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You are here: Home  >  Guide To Our Destination  >  >>> Cambodia
About Cambodia

Overview

GENERAL INFORMATION
Cambodia has much to offer with its rich cultural heritage. The world-renowned Angkor temple complex with its stunning Khmer architectural achievements, cosmopolitan Phnom Penh, and the country’s unspoiled beaches, beautiful mountains and forests make Cambodia a unique travel destination

Geography
Bordered to the west by Thailand, to the north by Laos and to the east by Vietnam, Cambodia is a roughly circular country with a southern coastline giving onto the Gulf of Thailand. The landscape comprises tropical rainforest and fertile cultivated land, with lush highlands rising in both the northeast and southeast. Rivers are a central feature of its make-up, with Phnom Penh situated at the confluence of the Bassac, the Tonle Sap and the mighty Mekong. A large inland lake, also called Tonle Sap, sits close to the Angkor Temple Complex in the north. There are numerous beaches and offshore islands along the southwest coast.


History

Much of Cambodia’s history is shrouded in mystery.
The earliest settlements discovered here date from the 7th century, B.C. With the end of the Angkor period in the 14th century, and then again with the reign of the Khmer Rouge, much historical documentation was destroyed. Thankfully, we have accounts by foreign traders and architectural remains to tell us one important fact: for a period of approximately six centuries (9th-14th), the Khmer people established at Angkor a base of military and political power coupled with a sophisticated culture that was unrivaled in Southeast Asia. Visitors today will discover that the temples and monuments of Cambodia are as much a part of the beautiful landscape as the natural elements that surround them.


Climate
Cambodia lies in the tropical zone. There are two seasons: monsoon and dry. The humid, rainy season lasts from April to October, when temperatures reach 32 degrees Celsius/90 Fahrenheit. The hottest month is April, when the temperature can reach 38 C/100 F or more degrees.
The cool, dry season lasts from November to March, with temperatures reaching 27 C/80 F.


Language
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, which is also referred to as Cambodian.. French and English are widely spoken in hotels and business circles. English is the first language among young students, while French is spoken by older people.

Population and People
Cambodia's population is more than 14 million and growing fast. Khmers make up 90 percent of the population, while a variety of other ethnic groups make up the rest. They include a diversity of peoples, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham, and a number of tribal groups such as the Kreung, Tampuon, Kuoy and Jarai among them. .


Festivals and Holidays
The dates of Cambodian traditional festivals are set according to the Khmer lunar calendar.
The most important of these are Chaul Chnam Thmei (Khmer New Year), which falls in mid-April, and the Water Festival in mid-November. The Mekong Pirogue races take place at this time. They last three days and are held in Phnom Penh in front of the Royal Palace. Independence Day is November 9.

Religion
Cambodia's official religion is Theravada Buddhism. It was introduced in Cambodia in the 12th century.It is enhanced by traditional animist beliefs and Brahmanist practices long imported from India to form a very Cambodian religious system. There are also 500,000 Muslims, mostly of Cham origins.

Culture

Cambodia Culture and Etiquette

 

The majority of Cambodians follow Theravada Buddhism and this has greatly influenced their customs and etiquette. The religion is one which emphasises the concept of 'karma'. This means that by living an honest, harmonious and devoted life you will be reincarnated at a higher plane. Fail to do so and you will be 'demoted'.

 

This concept of harmony is extended to the hierarchical organisation of Cambodian society. Respect for one's elders, teachers, bosses etc is always expected. Some foreigners are surprised how personal the questions they are asked by Cambodians can be. This is not mere nosiness, but an attempt to discover your 'rank' and so how much respect you should be given.

 

Alongside this is the concept of 'face' which is important to all Cambodians. It is important to maintain harmony by not causing offence to others. Face is lost when someone is criticized, embarrassed or exposed in public. Face is gained when someone is praised or complimented. It is not normal for people in Cambodia to show emotions, especially negative emotions. Anger, impatience or frustration lead to a loss of face. Cambodians often smile in situations westerners do not expect. It is not always a sign of happiness or agreement. Smiling can be a sign of annoyance, lack of understanding or embarrassment.

 

When being introduced to a Cambodian man, he may well shake hands in the western style, but the more traditional greeting is to bow while simultaneously bringing both hands together to chest level in a praying position. Women will almost certainly use this style of greeting. The lower you bow and the higher you raise the hands, the more respect and face you give to the recipient. It is best to return whichever greeting you are given.

 

If invited to a Cambodian family's home, be punctual. Arriving late shows a lack of respect for the host. Shoes should be left at the door and it is considered very impolite to wear a hat indoors. It is normal to bring a small gift such as fruit, sweets or flowers. The gift should be wrapped in colourful paper – never white, the Cambodian colour for death and mourning. Never give a gift of a knife. This would mean you are cutting off the relationship with that person!

 

Don't be surprised when your gift is still unopened when you leave. This is normal. If you are given a gift, don't open it in the giver's presence. You will probably be offered some water or tea. Accept and take at least a small sip. To refuse is impolite.

 

When eating, always wait for the oldest person to be seated first. Then wait to be told where to sit – you have to be in the correct place to maintain hierarchical harmony. Again, the oldest person should take a mouthful of food before everyone else starts.

 

As in most Buddhist societies, in Cambodia, the head is sacred. So it is extremely insulting to touch anyone's head. Feet are considered the lowest part of the body and unclean, so should never be pointed at anyone.

When visiting temples it is essential dress modestly and to remove shoes and sit with the feet tucked behind you. Women should never touch a monk or even directly hand something to a monk. Instead any gift should be placed in his reach. Even monks' mother have to follow this custom.

 

Cities

Phnomepenh

 

Although overshadowed by the popularity of Siem Reap, Cambodia’s capital is slowly seeing an increase in tourist numbers. Often dusty and chaotic, the city might not showcase the charm of Siem Reap but those who scratch the surface are often surprised at what they find in Phnom Penh. With a host of new dining options, boutique shops, and trendy cafes, the city is undergoing a modern renaissance.

Spending a few days in the capital city, visitors will not only uncover the historic side of the country but also experience the true vibe of an emerging capital.


Siem Reap

Most visitors to Siem Reap are there to visit the famed Temples of Angkor and who can blame them? These spectacular ruins from the 9-14th centuries are an adventurer's dream. Located just 7km from the entrance gate, Siem Reap has become a popular stop on the tourist trail of Asia. Once a sleepy town full of farms and small shops, the increase in tourists over the past 15 years has brought an international feel to the town. Modern hotels, internet cafes, and international restaurants are a welcome treat after a day spent exploring the temples in the Cambodian heat. Yet, Siem Reap retains its small town charm and visitors who take the time to explore the town and its surroundings are rewarded with a deeper insight in to Cambodian culture and lifestyle.
Although a three night stay is the perfect amount of time for exploring the temples, however we strongly recommend a longer stay to truly experience Siem Reap and its many wonders.

The Provinces

Cambodia is a diverse country with mountains and beaches, rivers and jungles. Traveling through the rural areas is a great way to not only experience the variety of natural landscapes, but also unveils the lifestyle and genuine warmth of the Cambodian people.

Kampong Thom is located between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and is an excellent stopover for those traveling overland. Near this sleepy riverside town lie the temples of Sambor Prei Kuk, a collection of 7th century temples. Tucked in the forest, these ancient ruins can be explored on foot or by bike traversing small dirt paths which wind among the temples. A visit here is practising eco-tourism as it supports community development.

North of the Cambodian capital is the town of
Kratie. This typical Khmer small town is located on the banks of the Mekong River and the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins are frequently spotted. Kratie makes a great stop on the way to Stung Treng, another rural town located on the Laos border. This beautiful riverside town provides a relaxing atmosphere and chance to experience the local culture and participate in community-based tourism projects, for example on a tour by bicycle or horsecart around Koh Trong
, an island in the Mekong.

Heading south of Phnom Penh, you reach the towns of
Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot and Koh Kong. Each of these towns has a different allure - Sihanoukville is a coastal town with nice beaches and great day trips to remote and uninhabited tropical islands available. Nearby is Ream National Park where mangrove forests, a diverse selection of wildlife, and tranquil nature await. Kampot is a riverside town with colonial buildings and nearby caves and waterfalls. Still less discovered, Kep is a favorite Exotissimo destination. A quiet beach, lush hills, and delicious seafood make Kep a great place to ‘get away from it all’ especially if you take a trip out to nearby Rabbit Island. Koh Kong
is the place in Cambodia with the greatest potential for Eco-Tourism. With the wild Cardamom Mountains with its waterfalls and trekking opportunities as a backdrop, mangrove forests that are among Southeast Asia's largest, and untouched tropical islands on it's shores, this is a place for nature lovers.

To the northeast, two provinces are worth exploring. Although the roads are not in the best conditions, the scenery is fantastic and the trip is rewarding.
Rattanakiri province is located near the Vietnam and Laos borders and is home to a variety of Cambodia’s ethnic minorities. An endless amount of trekking opportunities, dozens of waterfalls, and great wildlife spotting can be done in Rattanakari. Also, the area is home to the beautiful Yeak Loam Lake, a volcanic crater whose clear waters are perfect for swimming. Mondulkiri
province is further east and also showcases Cambodia’s natural beauty. Although the largest province in the country, it is one of the least populated and hill tribe trekking is the most popular activity for visitors.

Or what about an exotic overnight stay in a safari tent for that unique camping experience that no hotel room can provide? A beach camp on a deserted tropical island or by the river and an Indiana Jones style jungle camp at your favorite temple or on a mountain top are only the tip of our ideas for this special accommodation. Enjoy delicious meals prepared by your private chef in comfortable sitting areas before you set out to explore the surroundings. Experience Cambodia in a totally unique way!

 

Travel Tips

Visa Information

In order to enter Cambodia, you will need a visa. When you book your holiday with Travel Authentic, we will send you an information pack including visa application forms and instructions for application.

 

Health
No vaccinations are required for entry into Cambodia. However, it is recommended that all visitors be inoculated against typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A and B. It is not wise to drink tap water. Prescription drugs are easily obtainable in urban areas. Precautions against malaria, such as doxycycline or larium (check with your doctor on certain adverse side effects to these medicines), are not necessary for Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, but are recommended when visiting more remote provinces. Use mosquito nets in your room. Travelers should consult their doctor or travel centre before leaving for Cambodia.

Insurance
Health insurance, including emergency evacuation, is absolutely essential. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payments for any medical treatment. The cost of medical evacuation is high. The hospital in Phnom Penh is reliable. It is suggested that any visitors bring adequate supplies of any essential personal medication, since that medication may not be available in Cambodia.

Food and Drink
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilized. Bottled water is widely available. Milk is unpasteurized and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Meal Costs
Expect to spend about $40 USD/person/day, an additional $20 in high end restaurants.

Tipping
For good service, guides are usually tipped $10-15 USD/day, and drivers about $5-10. Tips are not expected in restaurants, but for good service you may leave $1-2 USD in the local currency.

Currency, Banking, and Credit Cards

The official currency is the Riel. Dollars may be exchanged for riel at exchange booths. Rates are subject to fluctuation. The Riel is Cambodia's official currency (US $1 = 4000 riel), but US dollars are widely accepted. Most hotels accept international credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard and travelers checks can be easily cashed. It is advisable for guests to use a combination of cash and travelers cheques for convenience. Most prefer payment by USD.

Airport Departure Taxes
US$25 for international flights from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. (To be paid in cash)
US$6 for domestic flights from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. (To be paid in cash)

Checklist before you leave on your trip:
• Airtickets : check your departure times and date. Where possible buy e-tickets it saves you time when you inadverdently lose the document you can always pull out a copy from the computer or provide the ticket number. Paper tickets are more likely to get lost and end up having to wait for months to claim the lost ticket. Make sure you save a copy of your e-ticket in your traveling email.
• Call your credit card company to inform them you will be traveling overseas and name of countries that the card will charged and the period that you will be using the card overseas to avoid identity theft and inconvenience that your card gets blocked when you travel.
• Check your visa documents and passport size photos if you need them to get visa on arrival.
• Make copies of your passport and visas scan it and send it to your traveling email in case your passport is lost or visas lost you can contact the proper authorities to provide those copies.
• Make sure you have your health/accidental /emergency evacuation insurance. Most important is health /accident coverage. Make sure that the coverage will pay for you while you are in the hospital or need assistance in the country you are traveling. Costs are covered and not require you to pay first and claim later. From our experience insurance underwritten by AIG in the US and Lloyds of London in Europe has come through for our clients in times of emergencies with little inconvenience.
• Check with your mobile phone carrier if they have roaming coverage in the countries you are traveling. Make sure your phone is compatible to receive or make calls in the country you will be traveling. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a local sim card in the country of arrival and put it in your phone to use locally. But it’s always good to have a back up to have your phone roaming coverage.
• Make sure you have enough passport pages in your passport. Usually try to have at least 2 pages in your passport for each country you will be visiting (not transiting at the airports). This is if you will get your visa on arrival at the country you are visiting.
• Make sure you have your travel agent’s mobile phone number in your phone or where you can access information in case of an emergency.

Do's and Dont's

Do's
• Do greet Cambodians as like they greet you. Handshakes and physical contact in public is not an accepted norm. Especially between a man to a women or vice versa.
• Do try local specialty such as Amok and Num Bachok.
• Do watch traditional and cultural dance shows which are available in various restaurants.
• Do visit a local market in the morning to experience a daily life of the local.
• Do ask for permission before taking photos of others.
• Do bargain when buying things. Bargaining can be an enjoyable experience in interacting with the locals.
• Do learn some words in Khmer such as “Hello” or “Thank you”. To learn Khmer click here.
• Do take off hat and shoes before entering a Khmer home and pagodas.
• Do take up the opportunity of staying with a Khmer family, a great way to experience the life-style of the locals.
• Do buy Khmer souvenirs before returning to your home country.

Don’ts
• Don’t hug and kiss in public.
• Don’t wear revealing clothes when entering temples or place of worship. Revealing thighs, shoulders or chest is frowned upon in public.
• Don’t purchase historical artifacts in Cambodia (its illegal). Buy only the replica ones.
• Don’t take home pieces of stone from the temples and tourist sites no matter how small and undecorated they are.
• Don’t touch someone on the head. Head is considered holy.
• Don’t point or gesture with your feet or put your on the furniture. Feet are considered the lowest form of the body.
• Don’t put books or reading materials where people sit.
• Don’t give children vendors in the temples candies if you do not intend to buy their products.
• Don’t be foul-mouthed in middle of lake or jungle. It is considered bad omen.
• Don’t criticize or make negative comments about the Royal family.
• Don’t involve in narcotic drug consumption and sexual exploitation of children.

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Our differences

  •  We’re fully-licenced ground Tour Operator:

Travel Authentic is a fullly licensed tour operator by Vietnam Administration of Tourism. When you book with us, your money will be safe and you are dealing directly with the person on ground. That is why we can give you support on spot and our prices will be unbeatable for the quality.

  •  All of our holidays are Private:

You can pick your date of departure, choose what hotel you want to stay, decide what touring you want to do and how much free time you want to have. For all road journeys you will have your own car and driver, offering you the flexibility to stop off along the way if you see something of interest or wish to take a photograph. All sightseeing excursions are accompanied by your own private English-speaking guide. This means that you can ask as many or as few questions as you like and take sightseeing trips at your own pace focusing on your own personal interests.

  •  Our unique authentic experiences:

Our guide and driver will be flexible to give you chance to meet up with friendly locals and do authentic local things to explore the insights of their life and a sense of their cultures. Inspite of not being stated or costed in the itinerary, it is a part of our tour operation and will surely give you many nice surpises and contribute to your memorable holiday.


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