192-PART GUIDE TO THE WORLD: PART 30 CAMBODIA

OFFICIAL NAME

Kingdom of Cambodia.

LANGUAGE

A modern variant of Khmer, spoken from the 18th century. The alphabet is apparently the longest in the world.

POPULATION

About 11.5 million.

SIZE

181,000 square kilometres, or six times larger than Belgium.

NATIONAL DISH

As in the rest of the region, rice is the mandatory accompaniment to all meals.

BEST MONUMENT

The temples and palaces of the 9th-century Khmer city of Angkor are considered to be one of the wonders of the archaeological world. This jungle-shrouded site is a mass of ornate architecture and carvings.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZEN

Pol Pot, sadly. Having seized power in 1975, he set about emulating Stalin and Mao by causing the displacement or death of over one-fifth of the population in what became known as "the killing fields".

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY

Pol Pot's death from a heart attack in 1998 was not at all bad, but independence from France, which took place on 9 November 1953, is probably ahead in the minds of most Cambodians.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY

Hard to beat the killing fields, though many Cambodians swear that the Vietnamese invasion in 1979 was even worse.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORY

Reliable information on where it is safe to travel. Although the threat of being kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge has dwindled, there remains a tradition of banditry in the countryside, not to mention a vast number of unexploded landmines.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Wander off into the country-side without minding where you tread. The loss of an arm or a leg would be a trifle.

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