The decline of the Khmer Empire between the 15th and 19th century is likely to have been caused through plagues and droughts, along with the neighbouring empire in Ayutthaya dominating the region. Cambodia faded from the international scene and was annexed as a French colony in 1863.
Today Cambodia is one of the poorest nations in Asia but is emerging to become a major visitor destination and to develop infrastructure around education, healthcare and to address poverty.
Anyone walking through the markets in Phnom Penh and Siam Reap will see an eclectic collection of foods eaten by the Cambodian people. There are all kinds of dishes from deep fried tarantula to roasted rat but visitors need not worry. In Cambodia the stable food is rice and fresh fish and there are some delicious classic dishes to try.
Cambodian cuisine has also adopted influencing flavours over the years. Spring rolls from Vietnam are popular and baguettes from French times are seen all over the place. Curries from Thailand minus the heat are popular, and from China noodle soup is a highlight.
Known as trey, Fish appears in many classic specialties. Visitors will see snacks of smoked or fried fish in markets, and will encounter it grilled or fried in restaurant meals. Num Banh Choc is a popular fish soup with rice noodles. Elephant ear fish are commonly eaten and were introduced to Cambodia by the Vietnamese. Kampot crab is a favourite amongst many visitors and served with green pepper.
Visitors to Cambodia will find that most dishes are served at once on the table. Starters may include spring rolls filled with vegetables, many made with delicate rice paper. Soup is served at every meal and is either meat or fish based with rice noodles. Most vegetables are cooked quickly in a wok. Curries are flavoured with lemongrass and chilli and are milder than Thailand. Sweet potatoes are usually found in the curries. Another local specialty is Nyoum Trayong Chek which is a salad of banana flowers with chicken, Thai basil and peanuts
Cambodia has a distinctive and delicious cuisine that is a must do when visiting the country. Whether it is learning to cook a dish or eating something new, Cambodian cuisine is a highlight of any visit.
People visiting Cambodia need to leave some extra space in their suitcase as the shopping is so good. With a wide range of arts and crafts and cheap prices, Cambodia is just the place for a shopaholic. Here are some of the specialties found here.
This is a major industry in Cambodia and produced in various qualities. There are various colour ways and it is woven using the Ikat method. This is where the silk thread is dyed a different colour every 2cm. There are lots of beautiful fabrics and items made from silk on sale in the markets.
These classic Cambodian souvenirs are made from cotton and in a distinctive blue, red or black check pattern. These are really useful to combat the dust in Cambodia and also make great souvenirs.
Cambodian markets are full of interesting culinary items that are often found in European restaurants. Browse for kampot pepper, spices, cashew nuts, tea, coffee, honey and much more. There are also beautiful products made from water hyacinth and sugar palm which make lovely mementoes of a visit to Cambodia.
From pottery to lacquer ware and traditional musical instruments the street markets in Cambodia are full of tempting things to buy. Hand crafted shadow theatre characters are another popular souvenir and are very decorative. There are baskets, rattan furniture and all manner of items to decorate a home. Many of the craftsmen and women are keen to show visitors how things are made in the workshops, especially in Siam Reap.
Silver jewellery is another popular buy in Cambodia and there are some exquisite items on sale from areca nut containers to bracelets. These make popular gifts and are good quality.
Cambodia is a popular destination for shopping but do ensure you take plenty of money and have space to carry it all back home.