Top 50 Interesting Facts About Cambodia and Khmer people

Cambodia is an extraordinary country on the Indochina peninsula, sharing commonalities with neighboring nations in the region. However, it stands out with its distinct customs, history, and culture. In this article, we’ve compiled 50 fascinating facts about this country and its people, offering insights to shape your initial impressions and help plan an engaging holiday in Cambodia.

50 Most Interesting Facts about Cambodia and Khmer people

Let’s embark on our exploration of the history, traditions, and landmarks of this remarkable country.

Historical Facts

1. The initial inhabitants of present-day Cambodia date back 70 thousand years. By the II millennium B.C., they demonstrated advanced skills such as bronze smelting, pottery, and agriculture.

2. In the I century A.D., the first states emerged – Baphnom and Chenla – spanning the southern part of Cambodia, Vietnam, and central Malaysia.

3. The zenith of the Angkor kingdom began in the IX century, covering vast territories, including Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.

4. The XIV century witnessed the decline of the Angkor kingdom, with Thai and Vietnamese invasions. The Khmer capital relocated to Phnom Penh.

5. In 1864, King Norodom I signed a protectorate treaty with France, resulting in the occupation of the capital, marking a period of lost independence.

6. During World War II, Japanese troops occupied Cambodia, establishing a puppet government. After Japan’s defeat, Cambodia returned to French rule.

7. In 1953, the country reclaimed independence through an insurgency and King Norodom Sihanouk’s efforts.

8. The late 1970s saw the brutal regime of Pol Pot take hold, leading the Khmer Rouge in a genocide that claimed around 3 million lives.

Cambodia today

9. Modern Cambodia stands as one of the rare elected monarchies. The king holds a lifelong rule, and following his demise, elections ensue involving representatives from two clans, Norodom and Sisowath. The monarch’s authority is constrained by the parliament.

10. The etymology of the name «Cambodia» is traced back to the ancient Bhoja people and can be interpreted as the «Land of Cambodia.»

11. The capital of the country is Phnom Penh, founded in 1372, with a name that translates to «Mother Penh Hill.»

Контрасты Пномпеня

12. Presently, Phnom Penh is home to just over 2.1 million people, standing as the largest and most contemporary city in the kingdom, with a significant number of its skyscrapers owned by the Chinese.

13. Cambodia is embraced by the waters of the Gulf of Thailand in the south, part of the Pacific Ocean, and shares land borders with three countries: Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. The total length of these borders is 2774 kilometers.

14. The country ranks as the 91st largest globally in terms of area, covering approximately 181 thousand square kilometers, and is inhabited by just over 17 million people.

15. The official currency is the riel, divided into 100 sen. However, the American dollar is widely accepted and used for most transactions in the country.

16. Cambodia maintains a predominantly agrarian economy, with key exports including rice, clothing, footwear, and bicycles.

17. The average salary in the country hovers around 200 dollars, with variations based on region and industry. For instance, in Phnom Penh, the average salary reaches $500, whereas in rural areas, it stands at only 120 dollars.

18. Khmer is the official language of the kingdom, spoken by 96 percent of the population. French, English, and Chinese serve as secondary languages.

19. Cambodia is characterized by its dominant Khmer population, constituting over 97 percent of the people. Besides them, the country is home to communities such as the Thamas, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

20. The state religion of Cambodia is Buddhism, embraced by almost 98% of the population, while just over 1% practices Islam.

21. The Kingdom operates in the +7 UTC time zone, placing it 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Attractions in Cambodia

22. The paramount tourist attraction in contemporary Cambodia is the Angkor Wat temple complex, formerly the capital of the mighty Khmer Empire. Comprising more than 20 temples devoted to the god Vishnu, Angkor Wat draws over 3 million tourists annually.

Затерянный в джунглях Ангкор Ват

23. Another renowned Khmer temple, Preah Vihea, rests on the Thai-Cambodian border. Erected in the 9th century, this temple pays homage to the god Shiva. However, due to territorial disputes between the nations, visiting the temple poses challenges.

24. Positioned 25 kilometers from Angkor, the Banteay Srei Temple is dedicated to the god Shiva. Notably, it is the only temple in Angkor constructed by a dignitary rather than a king.

25. Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh’s most celebrated temple, originated on the sacred hill where the city was established by Mother Penh. Adjacent to the temple, a shrine commemorates the mythical founder.

26. Sambor Prey Kuk, one of the oldest temples in the kingdom, dates back to the 7th century. Serving as the capital of the Chenla state during that era, the temple comprises three complexes adorned with statues of lions, Shiva, and Nandi.

27. Tonle Sap Lake stands as another iconic landmark in Cambodia, featuring several floating villages. The houses, elevated on high stilts, leave inhabitants with minimal access to the conveniences of modern civilization.

Плавучая деревня на озере Тонлесап

28. Bakor, the nation’s most distinguished national park, is situated in the mountainous region near Sihanoukville. Renowned for numerous waterfalls and caves, the park’s peaks offer breathtaking views of the Gulf of Thailand.

Khmer Character, Traditions, and Customs

29. Ordinary Cambodians exhibit calmness and imperturbability as their main character traits. They maintain composure and philosophical outlooks in various situations.

Кхмерская семья

30. Diligence is a prominent quality among the Khmer people. Manual labor remains prevalent, particularly in activities like tending to rice fields. Despite their industrious nature, they also appreciate leisure and moments of idleness.

31. The Khmer populace holds strong religious convictions, with a deep-rooted respect for Buddhist values instilled from childhood. At the age of 16, every young man is expected to spend time in a temple, living as a novice monk for a few years.

32. Astonishingly, Khmers generally abstain from foreign alcohol and, even more so, from drugs. However, the prevalent use of betel nut, a local light stimulant, is widespread.

33. While Khmer hospitality may not be effusive, tourists are treated kindly. Greetings typically involve a slight handshake and a bow.

34. The religious beliefs of Khmers extend to spirits, with particular reverence for ancestral spirits considered guardians of the family hearth.

35. Family holds immense significance for Khmers, evident in the strong kinship ties. Many families live together under one roof, and familial relationships often extend to working together.

36. Khmer families traditionally adhered to matriarchy, where women were considered heads of the family, while men engaged in physical labor. However, European family values are gradually becoming more prevalent, altering gender roles.

37. Despite evolving family structures, Khmer families remain numerous and close-knit. Children are cherished and often pampered, with families typically having at least 4–5 children.

38. Khmer weddings follow ancient rituals and involve numerous guests. In the past, a customary gift for the couple was a box of betel nut, now frequently substituted with coconut candy.

39. The sarong is recognized as the national dress of the Khmer people, worn by both men and women. Distinguishing between every day and festive sarongs, the latter is often made of painted silk for special occasions.

40. Khmer cuisine, influenced by neighboring countries, prominently features rice, often enjoyed even without meat. While not as spicy as Thai cuisine, Khmer dishes tend to lean towards sweetness.

41. A source of pride for Cambodia is the Royal Ballet, a vibrant and costumed theatrical performance featuring characters such as men, women, demons (rakshasas), and monkeys.

Nature of Cambodia

42. Situated in Southeast Asia on the Indochina peninsula, Cambodia encompasses two-thirds of its territory in the lowlands within the Mekong River Valley.

43. The highest mountains are found in the southeast, with Mount Oral standing as its highest point at 1813 meters above sea level.

44. Cambodia experiences a tropical monsoon climate across its entire territory, marked by three distinct seasons: dry, wet, and very hot. The temperature remains relatively constant throughout the seasons, averaging around +25 degrees Celsius.

45. The southern part of Cambodia is washed by the Gulf of Thailand, boasting a coastline length of 443 kilometers. The Gulf provides warm waters suitable for year-round swimming.

46. The Gulf of Thailand and Cambodia’s coastal areas are dotted with several dozen small yet picturesque islands, with most being uninhabited. The largest island, Kong, covers an area of 100 square kilometers.

Острова Кох Ронг, Сиануквиль

47. The majority of Cambodia’s rivers belong to the Mekong basin, with the Mekong River itself running from north to south, dividing the country into two unequal parts. The Mekong’s length within Cambodia is just over 500 kilometers.

48. Although lakes are scarce, the notable Tonle Sap lake stands out as the largest in all of Southeast Asia during the rainy season, covering an area of 16 thousand square kilometers.

49. Despite its relatively low mountains, Cambodia boasts several picturesque caves, including Kampong Trach, an extensive cave system yet to be fully explored. The labyrinth houses Buddhist temples that attract numerous tourists.

50. Cambodia’s diverse animal and plant life includes virgin rainforests inhabited by elephants, monkeys, crocodiles, bears, tigers, and wild buffalo.

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Friends, if you know any more interesting facts about Khmers and Cambodia, please share them in the comments. This country is full of amazing stories, culture and traditions, and many people would be happy to learn something new. We will be very grateful to you!

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