Eye On Cambodia

A BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR KINGDOM
 

The history of Cambodia began in the first century A.D with the establishment of a State called Funan. Funan is still renowned as being the oldest Indianized State in the whole of Southeast Asia. Modern day Khmer customs and language evolved from this period in time.

Sanskrit, which is part of the Mon Khmer family dialect, was the written and spoken language of that time. The officially known religion began with Hinduism, which over the years evolved into Buddhism. Distinct characteristics of that period still remain today. These features can be recognized in ancient buildings, and ancient farming methods, as well as country clothing.

Royal Palace The State of Funan was situated in what is known today as the southern province of and lasted for a period of 600 years. This dynasty gave way to the powerful Angkor Empire that was eventually responsible for establishing the Khmer Kingdom, as we know it today.

The following generation of powerful kings that belonged to the Angkorian dynasty are believed to have come from India and Javanese part of today’s Indonesia. The dynasty reigned for a period of 650 years, and their empire covered much of South East Asia, as we know it today. Their territory stretched from Burma, which lies east, to the South China Sea and further north, right up to Laos.

Khmer kings, during this golden period of rule, built the most ornate and extensive temples or prasats known to mankind. These spectacular constructions were built throughout the kingdom, Angkor Wat, is of course the most famous. Amongst the most successful of the Angkorean kings was Preah Bat Jaya Varman II, Preah Bat Indra Varman I, Preah Bat Surya VarmanII, and Preah Bat Jaya Varman VII. Besides building the most majestic prasats on earth, they were also responsible for huge agricultural feats of engineering which included sophisticated irrigation systems, great water reservoirs, and countless canal systems that guaranteed food transport. Some of these systems are still in use even today.

Angkor became the capital of a great kingdom and the centre for government, education, religion, and commerce. However, in the late 13th century a sudden shift of power took place. Angkor was invaded and eventually, completely ravaged. Mankind’s most predominant creation on earth was plunged into total destruction. The entire population and wealth of a once proud civilization was abandoned and covered by tropical forest.

Following the abandonment of Angkor, Cambodia’s capital population migrated south to Long Vek, then further to Ou Dong, and eventually to Phnom Penh. The destruction of the mighty Angkorian capital also caused a decline, adaptation, and eventual replacement of Hinduism. Theravada Buddhism became the national religion.

From the 15th century to the 17th century, Cambodia often found itself encroached by neighboring Thai and Vietnamese forces. They resisted, but eventually succumbed to a European colonial power. In 1863, Preah Bat Norodom signed a Protectorate Treaty which France, which consequently placed Cambodia under French rule for the next 90 years.

After the death of Preah Bat Norodom in 1904, Preah Bat Sisowath, cousin to King Norodom, was subsequently crowned as the new king of Cambodia.

However, the throne returned to the Norodom family with the following coronation of Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk, our current monarch, in 1941. At that time he was only 18 years old.

Shortly after that, during the Second World War in 1945, the Japanese ousted the French. King Norodom Sihanouk took the opportunity to free Cambodia from foreign control. For many years following, His majesty campaigned tirelessly for this objective, and was eventually rewarded. Cambodian was granted its independence in 1953. The Independence ceremony marked the end of 90 years of French protectorate rule. In 1959, King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the throne, turning the position of Kingship over to his father, Preah Bat Norodom Soramarith. Then, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, became the Head of State and ruled the government.

From 1950 through to 1970, the Kingdom of Cambodia was self-sufficient and prosperous. It excelled in many areas of development. Cambodia was then known as the jewel of the Orient. Unfortunately the prosperity was very short lived. As war started to escalate in Vietnam, Cambodia’s borders increasingly became the targets of American and Vietnamese aggression. On March 18th, 1970, General Lon Nol, backed by the Americans,  overthrew the Head of State Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Consequently, Cambodia became deeply involved in the war, fighting mainly against the Communist Khmer fighting faction, the Khmer Rouge. Lon Nol’s control over Cambodia’s government lasted for a period of barely five years, being eventually overthrown by the Khmer Rouge, headed by Pol Pot on the 17th of April 1975.

History repeated itself once again as soon as Pol Pot invaded. The entire population evacuated the city leaving a once vibrant capital in ruin and decay. After the evacuation, The Khmer Rouge tricked Prince Norodom Sihanouk in to returning to Phnom Penh to be Head of State, but he was not allowed to Phnom Penh to be Head of State, but he was not allowed to leave the Palace walls-in effect he was placed under house arrest. The Khmer Rouge then proceeded to implement a “reign of terror” on Cambodia’s entire population. People were brutally forced to work as slaves in the rice fields. These people had to endure long periods of hard, painful labor while effectively being starved at the same time. Pol pot’s Kampuchean force labor camps tortured, killed or starved to death an estimated 2 million people, including women and children who they savagely put to death indiscriminately.

In 1979, The People’s Republic of Kampuchea, supported by Vietnamese, liberated the capital. This presented the opportunity for the country to become re-established once again. Throughout the 1980’s, Cambodia, with the assistance of the Vietnamese re-built their economy.

In1989,  the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia and the country was re-named “State of Cambodia.” In 1991, a Paris Peace Accord created the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) which was backed by some 22,000 United Nations troops to prepare the first, free and fair general election. In May 1993 UNTAC supervised Cambodia’s first general election. Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk Was subsequently re-instated as King. A second general election was held in July 1998.

Today, the Kingdom of Cambodia is once again a peaceful place to visit. It is, at present, in the process of getting rebuilt. Cambodia now in-corporates a Parliamentary Government system, with His Majesty Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk Varman, King and Head of State; H.E. Samdech Chea Sim, President of the Senate; H.R.H. Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh, President of the National Assembly and H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister. His Majesty effectively remains the symbol of national unity for the people of Cambodia who hold him dear to their hearts.

 

FACT FILE
 

Offecial Name: KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA

National Flag

Area 181,035km2.  It is bordered to the North by Thailand and Laos, to the East and the South by Vietnam, and to the South and the West by the Gulf of Thailand.

Capital City Phnom Penh (Population approx 2 Million, 290 square kilometers). It is considered the center of Industry, Administration, Commerce, and Tourism.

Population 13,124,764 Million (2003 est.) (90-95% Khmers) the balance being ethnic Chinese, Cham, ethnic Vietnamese and hill-tribe people.

Language Khmer, secondary languages: English and French

Religion 95% Theravada Buddhist with the balance being Muslim, Christian and animist

Food and Drink Rice and fish are the basic foods enjoyed by Cambodians. Delicious noodle soups are available at cafes. Fresh seafood is plentiful at Sihanouk Ville. In major cities a wide range of culinary fare is on offer including; Chinese, Thai, French, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern.

Climate Cambodia has four seasons:
   1. Nov-Feb, cool/dry
   2. Mar-May, hot/dry
   3. Jun-Aug, hot/wet
   4. Sep-Oct, cool/wet

Time GMT+7 hours

Voltage 220v/50Hz

Currency RIEL (USD1 approximately 4000 Riels). US dollars are widely accepted.

Tipping Tipping isn’t obligatory but is widely practiced in hotels and restaurants in addition to the service charges shown on bills.

Visas
  – Can be obtained at Royal Embassies and Consulates of Cambodia
  – A visa on arrival, valid for 30 days, is issued at Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport. Poi Pet, O’Smach and Cham Yeam at the Cambodia-Thailand international border checkpoint and Bavet, Kaam Samnor at the Cambodia-Vietnam international border checkpoint.
  – Visa fee: Business visa: USD25, Tourist visa: USD20. More information››

Airport Taxi For visitors entering Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport, a taxi into the city will cost USD7 and will take approximately 15 minutes. Most hotels and better guesthouses provide airport pickups for booked guests. A (non-metered) taxi from Siem Reap International Airport into town, 8km away, costs about USD5 and takes 10-15 minutes.

Local Transport Cars and mini-buses are readily available for touring the temples at Angkor or for day trips in and around Phnom Penh. The cost of a car and driver is US$20+per day.

Hotels and Guesthouses There are many of each in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Accommodation ranges from guesthouses charging from USD5/night to luxurious 5-star hotels. In Siem Reap there are several small hotels along the road between the airport and the town. (These are peaceful as they?re set among rice fields and palms but require a taxi ride for each venture outside).

Nightlife Plenty available, but take your own driver or “motodop” (motorbike taxi driver) for the evening.

Telephone Country code: 855, Phnom Penh code: 23. Phone cards are available, and can be purchased at many outlets. There are also several mobile phone systems. Mobile phones can be rented from booths on the street on a pay-per-call basis.

Opening Hours Government offices: business hours are from 7:30am-11: 30am and 2:30pm-5pm, Monday to Friday. Banks are open from 8am-3pm Monday to Friday. Markets are open from early morning to late evening, including Sundays and pubic holidays.

Postal service Airmail to Europe takes 4-5 days, and to the USA 7-10 days

Newspapers English dailies: The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily.

Internet services The Internet and E-mail are available in city and all the provinces.

Tourist information Ministry of Tourism. Tel.: (855)23 211 593, Fax: (855)23 212 837

Emergency There are emergency services in Phnom Penh. Call 119 ambumlance, Call 118 fire truck, Call 117 polices.

International Gate Ways
  – Phnom Penh International Airport
  – Siem Reap International Airport
  – Sihanoukville Port (Visa on Arrival)
  – Airport Tax:
     International Airport:
        – Foreigner: USD25
        – Cambodian: USD18
     Domestic:
        – Foreigner: 6USD
        – Cambodian: 5USD (Effective from 5th January 2004)

International Border Checkpoints
  – Bavet (Svay Rieng Province)
  – Kaam Samnor-Koh Rokar (Kandal-Prey Veng)
  – Cham Yeam (Koh Kong Province)
  – Poi Pet (Banteay Meanchhey Province)
  – O’Smach (Oddar Meanchhey Province)
  – Phnom Den (Takeo Province): No Visa on Arrival
  – Dong Krolor (Stung Treng Province): No Visa on Arrival

Getting to Cambodia
Most international visitors arrive by air at the airports in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. These airports are serviced by an increasing number of airlines. A growing number of tourists are also entering overland from Thailand and Vietnam.

Domestic Flights
City                       Airport Code
– Phnom Penh            PNH
– Siem Riep               REP
– Battambang            BBM
– Mondulkiri               MWV
– Rattanakhiri            RBE
– Stung Treng            TNX
– Sihanouk Ville         KOS
– Koh Kong                KKZ
– Poipet                     HPP

Cambodia has six airports at Battambang, Mondulkiri, Phnom Penh, Rattanakhiri, Siem Riep and Stung Treng. All flights pass through Phnom Penh International Airport.

CULTURE AND TRADITION
 

Traditional arts and crafts are abundant in Cambodia. Scuptures., paintings and curving done with great care and attention. One can view such antiquities in market place, shop or museum.

The variety of arts and crafts are large in range and include such item as: silver and gold jewellery, wicker were furniture, fine hard wood furniture, silks, marble sculptures, high quality China, leather ware and much more. There is a sharp eye for detail here and much of the products will be intricately carved especially the furniture, sculptures etc.

Unfortunately, much of these works completely ceased to exist during the Khmer Rouge dictatorship. Artisans ware instead forced to work in labour camps, where most of them died painful deaths. Many arts and crafts also purposely perished during that time.

Today there has been a revival, due to a great deal of restoration work, which has been initiated by foreign governments. Now many centers have been established to keep the ancient methods of the craftwork alive. You can see examples of this throughout the country.

 

ART & HANDICRAFTS
 

Across the land of green rice paddies, shining blue waters, great wandering rivers and lush forests, the people of Cambodia are re-learning the arts of their ancestors.

Silk Weaving
Gem-coloured silk in a brilliant array of colours are stacked floor to ceiling in shops at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. This Cambodian handicraft has been passed down from generation to generation. You can visit silk weavers in various places in Cambodia including Kandal, Prey Veng and Takeo provinces. The colours of traditional Khmer silk costumes are historically associated with the days of the week as follows:

Yellow for Monday, Purple for Tuesday, Green and Copper on Wednesday, Green for Thursday, Blue on Friday, Violet for Saturday and Red for Sunday.

Silver
The art of the Silversmith reached its height in Cambodia during the 11th century when crafted objects were used primarily by Royalty and the upper classes for ceremonial purposes including funerals and religious rituals. You will find city market stalls offering many silver items for sale including intricate fruit and animal designs as well as traditional style pieces.

Carvings
Wood carvings reflect strong spiritual beliefs with roots in animism from the pillars of a house to the elaborate motifs of the moon, stars, fruit and flowers. Houses are built with great attention given to the pillars, each having its own spirit of a woman, and roofs feature elaborate carved motifs. Miniature ¨Spirit Houses¨ are strategically placed at homes and other buildings and they are used for offerings of food, flowers and incense. Carved boxes and statues are used for ornamentation and furniture.

Stone carving is another popular art form and again you will find many vendors in the main tourist markets offering pieces for sale. There is an excellent array of reproduction pieces available.

 

MAPS OF KIMGDOM CAMBODIA
 

This map shows location of the Kingdom of Cambodia in ASEAN, also shows the locations of countries nearby Cambodia.

This map shows location of major provinces of the Kingdom of Cambodia, also reveals the Cambodia’s frontiers with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Through this map, you can find major resorts in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Through this map, you can see Phnom Penh’s view from the top. It will guide you to the attractive places in this Capital.

With this Siem Reap City’s map, you can take a whole view of the Angkor complex.

Siem Reap town network

This map shows a triangle aspect of the Angkor Wat temple area.
Tourist map of Kampong Thom province.
Ratanak Kiry road network and tourism sites attractions.
This Sihanouk Ville map, you can take a whole view of the Sihanouk Ville.

 

 

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