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Cambodia information

Cambodia is a Southeast Asian country bordered by  the Republic Socialist of Vietnam to the East (1,228km), Thailand (803km) to the Northwest, Laos (541km) to the Northeast, and the Gulf of Thailand to the Southwest.

Official name: Kingdom of Cambodia, sometimes transliterated as Kampuchea to more closely represent the Khmer pronunciation.

Capital and largest city: Phnom Penh

Topography: Cambodia is a country of forested mountains and well-watered plains. The central part of the country forms a gigantic basin for the Tonle Sap and the Mekong River, which flows down from Laos to the southern border with Vietnam. Between the Tonle Sap and the Gulf of Thailand lie the Cardamom Mountains and the Elephant Range, which rise abruptly from the sea and from the eastern plains. In the north, the Dangrek Mountains, 320 km long and 300 to 750 m high, mark the Thailand frontier. The short coastline has an important natural harbor, Kompong Som Bay, where the port of Kompong Som (formerly Sihanoukville) is located.

The Mekong and the Tonle Sap dominate the life and economy of Cambodia. The Mekong overflows during the rainy season, deposits vast quantities of alluvial soil, and, backing toward the Tonle Sap, causes that lake to increase in size from about 2,590 sq.km to almost 24,605 sq km.

Rivers: concentrate in three areas TonleThom, Tonle Sap and the Gulf of Thailand.

Population: Estimate 15,205,53914 inhabitants (2010) composed of 19 ethnic groups, among which 90% of Khmer people.

Climate: Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate. There are two seasons with little seasonal temperature variation. Average temperature is 25-30oC. The rainy season goes from May to November, the dry season from December to April.

Administrative divisions: Cambodia is divided into 25 units including the capital,  20 provinces and 4 municipalities. Province is divided into provincial districts, then into communes, hamlets, villages; municipality is divided into urban districts, wards.

Currency: The official currency in Cambodia is the Riel (KHR) which come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 50000 and 100000 notes. 1 US dollar can be exchanged approximately 4,500 Riel.

The cost of your Cambodia’s trip depends on your own personal spending habits. But it's best to set aside approximately 200 US$ or  900.000 KHR per week for food, drinks, tips, and small souvenirs ... (estimated 29 US$ or 131.000 KHR per day).

Religions: Theravada Buddhism is the prevailing official religion in Cambodia and approximately ninety percent of the population is Buddhist. Islam, Hinduism and Christianity are also embraced in Cambodia.

Since Buddha statues and images represent the revered Buddha, visitors are asked to treat all such statues and images with respect, so as not to offend local people.

In Cambodia, regardless of religion, the country maintains a harmonised state.

Language: Khmer

Culture: Cambodia has a rich culture stretched over centuries. Religion plays an important role in social and cultural activities as well as daily lives. Through 2000 years, the people of Cambodia have developed an original Khmer belief mixed with other beliefs such as local animism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Transport: You can easily get around from one place to another place by airplanes (6 international airports), local buses, taxi, speed boat, and Tuk Tuk (mostly found Phnom Penh and Siem Reap).

Gastronomy:  Cambodia is the country of one of the oldest cuisine in the world with the healthiest recipes. Like many other Asia countries, rice is the staple food in Cambodia and is the important ingredient to make numerous dishes.   Cambodian cuisine or more appropriately, Khmer cuisine came about as a fusion of several influences. To give an idea of typical Cambodian foods, they look almost like Thai food, with lots of herbs and leaves. They also have a lot of noodle-based recipes which they borrowed from another neighbor, Vietnam. Then when it comes to appearance, Cambodians have somewhat learned from the French, talking about food presentation, as a simple beef salad can look so yummy. The Chinese, another neighbor who also are accomplished kitchen wizards, have also found their way towards Cambodian foods, mostly on foods that use noodles and dumplings.

In general, Cambodians would go for a fish and rice diet as it is a geographical tendency having the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers to catch the fish from and irrigates the soil when it overflows. Some of the fish can be made into prahok for longer storage.

Some popular dishes


                                 Fish Amok                                        Bai Sach Chrouk                                           Kuey Teav

Grilled seafood. With the enormous Tonlé Sap lake in the north, the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers running through the center, and the Gulf of Thailand at the southern coast, seafood is part of daily eating and always sparkling fresh. Often, it’s simply grilled or fried. These small squid were grilled on a tableside brazier, and like so many Cambodian dishes, this dish is all about the trimmings: sliced cucumber, Asian basil, and a combination of fish sauce, garlic, chili and lime juice. When you skewer a little of everything together, you get a delicious combination of flavors and textures: tender squid, cool cucumber crunch, snappy basil, and sweet-spicy sauce.

Fish AmokThis fish curry is often called Cambodia’s national dish, and for good reason—its presentation is beautiful and it tastes even better. Fish amok gets its signature flavor from kroeung, an aromatic curry paste made with lemongrass, galangal, fresh turmeric, shallots, garlic, and a little chili. The kroeung is mixed with coconut milk, which turns a beautiful golden yellow. Mild white fish and shredded kaffir lime leaves are added to the curry, which is steamed in a banana-leaf cup. Every restaurant prepares fish amok slightly different—some are saucier and others becomes custardy as they steam.

Bai Sach Chrouk (BBQ pork and rice). One of Cambodia’s most popular breakfast dishes, and one that would be great all day if there was any bai sach chrouk left past 9 am. No two recipes are the same, but all feature pork marinated in garlic, soy, and coconut milk slowly grilled over charcoal, where it becomes smoky and caramelized. The pork is sliced thin, sprinkled with scallions and served over rice and fresh sliced cucumbers and green tomatoes, with a small bowl of gingery, lightly pickled cucumber, daikon, and green mango on the side. The best way to eat bai sach chrouk is to scoop a bite of pork, rice and pickle all together.

Kuy Teav (noodle soup)is a popular soup made with clear, light, nourishing pork broth. People start eating kuy teav at breakfast, but you’ll find it all day. I heard it was traditionally served with thin rice noodles, but I found it just as often with the yellow egg noodles pictured here. The meat toppings vary: it can have slices of pork, beef, meatballs, or chunks of juicy poached chicken. The soup also has some greens, and it’s garnished with scallions and fried garlic. On the side, you get a small bowl with a mix of chili sauce and sweet hoisin sauce, plus lime halves. Spoon in the sauce, squeeze some limes, and dig in.


                                   Sour Fruit                                   Green Mango Salad                                            Lort Cha

Sour Fruit. Sweet, sour, spicy, and salty: this addictive snack hits them all. Green, unripe fruit, including various types of mango, plus guava, ambarella, jujube, otaheite apple, tamarind, and more, are sliced and sprinkled with chili-and-salt spiked sugar. The fruit is juicy and crunchy, some bites have a hint of natural sweetness, and others are puckeringly sour. The sugar-chili-salt mixture is popular with all fruit—you’ll often receive a small bag of it when you buy sliced pineapple, papaya or sweet mango, but it’s best on unripe fruit.

Green Mango Salad. Cambodians love mangoes and eat them at every stage of ripeness, and the greenest ones become shredded salad. Similar to Thai green papaya salad, Cambodian green mango salad is more refreshing and citrusy, and less pungent and spicy, with that same winning combination of sweet, sour, savory, and crunchy. Shavings of green mango are mixed with shallots and Asian basil and mint, and vegetables including carrots, red and green peppers, and tomatoes. The dressing is made with shallots, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, and just a tiny bit of bird’s eye chili. A small portion of green mango salad often turns up as a relish with grilled fish and meats.

Khmer Iced Coffee. It’s important to stay cool in such a hot country, and Cambodians have figured out a winning method: Rich, dark, strong-brewed coffee poured over a full cup of ice with sweetened condensed milk. The drink is similar to Vietnamese iced coffee, but Cambodian coffee beans are roasted with a little fat, either butter or lard, which deepens the flavor. The intense coffee combined with the sweet milk tastes like chocolate to me. Khmer iced coffee lies at the intersection of morning pick-me-up and milkshake.

Num Sang Khya L’peou (pumpkin custard). Local pumpkins, which look more like kabocha squash than jack-o-lanterns, are scooped out and filled with a mixture of egg yolk, palm sugar, and coconut milk, then baked or steamed. Slices of pumpkin custard are served at room temperature with a scoop of shaved ice and coconut milk poured on top—yet another dish where all the elements combine to make something more exciting than the separate parts.


                             Pumpkin Custard                                     Grilled Seafood                           Khmer Muslim Beef Curry

Lort Cha. Lort Cha is a dish made of short, fat rice noodles stir-fried with leafy greens, soy sauce and fish sauce. As the soft noodles cook, they pick up wok char and absorb the flavorful sauce. Just before the dish is finished in the wok, the cook adds a large handful of bean sprouts, which are the same length as the noodles and make for a crunchy complement. Lort cha is topped with a fried egg and squeezes of sweet chili sauce and spicy chili paste. 

Khmer Muslim Beef CurryChunks of beef are cooked until spoon-tender in a red curry made from ginger, coriander, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, onions, cardamom and palm sugar. Some versions include peanuts, which soften as they cook in the sauce. Khmer Muslim beef curry is served with baguette for dipping—or for making a delicious, and very sloppy, sandwich.

Samlor kari is Khmer red curry in Cambodia which is made of chicken, beef or fish. It’s often cooked with sweet potatoes, julienned onion, snake beans, bamboo shoot, eggplant, potatoes, fresh coconut milk, lemongrass and kroeung. The soup is usually served as a dipping sauce for bread.

Tourism: the tourism industry is the country's second-greatest source of revenue after the textile industry. Most visitors arrived through Siem ReapPhnom Penh and other destinations.Other tourist destinations include Sihanoukville in the south west which has several popular beaches and the sleepy riverside town of Battambang in the east, both of which are a popular stop for backpackers who make up a large of portion of visitors to Cambodia.The area around Kampot and Kep including the Bokor Hill Station are also destinations of interest to visitors. 


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