Until the mid 19th century, the outside world knew almost nothing of the interior of Cambodia. From the 16th and 17th centuries, rumors began to surface in Europe-based on tales from Portuguese and French missionaries-about a magnificent city, hidden somewhere in the middle of the jungle. Then in 1861 French naturalist Henri Mouhot stumbled across the overgrown ruins of Angkor. The local people thought it inconceivable that their ancestors could have built the incredible temple-mountain complexes and told Mouhot they were the work of a race of giant gods.


Today, the Khmer people are very proud of their rich cultural and artistic heritage, perhaps because the cultural refinements and sophistication of their forebears stands in stark contrast to the nihilistic depravity of the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s. Sadly, more people now associate the name “Cambodia” with Khmer Rouge “Killing Field” than with Angkor Wat.


For centuries Cambodia has been in a state of continuous social and political upheaval. Since the demise of the Angkorian Empire in the 15th century, the country has been at the mercy of its much larger neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam, and of various foreign powers-China, France, the US and the former Soviet Union. This history of foreign domination is starkly overshadowed by the so called “ Pol Pot time” Between 1975 and 1979, Cambodia suffered one of the worst human tragedies to afflict any country since World War II-more than a million people died out of a total population of about 7 million. 


Cambodia’s importance in the evolution of Southeast Asian culture and history is far greater than its limited size and political power would suggest. Lying on the trade routes between China and India, Cambodia has been the center of several powerful empires-Angkor being the most famous- and later the centerpiece of struggle between Europe and nationalist movements. The tragic history of Cambodia continues today with the ongoing struggle between democratic forces of a UN supported government, the Vietnamese desire to control events in their troublesome neighbor, and the communist war of insurgency waged by the Khmer Rouge.


The Funan Empire
Knowledge of Cambodian history prior to the Funan era is limited to Neolithic artifacts uncovered near Tonle Sap and Bronze Age implements excavated near Phnom Penh and the seaport of Oc Eo. Historical records begin with the rise of the Funan Empire in the 1st century A.D, until its incorporation into the Chenla state in the 6th century. Centered along the lower reaches of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, and prosperous owing to its location on the east-west trade route between China and India, Funan eventually extended its political power south to the Malay Peninsula and east across most of present-day Vietnam.


Funan was among the earliest Asian kingdoms to embrace the Hindu culture which still profoundly shapes the history, art, and political landscapes of not only Cambodia but all Southeast Asia. Althogh populated by indigenous people and by immigrants from Indonesia and Southern China, Funan accepted much of its knowledge of religion and political organization from Indian merchants and theologians who arrived about 2,000 years ago. Eventually, these Hidu elements merced with original designs to create the first true Cambodia empire and the cultural godfather to Angkor.


The Chenla Empire

The empire of Funan was slowly displaced by the rising powers of Chenla, a Hidu-based dynasty originally located near Stung Treng and in southern Laos near Wat Phu. Diplomatic marriages subsequently gave rise to Chenla strongholds at Kompong Thom, in the center of Cambodia and Angkor Borei in Takeo.


Chenla survived as a united dynasty until the 7th century, when disputes between feuding families led to the creation of “ Land Chenla” near the Tonle Sap and “ Water Chenla” on the lower Mekong. The Water Chenla empire is famed for its use of hydraulic techniques for cultivation, a sophisticated system later exploited in the complex and highly successful system of Angkor.


The rise of Srivijaya in southern Sumatra, and new trade routes which favored Indonesian over Cambodian entrepots, eventually made Chenla a vassal state of the Sailendra dynasty on the island of Java. Several of Chenla’s rulers spent time at the Sailendra court, including Jayavarman II, who returned to Cambodia around 800 to establish the civilization of Angkor. The political connections between Java and Cambodia explain many of the architectural and sculptural similarities between the two civilizations.

The Khmer Empire

Cambodia’s most farmed empire was that of the Khmers, founded in 802 by King Jayavarman II at his capital of Angkor just north of the Tonle Sap. Renowned for its brilliant achievement in art and architecture, Angkor was also an immensely powerful nation which, between the 9th and 13th centuries, controlled most of Southeast Asia from Burma to Indochina, from China to Malaysia.


The introduction of Mahayana Buddhism, which undermined the prestige of the king, combined with the extravagance of the throne, which bankrupted the nation’s elaborate irrigation system, finally led to the decline and fall of the Angkor civilization in the 13th century. Angkor fell to the Siamese in 1431.


French Rule
The next 500 years – from the fall of Angkor to the arrival of the French in 1863 – was an undistinguished period marked by Siamese control and the flight of Cambodian power to various capitals. In 1863, after a series of devastating battles between Siamese and Vietnamese forces, the French seized Cambodia to counter British and Thai expansion up the Mekong River. Although the French did little to develop the country, private-sector investors developed the states while the government ensured the survival of the Cambodian state by supporting the king in splendor unequaled since Angkorian times. It was this support of the Cambodian throne which stifled any nationalist activity comparable to that Vietnam.


The Japanese seizure of Indochina in WW II left the French in nominal control; In 1914 they crowned the 18-years old schoolboy Prince Norodom Sihanouk the final king of Cambodia. In March 1944, Japanese forces ousted the French and persuaded Sihanouk to declare independence. The French returned after the war and in 1946, abolished the absolute monarchy, though Sihanouk remained titular head of state, Dien Bien Phu was the site the 1954 defeat of French forces in Vietnam. The withdrawal of French colonial forces from Cambodia led to the complete independence of Cambodia on 9 November 1953 and the triumphant return of Sihanouk to Phnom Penh. Sihanouk abdicated in 1955-absolute monarchies being no longer popular in Asia- but he has remained the principal political leader to the present day.






Rice is the central ingredient of any meal. Dried, salted fish is the most common accompaniment. Cambodian poultry, beef, pork, and game. An-Sam-Chruk is a Cambodia favorite: a fat roll of sticky-rice filled with soybean cake and chopped pork. Khao Phonne, a noodle dish, is also a popular Cambodia meal. It is often said that Cambodian food is just Thai food without the chilies, but that is somewhat unfair. While it is true that Cambodia has been heavily influenced by its neighbors, both Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east, and even by the French colonists from the past, there is also a distinct Khmer cuisine which shouldn’t be forgotten or minimized.

The main meat source in Cambodia is freshwater fish from many waterway including the mighty Mekong and also seafood from the Gulf of Thailand. Other meal such as beef, pork chicken and duck are widely available but more expensive than fish. Indian influence shows in the curries which are similar to Thai curries but without the intense spiciness. A Chinese influence can be seen in the fried rice and fried noodles served everywhere. That said, the fried noodles may not look like Chinese fried noodles. They are usually employed as a bed on which stir-fried beef and vegetables is laid, and then a topping of scrambled eggs in added. The French influence shows up in the ubiquitous baguettes with Pate. Vietnam in dished like “ Loc Lac” which is marinated, cubed beef stir-fried with a soy sauce. It is usually served on a lettuce leaf and garnished tomato and onion, sometimes topped with a fried egg.


Unique Foods

Famines and hunger in the past have taught the Cambodians to eat almost everything. Often this was out of sheer necessity, but some of the more unusual edibles have become part of Cambodian food culture because they ere discovered to be delicious. Strange foods, by western standard , include locusts, field rats and snakes, but perhaps the most popular, seen in markets and on the streets, are the large deep fried, marinated spiders know as Skuon spiders.



Citizens of most countries can apply for a visa online or get one on arrival in Cambodia. Citizens of the following countries should arrange a visa before travel, from their nearest Cambodian Embassy: Afghanistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Nigeria.
Click here for more detail.

The Cambodian government has a simple online application for an e-visa. It is a straightforward procedure and your visa is delivered electronically to you after around three days and costs $30 plus a $7 administration fee (total $37).

You will not have to wait at the immigration desk and can proceed directly to passport control on arrival. This is the fastest and most efficient method, and what we recommend.

The e-visa is currently valid at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap Airports, as well as Poipet, Bavet (Sveireang) and Koh Kong (Chenyien) border crossings.


Visa On Arrival
You can obtain a Visa on arrival at your port of entry. Fill in the arrival documents which you will receive in on the plane or at the border and provide one passport-size photograph. The fee is currently US$30 paid in cash and is valid for 30 days. You can extend the visa once you are here if necessary.

Please note that you will need a blank page in your passport for the visa as well as at least 6 months validity on your passport. At peak arrival times there may be waiting time for the visa on arrival to be processed. Please ask your TRAILTOAngkortours & Travel advisor for help with VIP arrangements.


Cambodia, Kingdom of wonder, covers area 181035square kilo meters. It’s 42 times smaller than Australia. It shares the border with Vietnam, Thailand, Lao and the gulf of Thailand. People are Khmer, the friendliest people in South-east Asia.



The monetary unit of Cambodia is the riel. The riel is an extremely soft currency. The American dollar serves as an alternative currency, accepted and quoted by most hotels and restaurants in the country.


Changing Money

You can easily change your money in Phnom Penh and other provincial town, but don’t count on changing it in more remote places. There you are better off taking US dollars. As a general rule with Cambodia: Dollars in 20, 50 and 100 denominations are the most useful form of currency and get you the best rates, Whatever currency you take though make sure the notes are as new as possible and don’t have any written on them. Notes in bad shape will not be accepted.


It is recommended to change to all US dollars before you arrive to Cambodia. Dollars are our second so changing any currency to dollars is inevitable anyway, you may as well do it at home at a place you trust.


Public Holidays

Cambodia has 21 public holidays. The three main ceremonies are Khmer New Year in April, this is when everyone in the family meets and has fun altogether. The ceremony of the death in October, everyone cooks food and offers to the monks and Water festival, boat raising ceremony, in November , to memorize the victory of Cambodian navy led by the King Jayavarman VII, the builder of Ta Promh (The jungle temple)


Getting Cambodia

Getting to Cambodia is simple, as a host of daily flights from nearby hubs arrive into both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Most flights from Europe and North America connect first in Bangkok, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia.



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