Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shanghai China

Hyatt on the Bund
After our quick day trip to Shenzhen we flew up to Shanghai on China Southern Airlines for a couple of days at Hyatt on the Bund to explore the area.

Club Floor Room

Pudong from the Room
The location of the Hyatt is just perfect. The hotel is at one end of the Bund and is over 30 stories high. We stayed in a Club River View room on a high floor. There were unobstructed panoramic views of the city on both sides of the Huangpu River. Pudong was beautiful across the river.

M at the Bund Terrace
The food at the Hyatt was quite good but we had a chance  to try a couple of really good restaurants on the Bund. One that really stood out was M on the Bund. Fantastic restaurant that specializes in dishes with a mixture of Middle Eastern and European flavor. M at the Bund is undoubtedly a high-end spot with superb views and a strikingly beautiful terrace.

Fish at Jishi
We also loved Jishi for true Shanghai food. It’s tiny and always crowded. Luckily, we had a Chinese friend who helped us through the menu. At Jishi we had all the standards and each dish was well prepared and delicious. Shanghai food is oily and heavy, so I don't recommend eating it everyday. I could eat Jishi's fish everyday though.

Walking along the River

Sitting Along the Bund

The Crowd Along the Huangpu
The Bund itself is fantastic to walk around and just take in the crowds of Chinese and western tourists. The  views of old time buildings and Pudong across the river are wonderful.

Down the Bund at Night from Room
The Bund is alongside Huangpu River. It once was the financial center of the Far East. It's been considered Shanghai's symbol since the 1920s. It is often referred to as “a museum of buildings”. Many different styles of European buildings can be found here. Now it is even more attractive as you can also see the modern skyscrapers of Pudong across the Huangpu River. The view gives you a strong contrast between modern life and the past.

Highly recommended!

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Shenzhen China

Shenzhen Marriott
After spending some time in Hong Kong we decided on a quick trip to Shenzhen and Shanghai before we caught our flights back to SFO. With our 10 year visas, since both cities are in mainland China, it was pretty easy to visit the PRC. 

Hotel Room
We were staying at the Four Seasons Hong Kong and the nice concierge got us a shuttle van straight through on the modern express way to Shenzhen. A lot of people take the ferry or train which takes 3-5 hours with long lines at the border. The great thing about the van is it only takes about an hour and you never have to get out to clear customs or show your visa. The driver takes care of it all. Cost about USD 250.00 and is well worth it.

Shenzhen is a major city in Guangdong Province. It’s immediately north of Hong Kong and the area has become one of China’s first and most successful Special Economic Zones. According to the Government report for 2014, Shenzhen had a population of 10,628,900 people in the city proper, and a metropolitan area population of over 18 million. A huge city.

Marriott Lobby
We had reservations at the new-ish JW Marriott in Bao’an in a new area being developed by the airport. The Marriott has a beautiful lobby and two restaurants both of which serve terrific food. The buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner offer outstanding broad selections of delicious food. The rooms are well appointed and very new and clean. The spa, pool, and exercise facilities are among the best we’ve seen at any hotel. 

Shenzhen Apartments
The Marriott staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful. Free fast wifi is included and the security is excellent. Not much to do near the hotel though, the area is a major construction zone now but eventually there will be a lot in this area.

Replica of Tibetan Lamasery
We were only in Shenzhen for one night so we only had time to see the city sights in a cab and also visit the Splendid China Park with its miniature Folk Culture Villages. It has all the attractions in China located in one place. The Great Wall, the Potala Palace, the Forbidden City, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial, and the original Three Gorges (before it was flooded by the dam). For a quick review of all the important sites in China, this is the place to see. It was fun and interesting.

Lamasery Main Alter
Pulling Taffy at The Chinese Cultural Center

Shenzhen is an interesting city to visit in China and we’ll probably go see it again when we’re in Hong Kong next time.

Highly recommended!

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Huaca Pucllana Lima

Huaca Pucllana Miraflores District, Lima
After our stay in the Cusco area we headed back to California. On the way, we got a chance to stop in Lima and visit friends in San Isidro and explore a little more of the city for a couple of days. The Lima area is filled with ruins from much earlier cultures than Inca. One that was easy to visit and right in central Miraflores is Huaca Pucllana, an administrative and religious center for the early Lima and later Wari Cultures.

View from the Top of the Pyramid
The Huaca Pucllana is a great adobe and clay pyramid located in the Miraflores district of central Lima, Peru. It was built over time based on seven staggered platforms. It also served as an important ceremonial and administrative center for the advancement of the Lima People, who had a society which developed in the Peruvian Central Coast between the years of 200 and 700 CE.

Wari Tomb with Mummies
The Huaca was surrounded by a plaza that bordered the outer limits. There was also a large wall dividing it into two separate sections. In one section there were benches and evidence of deep pits where offerings of fish and other marine life took place as ritual sacrifices. The other section was the administrative area. This area contains various small clay structures and huts made of adobe whose functions is unknown. The enclosure which is over 500 m (1,600 ft) in length, 100 m (328 ft) in width and 22 m (72 ft) in height.

Wari Tomb

Besides the Lima culture, other remains have been uncovered belonging to the Wari, 500 CE-900 CE, which was a direct influence on the Lima People towards the ends of its time period.

Wari Traders
There were ancient Wari tombs found within the ceremonial center that were completely intact with mummies. Archaeologists have of course taken the original material to the safety of the museum. They have reproduced exact models of the tombs for visitors to see at the ruins of Huaca Pucllana. They are very interesting.

Restaurant at the Ruins Before the Lunch Crowd
There’s also a great restaurant there right at the ruins. After exploring the Huaca with the required guide we got to have a wonderful lunch on the Terrace at the Restaurante Huaca Pucllana. The food good and the restaurant was packed with big Limeño families enjoying Sunday lunch. It was very fun.

Highly recommended!

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Qoricancha Cusco

Qoricancha and Santo Domingo Church
One Inca ruin we had to see after experiencing Sacsayhuamán was Qoricancha. The most important temple complex in the center of ancient Inca Cusco. There is even today, a street called Pumacurco that ran between the two. Pumacurco was known as the Path of knowledge.

Qoricancha in 1936
The ninth Inca emperor, Panchacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438–1471) rebuilt Cusco and the Temple of the Sun, enriching it with more oracles and edifices, and adding plates of heavy gold to the walls. He took the bodies of the seven deceased Incas before him, and enriched them with masks, head-dresses, medals and bracelets of gold, placing them on a golden bench for veneration at Qoricancha.

Digital View of Qoricancha Gold ledge
Qoriconcha’s adjacent courtyard was filled with golden statues and a complete golden garden with gold corn and llamas. Spanish reports tell of its beauty and richness and that it was “fabulous beyond belief”. When the Spanish required the Inca to raise a ransom in gold for the life of their kidnapped leader Atahualpa, most of the gold was collected from Qoricancha. After the Inca paid the ransom, the Spanish killed Atahualpa anyway.

Qoriconcha was the most important Inca Temple of the Sun. It was where the Golden Ledge was, a Border of gold about 33 inches  (83 cm) wide and around 3 inches (7.5 cm) thick. It ran along the top the of the walls of the temple. The Conquistadors were very impressed.

The Spanish later destroyed Qoriconcha and on its foundations built the Church of Santo Domingo. Construction of the church took most  of a century. This is one of many sites where the Spanish incorporated Inca stonework and foundations into the structure of a colonial building. 

Original Inca Walls left within the Spanish Church 
A major earthquake struck Cusco in 1950 and badly destroyed the Dominican Priory and Church of Santo Domingo that were built on top of the Qoricancha complex. The city's Inca architecture survived the earthquake though. The granite walls of the Qoricancha were exposed, as the church was destroyed. While some wanted to restore the church to its colonial splendor, many Cusco citizens urged officials to retain the exposed Inca walls. Eventually they won out and now people from around the world get to enjoy looking at the granite walls, doorways and floors from Qoricancha itself.

Quality Inca Stonework

Don’t miss this site. It’s truly incredible what was uncovered after the 1950 earthquake. This temple site marks the exact center of Inca worship. Hire one of the guides at the door, it’ll really help you understand the site and the absolute perfection in Inca sacred stonework and construction.

Qoricancha is an important historic site to see and experience.

Highly recommended!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Zig-Zag Walls and Great Plaza 
Sacsayhuamán is one of the major Inca sites in Cusco and we knew we had to see it. The old Inca Street, Pumacurco runs right by the our hotel on its way from Sacsayhuamán to Qoricancha, the main Inca temple at the center of Inca culture. We had a guide who showed us the site and explained its layout above Cusco.

Plaza de Armas from Top of Hill
Sacsayhuamán is a Fortress-Temple high above the city of Cusco. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100. They had occupied the area around 900 CE. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca in the 13th century. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. Sacsayhuamán is at an altitude of 3,701 m. (12,000 ft).

Main Gate
Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense walls, this area is frequently referred to as a fortress. The importance of its military functions was highlighted in 1536 when Manco Inca tried to take back Cusco from the Spanish. Much of the fighting occurred in and around Sacsayhuamán, as it was critical to maintaining Spanish control over the city. Descriptions of the siege, as well as excavations at the site, showed towers on the summit of the site, as well as a series of other buildings.

Section of Wall
Wall Details
The best-known areas of Sacsayhuamán include its great plaza and its adjacent three massive zig-zag walls. The stones used in the construction of these terraces are among the largest used in any building in Pre-Columbian America. They display a precision of fitting that is unmatched. This accuracy, combined with the blocks rounded corners, a variety of the interlocking shapes, and the walls leaning inward, is thought to have helped the buildings survive catastrophic earthquakes in Cusco. The Walls are about 6 m (20 ft) tall. Estimates for the weight of the largest blocks vary from 120 tons to 200 tons. 

Break Time for Peru Special Police 
Following the siege of Cusco, the Spanish began to use Sacsayhuamán as a source of stones for building Spanish Cuzco. Within a few years, they had taken apart and demolished much of the complex. The site was destroyed to build the new Spanish government and religious buildings in the colonial city, as well as the mansions for the wealthiest Spanish. Today, only the stones that were too large to be moved remain at the site.

Pumacurco Street Back to Palacio Nazarenas
After we enjoyed our visit to Sacsayhuamán, we walked down the hill and continued onto Pumacurco Street that led to our hotel, the Palacio Nazarenas. Cusco is a fascinating, historic city. There’s always something to see and learn about there.

Highly recommended!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Machu Picchu

Overview from the Guardhouse
We weren’t quite to Machu Picchu when we got to Aguas Calientes on the Hiram Bingham train. Luckily Dario was there and he led us to the bus and we boarded for the short trip up the hill to the ruins.

MP Urban Area
When we got to the entrance to MP, there were huge lines of people. Sounds bad but actually, they were trying to get on buses to go down the hill. They were leaving.

Turns out that people come to MP early for the sunrise and get tired and were leaving when we arrived in the afternoon. No crowds for us.

Belmond knows just how to time it.

Temple of the Sun
Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as a Royal Estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). They built the estate around 1450, but it was abandoned around 100 years later as a result of the Spanish Conquest.

Luckily the Spanish never found it and so didn't plunder or destroy it as they did most other sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over Machu Picchu, and few besides the locals knew of its existence. Hiram Bingham brought it to the worlds attention in 1911.

Temple of 3 Windows
Temple of the Condor
We entered Machu Picchu and climbed up to the House of Guardians for a world famous view of the entire complex. It was beautiful. Then moved on to the West terrace section. From there we moved into the Temple zone and saw the Temple of the Three Windows. 

The Intihuatana, famed astronomical Inca carved stone or the Hitching Post of the Sun. 

Ceremonial Rock
Next stop was the Ceremonial Rock and Main Square where we met some Llamas and saw a wild Chinchilla. We saw incredible Inca Stonework and the MP tour took about 3 hours of hiking quartz stairs. It was somewhat demanding to keep your balance sometimes.


Marta the Llama
We worked our way out of the ruins to the Belmond Sanctuary Hotel for Coca tea and snacks. It’s right at the entrance to Machu Picchu and very Convenient to the ruins.

 After our snacks we got on the bus back to Aguas Calientes for the return train to Poroy.

Baby llamas
We had a wonderful day and got to see an incredible wonder of the world which allowed us to see the genius and mystery of Inca Architecture and Design.

Hiram Bingham got back to Poroy at 21:00 hrs and Max was there to bring us back to the Palacio Nazarenas.

Highly recommended!

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Hiram Bingham to Machu Picchu

Belmond Hiram Bingham
We had been looking forward to taking the HB to Machu Picchu for months. We had a super time getting to Machu Picchu on the Hiram Bingham.  One of the best trains in the world. 

Party before Leaving for Machu Picchu
Max picked us up at 08:00 hrs from the Belmond Palacio Nazarenas for the drive to Poroy, where the train station is located.

We arrived at the Poroy Station, and were greeted by the friendly staff members. We were checked in and then the party started with music and dancers at the station.

This was going to be good.
Urubamba River Valley on the Train

Aguas Calientes
While we waited to leave, there was Champagne and Piscos with snacks and treats. When the train was ready to go at 09:05 hrs they escorted us to our dining car seats in the luxury train.

The Hiram Bingham would take us to Aguas Calientes where we’d take a bus up the road to the Royal Estate of Machu Picchu.

Dining Car
On the train we drank and hung out in the Bar Car listening to the band play before they called us and served a gourmet brunch at our seats. Tasty. 

We met our guide Dario on the train and after a 31/2 hour comfortable ride along the Urubamba River Valley, we arrived in Aguas Calientes at 12:25.

Dario did a great job as our guide at Machu Picchu.

After we spent 3 hrs exploring Machu Picchu it was time for us to make our way out of the ruins to the Sanctuary Hotel for Coca tea and snacks courtesy of Belmond. It’s right at the entrance to MP and very convenient when exploring the site.

We then got on the bus back to Aguas Calientes for the return train to Poroy. The HB left at 17:50 hrs.

Party Time in the Bar Car
On the train back to Poroy before dinner, the band really got going in the bar car and people started dancing and having an exciting good time. We rocked and rolled, then the band slowed down and played the classic El Condor Pasa. Very nice experience.

Peruvian Fruit Appetizer

3 Potato Soup
Duck Confit
Peruvian Chocolate-Pineapple Dessert
Dinner was called and we were served a gourmet meal at our seats. We had Duck Confit, Peruvian 3 Potato Soup and a Peruvian Chocolate-Pineapple dessert that was super good. 

Got back to Poroy at 21:15 hrs and Max was there to bring us back to the Palacio. We had a wonderful day and saw a modern wonder of the world. One of the most incredible ancient sites that exist.

Highly recommended!

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