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Quanzhou & Xiamen

The Guandi Temple in Quanzhou, Fujian province in China. Quanzhou, about 45 minutes on the train from Xiamen, was once a bustling traders' town at the end of the maritime silk road. The temple stands next to what is left of a 1000 year old mosque, built by the Arab, Persian and Indian traders.

The Guandi Temple in Quanzhou, Fujian province in China. Quanzhou, about 45 minutes on the train from Xiamen, was once a bustling traders’ town at the end of the maritime silk road. The temple stands next to what is left of a 1000 year old mosque, built by the Arab, Persian and Indian traders.

Reminders of another significant part of the region's history, opium pipes for sale in Quanzhou's markets.

Reminders of another significant part of the region’s history, opium pipes for sale in Quanzhou’s markets.

Ornaments for sale in the markets near Quanzhou's 1000-year old mosque.

Ornaments for sale in the markets near Quanzhou’s 1000-year old mosque.

Ornaments for sale at the markets near Quanzhou's 1000-year old mosque.

Ornaments for sale at the markets near Quanzhou’s 1000-year old mosque.

A bridge over the Yundang Inner Lake in Xiamen, Fujian province, China

A bridge over the Yundang Inner Lake in Xiamen, Fujian province, China

Sunset view of the south shore of Xiamen's Yundang Inner Lake.

Sunset view of the south shore of Xiamen’s Yundang Inner Lake.

A girl and her father fishing on Xiamen's Yundang Inner Lake.

A girl and her father fishing on Xiamen’s Yundang Inner Lake.

Three egrets on the rapids of the inlet to Xiamen's Yundang Inner Lake.

Three egrets on the rapids of the inlet to Xiamen’s Yundang Inner Lake.

An egret on the rapids at the inlet to Xiamen's Yundang Inner Lake.

An egret on the rapids at the inlet to Xiamen’s Yundang Inner Lake.

Egrets lined up to swoop for fish in the rapids at the inlet to Xiamen's Yundang Inner Lake.

Egrets lined up to swoop for fish in the rapids at the inlet to Xiamen’s Yundang Inner Lake.

Flowers in Xiamen's Huweishan Park.

Flowers in Xiamen’s Huweishan Park.

A rock carving at Xiamen's Nanputuo Temple.

A rock carving at Xiamen’s Nanputuo Temple.

Kids at sunset at Xiamen's Nanputuo Temple.

Kids at sunset at Xiamen’s Nanputuo Temple.

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21 October, 2013 · 21:09

Tusheti Photo Gallery

The Stori River valley on the road to Omalo, looking back towards Kakheti

The Stori River valley on the road to Omalo, looking back towards Kakheti

The Alazani River Valley and the road to Omalo

The Alazani River Valley and the road to Omalo

The map of Tusheti outside the visitors centre in Omalo

The map of Tusheti outside the visitors centre in Omalo

Our hotel and their dog Gabi in the warming afternoon sun

Our hotel and their dog Gabi in the warming afternoon sun

Our host Paata plays a traditional Tushetian song before dinner

Our host Paata plays a traditional Tushetian song before dinner

Wildcat, badger and bear skins hanging in the hotel, which is also Paata's family's house

Wildcat, badger and bear skins hanging in the hotel, which is also Paata’s family’s house

The fields of Lower Omalo and our horses for the day's trek to Lake Oreti

The fields of Lower Omalo and our horses for the day’s trek to Lake Oreti

Omalo, with the towers of Keselo watching over

Omalo, with the towers of Keselo watching over

Looking out over the Alazani Valley towards Dagestan from our lunch stop near Lake Oreti

Looking out over the Alazani Valley towards Dagestan from our lunch stop near Lake Oreti

One of the locals in the village of Dartlo

One of the locals in the village of Dartlo

Our host for lunch in Dartlo, Alika, and his son Erekle. The boy would not leave his father's side and, confusingly for me, kept sayng "Mama, Mama!". "Mama" means "father" in Georgian.

Our host for lunch in Dartlo, Alika, and his son Erekle. The boy would not leave his father’s side and, confusingly for me, kept saying “Mama, Mama!”. “Mama” means “father” in Georgian.

An impromptu lunch offer from Alika, who gave us a lift from Omalo to Dartlo. The pizza-looking dish is Khachapuri, a typical Georgian cheese bread. After lunch we and his family piled into his Hilux for the ride to Omalo. They were moving back to Kakheti for the long Tushetian winter.

An impromptu lunch offer from Alika, who gave us a lift from Omalo to Dartlo. The pizza-looking dish is Khachapuri, a typical Georgian cheese bread. After lunch we and his family piled into his Hilux for the ride to Omalo. They were moving back to Kakheti for the long Tushetian winter.

We visited a museum in one of the Keselo towers and a rain storm came through. After it had cleared we stepped out to the sight of afternoon rainbows

We visited a museum in one of the Keselo towers and a rain storm came through. After it had cleared we stepped out to the sight of afternoon rainbows

Rainbow Over Omalo

These houses on the side of a hill near Shenako are where the animals are kept for the winter. Three families in Shenako remain for the winter to look after the flocks.

These houses on the side of a hill near Shenako are where the animals are kept for the winter. Three families in Shenako remain for the winter to look after the flocks.

The frescoes in the little church on the hill in Shenako

The frescoes in the little church on the hill in Shenako

Berries by the roadside on the walk to Shenako

Berries by the roadside on the walk to Shenako

On the walk back from Shenako, a 30-year-old Lada Niva rumbled past and offered us a lift. In the back, in a box, was this Caucasian sheep dog puppy. They cut the ears when days old so they don't impede the dog's hearing.

On the walk back from Shenako, a 30-year-old Lada Niva rumbled past and offered us a lift. In the back, in a box, was this Caucasian sheep dog puppy. They cut the ears when days old so they don’t impede the dog’s hearing.

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29 August, 2013 · 19:51

Iran

My Tehran friend's cousin's dog Shanti. He's about 12 months old. He's only a little shih tzu but my friend's rottweiler is scared of the little guy. Dogs are popular as pets in wealthier parts of Tehran.

My Tehran friend’s cousin’s dog Shanti. He’s about 12 months old. He’s only a little shih tzu but my friend’s rottweiler is scared of the little guy. Dogs are popular as pets in wealthier parts of Tehran.

Shaman, my friend's 9 month old rottweiler, who came to my room with this face each morning. They didn't choose her but they've fallen in love with this little girl. In Iran you can have your dog seized for simply walking them in public. They take the dogs to Evin Prison (seriously) and leave them to die. So, with a typically Iranian solution, they have worked out that they can train her to be a rescue dog in an earthquake, and then they can take her for long walks and the government can't take her away.

Shaman, my friend’s 9 month old rottweiler, who came to my room with this face each morning. They didn’t choose her but they’ve fallen in love with this little girl. In Iran you can have your dog seized for simply walking them in public. They take the dogs to Evin Prison (seriously) and leave them to die. So, with a typically Iranian solution, they have worked out that they can train her to be a rescue dog in an earthquake, and then they can take her for long walk and the government can’t take her away.

In the Caspian province of Gilan, my friend Zia's friend's daughter Vanusheh plays with dolls dressed in typical Gilani dress. The dress (and Vanusheh) show that Iranians are far more lively, colourful and cheeky than the Islamic Republic would like us to believe. Iranians in general don't feel part of the Islamic Republic  - at best they have learned to work around the government's entrenched corruption and criminality in the name of god - but a great many despise it and wake up each morning wanting it gone.

In the Caspian province of Gilan, my friend Zia’s friend’s daughter Vanusheh plays with dolls dressed in typical Gilani dress. The dress (and Vanusheh) show that Iranians are far more lively, colourful and cheeky than the Islamic Republic would like us to believe. Iranians in general don’t feel part of the Islamic Republic – at best they have learned to work around the government’s entrenched corruption and criminality in the name of god – but a great many despise it and wake up each morning wanting it gone.

A boat on the Caspian Sea. The sand is dark and sometimes pebbly, and the waves aren't great. But this lush green region in the north is where many Iranians come to get away from the dry heat of the country.

A boat on the Caspian Sea. The sand is dark and sometimes pebbly, and the waves aren’t great. But this lush green region in the north is where many Iranians come to get away from the dry heat of the country.

Diners at a popular foodie's destination in Gilan - Khavar Khanum. Word about the restaurant's kebab spread on the internet and they now do 2000 meals a day and are hurriedly constructing an extension.

Diners at a popular foodie’s destination in Gilan – Khavar Khanum. Word about the restaurant’s kebab spread on the internet and they now do 2000 meals a day and are hurriedly constructing an extension.

The kebabs at Khavar Khanum on the grill. This was the best meal I've had in Iran. The Gilani taste for sour food extends to the sauce they use on the meat and chicken kebabs.

The kebabs at Khavar Khanum on the grill. This was the best meal I’ve had in Iran. The Gilani taste for sour food extends to the sauce they use on the meat and chicken kebabs.

A frog on the edge of a lake near Lahijan in Gilan. The lake was quite dry and it was hot and very humid so there was little evidence of wildlife until this guy popped up.

A frog on the edge of a lake near Lahijan in Gilan. The lake was quite dry and it was hot and very humid so there was little evidence of wildlife until this guy popped up.

The village of Masouleh, a couple of hours drive into the deep green mountains from Lahijan, is built into a steep hill. So steep, in fact, that they built the houses so that the roof of one house is the front yard and street for the one above. It's popular with Iranian tourists.

The village of Masouleh, a couple of hours drive into the deep green mountains from Lahijan, is built into a steep hill. So steep, in fact, that they built the houses so that the roof of one house is the front yard and street for the one above. It’s popular with Iranian tourists.

Tea wasn't grown in Iran  until the late 1800s. Now it is a permanent presence in daily life and Lahijan in Gilan is where the finest Iranian tea comes from.

Tea wasn’t grown in Iran until the late 1800s. Now it is a permanent presence in daily life and Lahijan in Gilan is where the finest Iranian tea comes from.

My friend Zia introduced me to his friend Afshin who has a tea factory in Lahijan. Even with the sanctions, he sell tea to Lipton in the Netherlands because the quality is so desirable.

My friend Zia introduced me to his friend Afshin who has a tea factory in Lahijan. Even with the sanctions, he sells tea to Lipton in the Netherlands because the quality is so desirable.

Afshin the tea man and his son pose outside his offices in Lahijan. His office is like a meeting place, with friends always passing through for a cup of tea.

Afshin the tea man and his son pose outside his offices in Lahijan. His office is like a meeting place, with friends always passing through for a cup of tea.

Zia outside the fish shop in the port of Bandar Anzali, where we tracked down some caviar. The signs in Gilan are all like this, large and colourful, and they brighten up the sometimes grubby and down-at-heel streets. Farsi script is very attractive and because I can't read them, simple words like "Shilat Fish Restaurant" look like art to me.

Zia outside the fish shop in the port of Bandar Anzali, where we tracked down some caviar. The signs in Gilan are all like this, large and colourful, and they brighten up the sometimes grubby and down-at-heel streets. Farsi script is very attractive and because I can’t read them, simple words like “Shilat Fish Restaurant” look like art to me.

The dam at Manjil, on the drive back from Lahijan to Tehran. This is the watershed, the point where the lush, greenery of Gilan changes into the dry, brown landscape where Tehran sits.

The dam at Manjil, on the drive back from Lahijan to Tehran. This is the watershed, the point where the lush, greenery of Gilan changes into the dry, brown landscape where Tehran sits.

A caravanserai, sits by the Aras River near Jolfa in Iran's far north-west. The Aras forms the narrow border between Iran and Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan province here, and between Iran and Armenia to the east.

A caravanserai, sits by the Aras River near Jolfa in Iran’s far north-west, with the mountains of Azerbaijan in the background. The Aras forms the narrow border between Iran and Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan province here, and between Iran and Armenia to the east.

The Armenian Orthodox church of St Stephanos near Jolfa and the Nakhchivan border. The church is pre-1600s and has only recently been restored. This part of the world has been racked by war since the early 90s, with Armenia and Azerbaijan pitted against one another and Iran having to maintain relations with both.

The Armenian Orthodox church of St Stephanos near Jolfa and the Nakhchivan border. The church is pre-1600s and has only recently been restored. This part of the world has been racked by war since the early 90s, with Armenia and Azerbaijan pitted against one another and Iran having to maintain relations with both.

Along the Aras, across from Armenia, there was a sign saying "Kordasht Bath Room". My driver stopped, I thought because he needed the toilet, but when I followed him I found it was beautiful old defunct bath house in the middle of nowhere.

Along the Aras, across from Armenia, there was a sign saying “Kordasht Bath Room”. My driver stopped, I thought because he needed the toilet, but when I followed him I found it was beautiful old defunct bath house in the middle of nowhere.

Many of the interesting stops in the Aras Valley only seem to have opened up since a peace has been reached between Armenia and Turkey-backed Azerbaijan. But there are still regular military posts along the road and the tourist needs to be wary about where he chooses to take photos.

Many of the interesting stops in the Aras Valley only seem to have opened up since a peace has been reached between Armenia and Turkey-backed Azerbaijan. But there are still regular military posts along the road and the tourist needs to be wary about where he chooses to take photos.

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21 August, 2013 · 16:10