Cambodia, officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a small country in the Southeast Asian region, bordering Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Its population of over 15 million includes a majority of native Khmer, but also minority groups such as Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams and hill tribes. With a dark past looming behind its shoulder, today Cambodia is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. Below are 10 interesting facts about this extraordinary nation.
1. Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, and it is also the most populated. Amazingly enough, of the city’s population of 1.5 million people, there are 1.3 million mopeds zooming around too. Traffic laws are nearly nonexistent, so be careful when traveling on your own. It might be safer – and more fun! – to ride a local tuk-tuk.
2. Angkor Wat is definitely the biggest tourist attraction in Cambodia – and for good reason. This magnificent monument is a Buddhist temple complex, decorated with pointy lotus-bud towers that have a goldish hue. Spanning 402 acres, it is the largest religious monument in the world. The United Nations also named this a World Heritage Site in 1992.
© Juan Antonio Segal
3. Cambodia’s impressive sites do not stop aboveground – according to archeologists, there are many ancient cities hidden underneath the nation. Recently by using laser technology, massive city networks were found beneath and around Angkor Wat. They are presumed to be part of the ancient Khmer empire.
4. Unique animals can be found in Cambodia’s jungles, forests and waters. One extraordinary animal is the river dolphin called the Irrawaddy dolphin, which today can only be seen in a short stretch of the Mekong River. Other rare animals include the clouded leopard, Asian elephants, tiger cats, the sun bear and the pygmy slow loris. Although these animals are fascinating species, they are also endangered and must be protected.
© Rigger Boots
5. Unfortunately, Cambodia currently still feels stings from its recent dark history, the biggest issue being the Cambodian genocide carried out by the extreme communist group the Khmer Rouge. From 1975 to 1979, the leader Pol Pot and his army killed approximately 1.5 to 3 million Cambodians. War crime trials are were conducted all the way to last year, hoping to bring justice to the traumatized land of Cambodia.
6. An interesting fact with a sad reason: Cambodia is one of the only countries in the world with an exceptionally high young population. More than half the people are below the age of 30. You could probably guess that this is due to the recent genocide, which wiped out a huge portion of the adult population, and also spurred a baby boom after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.
© Charles Pieters
7. Due to its tumultuous recent history, Cambodia has declined into extreme poverty. Now, one of the main sources of revenue is actually tourism, particularly to Angkor Wat. Tourism is helping grow Cambodia’s economy and has made it one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. So next time you’re planning your vacation, consider going to Cambodia for its unique experience and a positive impact.
8. Cambodia is one of only three countries in the world to never have had McDonalds claim a spot in their diet (the other two are Yemen and Ghana). The reason for that is that fast food does not sell well in Cambodia. For example, KFC actually loses almost $200,000 per year in Cambodia. It turns out local street food is cheaper – and healthier.
9. Think you’re bored of the same old traditional circus? Well think again and check out Cambodia’s unique Phare Circus, one of the country’s most popular shows. Selling out constantly, this show features amazing acrobats, singers and musicians that breathe life into exciting Cambodian folklore. The best part is that this performance was started by ex-refugees who found healing through the arts, and decided to spread their passion to other youth for free.
10. Cambodia is home to Tonle Sap: the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. It has a wide variety of biodiversity while interconnecting with other natural eco-regions, such as the Mekong River. The river is an important source of food for its coastline residents. You can view the little villages while enjoying a picturesque boat cruise.
© Jelly Beanz
Cambodia is a dynamic country with a lot of personality. Even though its people are still recovering from a terrifying past, a young and vibrant population looks hopeful. Travel to this courageous nation to put your two cents into its growing development.