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Cambodia

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Cambodia

A land of temples and smiles

With a rich culture derived from a combination of Buddhist and Hindu customs, Cambodia offers enchanting landscapes, dense jungles, unusual wildlife, ancient temples, relaxing beaches and warm hospitality. Cambodia is truly unique, making it one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia.

Overview

Cambodia (also known as Kampuchea) shares its borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, making it popular with people travelling through the region. The landscape spans the Mekong River which crosses from north to south, mountain ranges and a coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.

Cambodia is probably most renowned for being home to the largest religious monument in the world: the buddhist temple of Angkor Wat at Siem Reap. But there is so much more to explore here such as stunning beaches, thick forests and vibrant cities.

The best time to travel is between November and April, during the dry season although it is tropical and hot all year round. Most of the rainfall during the monsoon season is during September and October.

Top Cities Phnom Penh (capital), Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang Languages Khmer is the official language but Chinese and Vietnamese are also spoken and English is widely understood in the main cities and tourist areas. Currency Camodien Riel. US dollars are also widely accepted. Time Zone Time zone is (GMT+7 hours), making Cambodia 7 hours ahead of London during the winter (GMT) and 6 hours ahead during British Summer Time. Drinks Imported beer: £1.20/$1.50 Domestic beer: £0.60/$0.75 Water: £0.35/$0.45

Meals Inexpensive restaurant: £2.35/$3.00 Meal for 2, mid-range, 3-course: £15.75/$20.10 Hostels Hostel prices start from around £5.00/$6.40 and they tend to be concentrated around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the south coast. Alternative options include guesthouses and homestays. Hotels A 3-star hotel will cost from approximately £15.00/$19.00 up to about £135/$172.00 for 5-stars. Tipping Tipping is not mandatory in Cambodia but it is appreciated due to the low wages. A good rate is 10% in restaurants, £5.50/$7.00 for a guide and half of that for a driver. For tuk tuk drivers, just a small tip will go a long way.

Taxi There are some metered taxis, mainly in Phnom Penh, but check the meter is in use and otherwise ensure you agree the fare in advance; an average taxi fare is around £0.60/$0.75 per km. Aside from taxis, most people use tuk-tuks for getting around the cities. Again, agree the fare in advance and avoid any that hassle you for tours. Public transport Long distance buses are the most popular form of travel for getting around Cambodia and most cities are well linked. As well as the larger, air-conditioned buses, there are express minivans and shared taxis. A typical bus journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap will cost £7.80/$10.00. Note that few buses actually operate within the cities with the exception of Phnom Penh. There are train services between Phnom Penh and Kamput as well as Sihanoukville but they tend to be slow and not very frequent. In addition, domestic flights are available between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Highlights You may wish to start in Phnom Penh with its bustling markets and tuk-tuks; sample the street food - a unique blend of Khmer and western food. Wander the wide boulevards and restaurants and visit the National Museum, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum provides a chilling reminder of Cambodia’s recent past. Just outside the city is the Peam Krasaop Wildlife Sanctuary which is worth a visit. Gaze in awe at the temples at Angkor Wat in the north at Siem Reap. The site is so large that most visitors need at least two days to fully absorb the wonder of this UNESCO heritage site. Mondulkiri, in the north east, is home to most of the elephants in Cambodia and there are many sanctuaries and projects. The area is also excellent for its rugged landscapes and waterfalls. About 15km from Siem Reap is the majestic lake of Tonle Sap, which is also a UNESCO biosphere reserve due to its level of biodiversity. Take a boat trip through the floating villages and marvel at this body of water which changes size according to the monsoon. If visiting at the end of October/beginning of November, don’t miss the water festival “Bon Om Touk” that takes place on the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers in Phnom Penh. Look out for the rare Irrawaddy river dolphins on the Mekong. After exploring the culture and history, head south to the beaches for some relaxation before returning home.

Interesting Facts

Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953 when it became known as the Kingdom of Cambodia. It then went through five name changes before settling back on its original name.

Over 60% of the population is under 30 years and the average age is under 15; sadly, this is the result of four years of rule by the Khmer Rouge when 25% of the population was killed. There are still an estimated 4-6 million landmines in the countryside.

The temples at Angkor Wat were built in the 12th century and are the largest in the world.

The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.

Cambodia’s flag is one of only two in the world which feature a building (the other is Afghanistan).

Some of the cuisine needs a strong stomach – fried tarantulas and other creepy crawlies are popular.

New Year is celebrated in mid-April at the end of the harvest and is the biggest celebration in Cambodia.

It is considered very disrespectful to point the soles of your feet towards anyone and the head is sacred, so keep those feet tucked under! Also, avoid pointing the feet towards anything sacred such as an image of a Buddha.