#57 Reminiscing PB88: Callao (Port 20)

What is Peace Boat?

¡Hola! (Hello in Spanish)

  • Date: 2015/11/3 – 2015/11/6
  • Port Name: Callao
  • Country: Peru
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?:
    • Day 1: Traveled to Lima from Callao to stay the night before our morning flight the next day. The ceviche dinner was yums.
    • Day 2: From Lima, we flew to Cusco and stayed the night at the home of a local family in the little quaint town in the mountains. The house was modest with a courtyard and rooms on four (or three?) sides.
    • Day 3: Machu Picchu, with a hike up Wayna Picchu
    • Day 4: Went back to Lima and spent the rest of the day chilling with stray cats at the town square.

You know, my favorite Disney movie was the Emperor’s New Groove for a long time. I loved that scene where Kuzco pauses the movie and explains his situation with a red marker, I remember thinking that it was SO revolutionary at that time because I’d never seen a character from a movie breaking the fourth wall like that before.

And to be completely completely honest, just like a lot of other things I learned from the cruise, I didn’t know about Machu Picchu before the trip, let alone knowing anything about the connection between it and the setting of a favorite Disney movie. I don’t know when it was exactly that I had the realization (before reaching Peru? or after reaching Peru?) but I definitely made Lucia watch the Emperor’s New Groove for one of our roomie movie nights at some point because she hadn’t seen it. Still good after all these years! I love Kronk and his deep voice and tiny waist.

Source (left)

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Postcard for the family:IMG_1067.jpg

Next port: Papeete!

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#55 Reminiscing PB88: Cristobal (Port 19)

What is Peace Boat?

¡Hola!

  • Date: 2015/10/29 (Panama Canal on 2015/10/30)
  • Port Name: Cristobal
  • Country: Panama
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?: Interpreting for a tour to the watch swamp animals and to witness the workings of the Panama Canal

So what happened was we first visited Cristobal city before passing the Panama Canal the following day.  I was translating for a tour to visit how the Panama Canal works and the whole system of locks and rising and lowering of the water. It was really cool because unlike the Suez Canal where they essentially just dug and dug the ground to create a passage at sea level for ships to cross. Conversely, the Panama Canal involves a series of locks and gates that carries a ship up from the Atlantic to a lake at a higher altitude, then back down again towards the Pacific (or the other way round). The canal was undergoing expansion when we were there. I think now they have two lanes so there’s less traffic jams.

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Passing through the Panama Canal. It was rainy. Staff had a day off because it was assumed that all passengers would be distracted by the passing sights (including Panama City from afar!) and naturally, they were. We played basketball on the rooftop court in the rain.

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Postcard for the family:

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Next port: Callao, Peru!

#54 Reminiscing PB88: Belize City (Port 18)

What is Peace Boat?

Hello!

  • Date: 2015/10/26
  • Port Name: Belize City
  • Country: Belize
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?: Interpreting for a snorkeling tour

We took a boat out to a popular snorkeling spot then had lunch at an uninhabited island. It was one of the most hilarious interpreting experiences I had because I wasn’t an expert in fish and coral reef terms, let alone knowing these very specific terms in Japanese. Also the timing was very tricky because whenever a cool fish showed up, the guide needed to come up to the surface to give us information about it and by that time I would’ve lost my visual reference. After 20 minutes or so of trying, I think most people just gave up trying to listen to the guide and me and just floated away enjoying their own time. The water was clean and clear but I don’t remember seeing much impressive fish or coral, but this was perhaps because I was just too occupied and/or stressed.

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After the snorkeling trip we still had a few hours to kill so we hung out at the jetty and parts of the city for wifi time and a supermarket run respectively. I remember feeling like we were stepping into a shady area once we went beyond the wall (?) separating the jetty area and the city area. This was in contrast to the jetty side with several cute cafes and shops catered to tourists and an unobstructed view of the beautiful ocean. Its’s like allowing us outsiders to visit the place “just as we like it” aka only enjoying the bright and shiny side whereas its real but darker side which, no question, is full of beautiful people and authentic culture was just a few steps away.

Painted train tracks. Doesn’t this look like it could be Malaysia?

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Postcard for the family:

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Next port: Panama City!

#53 Reminiscing PB88: Cozumel (Port 17)

What is Peace Boat?

¡Hola! (Hello in Spanish)

  • Date: 2015/10/23 – 2015/10/24
  • Port Name: Cozumel
  • Country: Mexico
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?: Interpreting for my first overnight tour to see the majestic Mayan heritage Chichen Itza!

To be perfectly and shamefully honest, I didn’t know anything about Mexico and the Maya civilization and Chichen Itza before this trip. And I thought Mexican food = Tex Mex like food you can find at Chili’s or Friday’s aka fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, etc. But hells, there’s so much more to it!!

I remember what struck me when I visited Mexico was the pristine sea water near where we docked and how it felt almost like Malaysia, because of the similar weather and plants. The sea water was possibly the clearest and lightest-colored sea water I’ve ever seen up until that point in my life. Of course everything changed when we reached Bora Bora, though!

The sights:

The place was like a massive compound with these fascinating building ruins scattered about. Naturally, it was very touristy and the entrance reminded me more of a theme park than a serious historical place for archeological research. Interesting things to see as pictured (top right): The Temple of Kukulcan, whose total number of steps amount to 365 representing 365 calendar days in a year. Each side has 91 steps and the last one on top brings it to 365. On the spring and autumn equinox each year, the jagged shapes of the steps cast a shadow that looks exactly like a snake slithering toward the bottom of the temple.

(Source: http://www.cancun-bestdiscounts.com/grouptours18.html)

Top left: Ruins of the ancient observatory. The Mayans are well known as a people who studied astronomy very closely (as evidenced by the way they manipulated the sunlight for the Temple of Kukulcan). This building was aligned almost perfectly with the motions of Venus, apparently.

Bottom left: The Grand Ball Court. Ball games (hitting a rubber ball with body parts other than hands and feet to get the ball into a hoop attached to the wall) were held here to settle political or social disputes but they were very dangerous and even resulted in death of the players. Eventually it was banned by the Spanish because it was deemed too violent.

We also visited a Cenote, a natural spring where young boys were sacrificed to the Gods but I didn’t take a picture I think because it creeped me out.

The food:

It was almost the Festival of the Dead when we visited, so the restaurant we were at was decorated with skeletons like these. No I haven’t watched Coco yet.

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Dog-eared postcard for the family and le bf:

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Next port: Belize City

#52 Reminiscing PB88: Ponta Delgada (Port 16)

What is Peace Boat?

Bom dia! (Hello in Portuguese)

  • Date: 2015/10/14
  • Port Name: Ponta Delgada
  • Country: Portugal
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?:

The “less walking tour” brought us to more urbanized areas as opposed to the magnificent lakes and stuff that some of my friends got to visit. The places we visited included, though, a tea plantation (the only tea produced in Europe), an area with volcanic activity where they lowered the traditional Portuguese delicacy, a stew of meat and vegetables, into the ground to be cooked for a period of time using only thermal heat. The day was mostly rainy.

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Extract from an email to le bf:

The tour in ponta delgada went pretty well! It’s a tour labelled ‘less walking’ so a lot of the participants were mostly older people. It would’ve been great if the weather was sunny but in terms of my job everything was perfect. I had a good local tour guide and very nice and forgiving participants 😀 And I didn’t have to talk much about religion and history, two of my weakest topics. I got such bad feedback for Dubrovnik because my explanation for the churches and monasteries were pretty bad.

This video was taken during lunch. The reason so many of us were on our phones was because we were getting our Internet fill before the long stretch of traversing the Atlantic Ocean ahead.

After the trip, the nice and date I say attractive local tour guide I was partnered with sent me an email with a scan of a local newspaper article announcing our arrival on the island. It says the Ocean Dream (our ship) has stopped by Filipinas, Singapura, India, Dubai, Qatar, Grécia, Itália, França, Espanha… such exotic spellings! I just googled and they call us “Malásia”.

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I remember liking the pavement so much and because of the lack of pictures taken on that day I asked for this pic from the guide at the end of the tour. Look at this angle, come to think of it, he was attractive AND tall!

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Misleading postcard to the family:

Next port: Cozumel, Mexico!

#51 Reminiscing PB88: Gibraltar (Port 15)

What is Peace Boat?

Hello! (Hello in Gibraltan I mean English)

  • Date: 2015/10/9
  • Port Name: Gibraltar
  • Country: Technically England because it’s a British overseas territory
  • First time there?: Yes! Even my first time hearing about this place.
  • What did I do?: Interpreted for a tour going up to a small hill to see the view of the city, the coast, as well as native monkeys but it was unfortunately foggy so all we ended up with was cold fog, bad visibility, and a couple of bored-looking monkeys. We also visited the tip of the coast to look across the sea at the distant coast of Morocco.

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Image source: Wikipedia

This is where Gibraltar is, guys! It’s tiny! But I’m not surprised that the British wanted to have territory there because it’s really strategically located at the strait connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.

I remember throughout the tour, there were Japanese passengers who posed the question of whether the people of Gibraltar preferred to stay a British territory or be annexed by Spain to the tour guide. According to the tour guide, apparently they had referendums a few times and the results were always overwhelmingly pro-British.

Oh, and we were also served Fish and Chips for lunch.

Extract from an email sent to le bf:

Gibraltar on the other hand was very boring. Did you know that Gibraltar is so small there are only about 30 thousand people living there? My tour included going up to the cable car and walking in the city center besides visiting some other observation points. But we were very unlucky because it was raining when we docked so we could see NOTHING at the top of the mountain that we reached via cable car and also because it was a Sunday most of the shops were closed in the city center. I was working from 7:00 till about 13:30 and it was raining almost the whole time. I was so tired I came back and napped for 3 hours.

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I can’t remember what this lighthouse was famous for, maybe it’s the only lighthouse in the territory?? Lol. Apologies, my memory is as foggy as the scenery on top of the mountain.

Postcard for the family:

Next port: Ponta Delgada!

#49 Reminiscing PB88: Barcelona (Port 14)

What is Peace Boat?

¡Hola! (Hello in Spanish)

  • Date: 2015/10/9
  • Port Name: Barcelona
  • Country: Spain
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?: Free day again. We are the luckiest! So we hung out in the city for a day, visited the free part of Guell Park (I’m not sure if it was Guell Park actually, but there’s a little hill with a view of the city, and the colorful Gaudi benches where Romain Duris almost had an affair with the married woman in Spanish Apartment). Then we visited Sagrada Familia of course!

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“Unfinished, of all the words you can use to describe the Sagrada Familia — Brown, pointy, weird, the one that really seems to stick is unfinished. Why? Because on June 7th 1926, the architect, Antonio Gaudi, whose beard was also brown, pointy, weird and unfinished was run over by a bus. And so, his greatest masterpiece would remain forever, unfinished. Gaudi, to his credit, never gave up on his dream, but that’s not usually how it goes. Usually its not a speeding bus that keeps the brown, pointy, weird church from getting built. Most of the time it’s just too difficult, too expensive, too scary. It’s only once you’ve stopped that you realise how hard it is to start again. So you force yourself not to want it. But it’s always there and until finished it it’ll always be…”

Yes, I’m quoting Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother. You know, before you visit somewhere for real in person, you always have these few words that you associate with one place, or no words at all. “Sagrada Familia” was the word that stuck with me for Spain since my days living in Japan. I learnt it through Japanese TV and through Japanese friends or friends of friends who’ve visited Barcelona / Spain, who are always saying “Sagrada Familia”. In the back of my mind I’d always thought it was a normal building or a little house or something, swarmed with Japanese tourists, and I was so pleasantly surprised. Sorry #katak di bawah tempurung (Malay proverb meaning ignorant).

This was easily the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I took the audio guide, because they explained the intentions of Gaudi and his successors in how they designed the building, an organic theme to reflect the work of God and nature, and the placement of the windows according to the position of the sun during the times of the day, etc. I uploaded a pic of the interior here, but I doubt it’ll be that much of a travel spot spoiler because it’s still being constructed, and each time you go there might be a new addition. According to Wikipedia, construction started in 1882 (!) and it will be ongoing for at least another 50 years. The exterior was also extremely impressive, with the religious carvings and sculptures decorating the entrances and walls.

Here’s a shaky picture of Sagrada Familia in LEGO! At the Lego UNESCO World Heritage Site exhibition in Singapore (taken 29th July, 2017)

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After that we had coffee in front of the building and some tapas with friends. Here’s an email I wrote to le bf:

“So Barcelona was a REALLY NICE and elegant city, I think it may have been one of the best ports so far. Marseille is the best of course for obvious reasons! But I really enjoyed seeing the people, the cleanliness of the city, just the right amount of color and noise and interesting architecture in Barcelona! I had tapas and got a bit tipsy after ONE single glass of sangria and climbed on one of those lion statues below the Christopher Columbus statue lol. See pic shared on fb”

I still got the pic with me, it’s definitely not public blog sharing material 😛

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Next Port: Gibraltar!