Due to the large number of people of Chinese descent who run much of Cambodia’s business enterprises; and also Vietnamese immigrant communities, the Chinese New Year is widely celebrated, especially in Phnom Penh. No Chinese festival would be complete without fireworks and this time of year is no exception with many wealthy families organizing their own private displays which light up the skies for all to see.
- National Day (January 7): One of the more recent additions to the festival calendar, this day marks the end of the Khmer Rouge Regime. However for many Khmers it also marks the start of the Vietnamese regime seen as another period of foreign occupancy.
- Royal Ploughing Day (May): Cambodia has a deep connection with the Earth and farming, and there is a deep astrological belief that the Ox has an instrumental role in determining the fate of the agricultural harvest each year. Every year, in May, this cultural ceremony takes place in the large park next to the Royal Palace and in front of the National Museum. The King plays a key role in driving the Ox and depicting real plowing activities in the process of growing rice. The Ox is given a selection of foods and beverages to consume and the royal soothsayers interpret what the Ox has eaten. For this festival, both men and women can be seen wearing brightly colored traditional Khmer costume.
- Khmer New Year’s Day (Mid April): Celebrated at the same time as the Thai New Year all over the country, this festival marks the turn of the year based on the ancient Khmer calendar and also marks the end of the harvest done during the year. Cambodians decorate their homes to please the Heaven God and many people can be seen on the streets armed with small bags of water and water pistols to bless people passing by. This festival is one of the happiest times of the year with joyous smiling faces everywhere you turn. Cambodians do recognize International New Year on 1 January but there are no celebrations then.
- Pchum Ben (September): This is the most culturally and religiously significant event of the year and is celebrated in September. This festival of souls concentrates on blessing the souls of ancestors, relatives, and friends who have passed away. All Buddhist temples, especially Wat Phnom, are the focal points for this festival and most Cambodians visit the temples to make traditional offerings and pray.
- King Sihanouk’s Birthday Celebration (October 31): This celebration revering the country’s influential king takes place in late October or early November. People from all over the country come to the capital to join in celebrations and festivities held throughout the capital. Often the King’s birthday and Water festivals coincide resulting in a mammoths celebration in front of the Royal Palace and along the riverfront. Provincial villagers who would ordinarily have no reason to visit Phnom Penh will save up and make this occasion their sole visit to the capital.
- Water festival (October or November): This vast festival is probably the most extravagant festival in the calendar. Over three days starting with the last full moon day in October or the beginning of November up to a million people from all walks of life from all over the country flock to the banks of Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers in Phnom Penh to watch hundreds of brightly colored boats with over 50 paddlers battle it out for top honors. The boat racing dates back to ancient times marking the strengths of the powerful Khmer marine forces during the Khmer empire. In the evening brightly decorated floats cruise along the river prior to and complimenting the fireworks displays. there is often a parallel festival at Angkor Wat and although it is smaller in scale it is just as impressive due to the backdrop of Angkor Wat.
- Independence Day (November 9): This important ceremony takes place at the site of the Independence Monument at the junction of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards. This ceremony celebrates Cambodia’s gaining of independence from France in 1953. All over the city flags adorn the shop fronts and bunting stretched over all the main thoroughfares as a sign of national pride.
- Angkor Festival (November or December): This festival is a showcase of performing arts with Angkor Wat as a backdrop. Performers from all over Asia attend this festival performing great epic stories from myths and legends, including the Ramayana, with their own national dance costumes and musical and rhythmic interpretations. King Sihanouk often attends when he is in residence in Siem Reap and other dignitaries come to witness this wonderful spectacle.
- International Half Marathon (Late December): This International Half Marathon is held at Angkor Wat and attracts competitors from all over the world. Thousands of people come to see this international event held in the spectacular setting that is Angkor.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH CAMBODIA
by plane, the main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON CAMBODIA
health tips & vaccination: drink only bottled water and avoid ice. Malaria vaccination is recommended during the rain season and near the coast.
local currency: Cambodian Riel
local time zone: GMT+7
electricity: type A, type C, and type G (230 V, 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN CAMBODIA
typical food in Cambodia
- Balut: Fertilised duck eggs, served as a snack
- Prahok: Fermented fish paste, used as a seasoning for stir-fries, but never for soups
- Fried tarantula: A specialty of Skuon in North Cambodia, and a popular dining dare for travelers
- Amok trey: Fish in a thick coconut curry sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed
- Babor: Rice porridge with chicken broth often served with an omelet or dried small fry
- Kuy teav: Rice noodle soup with pork stock, comes topped with all sorts of vegetables, garnishes and meat cuts and is a popular breakfast
- Bai chha: Khmer fried rice with sausage, pork, garlic and herbs
- Kralan: Sticky rice flavored with sugar, beans, and grated coconut, steamed inside a bamboo pole
- Lok Lak: Stir-fried beef in a lime, salt and pepper sauce, often served with fried potatoes and an egg
- Mee katang: Cantonese-style wide rice noodles cooked with meat and vegetables in oyster sauce
- Nom banh chok: Curry-style noodles often served with shredded fish, turmeric root, lemongrass, citrus, mint, and chili
- Pleah sach ko: Beef ceviche with peanuts and garlic, in a lime and palm sugar dressing
- Fresh coconut juice: A refreshing and popular beverage
- Rice wine: Often served infused with spices as sombai
- Beer: Angkor and Anchor are the lagers to look out for
- Golden muscle wine: Made from herbs and deer antlers
souvenirs from Cambodia
- wood and stone carvings
- Buddhist artworks
- antiques: wooden boxes used to store betel-chewing equipment, as well as elegant silver boxes for the betel nuts, vials for the leaves and paste, and cutters – a bit like small shears – for slicing the nuts.
- There are plenty of religious artifacts available too, from wooden Buddha images and other carvings to brass bowls and offering plates.
- Compasses used in the ancient Chinese art of feng shui indicating compass directions related to the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.
- You might also be able to search out opium weights, used to weigh out the drug, and often formed in the shape of small human figures or animals.
- krama chequered scarf
- silk, textiles, and fabrics: Hol is a time-honored cloth decorated with small patterns symbolizing flowers, butterflies and diamonds, and traditionally produced with threads of five basic colors – yellow, red, black, green, and blue (modern variations use pastel shades). The vibrant, shimmering hues change depending on the direction from which they are viewed. Parmoong is a lustrous ceremonial fabric, made by weaving a motif or border of gold or silver thread onto plain silk. Some parmoong is woven exclusively for men in checks or stripes of cream, green or red, to be worn in sarongs. Traditional wall-hangings, pedan, come in classical designs often featuring stylized temples and animals
- musical instruments: chapei, a stringed instrument with a long neck and a round sound-box; and the chhing, in which the two small brass plates, similar to castanets in appearance, are played by being brushed against each other.
- gold jewelry
- rattan or bamboo weaved baskets or khapa deep, conical rattan-and-bamboo baskets fitted with shoulder straps so that they can be worn on the back
- war memorabilia
How are you?: Anak sokhasabbay te?
Thank you: Arkoun
What is your name?: Tae anak mean chhmoh avei?
How much is it?: Tae vea thlai bonman?