Cambodia, which is physically located in Southeast Asia occupies a total area of 181, 035 square kilometers. It is bordered to the north by Thailand and Laos, to the east by Vietnam, to the south by Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand, and the west by the Gulf of Thailand.
From the 1st to the 6th centuries, Cambodia was called the Kingdom of Funan. Modern Khmer and language, as well as the national political institutions, culture and art, evolved from this time.
There are 20 provinces and 4 municipalities.
Total population is 13.81 millions. 90% of residents are Khmer and the rest are Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Phnorng, Kuoy Stieng, Tamil etc. Chinese influence is strong, particularly in the business sector..
Khmer is official language. English is very popular with Khmer people for communicating with foreigners in administrative, commercial, diplomatic, economic, industrial and tourist affairs. The older people educated at their local comprehensive schools can speak French well. Khmer-English road and street sings are found nation wide.
95% of population is Theravada Buddhists.
The average temperature is 27C. Tropical and humid, the Cambodian climate is comprised of two main seasons affected by the tropical monsoon-the wet season from May t October and dry season from November to April. The coolest period lasts from December to January.
Rice and fish, together with array of herbs, sauces and spices are the Khmer typical cuisine. Curries and soup with beef, pork, chicken and seafood can be bought from vendors along the street. Some local cuisines are bacon with sauce, beef soup, chicken soup, beef steak, beef grill or roast beef, barbecue pork/chicken, cheese fish with meat, chilly, chops, chowder, curry, salads, stew, etc. There are also international foods available in the main cities such as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanouk Ville, etc. The available beers are Anchor Beer, Angkor Beer, ABC Beer, Tiger Beer, Singha Beer, Hennikan Beer, Extra Stout, etc. The wines and spirits are also availble.
Some Courtesies in Social Life
*When we visit to the Buddhist temples, it is advisable to dress shirts and long pants. The women are highly recommended to cover the arms and the legs.
*Avoid pointing the feet at people or touching others on their heads, as Cambodian believes one’s vital essence resides in the head.
*Keep calm in tense situations, Cambodians do not appreciate it when visitors lose their tempers.
*Cambodia is hotel, so stick to lightweight, breathable materials. Avoid clothing that is not revealing. A hat and sturdym closed-toe shoes are recommended, particularly for touring the temples.
*Photography near military posts is forbidden. It is polite to ask permission before photographing people, particularly monks.
Cambodia’s rich culture heritage colors many facets of society including art, cuisine, dance and music. They stand as an eternal testimony to the ingenuity of the human mind. They serve as windows to a realm of timeless imagination, mystery and leave you in awe of the unbridled complexity and beauty of mankind’s search for meaning in life. Without question, the cultural heritage of the Khmer people far surpasses any of Cambodia’s modern day neighbors. Khmer’s historic, architectural achievements are on par with the wonders of the ancient Egypt or the Aztecs.
Traditional Cambodian literature comprises the high tradition of religious writings, exhortations and the Reamker or Ramayana epic, alongside the popular stream of folktales, riddles and sayings.
After the war in 1979, radio announcements were made in an attempt to locate surviving performers around the country with the goal of identifying which traditional performance genres might still be practised. Some nine disciplines were eventually resurrected, and since that time the Cambodian government, in conjunction with international agencies such as UNESCO, has made strenuous efforts to widen the practitioner skills base of these ancient art forms.
Several religious and secular architectures witnessed its development in the region of Cambodia during the ancient times. From the 9th to the 15th century, under the monarchy of the Khmer empire, several religious buildings were constructed with stones. The Architecture in Cambodia during the Angkor period was quite defined and specific, those which are still in use till date. The motifs of Apsaras and devatas have always been an important element as far Architecture in Cambodia is concerned. Several celestial dancing apsaras, heavenly nymphs and female deities adorn the walls of the ancient temples which seem to be a part of the Indian mythological figures. The dancing apsaras can be witnessed at the Halls of Dancers while about 2000 devatas are found at the Angkor Wat. Most of the Cambodia Architectures were fitted with blind doors and windows which helped in maintaining evenness in the entrance way. The central sanctuary is the place where the primary deity mainly resides. Colonettes were widely used as an embellishment along the doorways which can be seen in the ethnic architecture of Cambodia. While speaking about the art and structural design of Cambodia, the Corbel arch is worth mentioning which was used in the south gate of Angkor Thom in Cambodia. The Corbel arch was made by adding stone layers to the walls with each layer pointing towards the middle. This is particular design concept which was followed by the natives whereby once the building had been abandoned it was easy to pull it down. The Khmer temple is a brilliant example of architecture in Cambodia, which is confined on all ends by the concentric series of walls. The central sanctuary is the main attraction of the temple which is based in the middle. The gallery is a passageway along the enclosed wall with an opening to one or both sides. The temple is comprised of an entrance building which was once known as Gopura. The pediments of gopura are an excellent example of Architecture in Cambodia which is adorned with guardian figures (dvarapalas) inscribed along its entryway. The Hall of Dancers is yet another Architecture in Cambodia which is situated in Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei and Banteay Chhmar. Some of the unique architectures in Cambodia are the House of Fire, or Dharmasala, set up in the temples of Jayavarman VII reign. Library can be widely seen in the Khmer temple architecture. Catch the glimpse of the Temple mountain architectures from the construction of Mount Meru, which seems to have been inspired by the Hindu mythology and from the Indian temple structural design. The patterns of mythical serpents or nagas are also an important feature as far as Architecture in Cambodia.
Cambodian Dance can be divided into three main categories, classical dance which developed in the royal courts, folk dances which portray everyday life, and vernacular dances which are danced for social functions.
Robam Tep Apsara is a Classical Khmer Dance originally performed only in the royal courts of Angkor Wat.Main article: Khmer classical dance Khmer classical dance, also known as Khmer royal ballet or Khmer court dance, is a form of Cambodia dance originally performed only for royalty. It is called robam preah reachea trop in the Khmer language, which means ‘dances of royal wealth.’The dance have many elements in common with Thai classical dance, most likely a result of the royal Khmer court exchanging culture with the royal Thai court throughout the post-Angkor era. Khmer and Thai classical dance costumes once looked very similar to each other, but Khmer dance and costume have gone under slight changes and reforms brought on by the former Queen of Cambodia, Kossamak Nearireath. During the mid-20th century, it was introduced to the public where it now remains a celebrated icon of Khmer culture, often being performed during public events, holidays, and for tourists visiting Cambodia.
Cambodian folk dance involving fishing baskets, performed as part of Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle, Washington, U.S.Folk dances here refer to a performing art where it is performed for an audience. Khmer folk dances are fast-paced. The movements and gestures are not as stylized as Khmer classical dance. Folk dancers wear clothes of the people they are portraying such as Chams, hill tribes, farmers, and peasants. Some folk dances are about love, or are folktales about animals. The folk dance music is played by a mahori orchestra, which is similar to a pinpeat orchestra except that it contains many stringed and plucked instruments and a type of flute in place of the sralai (an oboe-like instrument).
In Cambodia, vernacular dance (or social dance) are dances which are danced at social gatherings. Such dances include ram vong, ram kbach, ram saravan, lam leav (literally: “Lao dance”) and so on. Some of these dances have much influence from the traditional dances of Laos. But rom kbach, for example, take heavily from the classical dance of the royal court. Rom kbach is a simple dances which uses hand gesture similar to that of classical dance and rom kbach song also utilize the melodies of classical dance songs and combine them with traditional Khmer and Western instruments.
The music of Cambodia is derived both from the ancient Khmer Empire and the rapid Westernization which began with the fall of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.
Folk and Classical Music
Cambodian folk music is highly influenced by ancient forms as well as Hindu forms. Religious dancing, many of which depict stories and ancient myths, are common. Some dances are accompanied by a pinpeat orchestra, which includes a ching (cymbal), roneat (bamboo xylophone), pia au (flute), sralay (oboe), chappey (bass banjo), gong (bronze gong), tro (violin), and various kinds of drums. Each movement the dancer makes refers to a specific idea, including abstract concepts like today (pointing a finger upwards). The 1960s saw a revival in classical dance, led by Princess Norodom Bopha Devi.
Cambodian pop music, or modern music, is divided into two categories: ramvong and ramkbach. Ramvong is slow dance music, while ramkbach is closely related to Thai folk music. In the province Siem Reap, a form of music called kantrum has become popular; originally Thai, kantrum is famous for Thai and Cambodian stars like Darkie.
Cambodia has increasingly become involved in sports over the last 30 years. Football is popular as is martial arts in particular. The martial arts of Bokator, Pradal Serey (Khmer kick boxing) and Khmer traditional wrestling are all practised in the country.
Life expectancy at birth male/female (years) 51/57
Healthy life expectancy at birth male/female (years, 2002) 46/49
Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births) 143
Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years male/female 429/297 (per 1000 population)
Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2004) 140
Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2004) 6.7
When the people in Cambodia get sick, they can be more likely to flee public health care workers than to seek advice or treatment. Many will self treat or call in traditional healers before showing up at government-run clinics. At an average age of 57 years, Cambodians die earlier than their Vietnamese or Thai neighbors, have more babies, die more often from malaria, and are more likely to die when giving birth according to the United Nations Development Programme. After 25 years of upheaval in the country, Cambodia’s health situation is among the world’s worst.
A government program that contracts private organizations to run and upgrade public health services is helping change that. It offers a unique way to achieve quick results and underscores the importance of innovation in working toward the Millennium Development Goals. The widespread success of the program, started in 1998, has convinced officials to expand contracting from 5 to 10 of the country’s 76 districts. The program is part of the Health Sector Support Project financed through a $20 million loan from ADB. The loan is also helping construct and renovate health centers and hospitals, and support disease control campaigns against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. Under the contracting system, use of public services has risen sharply, particularly among the poor. At the same time, average out-of-pocket health costs plunged, dropping by more than $30 per capita for the bottom half of the population in some project districts.
Modern education progressed very slowly in Cambodia. The French colonial rulers did not pay attention to educating Khmer. After gaining independence from France, the government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk made substantial progress in the field of education in the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, the progress of these decades was obstructed by the civil war following the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk in the 1970 and then destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime. In an attempt to rebuild a new Cambodia with new revolutionary men and women, the Khmer Rouge set out to eradicate the old elements of Cambodia’s society, including the old education system. People with higher education such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, and former college students were killed or forced to work in labor camps. It is estimated that by the end of the Khmer Rouge time, between 75 and 80 percent of Cambodian educators either were killed, died of overwork, or left the country. At least half of the written material available in the Khmer language was destroyed. After coming to power with Vietnamese help in 1979, the government of the PRK attempted to redevelop the education system. Although significant progress was made, the process of educational redevelopment was hampered by war and lack of resources, human as well as material. In the 1990s, after the Paris Agreements and the UN sponsored elections, there were significant changes in the educational system. Teachers are being given additional training, but the educational level of teachers remains rather low over all. Six percent of Cambodia’s teachers have a primary education, 77 percent have attended lower secondary school, 14 percent upper secondary school and only 3 percent have a tertiary education (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport 1998). The school system today has pre-school for children aged three to five (but only in some areas), Primary education in grades one to six, and Lower Secondary education from grades six to nine. After grade nine is an exam to pass to enter Upper Secondary school (grades ten to twelve). After grade twelve is an exam to graduate with a diploma (called bac dup). Just in recent years, there has been an explosion of private schools, especially at the secondary and higher education levels. The government has not yet decided on accreditation standards for universities and it is difficult to determine the quality of all these new “universities” that have sprung up throughout Phnom Penh. The daily realities for both teachers and students in the Cambodian education system are thus very challenging. Teachers face inadequate salaries and the need to charge students fees for services. Students face inadequate facilities, large classroom size; sometimes travel times to nearby villages or towns, and high costs for their families. At the upper levels these problems are compounded by the need to pay bribes to pass the upper secondary level exams and to secure admission to universities. This is one factor that has contributed to the growth in private sector education.
The economy of Cambodia, in spite of recent progress, continues to suffer from the legacy of decades of war and internal strife. Per capita income, although rapidly increasing, is low compared with most neighbouring countries. The main domestic activity on which most rural households depend is agriculture and its related sub-sectors. Manufacturing output is varied but is not very extensive and is mostly conducted on a small-scale and informal basis. The service sector is heavily concentrated in trading activities and catering-related services. Reuters has reported that oil and natural gas reserves have been found off-shore. Production of oil could potentially have a great effect on the future of the economy.
Cambodia’s emerging democracy has received strong international support. Under the mandate carried out by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), $1.72 billion (1.72 G$) was spent in an effort to bring basic security, stability and democratic rule to the country. Regarding economic assistance, official donors had pledged $880 million at the Ministerial Conference on the Rehabilitation of Cambodia (MCRRC) in Tokyo in June 1992, to which pledges of $119 million were added in September 1993 at the meeting of the International Committee on the Reconstruction of Cambodia (ICORC) in Paris, and $643 million at the March 1994 ICORC meeting in Tokyo. To date, therefore, the total amount pledged for Cambodia’s rehabilitation is approximately 1.6 G$.
There are many kinds of transport in Phnom Penh & Siem Reap; the favorite modes of transport are easily accessible by taxi, car, bus, motorbike and cycle. Travel by water is popular along Tonle Sap, Tonle Bassak, and Tonle Mekong. The dramatic landscape of rivers does attract a lot of interest. Domestic airports are also built more and more. We can travel by air between Phnon Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanouk Ville and Rattanakiri.
Communications in Cambodia, specifically the postal, telegraph and telegram services under the Ministry of Communications, Transport and Posts were restored throughout most of the country in the early 1980s during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea regime after being disrupted under the Khmer Rouge.
In January 1987, the Soviet-aided Intersputnik space communications station began operation in Phnom Penh and established two-way telecommunication links between the Cambodian capital and the cities of Moscow, Hanoi, Vientiane and Paris. The completion of the earth satellite station (built on the grounds of Phnom Penh’s old Roman Catholic cathedral) restored the telephone and telex links among Phnom Penh, Hanoi, and other countries for the first time since 1975.
Although telecommunications services were initially limited to the government, these advances in communications helped break down the country’s isolation, both internally and internationally. Today, with the availability of mobile phones, communications are open to all, though recently the authority decreed that 3G mobile phones would be banned from Cambodia, out of fears the handsets would be used to access pornography.