The magical Kingdom of Cambodia casts a spell on travelers and locals alike. The always charming, sometimes confounding country puts a wide smile on everyone’s face. Ascend to the realm of the gods at the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat, a spectacular fusion of symbolism, symmetry and spirituality. Descend into the hellish Toul Sleng genocide museum to face the lingering effects of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Welcome to the mystifying yet charming country of Cambodia, an intoxicating place full of inspiration and struggle, with a tumultuous recent history and a resilient and delightful population. It is a rare and special treat to experience a country whose future is still waiting to be shaped.
There are two kinds of traditional music in the Kingdom of Cambodia. One is Pin Peath, which features both stringed and percussion instruments. Pin Peath is comprised of a group of instruments: the Roneath is a metal or bamboo xylophone, the Kong is a percussion instrument that encircles the musician playing it, a big drum with two faces called Skor Thom, an oversized recorder called Sro Lai, and the percussive Chhoeng used to keep rhythm.
The second type of traditional Cambodian music is called Mohory and utilizes a simple harmony of stringed instruments. Today it is most commonly heard during feast days.
The epic poem of Rama, Ramayana is believed to have been revealed to the Hindu holy man named Valmiki by Brahma, the god of creation. The classical dance of Cambodia, Apsara, depicts these epic tales. Dancers are dressed in silk tunics and wear golden headdresses that accentuate their slow, elegant movements. Sometimes the women dance alone, and sometimes they share the stage with men who keep the beat by clapping two halves of a coconut together.
Approximately 14 million people live in Cambodia and 90% of the population is ethnic Khmer, having lived on these lands for thousands of years. The remaining 10% are comprised of Cham Khmer Muslims, minority hill tribes, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Theravada Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia and has been prevalent for over a thousand years. The great majority of the population is Buddhist while 5% are Muslim or Christian
Khmer artisans have been honing their crafts for centuries. Their skills in stone sculpting, wood carving, silver work and the weaving of textiles are among the unique handicrafts produced by Khmer artisans.
Cambodian cuisine is one of the world’s oldest living cuisines, and is regarded by many as one of the healthiest and most balanced diet on the planet. With an emphasis on simplicity, freshness, seasonality and regionalism Cambodian food has won praise for its elegant and understated use of spice, along with a harmonious arrangement of contrasting flavours, textures and temperatures within the overall meal rather than a single dish. The intoxicating aromas of lemongrass, coconut milk and tamarind are ever-present in most Cambodian meals.
Cambodians’ thoughtful and, at times extravagant presentation of dishes showcases plenty of herbs, leaves, pickled vegetables, dipping sauces, edible flowers and other garnishes and condiments. Cambodian, or Khmer, cuisine is known for its rich flavours and is often compared to Thai cuisine, but is notably less hot and spicy – and therefore makes it more palatable to foreigners.
Curries and stir fries are served alongside rice, the country’s staple food. Noodles are also popular, and are mostly served in a soup for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.