Cambodia covers an area of some 181, 035 square km (slightly smaller than Oklahoma) and is bordered by Thailand to the West, by Vietnam to the East, by Laos to the North, and by the Gulf of Siam to the South. The country’s terrain mostly consists of low and flat plains, which are fertile thanks to the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. Highlands and mountains surrounded by evergreen forests can be found in the North and South of the country. The Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers merge in Phnom Penh, forming a wonderfully unique site for celebrating cultural and social activities throughout the year. The Tonle Sap River is the only river in the world that has a current, which changes direction depending on the time of year. Cambodia hosts three mountain ranges: The Dangreks to the North, the Cardamoms to the NE, and the Elephant Mountains to the South. These mountains benefit the Kingdom a great deal. They provide a secure habitat for many rare animals as well as species of tropical trees, streams, and waterfalls.
The Cambodian language is Khmer (pronounced K’mai, as in ‘my’ dog). The Khmer language was derived from the Indic languages of Pali and Sanskrit from India. The Khmer language of today shares many characteristics with written and spoken Thai. Some technical terms are borrowed from the French. However, English is commonly communicated in hotels and business compounds at present day. Almost all Khmer have at least a very basic vocabulary of English.
Situated in a tropical zone, Cambodia is bathed in sun almost all year around. There are two main seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. Each season brings about refreshing change. The humid, rainy season lasts from April to November. During the monsoon season temperatures generally range from 81- 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest month is April when the temperature can reach above 106 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, dry season lasts from December to March, with temperatures ranging from 63 – 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rice and fish are the main staples in the Cambodian diet. Rice is eaten fried, steamed, or in the form of noodles. Fish is eaten fresh, dried, or salted. Beef, chicken, and Pork are eaten on special occasions. Seasonings include hot peppers, lemon grass, ginger, and mint. There are a plentiful variety of exotic fruits that are incorporated into the diet as well. Some of these fruits are Coconut (very important in many Khmer dishes), Dragon Fruit, Bananas, Durian (a national favorite) and Angkunh Fruit. Tea is the National drink and Betel nuts are often chewed in much the same way tobacco is chewed in other countries. Local specialty dishes include: Prahoc, a lightly spiced and fermented fish paste; Nhaom, a popular dish comprised of vinegar, dried fish, herbs and vegetables; Kor Kor, cooked with fish and a mix of vegetables; Amok, fish cooked in coconut; and Samlor Machu, vinegar soup cooked with fish and mixed with a variety of vegetables. Chinese and Western menus are commonly available in the cities of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.