Cambodia in its early stages was a hunter-gatherer society up until about the 9th century where its states were unified by Jayavarman II who founded the Khmer Empire. Under this rule, many irrigation systems and other infrastructure such as the popular religious temples were construed. The civilisation thrived as an agricultural society until about 1000 AD where civil war and capture by Thailand caused the nation's decline. The war between Vietnam and Thailand brought suffering onto the Cambodian people who were caught in the middle until the 1850s were French missionaries aided and protected the country from its former captors. The French not only protected the Cambodians but also saw to it that the country developed economically and as a result infrastructure was put into place and in the 1920's the rubber industry blossomed. During the second world war, Japan briefly ousted the French and declared Cambodia independent. This was short lived however, as, when Japan lost the war, the French returned in 1945. They allowed internal self-governance and under the treaty in 1949 Cambodia was semi-independent. In 1952, King Sihanouk dismissed the government and ruled as a dictator. Also short lived, he fled the country in 1970 and the country was renamed the "Khmer Republic" by its communist rulers. In a failed attempt to stop the communist rule, the United States bombed the country but they still managed to capture the capital, Phnom Penh in 1975. This was the beginning of the Pol Pot regime or "Brother Number One". Under this regime the country was renamed Cambodia and was transformed into an agriculture only society. This led to the death of 3 million Cambodians either through murder, malnutrition, exhaustion and in extreme cases suicide.
Religion was also banned and intellectuals were executed. Vietnam soon stepped in and this led to a war between themselves and Thailand where Pol Pot fled. In 1991 peace treaties were signed but this did not deter some of the Khmer Rouge troops who continued to fight until about 1996. Pol Pot died in 1998 and in the following years Cambodia had seen a shift from its old pattern of leadership to a more modern rule under King Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen who are working to rebuild the nation.
The Cambodian flag is characterised by three horizontal bands. The top and bottom bands are blue and represent liberty, cooperation, brotherhood and the kingship. The middle band is red and is twice the width of the other bands and represents the bravery of the Cambodian people. In the centre of the red band is a white image of the Angkor Wat which represents integrity , justice and heritage. The white colour is a representation of Theravada Buddhism. The Cambodian flag is one of two flags in the world that features a building in its design.
The most important symbol in Cambodia is the ancient Khmer temple, Angkor Wat. Images of the tower of the Bayon at Angkor Tom and the apsaras ,or the celestial dancing girls, are also found everywhere from homes to schools and other public buildings and are important symbols to the Cambodian people. The people of Cambodia also exhibit great devotion to the kingship and what it represents.
Geography of Cambodia
The country of Cambodia lies on the south Asian continent and is bordered by Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
Cambodia is mainly flat and is drained by rivers such as the Tonle Sap and the Mekong River which accounts for much of the country's fresh water supply . The country has a very short coastline which features an all-important natural harbour , Kompong Som Bay. Other areas of the country such as the Dangrek, Cardomen and Elephant are mountainous and are densely forested.
Cambodia's climate may be described as tropical and features a six month wet/monsoon season from May to October which makes up about 75% of annual rainfall and a six month dry season from November to April
Flora and Fauna:
Owing to its tropical climate, the country has a very rich and diverse plant life. Fruits such as mangoes, oranges , bananas and coconuts dominate the Cambodian diet . Other plant species such as palm and high grasses are prevalent in the landscape. Cambodia's animal life is also diverse and includes many species of birds including cranes and wild ducks , mammals such as elephants, oxen and bears and many species of fish, insects and amphibian
Roughly 70,000 square miles, the country is the 90th largest in the world and has a population of nearly 15 million. The people from Cambodia are referred to as 'Cambodian' or "Khmer"
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer which originates from ancient Sanskrit and Pali. It is spoken by most of the country's inhabitants along with English, French and Chinese and a few tribal dialects by its indigenous population. Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, German and Russian and spoken by it's immigrant population and in some of the country's resorts.
Although Thervada Buddhism was abolished by the Pol Pot Regime, much of the country's inhabitants identify as Buddhists while others practice Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and tribal animism.
Travelling to Cambodia
You will need : A valid passport (up to 6 months before expiry date) and a Cambodian visa that can be acquired on arrival (passport holders from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia and Brunei do not require a visa)
What to wear: Because Cambodia can be very hot it is advised to wear shorts and sleeveless clothing. However, shoulders and knees must be covered and is a requirement at school and religious sites. Linen ,cotton and silk fabrics are also recommended. Sunscreen is a must.
Currency: Riel, US Dollar
Popular places to visit:
1.Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples: Siem Reap has transformed itself from a quaint village to a world-class resort town filled with restaurants, spas, shops and hotels for tourists to enjoy. From here, you can visit the ruins of the Angkor Temples and take a journey through the history of the region with tour guides or hear the stories from the locals.
2.Phnom Penh: The capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh has the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (The Killing Fields) & S21 Prison to get first hand information on Khmer Rouge Regime. You can also visit the famous Wat Phnom Temple and get blessed by monks. Phnom Penh is the entertainment hub of the country and is filled with many nightclubs, karaoke bars, casinos and concert halls for tourists to enjoy.
3.Battambang : Though not as festive and bustling as the capital, Battambang is more laid back and features quaint restaurants and picturesque scenery for architecture lovers.
4. Kampot: This sleepy town is perfect for those who are not interested in the cookie cutter tourist attractions but are more interested in the landscape and architecture. With lots of activities to do here it is a great weekend stop off. It is also by the river and is a lovely chilled out place.
5. Kep: Popular for its seafood and tropical villas, this seaside town is great for beach lovers and nature lovers alike.
6. Kratie: Interested in the natural beauty of Cambodia? Then Kratie is for you. Popular for its Irrawaddy dolphins and sunsets, Kratie is surely a sight to behold.
7.Ratanakiri: From wildlife tours to river tubing, kayaking and canoeing , Ratanakiri is perfect for lovers of adventure and nature.
8. Sihanoukville: If you're down for a party or just want to relax in the sun , Sihanoukville has just what you need. The Koh Rong islands double as party spots and intimate getaways.
It is also advised by the CDC to get the following vaccinations before visiting Cambodia: Hepatitis A, Typhoid , Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria , Rabies and Yellow Fever. Mosquito spray is also a must.
It is important to bear in mind that Cambodia is a poor country so do not expect state of the art technology at every corner. If you are interested in a rich history, lush landscapes and beautiful people then Cambodia is the place for you.