“I loved Cambodia, it felt like something you might have seen in adventure movie. They say Cambodia is about 20 years behind Thailand so not too swamped by tourists. There is certainly plenty to see and do. I found the people easy going, friendly and relaxed. Also Cambodia as a country is stunning. The Temples are like something out of The Jungle Book and the beaches are wonderful (even during the rainy season). “ANDREW KEMP
Although Cambodia has gone through some very difficult times, the feeling is that it is on the right track and aiming to take on the tourism market from Thailand and other Asian countries. There is a lot of major construction work happening in the main cities, like new hotels and other holiday resorts. Last year there were nearly two million tourists who visited the country, with the stunning temples and beautiful beaches being among the most popular places to see. Quaint provincial capitals, such as Battambang and Kampot, are just now being discovered by travelers and all offer unique glimpses of ‘unspoiled’ Cambodia.
The Khmer people, who make up more than 95% of Cambodia’s population, are said to be some of the friendliest, happiest and most gentle people with lovely hospitality and openness. Also Cambodia is really cheap. At time of writing, a box of 200 cigarettes in a supermarket was only $3 and a meal in a good restaurant cost about $5 (a normal meal is about $2).
You should visit the incredible temple of Angkor Wat, a spectacular fusion of symbolism, symmetry and spirituality. It’s a 1,000 year old temple complex, covering dozens of square kilometers in the jungle. But just as Angkor is more than its Wat, so, too, is Cambodia more than its temples. There is so much to do and see that you should add to your itinerary:
The charismatic capital of Phnom Penh. Situated on the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, this city of over a million people is growing every day.
The revitalised city of Siem Reap which has a gorgeous riverside location, a cultural renaissance, and a dining and drinking scene to rival the best in the region.
The relaxing seaside town of Kampot and trekking in the nearby Bokor National Park
Riding an elephant in the jungles of Mondulkiri Province
The Mekong dolphins at Kratie are a delight to see
And don’t forget the glorious beaches near Sihanoukville where our projects are based.
MONEY – COST OF LIVING
Currency: US Dollars and Cambodian riel (r)
Can of Coke – 40p (US$0.60)
Beer at a bar – 75p (US$1.00)
DVDs – £1.00 (US$1.50)
Pack of local cigarettes – 15p (US$0.23), with imported cigarettes at 60p (US$0.90)
Reasonably good local meal (fried noodles with beef and egg, with iced tea) – around £1.00 (US$1.50)
A meal at a tourist restaurant in Sihanoukville – £1.30 to £3.00 (US$2.00 to $4.50) (with no drinks)
Suggested pocket money: £160 per month (US$250)
Cambodia can be visited at any time of year. The ideal months are December and January, when humidity levels are relatively low and a cooling breeze whips across the land, but this is also peak season when the majority of visitors descend on the country.
From early February temperatures keep rising until April, when it can exceed 40°C. Some time in May or June, the southwestern monsoon brings rain and high humidity, which can make it difficult and sweaty for visitors. The wet season, which lasts until October, is when the rain tends to come in short, sharp downpours.
SIHANOUKVILLE is amazing! It has everything you could want as a location for your placement: Stunning beaches and a laid back town that has lots to do. It is also known as Kampong Som and is a port city in southern Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand, 185 kilometres southwest of Phnom Penh. You can take water taxis to the nearby islands for diving, snorkeling, and game fishing. The town centre is located on a hill roughly in the centre of the peninsula.
Sihanoukville is a spread-out tourist town for both foreigners and local people from all over the country. Three sides of the town are bordered by tropical beaches and islands. Filled with empty beaches, crowded beaches, seafood, restaurants, bars, Buddhist Temples, casinos, hotels, and more beaches. At several hundred places, English is spoken; and many French speakers are here as well.
Prime time in SihanoukVille is between the beginning of November and the end of February. Cooler weather, sunny every day, and not a worry in the world. Winter in SihanoukVille is the best! Low season is between the beginning of August until the end of October. Lots of rain. March to June starts to get hotter and more humid, but not too much rain. October sees a little rain everyday, which cools things down.
Local transport consists of Motorbike taxis (motodups) – the pricing for foreigners can vary and is often confusing! As a rough guide of cost to get to any of the beaches from Downtown during the day should be around $1 for 1 person and as is the case in most countries, you should agree prices in advance. Another popular form of transport in South-East Asia is the Tuk-Tuk (cart pulled by a bicycle). Tuk-Tuk prices vary depending on destination and the number of passengers. Cars or mini-bus taxis are not widely used but can be arranged and bicycles & electric bicycles are available for daily hire.
KOH RONG SAMLOEM ISLAND lies in the Gulf of Thailand, at about 40km off the coast of Sihanoukville. It is the proverbial paradise island! The growth is lush, the sand sparkling white and the water is a tempting turquoise. The island is relatively deserted, undeveloped and untouched, but is currently being developed into Cambodia’s jewel tourist destination. A stunningly beautiful bay on the island is called Waterfall Bay and stretches for several kilometres. North West Bay is probably one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Cambodia. The centre of the island is a jungle with thousands of coconut palms and waterfalls.
Cambodia has a land area of 181,035 square kilometers in the southwestern part of the Indochina peninsula, about 20 percent of which is used for agriculture. It lies completely within the tropics with its southern most points slightly more than 10° above the Equator. The country capital city is Phnom Penh.
International borders are shared with Thailand and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on the West and the North, and the Social Republic of Viet Nam on the East and the Southeast. The country is bounded on the Southeast by the Gulf of Thailand. In comparison with neighbors, Cambodia is a geographical contact country administratively composed of 20 provinces, three of which have relatively short maritime boundaries, 2 municipalities, 172 districts, and 1,547 communes. The country has a coastline of 435 km and extensive mangrove stands, some of which are relatively undisturbed.
The dominant features of the Cambodian landscape are the large, almost generally located, Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the Bassac River Systems and the Mekong River, which crosses the country from North to South. Surrounding the Central Plains which covered three quarters of the country’s area are the more densely forested and sparsely populated highlands, comprising: the Elephant Mountains and Cardamom Mountain of the southwest and western regions; the Dangrek Mountains of the North adjoining of the Korat Plateau of Thailand; and Rattanakiri Plateau and Chhlong highlands on the east merging with the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.
The Tonle Sap Basin-Mekong Lowlands region consists mainly of plains with elevations generally of less than 100 meters.
As the elevation increases, the terrain becomes more rolling and dissected.
The Cardamom Mountains in the southwest rise to more than 1,500 meters and is oriented generally in a northwest-southeast direction. The highest mountain in Cambodia –Phnom Aural, at 1.771meters – is in the eastern part of this range.
The Elephant Range, an extension of Cardamom Mountains, runs towards the south and the southeast and rises to elevations of between 500 and 1,000 meters. These two range are bordered on the west are narrow coastal plain facing the gulf of Thailand that contains Kampong Som Bay. The Dangrek Mountains at the northern rim of Tonle Sap Basin, consisting of a steep escarpment on the southern edge of the Korat Plateau in Thailand, marks the boundary between Thailand and Cambodia. The average elevation of about 500 meters with the highest points reaching more than 700 meters. Between the northern part of the Cardamom ranges and the western part of the Dangrek, lies and extension of the Tonle Sap Basin that merges into the plains in Thailand, allowing easy accesses from the border of Bangkok.
The Mekong River Cambodia’s largest river, dominates the hydrology of the country. The river originates in mainland China, flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand before entering Cambodia. At Phnom Penh, with alternative arms, the Bassak River from the south, and the Tonle Sap River linking with the ” Great Lake ” itself –Tonle Sap – form northwest. It continues further southeastward to its lower delta in Viet Nam and to the South China Sea.
The section of Mekong River passing through Cambodia lies within the topical wet and dry zone. It has a pronounced dry season during the Northern Hemisphere winter, with about 80 percent of the annual rainfall occurring during the southwest monsoon in May-October. The Mekong River average annual flow at Kratié of 441 km3 is estimated as 93 percent of the total Mekong run-off discharge into the sea. The discharge at Kratié ranges from a minimum of 1,250m3/s to the maximum 66,700m3/s.
The role of Tonle Sap as a buffer of the Mekong River system floods and the source of beneficial dry season flows warrants explanation. The Mekong River swells with waters during the monsoon reaching a flood discharge of 40,000m3/s at Phnom Penh. By about mid-June, the flow of Mekong and the Bassak River fed by monsoon rains increases to a point where its outlets through the delta cannot handle the enormous volume of water, flooding extensive adjacent floodplains for 4-7 months. At this point, instead of overflowing its backs, its floodwaters reserve the flow of the Tonle Sap River (about 120 km in length), which then has the maximum inflow rate of 1.8m/s and enters the Grate Lake, the largest natural lake in Southeast Asia, increasing the size of the lake from about 2,600 km2 to 10,00 km2 and exceptionally to 13,000 km2 and raising the water level by and average 7m at the height of the flooding. This specificity of the Tonle Sap makes it the only “river with return ” in the world.
After the Mekong’s water crest (when its downstream channels can handle the volume of water), the flow reverses and water flows out of the engorged lake. The Great Lake then acts as a natural flood retention basin. When the floods subside, water starts flowing out of the Great Lake, reaching a maximum outflow rate of 2.0m/s and, over the dry season, increase mainstream flows by about 16 percent, thus helping to reduce salinity intrusion in the lower Mekong Delta in Viet Nam. By the time the lake water level drops to its minimum surface size, a band 20-30 km wide of inundate forest is left dry with deposits of a new layer of sediment. This forest, which is of great significance for fish, is now greatly reduced in size through salvation and deforestation. The area flood around Phnom Penh and down to the Vietnamese border is about 7,000 km2.