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Cambodia General Information

Instead of the more well known destinations in Southeast Asia such as Thailand and Vietnam, more and more travellers are choosing to also visit Cambodia. A must-see for most travellers to Cambodia is the temple complex Angkor Wat, but the country has a lot more to offer aside from this. Discover the beautiful landscapes with white sandy beaches, rice fields and green hills, and learn more about the horrific yet moving history of the country.

Facts and numbers

Cambodia is home to over 16 million people, of whom the majority are Buddhist. The capital of the country is Phnom-Penh. The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, though on a smaller scale you can find people speaking Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham, the language of a people that lives spread across a number of Southeast Asian countries. Many older Cambodians speak French, the preferred educational language in many schools and universities in the country. The use of English has been increasing since 1993 and has partially replaced French, which used to be the original primary foreign language. To travel to Cambodia, a visa is required, which can be easily applied for online. It is recommended to apply for the visa online before departure, if all of the requirements of this visa are met.

CapitalPhnom Penh
Surface181,035 km²
Population16 million
ReligionBuddhism (96%), Islam (2%)
CurrencyCambodian riel (KHR)
Time difference6 hours (summertime) or 7 hours (wintertime)
Flight time11 to 12 hours
PlugsType A, C or G (travel pug required)
Tap waterNot safe to drink
VisaVisa is mandatory
Early history
In the first century A.D., the kingdoms of Funan and Chenla arose in Indochina. The the sixth century A.D., the kingdom of Chenla took over Funan and a large empire emerged that would become the ruling power in the region for the next 250 years. The period from the takeover of Zhenla until the moment the centre of power shifted to the west, near the Tonlé Sap lap, is called the pre-Angkor period.

In the ninth century, the Khmer kingdom came into being, with Angkor - the hole temple city, now seen as the largest religious construct in the world - as the capital. The Khmer empire stretched out over largest parts of Southeast Asia. Current-day Cambodia, large parts of Laos and Thailand, and even a piece of Vietnam belonged to the kingdom. After a number of wars with kingdoms from Thailand, the capital Angkor was captured in 1432, and the Khmer moved the capital to Phnom Penh, the current capital of Cambodia.

French rule and Vietnam war
To avoid the country from being fully taken over by Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia turned to the French. In 1863, the country become a protectorate of France and several years later, in 1887, the country joined the Union of Indochina along with the Vietnamese protectorates Tonkin and Annam (and later Laos). In 1953, the kingdom of Cambodia became independent from France under king Sihanouk, who governed the country as sole ruler.

During the Vietnam war, Cambodia was heavily targeted by American bombers. After Laos, Cambodia was the most bombarded country in Southeast Asia, even though the country did not even take part in the war. The Americans suspected that there was a hidden route from North-Vietnam through Laos and east Cambodia to supply the Vietcong and the Vietnamese army. This led to some 600,000 civilians casualties in Cambodia.

Khmer Rouge
In 1970, Cambodian officers under the command of general Lon Nol defeated the government of king Sihanouk and declared the Khmer Republic. A civil war broke out, and Sihanouk joined the communists, later known as the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge were supposedly fighting for an equal society, after the example of Mao Zedong in China. In 1975, they conquered Phnom Penh under the command of dictator Pol Pot, who tried to turn Cambodia into a communist agrarian state. The people were forced to move from the cities to the countryside. Anyone who did not cooperate or did not support the regime was forced with the use of violence, or questioned in torture prisons. Under the regime of Pol Pot, one and a half to two million Cambodians were murdered, a fifth to a quarter of the entire population.

Recent developments
In 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge were driven to the west. They continued to wage a guerilla war in the 80’s with the support of China. In 1991, a peace treaty was signed and Cambodia fell under the administration of the United Nations. In 1993, the country held elections for the first time in a long time, and Sihanouk became king again. However, the situation in the country remained unstable until 2003. Currently, the country is ruled by the CCP (Cambodian People’s Party).

Weather In Cambodia 

In Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, the climate is tropical, hot all year round, with a rainy season from May to mid-November due to the south-west monsoon and a dry season from mid-November to April. The dry season can be divided into two periods: the first is the least hot of the year, while the second, from mid-February to May, before the monsoon arrives, is the hottest of the year. The monsoon withdraws in early November in the north and between the middle and the end of the month in the center-south.
The coolest month is December, while the hottest months are April and May, when the heat becomes oppressive; in the rainy season, the temperature is a bit lower, but the humidity is higher, so the weather is hot and muggy.
As for the rains, they generally range from 1,300 to 1,800 millimeters (51 to 70 inches) per year in the main cities located in inland areas. The wettest region of Cambodia is the south-western one, since in the monsoon period the currents come directly from the sea: here, the rainfall exceeds 2,000 mm (78 in) per year, but in the central-northern part, towards the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, it even exceeds 3,000 mm (118 in) and there are vast areas covered with forest.