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Unlike neatly defined continents like South America or Africa, there are no clear geographical boundaries to Asia, the largest and most populous continent of them all. The exact definition of Asia has shifted through history, but it is almost certainly a Greek word in origin, adopted by the Romans, whose empire had two Asian provinces, Asia Minor (roughly modern Turkey) and Asia Major (part of modern Iraq). The general consensus among modern geographers is to consider the boundaries to be the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles, the Caucasus and the Urals (Europe/Asia), the isthmus of Suez (Africa/Asia), the Pacific Ocean and the Malay Archipelago (Asia/Oceania), and the Bering Strait and Bering Sea (Asia/North America. Present day Asia makes up 30% of the landmass of the world, and, with a population of approximately 4.3 billion, almost 60% of humans live there.

As can be seen just from the photo gallery menu to the left of this page, the countries of Asia are amazingly diverse ethnically and culturally, and in size and population. Israel has 7 million people and a total land area less than 21,000 sq km. Jerusalem is significant to three world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Beijing is the capital of a country of 1.3 billion people, with a land area of 9.5 million sq km, where religion is theoretically free from persecution, but is followed by less than 20% of the population. By contrast nearly 100% of the inhabitants of Bali profess a religion, with the vast majority being Hindus.

Singapore and Hong Kong have among the highest Gross Domestic Products per head in the world at US$ 52,000 and US$ 36,000 respectively; Uzbekistan at US$ 1,736 is much lower; and Nepal with US$ 690 per capita is among the lowest in the world outside of Africa. (Figures: IMF, 2012) For decades the strongest economy in Asia has been Japan’s, but India is predicted to overtake Japan in GDP by 2020. India has the advantage of a large pool of highly skilled English speaking workers, and is able to attract business from call centres and business outsourcing by foreign companies. Asia is beginning to dominate the world’s economy, with China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam among the top Global Growth Generators In terms of personal wealth, Asia overtook Europe and North America for the first time in 2011 with 18,000 centa-millionaires (people with over 100m US$) to America’s 17,000 and Europe’s 14,000. (Figures: Citigroup 2012).

Again, our photo galleries show why tourism is playing a part in the prosperity of Asian countries. Bangkok was the most visited city in the world in 2013, with 15.98m international arrivals. For the first time, 10 of the top 20 cities for tourism in the world were in Asia. (Mastercard Report, 2013). Tourists voted Bangkok number 1 and Tokyo 2nd in the Travellers Choice Awards (Asia) 2013. Beijing was 3rd, with Hong Kong 7th and Singapore at number 8. Also in the top 20 were Seoul at 12, tourist sites in Vietnam at 14, 15 and 17, with Laos coming 19th. Photographs of all of these popular destinations are free to download from the relevant photo gallery, and with no copyright restrictions. All bigfoto asks in return is that you place a link back to bigfoto on your own website or blog, if you have one; or if you don’t, that you click the Facebook Like button on the home page.