From the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Wat, to the friendly and proud locals, and the delicious cuisine, get to know Cambodia a little more with these fun and interesting Cambodia facts.
- They declared independence in 1953
- Cambodia has a dark history
- The Tonlé Sap Lake is a natural wonder
- The national dish is a curry
- Their flag is the only flag that features a building
- Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious monument
- Insects are widely eaten
- New Year is a massive celebration
- The US dollar is one of the national currencies
- The best way to travel is by Tuk-Tuk
- Birthdays aren’t celebrated
- Cambodia has changed its name multiple times
- There’s no McDonald’s
- It’s home to rare animal species
- Buddhism is the official religion
Our first fact about Cambodia is that the country declared independence from France in 1953. Each year on November 9, locals flock to the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh to celebrate the anniversary of independence.
Between 1975 and 1979, Cambodia was ruled by the Khmer Rouge and its infamous leader Pol Pot. This period in Cambodia’s history was profound and heartbreaking, and between 1.5 to 2 million people were murdered – many of which died in the Killing Fields, a historic site that is well worth a visit. This mass decimation of the Cambodian population left a lasting mark on the country, and is the reason why 65% of Cambodia’s population is under 30 – a very sombre fact about Cambodia’s history.
Cambodia is home to Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonlé Sap Lake. The lake’s size changes from season to season, ranging from an area of 2,500km2 to 16,000km2. The flow of water from the Tonlé Sap River also changes direction twice a year, making it a natural wonder!
Cambodia’s national dish is amok, a curry that is steam-cooked in banana leaves. Varieties of the dish include fish, chicken, tofu and more.
The Cambodian flag is red and blue in colour and features a depiction of Angkor Wat. The flag is the only flag in the world that features a building!
More than 2 million visitors flock to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Wat each year. The temples of Angkor, built by the Khmer civilisation between 802 AD and 1220 AD, represent one of humankind’s most astonishing architectural achievements. From Angkor, the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that spread to Vietnam, China and the Bay of Bengal. The structures that remain today are all that survives of what was once a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis. Angkor Wat, the national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia, is the crowning jewel of Khmer architecture, and the largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of all the Angkor temples. Intricate stone carvings adorn nearly every surface, with some 1,700 Apsaras, or celestial dancers, sculpted into the walls. Along the outer gallery walls runs the longest continuous bas relief in the world, which narrates stories from Hindu mythology, including the famous Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
Cambodians frequently cook up insects to eat. These delicacies range from the likes of tarantulas to crickets!
Choul Chnam Thmey (Khmer for ‘enter new year’) is the biggest celebration of the year lasting for three days. Celebrated in April, Khmer New Year is a time when Cambodians with Khmer roots stop working for a whole 3 days and return to their homes to celebrate the end of the traditional harvest season. It is a time when the farmers, who have toiled the whole year on their farms, take some leisurely time off. The Khmer community celebrates this day by uniting with their family members and performing purification ceremonies, visiting temples, and having fun playing traditional games.
Cambodian riel is the official currency, however the US Dollar is widely accepted. While the riel is used on a daily basis, it has an extremely low value and continues to devalue – so if you have any US money hanging around, you don’t need to exchange it when heading to Cambodia.
Tuk-tuks are the preferred method of transport in Cambodia for their effectiveness in navigating the streets and bypassing the road rules!
While it might surprise you, birthdays really aren’t a big thing in Cambodia (especially in the rural areas). Some older people may not even know their exact birth date and only recognise their birthday year or season.
In the last 60 years, Cambodia has gone through a number of name changes due to the changes in government. From 1953 to 1970, it was called the Kingdom of Cambodia. From 1970 to 1975, it was the Khmer Republic, and during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, it was known as the Democratic Kampuchea. Then, for 10 years, from 1979 to 1989, it was called the People's Republic of Kampuchea under a Vietnamese-sponsored government. From 1989 to 1993, it was known as the State of Cambodia. In 1993, the monarchy was restored under Norodom Sihanouk, and the country returned to being called the Kingdom of Cambodia.
This is one of the more unique Cambodia facts but you read it right! There are no Mcdonald’s in Cambodia, but there is a Burger King.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: jev55, Flickr
In the Mekong river in Cambodia, you can find a wide range of rare animal species, some of which were once thought to be extinct. They include the Asian giant softshell turtle (also known as Cantor’s giant softshell turtle or the ‘frog faced’ turtle) and the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, which look like small beluga whales.
Our final Cambodia fact is that over 95% of the population are buddhist! Buddhism, also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya, is a religion that originated over 2500 years ago in India. It’s based on the teachings of Buddha and believes that meditation, spiritual and physical labour, and good behaviour are how you achieve enlightenment.
Visit Cambodia yourself
Cambodia is one of the most beautiful and unique countries in Asia, and it’s a place you have to see to believe. We hope you’ve enjoyed our favourite Cambodia facts and you’ve been inspired to add this destination to your bucket list! At Bunnik Tours, we offer small group tours that visit both Cambodia and Vietnam, where you’ll get to cruise along Tonlé Sap, explore the city of Ankor Thom and stroll around Phnom Penh. Book a tour online today or speak to our experienced Travel Specialists.
What is Cambodia mostly known for?
Cambodia is known for its ancient temples and ruins, particularly the iconic Angkor Wat. The country has a dark history, including the Khmer Rouge regime that caused the deaths of millions of people. Cambodia also boasts beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, and a rich tradition of weaving and producing high-quality textiles. The Mekong River is an important source of food and transportation for many Cambodians.
What should I avoid in Cambodia?
Pointing your foot at anyone or touching anyone’s head! Cambodians consider the head as the highest and most sacred part of the body, so it’s extremely insulting to touch or pat someone’s head. Feet, on the other hand, are seen as unclean and the lowest part of the body. This means you should never point your foot at anyone and you should tuck your feet underneath you/to the side when you sit in a temple.