singaporeSingapore is an island city located at the southernmost tip of the Malaysian Peninsula in South East Asia. It is well-known for being one of the richest, most well organised, efficient countries in the world with a very high standard of living and an excellent skyline by the water. Singapore is an island with “1000 shopping malls” or so they say. Despite the hot climate, it is a tropical paradise for most tourists. This great diversity of lifestyles, cultures and religions thrives within the framework of a regulated society. Singapore’s “FINE” city reputation is well-earned, and in fact, many will admire at once the clean, modern metropolis. Surrounded by artificially ‘ordered’ parks, its tall housing projects are populated by more than 80% of the population – whose smiling native charms often belie underlying tensions of the way the island is progressing after 30 years of development.

Highlights of Singapore include some of the ethnic parts of town: Arab street, Chinatown, Colonial District, Orchard road and Little India.

South of Singapore are a few beautiful islands that are well worth visiting. The most visited is Sentosa island. It is a playground for people of all ages. See the Sentosa island section for more information.

A common misconception is that chewing gum is strictly not allowed into Singapore and that you will be arrested for that ”crime”. However, THAT IS COMPLETELY WRONG! The law states that chewing gum cannot be sold in Singapore, but it is PERFECTLY OKAY for you to bring in chewing gum for your own personal consumption. But if you improperly dispose of the gum, just as you would litter any other thing, you might be fined, BUT the authorities rarely enforce this ruling. The signs are there to act as a deterrent and the authorities do not enforce the rules strictly at all.

Please note that, like all countries in the region, visitors are not exempt from strict laws pertaining to drug possession and trafficking. The death penalty will be prescribed if you are caught with more than a specific weight of narcotics.

Singapore, the diamond-shaped island off the southern tip of Malaysia, is an unlikely success story. Once a simple fishing village, it was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, an official of the British East India Company, who decided it was the perfect location as a trading station. Since then it has become one of the world’s most prosperous cities, known as the Lion City.

Singapore City is by far the largest and most significant island alongside 63 others that make up Singapore state. Here, especially at the mouth of the Singapore River, Asian tradition meets modern technology – gleaming skyscrapers tower over traditional architecture, while squat Chinese and Hindu temples stud the city. A curious blend of ancient and modern, the city is home to an ethnic mix of Chinese, Malaysians and Indians, as well as ex-pats from all over the world, in a predominantly English-speaking society. These different races live harmoniously thanks to religious tolerance, increased prosperity, stringent no-nonsense laws and a constant balmy equatorial heat.

Since the island became an independent Republic in 1965, it has enjoyed a vigorous and successful free trade policy, as introduced by its then Prime Minister (now Minister Mentor) Lee Kuan Yew. This has led to an unprecedented rise in the standard of living (most city dwellers own their own homes) and exponential economic growth, due mainly to the export industry. Its healthy economy was dented between 2001 and 2003 during the global recession and slump in the technology sector, and it suffered a heavy loss in tourist numbers after the terrorist attacks of September 11. There was a further drop in the number of visitors to the region during the SARS outbreak at the end of 2003. A subsequent recovery, however, has seen unemployment fall from 6% in 2002 to 3.4% in 2004.



azerbaijanRepublic of Azerbaijan is an independent country located in Transcaucasia. Politically, Azerbaijan is considered part of Eastern Europe and is integrating into European organizations and infrastructure. Georgraphically, Azerbaijan is located in SouthWest Asia and only borders Europe through Big Caucasus mountain range.

Republic of Azerbaijan covers only the northern part of the historical region of Azerbaijan, which also includes the Iranian provinces of East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, and Ardabil, located to the south of Araxes River. In XIXth century, Russian empire conquered northern parts of Azerbaijan and Araxes River became a border between two parts of historical Azerbaijan, usually called by Azeris as NORTH and SOUTH Azerbaijan. People in both parts of historical Azerbaijan speak the same Azeri Turkic dialect and share Shi’a version of Islam. They’re generally known as Azers or Azeri Turks.

Republic of Azerbaijan has an area of 33,440 square miles (86,600 sq km) and is bordered by Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the east. The capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan is Baku, the largest industrial center located on Caspian Sea shores, with a population of about 2 million.

Azerbaijan is one of the oldest spots of civilization, a country with a rich and ancient history. The discovery of AZYKH cave and GOBUSTAN, the earliest habitation of man to be found in the world, and a number of habitations of the ancient stone age prove that Azerbaijan enters the zone of anthropoids to reveal the birthplace of mankind.

The first known state, established in 11th century B.C. in southern part of Azerbaijan was MANNAE. Later Mannae became part of another ancient Azerbaijani state, MEDES (Mada) and during the rule of Cyrus the Great (THE MEDE) became along with Parthia part of Great Persian empire in 6th – 4th centuries B.C. Since those times and until XIXth century, Azerbaijan shared most of its history with what is now Iran.

During the invasion of Alexander the Great in 4th century B.C., Azerbaijan was ruled by Atropates. Upon the arrival of Alexander, Atropates became his satrap, and hence preserved his semi-autonomous rule of the territory of Azerbaijan. It’s widely accepted that etymology of the name “Azerbaijan” is derived from ATROPATES, which in Persian interpretation became Aturpatakan, and later upon Arab conquest, got its Arabic pronounciation of Azerbaijan.

Another, less authoritative, theory traces the origin of the name “Azerbaijan” to ancient Persian word “Ather” (“The Fire”), hence Azerbaijan, “the Land of Fires”. This version is supported by the fact that inhabitants of historical Azerbaijan practiced Zoroastrianism in ancient times, and there are several Zoroastrian temples preserved up until nowadays, and fueled by plentiful supplies of natural oil.

North Azerbaijan was in ancient times dominated by various tribes, including Scythians, Sachs, Massaghets, and invading Khazars. These tribes were of indigenous Caucasian and Turkic origins. Scythian ruler of North Azerbaijan, Queen Tomyris is known to have beheaded Cyrus the Great to revenge the killing of her son, after Cyrus’ army invaded north of Araxes river and was defeated in a battle. Closer to 4th century B.C., the tribes of North Azerbaijan merged into an ancient state known as Albania (Aghvan, Aluank in Armenian sources). To avoid confusion with modern country of Albania, historians refer to this ancient state as Caucasian Albania.

So starting from 4th century B.C., Azerbaijani history was dominated by two ancient states: Atropatena in the South and Caucasian Albania in the North. Initially Zoroastrian religion was practiced in both parts of Azerbaijan and was a state religion of Caucasian Albania. In 4th century A.D., King Urmayr of Caucasian Albania accepted Christianity in Diophysite teaching, similar to Byzantine Greeks and Georgians. Acceptance of Christianity by all three main Caucasus peoples, brought to close relations and intermarriages between them. At about the same time, in the beginning of 5th century A.D., Armenian monk St. Mesrob Mashdots introduced alphabets for Armenian, Georgian and Alban peoples.

It shall be noted here, that Armenians accepted a Monophysite doctrine of Christian religion, which distinguished them from Georgians and Albans, and distinguishes them from the rest of Christians up to date. Moreover, Armenian language belongs to Indo-European family of languages, while Georgian and ancient Alban language belong to indigenous Ibero-Caucasian ethno-linguistic group. This note is necessary, as Armenian historians often attempt to portray Caucasian Albans as Armenians and Caucasian Albanian inscriptions and churches as Armenian, in order to justify their territorial claims to modern Azerbaijan and its historical monuments.

In the beginning of 8th century A.D., Azerbaijan was conquered by Arabs and became part of Arab Caliphate as a province of ARRAN. Islam became the leading religion in Azerbaijan creating new traditions and culture in most of mainland Azerbaijan. Small group of Caucasian Albans inhabiting Artsakh (Karabakh) did not convert to Islam, and remained Christian, which resulted in their isolation from the rest of Islamicized Caucasian Albans. This group of people, under heavy influence of Armenian church, was gradually converted to Armenian Church and ultimately became what is now known as Karabakh Armenians. In middle ages, during Persian and Turkic rules, and until the establishment of Muslim Azeri Khanate in Shusha, Albans of Karabakh were ruled by noble Albanian Mihranids, which were Christian.

Armenianization of Caucasian Albans in Karabakh continued through centuries and culminated in 1836, when by the order of Russian Czar, patriarchate of Albanian church was dissolved and subdued to Gregorian Armenian Apostolic Church. From this point on, the association of Karabakh inhabitants with ancient Albanian culture was effectively erased, and their origin and language became attributed to Armenians.

Muslim population of Azerbaijan continued integrating into new culture and religion brought by Arabs and later enforced by resettlement of Turkic tribes. Islamization and Turkification of Azerbaijan erased the last cultural and religious borders between inhabitants of North and South Azerbaijan, and the process of establishment of Azeris (or Azeri Turks) in modern meaning started. In middle ages, between 12th and 15th centuries several successive Turkic dynasties ruled both North and South Azerbaijan, including QARAQOYUNLU, AGQOYUNLU, SAFAVI, and QAJARS. The latter two, subdued all of Iran and their kingdoms were known to modern historical science as medieval Persia. Although the mother tongue of these dynasties was Turkic, they practiced Persian as literary and state language. The exception was Shah Ismail Safavi, the founder of Safavi state, who used Turkic as a state language.

Heroism of such popular leaders as JAVANSHIR and Baback has been turned into a school of patriotism, embodiment of courage and unification of people. Life and activity of MOUHAMMED JAHAN PAHLAVAN, QIZIL ARSLAN, UZUN HASSAN, SHAH ISMAIL KHATAI and other statesmen developed love of Motherland and statehood in people, and have been turned to one of the major goals of our life.

Azerbaijani people distinguish among other peoples with its specific image in the world culture. Cultural and literaty specimen of this people created for centuties are tanned with love of life, feelings of freedom and independence. Gran works of art of our people such as ‘KITABI DEDE-GORGUD’, ‘KEROGLU’, coryphaeus who have left indelible traces in the history of the world civilization such as NIZAMI GENJEVI, EFSALADDIN KHEGANI, KHETIB TEBRIZI, IMAMEDDIN NESIMI, GATRAN TEBRIZI, MOUHAMMED FOUZULI whose creative activities were devoted to praising world ideas of truth and justice, served to establish human ideals. Art lovers are still admired by the works of SEFIEDDIN OURMAVI, EJEMI NAKHCHIVANI, SULTAN MOUHAMMED TEBRIZI, who gave pearls to the treasure of world culture. Our people have full right to be proud of the contribution given to the world science. The names of our thinkers NESREDDIN TOUSI, ABOUL-HASSAN BEHMENYAR, MIRZE FETELI AKHOUNDOFF, ABASGOULI AGHA BAKIKHANOFF and others are wellknown to world science.

A rivalry between states to involve Azerbaijan into the sphere of their interests resulted in striking inner destabilization in 18th century. A number of independent state formations – Khanates appeared, the contradictions between Russia, Turkey and Iran deepened in the 18th – 19th century. Two Russo-Persian wars followed, one in 1804-1813 and the second in 1826-1828. The first was ended by the Treaty of GULISTAN (1813), by which Russia obtained the azeri khanates of GARABAGH, GENJE, SHEKI, ILISOU, SHIRVAN, GOUBA, DERBENT, BAKU, and TALISH, as well as western Georgia (Imeretia and Abkhazia) and Daghestan. The second war, in which Russia was again victorious, was ended by the Treaty of Turkmanchai (1828), by which Persia ceded the two large azeri khanates of NAKHCHIVAN and IREVAN (now Armenia). The TURKMENCHAY Treaty of 1828 between Russia and Iran separated Azerbaijan and its people: the northern part of Azerbaijan was conquered by Russia, its southern part became a part of the Iranian state.

The 20th century entered the history of the Azerbaijan people as the period of radical changes in socio-economic, political and cultural life. A range of upstream and downstream industrial branches were intensively developing in Azerbaijan. Baku turned into the world center of oil extraction and refinery yielding more than half of the worlds and 95% of Russia’s oil extraction total. The cultural live enlivened. Various branches of science were developing, newspapers and magazines started to be published. Formation of political societies, organizations and perties for dessimination of progressive, democratic ideas contributed to the process of becoming and developing a national identity and fueled the growth of the liberation movement of the February, 1917: The fall of the tsarist monarchy in Russia created favorable conditions for the development of national movements in its border lands. May 28, 1918: Azerbaijan rehabilitated its state structure – the Independent Azerbaijan Republic was established. having Existed for 23 months, it collapsed.

Troops of the 11th Red Army came to Baku. In December, 1922 Azerbaijan became a pert of the USSR and a socialist republic was formed with the attributes of the state – Constitution, flag, national anthem, state emblem. In 1991 state independance of Azerbaijan was restored, The Constitutional Act of State Independence was adopted. Establishment of the Independent Azerbaijan republic is an important historical event of our life. It is true that the way to independence as not easy for us and we have undergone severe tests. As a result of millitary agression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, occupation of 20% of our territory by Armenian invaders more than one million of our citizens were obliged to leave their native homes and turned into refugees and displaced people. Sabotage of internal and extenal forces against our statehood, disintegration of former economic relations, social and economic difficulties of the transition period and other problems have complicated our way to independence. nevertheless our people did not lose confidence, will and determination in our statehood, but on the contrary, the belief of our people became more strengthened.

As a result of purposeful policy achievements gained for recent years in the country are evident. The war with Armenia that has been going on since 1989, has already been stoped in mid 1997, we have achieved a cease-fire. We have ut an end once and for all to the subversive activities of armed groups within the country, political disorder has been blocked up. The republic of Azerbaijan enjoys relative political stability now. This creates firm foundation to implement radical changes in different spheres of the life of our country. The first Constitution was adopted through nationwide referendum. the Constitutions ensures the independence of the State of azerbaijan, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, the civil society in the scope of the main law. The conditions to use and to extend the Azerbaijani language in all spheres as the State language were set up, and prospective were opened to mature it and to take its deserved place among the languages of the globe. Our nation is setting up the life principles based on supremacy of law, taking care of its history, protecting and developing its national and moral values and Azerbaijan will follow the same target in future.

Azerbaijan expiriences the period of great economic changes and reforms. the transfer to market relations and integration to the world economic system constitute main trends of our policy. the macroeconomy has been stabilized in the country. the economic egress of late 80’s has been overcome and the progress in some branches has become visibly achieved. The current economic reforms have had a qualitative new step. Fundamental changes are taking place in the economy. The market relations and entities are being formed to meet the requirements of new structure. Some branches of the industry, trade, transport, public utility services have been privatized, bank and fiscal systems, finansial institutions have been reformed, the implementation of joint projects with major foreign state and private companies and the like are good examples of progress in Azerbaijan’s economy.

Azerbaijan is well known as an independent State worldwide and has a unique image. As soon as the independence has been achieved our country becomes a member of The United Nations Organization, The organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, The Islamic Conference Organization, The Commonwealth of independent States, The Community of Turkich States, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, The International Monetary Fund, The World Bank for Reconstruction and Development and creates a mutually beneficial collaboration with Inter-Parliamentary Union, European Council, European Community, European Parliament, NATO and other international organizations.

Today the most sensitive problem of our country is the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and fair call of Azerbaijan to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is supported by the countries worldwide, international and regional organizations. We are convinced that this problem will be justly and peacfully solved very soon and territorial integrity of our country will be restored. We have declared once and again that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan must be settled peacefully. We are against the war. We are in favor of peace. Our utmost desire is to establish peace in azerbaijan, throughout he Caucasian region and worldwide. Azerbaijan is a peace-loving State is willing to live in peace in the atmosphere of mutually beneficial cooperation and understanding with all countries and nations, especially with its neighbors.



japanA modern country with a rich heritage, Japan has long been popular with travellers. While is it one of the most expensive places to live, it is possible for the budget traveller to have a good time as well.

There are four main islands which make up Japan: From the north to the south: Hokkaido, Honshu the main island, Shikoku, and Kyushu. More than 4,000 smaller islands surround these four main islands. Japan is divided into 47 Prefectures.

Hokkaido is one Prefecture.

Honshu is broken up into the following Prefectures: Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Niigata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, Kaganawa, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Nagano, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Gifu, Aichi. Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama, Osaka, Hyogo, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima, Shimane, Yamaguchi.

Shikoku is broken up into the following Prefectures: Kawaga, Tokushima, Kochi, Ehime.

Kyushu is broken up into the following Prefectures: Nagasaki, Saga, Fukuoka, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Okinawa.

Japan will leave a lasting impression in your mind. From city based attractions in Tokyo, all the way to the natural wonders like Mount Fuji and the hot springs of Beppu, this country has something for everyone.

Japan also combines the most traditional of societies with the most modern of techniques. Technology lovers will love Japan, being the heart of all techological development, tourists greatly enjoy the diversity of shopping in Japan. In Tokyo the districts of Roppongi, Akihabara, and Shinjuku all offer all you could dream of in this respect. Between the neon signs and the skyscrapers you will also find pagodas and shrines where saints are venered according to century old customs.

Honshu is the main island. Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and several other large cities are located here and if you have just two weeks, you can limit your trip to just this island. The city of Kyoto is a must see.

Hokkaido in the north is good for outdoor activities as well as partying. Sapporo is the beer capital of Japan and home to the world famous Ice Sculpture Festival.

Shikoku is the smallest of the main islands, and lesser known to travellers and is not as well equiped to handle travellers as Honshu, Kyushu or Hokkaido.

Kyushu is the westernmost of the four large islands. The main sight on the island is Nagasaki, once the only city foreigners were allowed to visit in Japan – and only the Dutch and the Chinese. More recently it was the site where the biggest of the two nuclear bombs was dropped in WWII. Fukuoka City is like a laid-back version of Tokyo and famous for its street food (yatai). Kagoshima City has many museums with artifacts from as early as Commodore Perry’s visit. It was a major military stronghold. It is rich with culture including the Kagoshima-ben (dialect) which used to be the military secret language and is only spoken today by the elder generations while the younger prefer to speak the standard Japanese.


Hong Kong

hong kong

Hong Kong International Airport, the Hub for Asia.

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Extremely modern and posh airport

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the Airport Express, a fast, clean, and spotless train linking HK rail station to the airport in Lantau.

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Our lone traveler after 48 hours of airplanes and trains

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Hong Kong Central Station

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in case you’re out of ink : Automatic machine selling inkjet cartridges

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single journey ticket

hong kong

subway advertising

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destinations are written in mandarin, cantonese, japanese,  and english

hong kong

empty wagon

each wagon has a back-lighted map over the doors

hong kong

more on HK subway

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subway for Causeway Baysubway for Causeway Bay

hong kong

next stop : Central

hong kong

HP, Epson, and clones



You can find all the major european chains and many
local brands who have nothing to envy from western europe


lots of shops and cafes open till late night


Knez Mihajlova Street, the center of Beograd


50 Dinaries


20 Dinaries


BeoGrad beer


a creative painting


Dragana, trying to manage all this mess


a serbian shnapps called Stomaklija, the name says it all ….
even Jagermeister is no match with this !


the computer area, running a (lame) 56k modem

the main room


Three Black Catz YH Hostel, the nr.1 hostel in Beograd !
here’s my room Belgrade

there’s still a quite mittel-european atmosphere


the tracks (Kolosek)


Beograd Train Station

Sirmione & Lake Garda

Sirmione & Lake Garda

autobahn : from Verona to Sirmione

Sirmione & Lake Garda

Welcome to Sirmione !

Sirmione & Lake Garda

Sirmione : the castle “Rocca degli Scaligeri”, a fortress built in the 12th century
by the kings of Verona, then used in the 14th century by the Venetian Republic

Sirmione & Lake Garda

crowds of tourists, mainly germans, french, and english

Sirmione & Lake Garda

the main Gate

Sirmione & Lake Garda

the Scala, symbol of the Scaligeri (Della Scala) Kingdom12th century

Sirmione & Lake Garda

zoom : the Lion of St.Mark, symbol of Serenissima Venetian Republic (15th century)

Sirmione & Lake Garda

Rocca Scaligera (Castle of the Scaligeri)

Sirmione & Lake Garda

inside : solid walls made of rocks and bricks

Sirmione & Lake Garda

tower and internal walls. notice the “merli ghibellini”, symbolizing the alliance
with the german empire during the middleages

Sirmione & Lake Garda

outer view : houses on the lake’s shores

Sirmione & Lake Garda

main gate and entrance of the city

Sirmione & Lake Garda

sea walls : west view

Sirmione & Lake Garda

walls : east side view

Sirmione & Lake Garda

front view of the sea walls


Piazza Bra

Piazza Bra’ : the symbol of Verona : the world’s famous Arena

the Opera

unfortunately it’s now horribly covered by panels and lights used during the Opera

the Arena

the only remain of the outer 3rd ring of the Arena

the Arena2

the Arena dates back 1th century AD.
several heartquakes demolished the outer rings during middleage,
the rocks have been used to built other houses in the center.


trivia : inside these arches during middleages were used as a site for
prostitution, the site was called Lupanari

the Arena of Verona

unlike Rome’s Colosseum, the Arena of Verona is still intact
inside and is widely used for Opera and Musical concerts
during spring and summer.

the Opera's Gate

entrance of the Opera’s Gate


tickets can be bought online too

outside view

outside view of gates and ticket office

Piazza Bra' : the Liston

Piazza Bra’ : the Liston

 the Liston

all the major and most expensive restaurants of Verona can be found here in the Liston


world famous for its wines, tortellini, and traditional food from Veneto

Piazza Bra'

Piazza Bra’ : the giardini and the ugly equestrian statue of king vittorio emanuele.

entrance of Piazza Bra'

entrance of Piazza Bra’ : Portoni della Bra’, also known as Torre dell’Orologio

 the Museo Maffeiano

Piazza Bra’ : the Museo Maffeiano, hosting venetic, etruscan, greek, and roman
inscriptions, sculptures, and manufacts


chinaChina is incredible in many ways. The list of sights and things to do here is endless, not to mention the thick culture and wonders of this country. A few notable must-sees include the barren highlands of Tibet via the Silk Road to the bewildering Forbidden City at Bejing, the magnificent Great Wall of China. There are also the amazing thousands of Terracotta Warriors and Horses at the tomb of Qin Shi’huang in Xi’an, the intriguing citylife of (Shanghai), the breath-taking scenic beauty of Yunnan Province and the original Asia’s world city – Hong Kong. China is up and rising in recent years – watch for this truly spectacular place! Traveller’s suggestion: In most hostels/hotels in China, you can get a hotel business card at the front desk which includes their contact information, address, and map to it. This is very useful to give to a taxi driver when you want to return after your sightseeing.

Beijing means ‘Northern Capital’ and in many ways the name speaks for itself. It is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and the capital of bureaucrats. The whole country supposedly runs on Beijing time and is supposed to speak the Beijing dialect. From here the Chinese Communist Party rules over its enormous empire while further to the south, you will find more and more free trading with new capitalists, having contributed to form the new face of China over the last decades.

Beijing has come a long way from the dusty communist capital of the seventies and eighties to a modern city with the usual high rising buildings and shopping malls. At the same time, hotel and restaurant standards have improved enormously. It may not yet be able to compete with Hong Kong or Shanghai, but in its runup to the 2008 Olympics, it is trying real hard.

Naturally, Beijing has some of the most superb examples of Chinese architecture. No other place in China offers such a large number of old buildings as Bejing. On top of that, Beijing is one of the more convenient starting points for visiting The Great Wall.




Hard-Sleeper class in the train for Chengdu :
cabins are open air with no doors, 6 beds for cabin.


corridors are large ~60cm and there’s always someone
going forward or backward.


a thinking lady


chinese family having lunch

our brave lone traveler in a moment of relax : this train ride is 36 hours long.

the rude female train controller


beautiful scenarios in the Wuhan region

hills and valleys - Wuhan

hills and valleys – Wuhan

Rain forest – Australia


Rain forest – Australia