Peru – 13 City Tour

Peru has been on my bucket list for almost 40 years.  When I was a young boy, I opened a history book and learned about the lost city, Machu Picchu.  Back then, it seemed like something out of a Raiders of the Lost Ark movie: an adventure of a lifetime, a world away, an experience next to impossible.   That said, I fulfilled my lifelong dream and booked a trip to Peru. I was to travel from Cuzco through the Sacred Valley, with the end goal of visiting Machu Picchu and experiencing some of Peru’s amazing history, archaeology, people, culture, art, food, and technology along the way.

Below:  6:00 am approaching Lima at sunrise.  Snow-capped peaks blanketed by cotton clouds.


C U S C O

I’m at 11,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes and feeling the altitude.  Tomorrow we ascend to 19,000 feet as we visit some much-anticipated ancient archaeological sites.  While the altitude is making me woozy, there are 13 cities I am scheduled to visit on this trip, so I’m excited and looking forward to this adventure.

Atop Pukamuqu hill, Jesus sends peace and prayer to the residents of Cusco below.

The view of Cusco from Pukamuqu hill above at 11,800 ft.

Plaza de Armas, Cuzco, Peru

One of the many steep hillside roads in the hills above town in Cusco.

One way to get from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes is to take the train through the what’s known as The Sacred Valley.  The trip is simply beautiful. There are three railways providing service to Aguas Calients.  Peru Rail, Inca Rail, and MachuPicchu Train. For Peru Rail and Inca Rail, trains depart from Poroy station (a 20-minute trip from Cusco) or from Ollantaytambo station, located in the Sacred Valley. The trains arrive at Machu Picchu Pueblo (also known as Aguas Calientes).

Early morning at Machu Picchu, observing the Peruvian Andes release tons of moisture into the atmosphere.  The anticipation builds as I wait for an opportunity to capture some amazing photographs of this historic site.

Early morning shot of Machu Picchu, just after the fog burned off.

Just messing around with some locals.

Pikillaqta Lake – Huacarpay

Arial drone footage of Peruvian Hillside Terraces.  Taken with my DJI Mavic Pro at 350′

Cambodia – The Temples of Angkor

Cambodia…hot, balmy, over 100° F in the jungle.  Rich with history, full of adventure, fabulous food, and gentle, loving people.  It is a must-visit on your bucket list.

A N G K O R   W A T – អង្គរវត្ត

Exploring Angkor Wat or “Capital Temple,” the largest religious monument in the world, measuring 402 acres.  Originally constructed as a Hindu temple of the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.  It was built in the early 12th century by the Khmer King, Suryavarman II, in Yaśodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire.  Angkor Wat was King Suryavarman II’s state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation.

The temple is at the top of the high-classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag and multiple prints of Cambodia’s currency.  It is the country’s prime tourist attraction, with more than 7,000 visitors daily.  Approaching from the back, I was able to shoot this early morning shot with the sun in my favor.  I loved exploring this temple, even though it was over a sweltering 100° F.   Click images to view high-resolution photos!
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Early morning sunrise shot at Ankor Wat.
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B A Y O N – ប្រាសាទបាយ័ន

Bayon was one of my favorite temples to visit.  Lots of intricate detail went into building this temple and it shows. It was built in the late 12th or early 13th century as the official state temple of the Mahayana Buddhist King, Jayavarman VII.
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A local kid showed me this trick, using the panorama feature on my phone.  I call this photo “In Two Places at Once.”
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Buddha’s chin.
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B A N T E A Y   S R E I  –  ប្រាសាទបន្ទាយស្រី

Exploring Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey, a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Located in the area of Angkor, it lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km (16 mi) north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.   Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction. These factors have made the temple extremely popular, and have led to its being widely praised as a “precious gem”, or the “jewel of Khmer art.”
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Special thanks to the four monks who posed for this photo.
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T A   P R O H M – ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម

Exploring Ta Prohm.  Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple at Angkor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara.  This temple is fun to explore as it is overtaken by trees, giving it that Tomb Raider look.
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Buddha everywhere.
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P H N O M  P E N H – ភ្នំពេញ

Exploring the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.  The palace was constructed after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh in the mid-19th century. It was built atop an old citadel called Banteay Kev. It faces towards the East and is situated at the Western bank of the cross division of the Tonle Sap River and the Mekong River.  Today was very warm here in Phnom Penh, but worth the trip to capture this shot of the Palace.
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Stupa at Royal Palace in Phnom Penh Cambodia
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Phnom Penh at night as seen from the Mekong River.  Modern, active, and full of night life.
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Another beautiful sunset on the Mekong River, north of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  Relaxing.
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K O N P O N G    L O U A N G

Visited a silversmith village in this small town today.  I had an opportunity to see how they apply artistic talent and metal working.  It’s a great place to pick up a couple of decorative pieces.  Just follow this road until you hear a lot of clink-clank pounding; your ears will tell you when you get there. Below is an arial shot I took with my DJI Mavic Pro Drone.
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Found this highly detailed brass piece hiding on the side of a cabinet in one silversmith’s shop.
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Got a deal on this silver statue.
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W A T   H A N C H E Y

Wat Hanchey is a hilltop pagoda 20km north of Kompong Cham.  It was an important centre of worship during the Chenla period when, as today, it offered some of the best Mekong views in Cambodia.  The foundations of several 8th-century structures, some of them destroyed by American bombs, are scattered around the compound, along with a clutch of bizarre fruit and animal statues.  Below are a couple arial shots from my DJI drone.
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P R E K   B A N G   K O N G 
Silk, silk and more silk.  You will not find a shortage of silk in Cambodia.  These master craftsmen are highly skilled at weaving some stunning patterns which in turn create some beautiful clothing.  Shirts, pants and silk scarves are in abundance here.  I found 100% silk shirts for $20. USD and scarves for $7.00 USD, and that is before negotiating.  There are good deals to be had, so stock up while you are here.

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O T H E R   P H O T O S


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Singapore – The Wine Reserve

All roads lead to…Singapore?  Well, maybe not, but I’ve been to Singapore five times in 2017 already and each time I can’t help but visit the climate- controlled wine cellar at The Wine Reserve.  This is not an ordinary selection of vino by any means; these guys have been stocking highly collectable wines, including verticals and limited production wines from around the world.

Check out this four-bottle collection of Chateau Margaux (1990). For a measly $75,000. SGD ($54,965. USD) you can add these to your collection.  Last month, I set up a double magnum rack at home, so when I saw the 3 Ltr. of Margaux, my eyes lit up like the Rockefeller Center on New Year’s Eve.  Perfect for Christmas dinner!

If the Chateau Margaux does not interest you, then take a look at the 16-bottle vertical of Chateau Mouton Rothschild for only $32,000. SGD ($23,451. USD).

Delicious!

 

Morocco – 13 City Tour

Exploring Morocco – المغرب

There’s nothing like the cooler climate of North Africa to wind down the pace from four months of solo travel abroad.  I can’t say enough about Morocco to describe the amazing experience I had exploring this wonderful country.  After months of exploring countries on the Indian ocean, it was not by chance that I ended up in Morocco.  As a young boy, I had a fantasy of treasure hunting, exploring exotic locations, and riding camels across the famed Sahara Desert. For my 50th this year, I made my boyhood dream come true.  I knocked another one off the bucket list and trekked the Sahara on camel, spending the night in a Berber camp, where we partied until the wee hours of the morning.  While I was only in Morocco for a couple of weeks, I was fortunate enough to explore more than 13 cities.  Above:  my map of the journey.

I thought it might be a good idea to bring a map…I sure didn’t want to get lost in the middle of the Sahara.  We started our tour in Casablanca, stopping for one or two days in each city, looping across the country, over the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert. We then crossed over the Atlas Mountains again to end our excursion back in Casablanca.  This country is a shopper’s paradise.  I bought so many items of clothing, coffee, chocolate, antiques, etc. that I had to buy an extra piece of luggage to bring everything back.  Nothing like an aged leather bag from Fez to carry home one’s treasures!


M A R R A K E C H   مراكش

The view of the open air market in Marrakech, taken in while enjoying a beer on my rooftop perch.

Fun evening out on the town in Marrakech.  Great meal and entertainment at Dar Essalam.  Mmmmm, yummy Moroccan food and talented belly dancers.


C A S A B L A N C A

Exploring Casablanca. Great food, wonderful people, and great deals on everything.

The Four Seasons, beach-side in Casablanca.  Just got a great deal on shoes and some designer shirts.


V O L U B I L I S

I explored the Ancient Roman city of Volubilis in Morocco.  Volubilis dates back to 40 BC and was once home to more than 20,000 residents. This site has not been fully excavated by archeologists yet, so there are lots of mosaic tiles and pieces of ancient pottery just lying around. What a fun city to explore!
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S A H A R A   D E S E R T

Trekking the Sahara Desert, a self-given birthday gift.  My cell phone was going off in the middle of the Sahara with everyone wishing me a happy birthday. Ding…Ding…Ding.  With a smile on my face, we rode on in search of our camp.

Below photo:  Sunrise on the Sahara, April 12th, with the magical golden sand.  I bottled some of the sand and brought some home, along with the shells from Indonesia, Singapore, Dar., Zanzibar, and Madagascar.
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I spent the night in a camp and celebrated my 50th with fellow explorers.  Jonathan Bulezuik got tanked on a bottle of gin and stayed up all night playing drums with the locals while talking to them about hot political topics.  The video below was shot just after dinner in the center of our tent camp.

Sunrise in the Sahara.  What a beautiful morning.
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K A S B A H   A M R I D I L

Stopped and toured this beautiful kasbah in the middle of the lush palm groves.

 

T O D G H A   G O R G E

The drive to FEZ


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One last stop before we reach Fez and my chance to get some Moroccan chocolate for wine pairing and cooking.  Love the spice selection in the local supermarket!


F E Z

Love the detailed stone work in my hotel lobby.
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Leather capital of Africa. Bring some mint if you visit the tanneries.  Chouara (Chaouwara) Leather Tannery in Fez Medina

Need a jacket, shoes, or a leather bag?  The Leather tanneries of Fez have anything leather you can think of, including fresh mint to mask the smell.

I love it when you go out to eat and the belly dancer pulls you away from the table to tango.


M E K N E S

I found the food in Meknes to be delicious.  The merchants were way too high on their prices, but then I was a little overdressed for hard-core bargaining.  There are nice antiques in this city.  I took this photo of Bab Mansour, a huge gate with arches and mosaic tiling. The gate leads into the former imperial city. The Mausoleum of Sultan Moulay Ismail, who made the city his capital in the 17th century, has courtyards and fountains. Now heading to the capital city of Rabat on the coast.
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A I T   B E N H A D D O U

Below:  Ait Benhaddou, Ighrem, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco.  We found snow while crossing the Atlas Mountains.  My ears were popping upon descent. Digging the shirt I bought in Ethiopia; the clothing there was pretty cool for a third world country.
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R A B A T
Hassan Tower at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V
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Sunset over the Atlantic. The cool ocean breeze is refreshing; it’s a nice way to end my stay in Barat, Morocco.
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What a great group of people to explore Morocco with.  Many special thanks to everyone for such a fantastic adventure.