Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia in-between Thailand and Vietnam with Laos to the North.
Its serene coastline borders the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia is a tropical country and its southernmost point is a mere 10° above the equator. It covers 181,035 square kilometers.
There are mountains to the North and East but the land is mostly flat; perfect for rice cultivation. Indeed, Cambodian Jasmine Rice recently won the World’s Best Rice competition three times in a row. The green rice fields and trees are fed by the giant Tonle Sap Lake and the famous Mekong River – the 12th longest river in the world – that flows through the country and the capital city, Phnom Penh.
Minerals, oil and natural gas deposits were recently found beneath Cambodia’s territorial waters – valuable assets that will surely contribute to this burgeoning economy.
Cambodia’s climate is hot and sunny all year round. Like most Southeast Asian countries there are two seasons – the rainy season and the dry season. The rains fall May-October and it is dry during November-April. December and January are the coolest months and April are the hottest.
Cambodia’s total population is roughly 16 million people, 90% of which belong to the Khmer ethnic group. Many foreigners live here too and some ethnic groups have made their home in Cambodia for centuries including the Chams (Muslim Khmer), Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Kuoy, Stieng and Tamil. Chinese people have a strong influence, particularly in the business sector. Khmer is the official language of Cambodia.
Religion: A look at the faith in the Kingdom
Theravada Buddhism is the oldest surviving form of religion and is practiced by 90% of the Cambodian population. Cambodian Buddhism shares much with other Theravada countries but has many notable and unique qualities. Buddha statues are revered in Cambodia and visitors are kindly asked to respect the customs surrounding these items (such as not pointing your feet towards a Buddha statue and dressing respectfully in temples). Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism exist harmoniously alongside the main religion.
Language: What is spoken in Cambodia?
Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. It is one of the oldest languages in the region and is derived from the Mon-Khmer (Austro-Asiatic) language family. It is notable for its extensive alphabet with 33 consonants, 23 vowels, and 12 independent vowels.
The Cambodian national flag was adopted in its current in 1948 when Cambodia broke with the French protectorate. It was readopted in 1993 following the end of the civil war. The Angkor Wat temple represents the Buddhist religion of the country along with the dignity and heritage of the Khmer people. The blue stripes represent the king and also stand for liberty and co-operation.
Romduol – National Flower of Cambodia
Romduol (Sphaerocoryne affinis) is the national flower of Cambodia. It is a small, pale yellow flower with a heady fragrance that can travel far and wide in the wind. Cambodian women have often been compared to the Ramduol flower and such is the regard for this pretty thing that several regions have been named after it. The Romduol plant can grow to a height of 12 meters and many have been planted in Cambodia’s public parks.
Customs and Tradition: The country’s treasured traditions
Cambodian culture and tradition have had a rich varied history dating back many centuries. Over the years, the people of Cambodia developed a set of unique traditions from the syncretism of indigenous Buddhism and Hinduism.
Cambodians have been raised to respect their culture and are very traditional in their way of life. Tourists will see the well mannered Cambodian expressing a friendly “Chumreap Suor” when they meet one.
Chumreap Suor: Traditional respectful greeting
Cambodians traditionally greet with a Sampeah, which involves pressing the palms together before the chest with a slight bow and greeting with a polite ‘Chumreap Suor’. Customarily, the higher the hands are held and the lower the bow, the more respect is conveyed.
Except when meeting elderly people or government officials, between men, this custom has been partially replaced by the handshake. Women usually greet both men and women with the same traditional greeting. Although it may be considered acceptable for foreigners to shake hands with a Cambodian, it is more appropriate to respect the custom and respond with a ‘Chumreap Suor’.