Once A Penal Colony, Sakhalin Still Captivates Its Visitors

Sakhalin is a one-way trip." That's what a Russian official once told me, alluding to Sakhalin's nefarious reputation as the penal colony of last resort, whose very name was said to make a man faint from fear. A chrysalis-shaped island at the entrance to the Sea of Okhotsk in the deepest reaches of the Russian Far East, Sakhalin's remoteness, fierce natural conditions and notoriety have made it one of Asia's most foreboding places to visit. But the isolated island is changing—albeit very slowly—from a once closed and alienated enclave into a travel and business destination.

Arguably, the...

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