Sydney, Australia

  Sydney is the most populous city in Australia with a metro population of over 4.2 million people. The city is located on Australia's southeast coast, and is the state capital of New South Wales. It was the first European colony in Australia, and was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove.

  The city is known for its beaches and twin landmarks: the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The design of the opera house was selected in a 1957 competition, and Danish architect Jorn Utzon won with the famous "shells" you see today. Construction began in early 1959 and the original cost estimate was $7 million, but it wasn't until 1973, at a cost of $102 million, that the Opera House was completed. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the main crossing between the central business district (CBD) and the North Shore, and is both the widest long-span bridge in the world and the largest steel arch bridge with the top being 440 feet above the harbor.

Hong Kong

  China has two "SARs", or Special Administrative Regions, including Hong Kong and Macau. Hong Kong's full name is: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

  Hong Kong, comprising over 260 islands, was a British colony from 1842 until the People's Republic of China resumed sovereignty in 1997. Under the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Basic Law, Hong Kong will continue to govern itself until at least 2047, fifty years after the transfer of sovereignty from the British to China. Under China's "One Country, Two Systems" policy, Hong Kong maintains its own legal system, currency, customs policy, cultural delegation, international sports teams, and immigration laws while the PRC (People's Republic of China) represents the territory in diplomatic and military affairs only.

  The Chinese New Year is a 15 day "Spring Festival" starting on the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar. 2007 will mark the "Year of the Pig", and the New Year begins on February 18th. In China, the Pig (or Boar) is associated with fertility and virility. To have children in the year of the pig is considered very fortunate, and it's said that they will be happy and honest.


  China's second "SAR" is the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, and is located near Hong Kong on the southern coast of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Macau was administered by Portugal until 1999, when it was transferred to the PRC. Macau was the oldest European colony in China, as it was given back to China 2 year's after the British turned over HK, and after 329 years of Portuguese rule. Macau is famous for its gambling industry and casinos, and specifically the most popular game, baccarat.

Bangkok, Thailand

  Bangkok is the capital and largest city of Thailand, with a 2006 census population of 6.35 million. Bangkok is the 22nd most populated city in the world, and even though there are only roughly 7 million registered inhabitants, the actual population is much higher and is estimated to reach 15 million people during the day, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

  Bangkok has been called the "world's hottest large city" by the World Meteorological Organization, and its wealth of cultural sites makes it one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. In fact, Travel and Leisure magazine ranks Bangkok as the third most popular tourist destination in the world and number one in Asia.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

  Sieam Reap, the capital of Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, is the small charming gateway town to the world famous heritage site - the Angkor temples. Angkor Wat has transformed Siem Reap into a major tourist hub.

  Most tourists come to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and other Angkor ruins. While those are still the main attractions, there are plenty of other things to experience, such as dinner with an Apsara Dance performance, a trip to fishing villages and the bird sanctuary, a visit to a craft workshop and silk farm, or a bicycle tour around the rice paddies in the countryside.

Kathmandu, Nepal

  Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal and it is also the largest city in Nepal. Kathmandu is at an elevation of approximately 4,265ft, but the largest mountains in the world, the Himalayan range, can be seen from the city. The highest point on earth at 29,028ft, Mount Everest is less than 60 miles from Kathmandu.

  The Kathmandu Valley consists of three primary cities, Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. It is said that the Buddha and his disciples spent some time in the area of present-day Patan in the 6th century BC, although there is no evidence for this.

  Nepal has recently had many political problems. The "Kingdom of Nepal" has recently seen King Gyanendra relinquish absolute power after his country went through a civil war since 1996 that saw more than 13,000 deaths. Maoist rebels have recently made peace agreements and just started giving up their arms so that their country can finally find peace.

  A few interesting facts about Nepal: it's the only country in the world where males outlive females (life expectancy is 60.9 for males and 59.5 for females), and more than 80% of Nepalese follow Hinduism, which is higher than the percentage of Hindus in India and this makes Nepal the single most Hindu nation in the world.

Varanasi, India

  Varanasi, also known as Benares, is a famous Hindu holy city situated on the banks of the Ganges river in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is believed to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

  Buddha gave his first sermon at the nearby town of Sarnath, and Mark Twain once wrote, "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together!"

  Varanasi is said to be the most holy city in Hinduism, and is visited by more than 1 million pilgrims each year. It is believed by Hindus that bathing in the Ganges river will remove all sins and that dying in the holy city will circumvent rebirth.

Agra, India

  Agra is a medieval city on the banks of the Yamuna River in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and was founded by Sultan Sikandar Lodi in 1506. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal empire from 1526 to 1658 and remains a major tourist destination because of its many splendid Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

  In December 1631, the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, commenced the construction of one of the greatest monuments of all time, the Taj Mahal. It is a mausoleum built in the memory of his beloved and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, fulfilling one of the promises that he made to her as she lay on her deathbed: To erect a monument to match her beauty.

Delhi, India

  New Delhi is an urban area within the metropolis of Delhi, and the capital city of the Republic of India, as well as the seat of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi. The entire metropolis of Delhi is commonly known as New Delhi in contrast to Old Delhi.

  From 1772 to 1911, Calcutta was the capital city of British India; however, Delhi had served as the political and financial center of several empires of ancient India, most notably of the Mughal Empire. During the early 1900s, a proposal was made to the British administration to shift the capital of the Indian Empire from Calcutta to Delhi. Unlike Calcutta, which was located on the eastern coast of India, Delhi was located in central India and the Government of British India felt that it would be easier to administer India from Delhi rather than from Calcutta. Owing to its historic and cultural importance, George V, the then Emperor of India, made the announcement that the capital of the Raj was shifting from Calcutta to Delhi.

  Old Delhi, the capital of Muslim India between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries, is full of fine mosques, monuments, and forts. It is a lively area of colorful bazaars, narrow streets, and busy traffic. Its main thoroughfare is Chandri Chowk, named after the old silversmiths' bazaar.

Istanbul, Turkey

  Istanbul is Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and economic center. It is located on the Bosphorus strait in the northwest of the country, and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn. Istanbul extends into both the European (Thrace) and Asian (Anatolia) sides of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. According to the 2000 census, the metro area's population was slightly over 10 million people.   Istanbul is also the only city in the world which served as the capital to three different Empires: The Roman Empire (330-395), Byzantine Empire (395-1453) and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1923). In 1923, following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the capital was moved to Ankara.

Cape Town, South Africa

  Cape Town is the third most populous city in South Africa, and is the provincial capital of the Western Cape and the legislative capital of SA (where the National Parliament and many government offices are located). Cape Town is famous for its harbor as well as the well-known landmark Table Mountain. Often regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities because of its geography, Cape Town is the most popular South African destination for tourism.

  Cape Town was home to many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, despite many of the group's leaders' internment on Robben Island, a penitentiary island 10 kilometers out to sea from the city, where many famous political prisoners were held for many years. Nelson Mandela made his first public speech in decades on 2/11/90 from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall after being released from Robben Island.

Lima, Peru

  Lima is both the capital and largest city in Peru. It lies on a desertic coast overlooking the Bay of Lima in the Pacific Ocean where its port was built and named Callao.

  Founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, Lima was once known as the City of Kings. It became the most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, and for more than three centuries it was the greatest metropolis in South America. Today nearly one-third of the nation's population lives in this one metro area.

  The Lima Metropolis ranks among Latin America's largest and densest urban concentrations, with an estimated metro area population of 8.2 million according to the 2005 census.

Cusco, Peru

  Cuzco (often spelled Cusco) is located in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley) of the Andes mountain range. The city has a population of about 300,000, triple the population it had just 20 years ago. The altitude of the city is nearly 11,500ft, and was the historical capital of the sun-worshipping Incan empire (found to be the spot on the Earth with the highest UV level in 2006).

  Cuzco is South America's archaeological capital and the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent. The Incan Empire supposedly began in the 12th century and flourished for the next 400 years. When Europeans discovered the New World, they brought with them various Old World diseases. Epidemics, including smallpox and the common cold, swept down from Central America and the Caribbean. Huayna Capac, the "11th Inca", died in such an epidemic around 1525. Shortly before his death, he divided his empire, giving the northern part to his son Atahualpa and the southern Cuzco area to another son, Huascar.

  The Spanish conquistador, Francsico Pizarro, entered Cuzco on November 9 1533 and appointed a puppet Inca, Manco, as the ruler. In 1536 Manco no longer wanted to be a puppet of the Spaniards, so he attempted to rebel and drive them out of his empire. The Spaniards won, and left Cuzco shortly thereafter by moving on to Lima.