NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Phnom Penh
Population: 13.6 million
Area: 70,000 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 855
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Cambodia Riels = $0.00 US Calculate Other Amounts
A tourist visa costing $20 is required for travel to Cambodia.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
The best literary way to discover Cambodia is through travelogues, histories, and memoirs. A Dragon Apparent, Norman Lewis's 1950 account of his journeys through the land, provides a window into Cambodia before the horrors of the late 20th century, and David Chandler's History of Cambodia covers 2,000 years, from the building of Angkor Wat to the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Bruno Dagens' pocket-size Angkor: Heart of an Asian Empire collects the impressions of early Angkor explorers. Two gripping autobiographical accounts of survival during the Khmer Rouge are François Bizot's The Gate and Luong Ung's First They Killed My Father.
To learn more about the rise of the terrifying Khmer Rouge from movies, rent Roland Joffé's Oscar-winning film, The Killing Fields. Angkor provided a memorable backdrop to Lord Jim and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, but its most extended close-up came in Jean-Jacques Annaud's nature drama Two Brothers, about a pair of orphaned tiger cubs.
Cambodiancalled Khmercuisine vaguely resembles Thai food, but it emphasizes tart or sour tastes, such as tamarind. The country's lakes and rivers produce a bounty of freshwater fish that is steamed, smoked, fried, or fermented into pungent prahok paste. The Elephant Walk Cookbook, by Longteine de Monteiro, a Khmer cook who operates several Elephant Walk restaurants in Boston, provides an excellent introductionand delicious recipesto this overlooked cuisine. Cambodian Cooking, by Joannes Riviere, the highly regarded chef at Meric in Siem Reap, is another welcome guide. International fare is available in the bigger cities, but would you really want to pass up trying exotic street-food delicacies such as tarantula sate and soft-boiled duck embryo? But be warned: To experience more of Cambodia than its bathrooms, avoid tap water and ice cubes at all costs.
Cambodia is a poor country, so prices for most things are cheap. The bad news is that there isn't much worth buying. The exception to this is the exquisite handmade silk. Skip the inferior machine-produced offal they'll try to sell you. Instead, ask for leak tomuhjeat, a.k.a. the good stuff. Prices are marked for haggling, but this isn't the Middle East, so if you're too fierce, the merchant may not sell you anything.
There's usually no need to exchange American dollars for the local riel; most merchants will give you as fair an exchange rate as the money changers. A value added tax of 10 percent is added to every purchase you make, but only if you buy goods in larger stores will you be able to get the necessary paperwork to file for a refund. Tipping in Cambodia, as in most of Southeast Asia, is not common practice, but anything extra will be much appreciated in this nation of extremely low wages.
Conditions have changed remarkably over the past decade, and the country is generally peaceful and safe. Still, it is advisable to take care at night and always travel by taxi or tuk tuk rather than motorcycle. Also, landmines are still a real danger in Cambodia, with up to six million live mines dotting the countryside. Observe all posted warnings and stick to the beaten trackeven at Angkor.
January: 1, New Year's Day; 7, Victory from the Khmer Rouge
February: 5, Meak Bochea
March: 8, Women's Day
April: 13-15, Cambodian New Year; 25, Birth of the Buddha
May: 1, Labor Day; 19, Royal Ploughing Day
June: 18, Queen's Birthday
September: 24, Constitution Day
October: 14, Pchum Ben Day; 23, Celebration of the Paris Accord; 30, King's Birthday
November: Bonn Om Teuk (Water Festival); 9, Independence Day