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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT CAMBODIA

Cambodia has so much to offer the international traveler in terms of a rich cultural, natural and historical heritage. Not only are there the world renowned Angkor Wat complex and surrounding temples steeped in history and mystique, but for those who enjoy relaxing on tropical beaches Cambodia undoubtedly offers some of the most beautiful unspoiled beaches in the world. Offshore lie coral islands and exotic fish while inland indigenous flora and fauna, waterfalls and tropical forests all await discovery.



Without question, the heritage of Cambodia far surpasses that of any of its neighbors, harking back to a past time when Cambodia was the dominating force of the region. Its territory, far in excess of its current one, encompassed much of what is now Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The architectural achievements from this period are without equal in the region and are on par with the wonders of ancient Egypt or the Aztec monuments



Geography

Cambodia covers an area of 181,035 square kilometers and is divided into 21 provinces. It is bordered to the North by Thailand and Laos, to the East and South by Vietnam, and to the South and Southwest by the Gulf of Thailand. Much of Cambodia is relatively flat with vast tracts of land given over to rice production. Other areas of Cambodia are mountainous, including the Dangrek, Cardomen, and Elephant mountain ranges.



Climate and Seasons

As a tropical country Cambodia is bathed in almost all year sunshine and has a high average temperature. There are two distinct seasons, the dry and the monsoon. The monsoon lasts from May to October with southwesterly winds ushering in the clouds that bring 75-80 percent of the annual rainfall often in spectacular intense bursts for an hour at a time with fantastic lightening displays. The dry season runs from November to April averaging temperatures from 27 to 40 degrees Celsius. The coolest and most comfortable for those from cooler climes is from October to January.



Language

The Cambodian language, Khmer, is part of the Mom-Khmer family and has its origins in Pali and Sanskrit. It is spoken all over the country except in some tribal areas where local indigenous languages are used. In larger towns and cities English is spoken by an increasing number of educated people. French is spoken by some of the older members of society and Chinese by many of the business people. All facilities catering to tourists employ English speaking staff who more often than not speak several other local and international languages including German, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and even Russian.



Religion

Though abolished during the Pol Pot regime the official religion is Theravada Buddhism, which is also practiced in Laos, Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka. Theravada Buddhism was introduced to Cambodia in the 12th Century by King Jayavarman VII, where it replaced Hinduism. Much of this is in evidence at Angkor Wat where Buddhist statues sit atop Hindu plinths.



Ethnic Groups

The largest ethnic group is the Khmers. Of the minority groups the largest is Vietnamese. There are also a significant number of Chinese descendants who dominate the business community and indigenous minority groups of Hmong, Pong, and Tai amongst others who are collectively known an Khmer Leu.



Health

All visitors to Cambodia should have up to date inoculations as recommended by their doctors. Visitors should take preventive measures against mosquitoes as in any tropical country, especially at dusk. Health insurance, especially medical evacuation cover is recommended as international standard healthcare is minimal, especially in rural areas.



Food

Rice and fish are the main staple of the typical Cambodian diet though many dishes are prepared with beef, pork or chicken. Seafood is abundant in coastal areas with shrimps and crab amongst the favorites. Local specialties include Amok (fish cooked in coconut milk) and a variety of soups, and curries similar in taste though not in spiciness to Thailand. Phnom Penh is truly cosmopolitan with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Nepalese, Indian, Turkish, Mexican, French, Western and other restaurants dotted around the capital.



Entertainment

There is a large choice of entertainment venues around Phnom Penh from lively nightclubs to quieter social venues to karaoke bars and fully licensed casinos. For those interested in cultural offerings there is traditional Cambodian music and dance, especially the graceful and popular Apsara dancing which dates back to the Angkorian period, the Russian trained royal ballet, performances of classical Western music and the French Cultural Center offers something different every night from dance to theatre to cinema and music. Bars and nightclubs are widely available especially overlooking the river., One such place is the Foreign Correspondents Club, an interesting meeting spot for expatriate residents and foreign visitors. In addition, many international hotels provide live entertainment for their guests such as jazz pianists and vocalists singing contemporary ballads. Cambodia’s guests are never short of anything interesting to do regardless of taste and personal preference.



Handicrafts and Souvenirs

Cambodia is widely recognized as being associated with beautiful carvings though many of the artisans were executed during the Pol Pot regime. Cambodia is home to some of the most exquisite religious sculptures in the world, many of which command extraordinary prices on the world market. Woven silk products are highly popular as are basketry, gold and silverware, and all kinds of jewelry made from precious stones including the famous Pailin rubies. Also to be found are traditional musical instruments, paintings, and ornate stone rubbings taken from the temples.



Sports facilities

All the major international hotels have the usual range of sport and leisure facilities including multi-gyms, saunas, pools, and tennis. There are also independent fitness centers around the capital including the International Youth club with an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Near the center of town is the Olympic stadium with free access to the running track and sports field.



Currency and Banking

The official currency if Cambodia is the Riel which come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000, and 100,000 notes. However, in the major towns and cities US dollars can be freely spent though travelers are recommended to use smaller denomination notes as change may be difficult. Most places will refuse old, tatty, or damaged US bills. Due to the economic problems in the region the currency has slipped from 2500 to the US dollar to around 3700 to 3900 to the dollar at the time of publication meaning Cambodia is an even better value for money tourist destination than before. Popular local and international currencies can be exchanged openly and freely and there is no black market. Major credit and charge cards are only accepted in a few places so travelers’ checks or cash are recommended.



Working hours

Government offices: 7:30 am to 11:30 am and 2pm to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Business offices: 8:00 am to noon and 2pm to 5pm Monday to Saturday.

Shops: 8am to 8pm 7 days a week.

Banks: 8:00 to 3pm Monday to Friday

Markets: 6am to 5pm 7 days a week.



Visas

Cambodian tourist visas are obtainable upon arrival at Pochentong International Airport and at Siem Reap International airport. The application procedure is very simple and takes approximately ten minutes to complete. One passport photograph is required and the one-month visa costs $20. Similarly, an extendible business visa is also available upon arrival and costs $25.



To further ease the application process, Nine Dragons Tours, as part of their customer care policy, will facilitate the application prior to arrival. Clients may fax or e-mail their personal details though they must still bring a passport photo with them. Arrival and departure cards and customs declarations forms, usually issued on the airplane, must be completed on arrival and kept until departure.





Getting There

There are direct flights to the capital of Phnom Penh from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vientiane, and Guangzhou. All of these cities serve as gateways to Cambodia meaning Cambodia is easily reached from further afield. Cambodia can also be reached by road from Thailand and Vietnam. Another exotic way to reach Cambodia is by river boat or sea cruise.



Direct flights exist from Bangkok to Siem Reap, the home of Angkor Wat, and schedules have been expanded to twice a day. For those with limited time Nine Dragons Tours can organize special accompanied excursions in conjunction with other tour operators for those vacationing in Thailand but still wish to experience the wonders of The Lost City of Angkor.

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shamraiz said...

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