Cambodia Introduction

Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia of incredible beauty, with famous breathtaking temples, fertile plains dotted with rice fields, and a history unlike any other. The dominant religion is Buddhism, which places value on hospitality and kindness. Each year, Cambodia draws millions of tourists who come to enjoy the country’s breathtaking sights and enter the walls of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat – one of the seven wonders of the world.

Cambodia, which is physically located in Southeast Asia, covers an area of 181,035 sq km (69,898 sq mi). Most of the country consists of a low-lying alluvial plain that occupies the central part of the country. To the southeast of the plain lies the delta of the Mekong River. To the east of the plain, ranges of undulating hills separate Cambodia from Vietnam. To the southwest a mountain range, the Chuor Phnum Krâvanh, fringes the plain and forms a physical barrier along the country’s coast. Cambodia’s highest peak, Phnom Aural (1,813 m/5,948 ft) rises in the eastern part of this range. To the north, the Chuor Phnum Dangrek mountains separate Cambodia from Thailand.

Geographically speaking, Cambodia is divided into six major regions: the western and northwestern mountains rich in tropical forest, wildlife and fruit trees; the northeastern plateau abounding with tropical forest, wildlife, waterfalls, diamonds and magic; the central plain known as a large area of flat land for cultivating mainly rice, corns and beans; for favoring fish and mangrove, there’s the western and southwestern coastal plain popular with tourists who sunbathe on the sandy beaches, and who consume seafood; the western and northeastern valleys suitable for the development of hydro-electric power; and the peninsula suitable for tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing.

Total population is 13,81 million. Ninety percent of residents are Khmer, and the remnants of these are Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Phnorng, Kuoy, Stineng, Tamil, etc.

Land & People
The heart of the country is a saucer-shaped, gently rolling alluvial plain drained by the Mekong River and enclosed by mountain ranges; the Dangrek Mts. form the frontier with Thailand in the northwest and the Cardamom Mts. and the Elephant Range are in the southwest. About half the land is tropical forest. In general, Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate, with the wet southwest monsoon occurring between November and April and the dry northeast monsoon the remainder of the year. During the rainy season the Mekong swells and backs into the Tônlé Sap (Great Lake), increasing the size of the lake almost threefold. The seasonal rise of the Mekong floods almost 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares) around the lake, leaving rich silt when the waters recede.

One of the few underpopulated countries of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is inhabited by Cambodians (or Khmers), who comprise about 90% of the population. About 5% of the people are Vietnamese and 1% are Chinese; other ethnic groups include the Cham-Malays and the hill tribes people. Theravada Buddhism is the state religion, but religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed. About 95% of the people are Buddhists; the Cham-Malays are Muslims. Khmer is the official language, but French and English are widely used.

Customs & Tradition
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 tradition 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
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’.

Theravada Buddhism is the official prevailing religion in Cambodia, and approximately ninety percent of the population is Buddhists. The country also has minority religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Christianity which Muslims, Hindus and Christians believe in. Since Buddha’s statues and images represent the Buddha, visitors are asked to behave respectfully to all statues and images so as not to cause offense to local people. It is illegal to take any Buddha’s statues out of Cambodia without the express permission of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
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Capital City
Phnom Penh is the capital, which has an area of 290 square kilometers, is seriously considered the major center of administration, commerce, communication, culture, economy, education, industry, policy, and tourism. It is also home to legal immigrants from Australia, Burma, China, France, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Philippine, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, USA, Vietnam etc. The Phnom Penh Capital is a lifeline of Cambodian economy for sustaining residents and it is a tropical paradise for tourists and businessmen. The Phnom Penh’s resident population is said to total over two million people.