Cambodia is located in the southern part of the Indochina Peninsula in the Southeast Asia, bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, and Vietnam to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Cambodia has transpired from its tumultuous past and has an enthusiastic vigour present in the pulsating capital Phnom Penh which is country’s upcoming art scene and the plethora of amazing restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques found in larger towns. Cambodia persists of rich culture from the captivating temples of Angkor in Siem reap to the National Museum and Royal Palace in the capital. It is a complete fusion of pleasant people, delicious cuisine and numerous historical treasures.
The official religion is Theravada Buddhism which is practised by majority of the population. The country’s minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams and 30 hill tribes. The Cambodian language is Khmer which is inherited from the Indic languages Pali and Sangkrit from India.
Throughout the Cambodian history religious principles guided and inspired every aspect of life. A unique Khmer style emerged from the combination of ethnic animistic beliefs and the originally Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The Khmer culture as developed and spread by the Khmer culture has distinctive styles of dance, architecture and sculpture.
Stone carving skill basically inherited from the Indian civilization and later evolved into its own unique Khmer style. The Khmer sculptures are carved from stone with great craftsmanship and many of them represent the Hindu deities such as Shiva, Vishnu and many gods and goddesses.
Festivals mark importance in the Cambodian’s culture as there are many celebrations held in the country like the Bon Om Tuuk is the annual boat rowing contest which is held at the end of the rainy season when the Mekong River begins to sink back to its normal levels. Based on the classical Indian solar calendar and Theravada Buddhism, the Cambodian New Year is a major holiday that takes place in April.
Clothing in Cambodia is one of the most significant outlooks of the culture. Cambodian fashion differs according to the ethnic group and social class. Khmer people usually wear a check scarf called the Krama. The Krama is what separates the Khmer from their neighbours the Thai, the Vietnamese and the Laotians.
Football is one of the most popular sports which was brought by the French and is a favourite among the locals. Western sports like volley ball, field hockey, rugby union, gulf and baseball are also gaining popularity in Cambodia. Cambodian dance is divided into three main categories; classical dance, folk dance and vernacular dance. Khmer classical dance is a form of Cambodian dance initially performed only for royalty. The dances have elements in common with Thai classical dance. This dance is an illustrious representation of Khmer culture and is often performed during public events, holidays and for tourist visiting Cambodia. Khmer folk dances are performed for audiences and are usually fast paced. The Cambodian vernacular dances are those dances which are performed at social gatherings.
Cambodian cuisine is the traditional cuisine of the people of Cambodia. Typical meals comprises of more than one dish and ideally contrasts flavours, textures and temperatures within the meal using plenty of herbs, leaves, pickled vegetables, dipping sauces, edible flowers and other garnishes and condiments. The staple food of Cambodians is rice and it is consumed by most Cambodians cooked using great number of cooking styles and techniques. There are many varieties of indigenous Khmer rice from the fragrant jasmine-scented malis rice to countless types of wild, brown and sticky rice. The cuisine of Cambodia contains tropical fruits, soups and noodles. Key ingredients are kaffir lime, lemon grass, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, tamarind, ginger, oyster sauce, coconut milk and black pepper. The French Influence on Cambodian cuisine includes the Cambodian red curry with toasted baguette bread. The toasted baguette pieces are dipped in the curry and eaten. The most popular dish is kuy teav which is a pork broth rice noodles soup with fried garlic, scallions, green onions and various toppings such as beef balls, shrimp, pork liver or lettuce. The cuisine is relatively unknown to the world compared to that of its neighbours Thailand and Vietnam. The popular Khmer dish named amok uses a kind of catfish steamed in savoury coconut-based curry. Other meats like pork and chicken are also prominent in the cuisine. Cambodians perfected the art of blending spice paste using many ingredients like cloves, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and turmeric. They add other native ingredients like galangal, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, cilantro, and kaffir lime leaves to these spices to make a rather distinctive and complex spice blend known as kroeung. There are two other unique ingredients that give Cambodian cuisines their fabulous typical flavour. One is a pungent fermented fish paste known as pra-hok and the other the kapi, a fermented prawn paste. Collectively, these ingredients have become an important aromatic combination commonly used in Cambodian cuisines. Fruits in Cambodia are popular as they have their own royal court; the durian is considered the king, the mangosteen the queen, sapodilla the prince and the milk fruit the princess. Other tropical fruits like kuy fruit, pineapple, star fruit, rose apple, mango, banana and rambutan are also consumed.
Phnom Penh is a small capital when compared to other Asian neighbours. It lies at the point where Mekong and Tonle Sao Rivers meet. This city is gradually upgrading from the blustery history while preserving its allure of colonial influence, architecture and cultural pride. The temples and royal palaces make this city’s ambience mesmeric. The legacy of Cambodia’s artistic past is still observed in the handicrafts and silverware which is found in the bustling markets of Phnom Penh.
Lying in the north west of Cambodia is Siem Reap which is principally established as the gateway to the temples of Angkor which is one of the most prominent stops on a journey through Indochina. This inactive town has advanced from its closeness to the ancient sites and possesses a flourishing dining and art scene overall making the ultimate blend of ancient and modern cultures. The Angkor Wat is an outstanding moated mausoleum-temple which was once dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu and now is a UNESCO heritage site which represents the glorious Khmer civilisation. This unique landmark is now a peaceable Buddhist complex with daunting lotus towers, stylish courtyards and sophisticated artefacts. The huge walled city of Angkor Thom comprises of gigantic faces which form the pillar of the temple. The delicately decorated temple Preah khan and the magical ruined temple monastery of Ta Phrom are being domesticated by the jungle.
Sihanoukville is a laid back, idyllic beach destination located on the southern shores of Cambodia. The white sands and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a relaxed beach atmosphere to provide a great tropical breakout. This place is best to enjoy the fresh seafood directly from the ocean, snorkelling and a carefree chill out. Cambodia’s second largest city lies in the heart of the Northwest region; Battambang is the main hub which connects the entire region with Phnom Penh and Thailand. The main part of the city is located close to the Sangker River which is a tranquil and small body of water that winds its way through Battambang province. It is a lovely scenic background with much of Cambodia’s French architecture to give an addition to the beauty of the city.
Kratie is one of Cambodia’s eastern provinces with less population who make their lives on the riverbanks of the Mekong. This provincial capital lies on the banks of the might Mekong River which emboss the province from the North to the South. This region is a home to a group of rare sweet water Irrawaddy dolphins. Dolphins are the main tourist attraction of the province and town.
The Angkor which is the former capital of the ancient Khmer Empire is one of the most spectacular Hindu religious sites in the world. The Angkor Wat features an elaborate sixty six metre central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. This is Cambodia’s most iconic sight and is a state of preservation of the Khmer cultures. Set in the Phnom Penh is the national museum of the country which plays home to one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Khmer art including bronzes, sculptures and ceramics. The Royal Palace is Phnom Penh’s showpiece attraction and makes a fabulous sight with its stupas, murals and towering spires. Travelling from Phnom Penh by boat is a tremendous way to reach the Angkor temples from the capital as it is the best chance to observe the scenery and culture of Cambodia’s life giving waterways.