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Malacca, Malaysia

Feb 28, 2016 – Malacca, Malaysia

2016 – SE Asia and Total Solar Eclipse cruise

Our ship anchors for the day offshore. Malacca is a city with an interesting history. It was originally colonized by the Portuguese, and then the Dutch came in and took over. Finally, the British ousted the Dutch, in the final wave of colonial rule before Malaysia gained independence in modern times.

Dutch Square, including bell tower and Christ Church, Malacca, Malaysia
Dutch Square, including bell tower and Christ Church, Malacca, Malaysia

We need to cover very little ground with our shore excursion today Walk the Dutch Trail, since the history of this small city is concentrated within a few blocks in the centre of the city. Malacca was once a spice centre for eastern and western traders, and boasts a colourful history forged by Malay Sultans and European colonial powers, which resulted in the formation of multi-cultural communities. Each of these historical eras left its own heritage and influence, as we walk back through time to discover the great empires of Malacca: the Malay Sultanate, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Starting in Dutch Square, we see the Stadthuys, built as the official residence for the Dutch governors and their officers – an excellent example of Dutch period architecture. Christ Church, standing tall since 1753, is another contribution of the Dutch who defeated the Portuguese in 1641.

Two trishaws, Malacca, Malaysia
Two trishaws, Malacca, Malaysia

Seri Melaka, now known as the Governors Museum was the location of the head of state for this area from the Sultanate of Melaka’s time onward through the various colonial governors. Also on St Paul’s Hill are the ruins of St Paul’s Church, where Catholic missionary St Francis Xavier was briefly interred in 1553. The ruins of the Portuguese Fortress are visible as we descend the hill to tour the replica of the Malacca Sultan’s Palace. Finally, we head back to the pier by trishaw – gaudily-decorated bicycles with the back axel extended so there are two back wheels and a small seat with a canopy rigged up.

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Sacred Valley of the Incas

2011 Incan Empires Cruise

Sunday, December 04, 2011 – Day 14 – Sacred Valley of the Incas Tour, Peru

I am up ahead of our wakeup call at 6AM, and go down to the buffet breakfast included with the hotel rate. It is wonderful to have some Peruvian coffee and a nicely prepared omelette before our day begins. Felix is our driver and Boris is our guide for the day. They pick us up at 8AM for our full day tour of the Sacred Valley. Grain and corn were cultivated for the Inka, his family and the upper class in this valley. Original Inca agricultural terraces are still being used today, and are visible everywhere we drive through this valley.

Wendy mentions to Boris she is interested in textiles, so he decides to reverse the order of the tour, taking us to Chinchero for our first stop this morning. The Peruvian women at Expo Andina serve us cocoa tea and then put on a very amusing and informative textile demonstration (see banner photo above). Afterward, they have their wares for sale. We end up buying quite a few items, since they are original, locally made, and reasonably priced.

Farmer with his plow and mule packing sacks of produce
Farmer with his plow and mule packing sacks of produce

We also visit the local Sunday market in Chinchero since it is close by. It’s a very interesting market, where some people are trading produce rather than paying cash. There is a lunch area, fresh spices, produce of all kinds, flowers, a shoe repair, including sandals for sale made from recycled tires, and cooking pottery is also being sold. The varieties of corn and potatoes available in this market are nothing short of amazing. There is also a large area dedicated to souvenirs made for tourists. I think we are their only tourists this morning, because we are pestered pretty well!

Incan terraces on the front of the fortress at Ollantaytambo
Incan terraces on the front of the fortress at Ollantaytambo

Next stop is Urubamba, the community where the Peru Rail train joins the Urubamba River and the Sacred Valley on its way to Machu Picchu. We get a super workout at our next stop at Ollantaytambo, an Incan town and temple fortress – we climb to the top! The granite stone used for this fortress were moved by human muscle from a quarry on the side of a mountain, located across the river . Boris offers to take us into an Incan house, but we decline since we are so exhausted after scaling the fortress.

We drive to our lunch stop at the Sonesta Posada Yucay, a resort and a hotel. They offer a very a nice buffet of traditional Peruvian food. I really appreciate having some coffee to start with. After savouring the coffee, I go back to tackle the buffet, which consists of virtually all Peruvian food. Yucay is in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is a fertile and verdant valley, and still produces maize as it did for the Incas so many centuries ago. We drive by a soccer game being played with sheep on the field, which nobody seems to notice or care about.

Sacks of potatoes at the Pisac Market
Sacks of potatoes at the Pisac Market

Pisac Market is our last stop before returning to Cusco. We all assure Boris we can do without visiting this market, and would appreciate an early return to the hotel so we can rest. However, he talks us into a quick visit, since it is on our way back to Cusco. The market is huge, and there are many interesting things for sale, but we buy nothing and leave after 15 minutes. We see more Inca terraces on the hills above the Rio Pahuaycoc valley, as we return to Cusco.

We go to La Pizza Carlo again for dinner this evening and order the loaded pizza. Perhaps we are not very adventurous, but we are exhausted from the day’s activities and just want to go to bed to get lots of rest for tomorrow – the big day when we go to Machu Picchu.

Sacred Valley
54 photos
Wood stacked for cooking fires
Wood stacked for cooking fires
Planted fields
Planted fields
Andes mountains behind a valley used for agriculture
Andes mountains behind a valley used for agriculture
Andes mountains behind a valley used for agriculture
Andes mountains behind a valley used for agriculture
Packing goods home in a wheelbarrow from the Sunday market
Packing goods home in a wheelbarrow from the Sunday market
Outside of Expo Andina textile demo
Outside of Expo Andina textile demo
Blessings on a roof top
Blessings on a roof top
Guinea pigs being raised for food
Guinea pigs being raised for food
Peruvian wall hangings & other textiles
Peruvian wall hangings & other textiles
Demonstrating how soap is made from a plant
Demonstrating how soap is made from a plant
Textile colouring made from various plants
Textile colouring made from various plants
Red dye made from a cactus blossom
Red dye made from a cactus blossom
Demonstrating red and yellow dyeing
Demonstrating red and yellow dyeing
Balls of various coloured wools
Balls of various coloured wools
Handmade leather bags with fabric designs
Handmade leather bags with fabric designs
Trading produce
Trading produce
Fresh spices
Fresh spices
Cherries & peppers
Cherries & peppers
Bread buns
Bread buns
The lunch area
The lunch area
Tourist wares for sale
Tourist wares for sale
Cooking pots for sale
Cooking pots for sale
Farmer with his plow and mule packing sacks of produce
Farmer with his plow and mule packing sacks of produce
Farmer in corn field
Farmer in corn field
Cows and corn fields
Cows and corn fields
Terraced hills along the Sacred Valley
Terraced hills along the Sacred Valley
Inca terraces along the river
Inca terraces along the river
Incan sidewalks, water aqueducts, and stonework
Incan sidewalks, water aqueducts, and stonework
Main entrance terraces
Main entrance terraces
Steps beside the main entrance terraces
Steps beside the main entrance terraces
Inca agricultural storage facilities on the opposite mountain
Inca agricultural storage facilities on the opposite mountain
View of Ollantaytambo from part way up the terraces
View of Ollantaytambo from part way up the terraces
Inca agricultural storage facilities on the opposite mountain
Inca agricultural storage facilities on the opposite mountain
Incan stone wall
Incan stone wall
Terraces near the top of the fortress
Terraces near the top of the fortress
Incan stone wall and terraces
Incan stone wall and terraces
Joe on the top of the fortress with Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley below
Joe on the top of the fortress with Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley below
Our guide Boris Boret explaining how the stone slabs were made and moved
Our guide Boris Boret explaining how the stone slabs were made and moved
Incan terraces on the front of the fortress
Incan terraces on the front of the fortress
Wendy and Boris decending
Wendy and Boris decending
Wendy and Boris decending with agricultural valley and Ollantaytambo below
Wendy and Boris decending with agricultural valley and Ollantaytambo below
John descending a long series of steps
John descending a long series of steps
Plaza and fortress
Plaza and fortress
Ceremonial fountain
Ceremonial fountain
Peruvian handicraft masks being sold by the entrance
Peruvian handicraft masks being sold by the entrance
Ollantaytambo town plaza
Ollantaytambo town plaza
Restaurant entrance
Restaurant entrance
Tourist souvenirs & little girl dressed for tourist photo ops
Tourist souvenirs & little girl dressed for tourist photo ops
Sacks of potatoes
Sacks of potatoes
Fruit stand
Fruit stand
Piscac street with Incan terraced hills behind
Piscac street with Incan terraced hills behind
Incan terraced hills behind Pisac
Incan terraced hills behind Pisac
Incan terraced hills behind Pisac
Incan terraced hills behind Pisac
Inca terraces on the hills above  the Rio Pahuaycoc valley
Inca terraces on the hills above the Rio Pahuaycoc valley
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Circle Tour – day 3

Greece 2006

April 9, 2006 – Sunday – Circle Tour – Corinth isthmus & Peloponnese peninsula

Today is a full day tour with Paul, since getting to these sites without a car is difficult. Paul picks me up at 8am and we head out of Athens.

Corinth Canal

Bridges over the Corinth Canal with a ship passing through
Bridges over the Corinth Canal with a ship passing through

First stop is the north end of the Corinth Canal between the Aegean Sea and the Gulf of Corinth. It is obviously a very strategic waterway, since it eliminates sailing around the very large Peloponnese peninsula. Nero started the canal in 66 A.D., and used slaves and prisoners to dig 3.3km of the 6.3km total distance before having to abandon the project when he was arrested in Rome. The canal project wasn’t restarted again until 1882, and completed in 1893, paid for by the Greek government but built by private contractors. Sinking bridges at either end accommodate local traffic, however the expressway and other major roads go over top.

Ancient Corinth & Acrocorinth

Temple of Apollo at Ancient Corinth with Acrocorinth in the distance
Temple of Apollo at Ancient Corinth with Acrocorinth in the distance

Next is Ancient Corinth (€6 admission). There are lots of interesting ruins here and a decent museum. The Temple of Apollo’s pillars dominate the Agora site, but the Lechaion Road, Fountain of Peirene and basilica offer a glimpse into daily Roman life here

Acrocorinth is visible from this site, located 565m above the ancient city. Paul drives up the mountain to the first gate, and then I climb the steep and rocky roads through the three gates built by various occupiers of this strategic fortress. I can’t face the 4 km climb to the top where the Acropolis is located.

Mycenae

Next stop is Mycenae and the Treasure of Atreus (€8 admission). Perhaps this is the most interesting site I see today, although it is less dramatic visually. Mycenae (and other ancient sites in the area) were inhabited by advanced civilizations hundreds of years before Christ (BC), proving that the tales told by Homer were based on fact. Mycenae is located on a low hill, and the Treasure of Atreus is located in a beehive shaped structure nearby. Actually, the treasures are now located in Athens at the National Archaeological Museum. The gold masks are a must see when you visit the Museum.

Grave Circle A - Mycenae
Grave Circle A – Mycenae

Palamidhi Fortress & Nafplio

Palamidhi Castle walls and gun emplacements with Argos Bay behind
Palamidhi Castle walls and gun emplacements with Argos Bay

There are 900 steps to climb up to the Palamidhi Fortress from the pretty coastal town of Nafplio, however I opt to drive up (€6 admission). Palamidhi Fortress overlooks the town below, and the Bourtzi Fortress on Ayiou Theodhorou islet in Argos Bay. This is perhaps the most impressive fortress I’ve ever visited. It is perched on a steep hill, and the views are breathtaking. Like Acrocorinth, strenuous climbing is involved in exploring the site!

Epidaurus

Ancient outdoor amphitheatre of Epidaurus
Ancient outdoor amphitheatre of Epidaurus

Ancient Epidaurus, Theatre – (€6 admisson) – This ancient outdoor theatre is still used today to stage performances. It is not as large or as well decorated as the theatres we saw in Libya at Leptis Magna and Sabrata, however it is an impressive theatre nonetheless, and apparently has perfect acoustics. It dates to the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, and is part of a larger complex of buildings, including a sanitarium.

Return to Athens

Expressway from Corinth to Athens, twin tunnels

It has been a long day, but very productive and rewarding, since I experienced so many ancient sites, thanks to Paul’s intimate knowledge. I go to the Ayah restaurant again this evening for dinner, and have chicken and rice with Rocket salad – excellent!

Greek restaurants will dress most salads with oil and vinegar before serving unless you catch them first. As well, olive oil is poured on almost all main courses.