Official name: Kingdom of Cambodia
Area: 181,040 square kilometers (69,900 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Phnom Aural (1,810 meters/5,939 feet)
Lowest point on land: Gulf of Thailand at sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 7 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 730 kilometers (454 miles) from northeast to southwest; 512 kilometers (318 miles) from northwest to southeast
Land boundaries: 2,572 kilometers (1,598 miles) total boundary length; Laos, 541 kilometers (336 miles); Thailand, 803 kilometers (499 miles); Vietnam, 1,228 kilometers (763 miles)
Coastline: 443 kilometers (275 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Cambodia is located in the southwestern part of the Indochina peninsula. (Besides Cambodia, the countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and part of Malaysia make up the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia.) Cambodia lies completely within the tropics—its southernmost points are only a little more than ten degrees above the equator. Bordered by Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cambodia also has a short but heavily indented coastline on the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia has an area of 181,040 square kilometers (69,900 square miles), or slightly less than the state of Oklahoma.
Cambodia claims no territories or dependencies.
Cambodia has a humid, tropical climate. There is little seasonal variation in temperatures, which generally range from 20°C to 36°C (68°F to 97°F). The two seasons are determined by monsoons. Southwestern winds bring the rainy season, which lasts from April or May to November; northeast monsoon winds trigger a drier season for the remainder of the year, characterized by lower rainfall, less humidity, and variable skies. Rainfall varies from 127 to 140 centimeters (50 to 55 inches) in the great central basin to 508 centimeters (200 inches) or more in the southwestern mountains.
|S EASON||M ONTHS|
|Rainy (summer)||April to November|
|Dry (winter)||December to March|
The heart of Cambodia, occupying three-quarters of the country, is the large drainage basin of the Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong River. Located in the center of the country, it consists mostly of plains with elevations generally less than 91 meters (300 feet) above sea level. It is bounded by highlands to the east and northeast and by the Cardamom Mountains and Elephant Mountains to the southwest. The mountain ranges that mark the southwestern edge of the central plains are bordered on the Gulf of Thailand side by a narrow coastal plain.
Cambodia is bordered on the southwest by the Gulf of Thailand.
Recreational snorkelers enjoy exploring the waters off Kâmpóng Saôm.
The most important feature of Cambodia's short coastline is the deep, irregularly shaped bay at the port of Kâmpóng Saôm.
Numerous islands dot the waters off the Cambodian coast. The largest include Kaôh Kong and Kaôh Rung.
Cambodia's coastline is heavily indented. The largest and deepest indentation is the bay at Kâmpóng Saôm.
Cambodia's largest lake is the Tonle Sap, or Great Lake. Connected to the Mekong River by the Tonle Sap River, it acts as a natural reservoir during the Mekong's flood period. During this time, the area of the lake is enlarged from a low of about 260 square kilometers (100 square miles) to nearly 2,100 square kilometers (800 square miles) at the height of the flooding.
The Mekong River, together with its drainage basin, is Cambodia's dominant physical feature. The Mekong flows southward in Cambodia for about 505 kilometers (315 miles), from the Cambodia-Laos border to below the provincial capital of Krâchéh, where it turns westward and then southwestward to Phnom Penh. From Phnom Penh, the river flows generally southeastward. It divides at this point into two principal channels. The new one is known as the Tonle Basak River, which flows independently from here on through the delta area into the South China Sea. In the southwest, the Cardamom and Elephant ranges form a separate drainage divide. To the east of this divide, the rivers flow into the Tonle Sap; those to the west drain into the Gulf of Thailand. There are extensive rapids located just upstream of Krâchéh.
There are no desert areas in Cambodia.
The alluvial plain (area made up of soil deposited by a river) of the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap drainage basin occupies the center of the country, surrounded by a transitional zone of rolling land with elevations of up to several hundred feet above sea level. The regular flooding of the central plain irrigates the land for the cultivation of rice and other crops.
The Cardamom (Krâvanh) Mountains, extending in a northwest-southeast direction, have elevations rising to over 1,524 meters (5,000 feet); Phnom Aural, an eastern spur of this range, is the highest point in the country. The Elephant (Dâmrei) Mountains, running south and southeastward from the Cardamom, has elevations above 914 meters (3,000 feet). The Dangrek range at the northern rim of the basin consists of a steep cliff with an average elevation of about 487 meters (1,600 feet). Facing south, it constitutes the southern edge of the Khorat Plateau, which extends northward into Thailand.
There are a few caves in Cambodia. At Phnom Proset, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Phnom Penh, is Prasat Ruong, or Temple of the Mountain Cave. Prasat Ruong was built over the opening to a cave that may be explored for about 50 meters (160 feet).
East of the Mekong River, mountains and plateaus extend eastward at an average elevation of 360 meters (1,200 feet), continuing past the border as the central highlands of Vietnam.
Hydroelectric dams were being planned in 2001 and 2002, including one in Bokor National Park in southwest Cambodia.
Dolphins swim in the waters of the upper Mekong River. Despite increased river traffic, Cambodian customs and environmental activists have managed to protect the estimated eighty dolphins that inhabit the river.
Downie, Susan. Down Highway One: Journeys Through Vietnam and Cambodia . North Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1993.
Livingston, Carol. Gecko Tails: A Journey Through Cambodia . London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1996.
Wurlitzer, Rudolph. Hard Travel to Sacred Places . Boston: Shambhala, 1994.