192-Part Guide To The World: Brunei

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The Independent Travel

Official name: Negara Brunei Darussalam (which means "Brunei the abode of peace").

Official name: Negara Brunei Darussalam (which means "Brunei the abode of peace").

Population: 315,292.

Size: Small. At 5,770 sq km, it is only about one 200th the size of Belgium.

Best monument: Recognised as the world's largest water village, Kampong Ayer extends from both banks of the Brunei river. Thirty thousand people live there and the village's trestle walks stretch over 14miles. You can hire a water taxi for a closer look at the houses built on stilts.

National dishes: Satay, (beef, chicken or mutton kebabs), rendang (spicy marinated beef), and for dessert ketupat or lonton (rice cakes in coconut or banana leaves).

Climate: Equatorial, characterised by high temperature and high humidity. The capital is hottest from April to August. No distinct wet season but the rainfall peaks between September and January.

Most famous citizen: One of the richest men in the world, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, is the 29th sultan of an extremely long-lived monarchy. The Sultan ascended the throne in 1967 when he was aged 19.

Best moment in history: On January 1, 1984, Brunei Darussalam resumed full independence from Britain and the Sultan managed to get the job of prime minister. He celebrated the occasion by building a lavish palace.

Worst moment in history: Just after independence, the price of oil plummeted so low that even the Sultan had to start counting his palaces.

Essential accessory: A good book? Paper and crayons? A personal stereo? This tiny, out-of- the-way and austere country may be one of the least promising destinations for international tourists on earth.

What not to do: If you are found committing "khalwat", that is to say if you are seen in a compromising position with a person of the opposite sex who is a Muslim, you run a substantial risk of being deported.

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