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THE UNIQUE PROBOSCIS MONKEYS OF BORNEO
© Dr. John Freedman, 2017

The island of Borneo in southeast Asia is the world’s third largest island and one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. It has been isolated from the Asian mainland for over 10,000 years ago and is home to many organisms which exist nowhere else and provide endless fascination for nature-lovers. Perhaps my favorite of all of Borneo’s rare denizens is the unique proboscis monkey, aptly named Nasalis larvatus due to its long, rubbery-looking nose. These creatures look like no other primate. Though some may say they are comically homely, the monkeys themselves would beg to differ. They frolic, preen and show off with an air of haughty superiority- seemingly very aware that they are decidedly different from all their primate brethren, and quite special at that. The monkeys proudly sport an uncommonly large, fleshy, and pendulous nose that hangs down over their mouth. This trait gave rise to an alternative Malay name for the monkey in the 17th century: Orang Belanda,  which means Dutchman, in a less than flattering reference to the Dutch sailors and traders whom the natives thought the monkey resembled. The monkey’s pronounced proboscis can be up to 8 inches long in mature males. The purpose and evolutionary significance of the outsized organ is a matter of some contention in these little-studied creatures. Most primatologists would say it is the result of sexual selection, with females preferring the better-endowed males. The males make a honking mating call, and because the nose is an echo chamber, the sound is louder and more resonant in the monkeys with the biggest honkers. Thus in this case, in terms of ability to attract a mate, (nasal) size matters. An alternative and not mutually exclusive theory is that the largest-nosed males can emit the loudest alarm call when a predator is endangering its brood (and in the jungles of Borneo, there is no shortage of predators, including crocodiles, pythons, clouded leopards, eagles, and huge monitor lizards almost as fearsome as their cousins on nearby Komodo Island in Indonesia.) Thus the larger-nosed males may have an evolutionary advantage in a louder warning call to protect their offspring as well as their social and mating group.

 

These monkeys are quite large, with males growing to over 50 pounds and females about half that. The males are among the largest of all the Old World and New World monkeys, and they have a very noticeable and protuberant pot belly – perhaps another feature that caused the indigenous inhabitants to liken them to well-fed Dutch traders. Their coloring is beautiful: a soft tan body with a radiant reddish-orange on the crown of the head and the shoulders, and taupe-gray limbs.

 

These creatures live in coastal regions of the island and thrive in mangrove forests and riverine rainforest. Borneo is the only island in the world which is home to three different countries - Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei - and the proboscis monkeys inhabit the coastal areas and estuaries of all three. They are folivorous and frugivorous (leaf- and fruit-eating) and are primarily arboreal. They do take short jaunts on land, where they mostly move quadripedally but it is a real treat to seem them saunter about bipedally sometimes. Proboscis monkeys are world-class jumpers, usually from tree to tree, but also frequently catapulting themselves from the trees into the water. They are excellent swimmers, with webbed feet and hands to facilitate this skill, and are the most aquatic of all primates.

 

Proboscis monkeys are highly social animals, which adds to the pleasure and drama of viewing them. They organize into groups usually consisting of one dominant male and a harem of 10-20 females and their young. Interestingly, the females commonly switch groups. Some groups are made up only of young bachelors, aspirants to adulthood and harem-ruling, which will come in time. The groups are non-territorial and actually have a “fission-fusion” lifestyle in which they tend to coalesce at the coast or riverside at night and then separate and move inland to forage during the day.

 

Sadly these unique and amazing creatures are dwindling in numbers. The population island-wide has diminished by over 50% in the last 3 generations, over the past 40 years or so. They have been hunted for food and also for their bezoars which are valued in traditional medicine. The governments of all three countries on the island have now outlawed hunting or capturing or harming the animals in any way. These delicate creatures do not survive long in captivity due to their very specialized dietary requirements. They require young leaves and unripe fruit from coastal and riparian trees which have a high mineral content. They also have a complex multi-chambered stomach and rely on a specific microbiome of symbiotic bacteria for digestion. Changes in habitat or diet thus wreak havoc with their digestive processes.

 

The proboscis monkey is designated as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are still subject to natural predation, but the primary cause of their diminishing numbers is ongoing habitat loss due to destruction of the mangroves and rainforest by logging and oil palm plantations. By most estimates, only about 7000 or so of these marvelous creatures remain.

 

Fortunately there are over a dozen sanctuaries and protected areas throughout Borneo for these very special monkeys. For those cruising the South China Sea, which skirts the north coast of Borneo, excellent opportunities to glimpse these fantastic creatures can be found at Bako National Park outside of Kuching in Sarawak (the western part of Malaysian Borneo), on short river cruises into the mangroves in Brunei’s capital city of Bandar Seri Bagawan, and at the extraordinary Labuk Bay Sanctuary just outside of  the city of Sandakan in Sabah (Malaysia’s easternmost province). 

Seeing these whimsical and unusual creatures may take a little effort, but you will be well rewarded with an unforgettable wildlife experience. 

The Seychelles: A Unique Destination

© Dr. John Freedman, 2017

 

In my many interesting conversations with fellow travelers at sea, I’m often asked about my favorite destinations. I have a taste for the exotic and unusual, so a number of my favorites

fall into that category. High on the list is the unique granitic archipelago of the Seychelles.

 

A sovereign state since its independence from Britain in 1976, the Republic of the Seychelles is certain to intrigue those with a taste for the exotic – and the spectacularly beautiful. The exoticism starts with the archipelago’s remote location 1000 miles off the coast of Kenya in the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The islands’ uniqueness begins with their geologic history. About 80 million years ago a giant fragment of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana split into two pieces which were destined to become India and Madagascar. But there were tiny shards strewn between the two larger pieces in the breakup. These fragmentary bits were what we now call the Seychelles. The India piece drifted northward from its southerly oceanic position, eventually slamming into Asia (and creating the Himalayas in the process) while the Madagascar piece stayed close to the African mainland. But the lonely Seychelles – all 115 islands – were stranded between the two in the middle of the ocean. They now compose the only oceanic archipelago on the planet which consists of granitic continental fragments. This extraordinary geological provenance also makes the Seychelles the world’s oldest islands, by far. The great antiquity of the granite megaliths has allowed them to be sculpted over eons into a breathtaking variety of sizes, shapes and configurations, and the granite formations are as stunning in their curvaceous beauty and delicate texture as they are in their impressive size and heft. Much of the granitic substratum of the islands became carpeted with lush tropical forest over millions of years, while white sand came to fringe the islands’ innumerable coves. Nature was in an excellent, bountiful mood here.

 

Yet the Seychelles have another special card to play: the islands’ biogeographic isolation and gentle climate gave birth to a profusion of wonderful and unique life forms. With one of the highest endemicity rates on the planet, the Seychelles are a naturalist’s paradise. The Aldabra tortoises provide a sterling example of the evolutionary principle of “island gigantism”, and they are the only giant tortoises on the planet besides their famous cousins in the far away Galapagos. The diminutive Seychelles frog provides a stunning example of the obverse evolutionary phenomenon of “island dwarfism”: this tiny amphibian is about the size of your fingernail. The endemic black paradise flycatcher can be seen only on the island of La Digue (the best chance of seeing one is at the renowned Veuve Nature Reserve – and there are only 100 left). A particularly fascinating avian denizen is the Seychelles warbler – incredibly, the sex of its offspring is determined by the availability of food. During times of plenty, only females are born, to nurture the expected burgeoning population of young in the next generation. During times of more constrained food availability, only males are born, as they are the key foragers. The mechanism of this extraordinary adaptation – exactly how the sex-specific reproduction occurs biologically in the organism - is unknown but under intense study. Equally extraordinary and more whimsical is the coco de mer  - the world’s largest and unquestionably most erotically-shaped nut. Actually a giant seed of the world’s tallest palm tree which grows only in the Seychelles, the coco de mer's enormous seed/nut bears an uncanny resemblance to the female buttocks and pelvic area. You can see it growing on the 30 m/100 ft-tall palm trees on the island of Praslin, where the tree is known as the longevity tree because it has been known to live for up to 800 years. Or just enjoy the many coco de mer nuts which are decoratively displayed around the islands. The swashbuckling British Victorian General Charles George Gordon believed that the Seychelles were the Garden of Eden and the coco de mer was the forbidden fruit. Eve must have been in very good shape to hand it to Adam given that the seed weighs up to 45 kg/100 lbs.

 

But the Seychelles offer more than natural wonders. The history of the archipelago is rich and colorful. Although likely visited by Malay seafarers and others over the centuries, the archaeologic record indicates that the islands were never inhabited before the coming of the Europeans. The first recorded sighting is in the chronicles of Vasco da Gama’s third Indian Ocean crossing in 1503. He humbly named them the Islas Amirantes (Admiral’s Islands) after himself. The first documented European visit was by a ship of the British East India Company in 1609, whose chroniclers described the islands as “a paradise” where they replenished their stores with fresh water, fish, coconuts, birds, and the ample meat of turtles and giant tortoises. The British, being quite busy with conquests elsewhere, were slow to follow up. Without a colonial overlord, the islands became a pirate haven in the latter 1600s, a satellite of the much larger pirate stronghold on Madagascar. Most famous among the pirates was Olivier Le Vaisseur, better-known as “La Buse” (The Buzzard”). La Buse plundered a Portuguese ship carrying the treasures of the Catholic church, including the 7-foot high solid gold, jewel-encrusted Cross of Goa – with an estimated value of $250 million in today’s dollars. This and the rest of his treasure were supposedly buried somewhere on the north end of Mahé before he was captured and hanged in 1730. At least one cryptogram from the time has survived, allegedly hinting at the location of the treasure, which is still actively being sought by treasure hunters. The pirate period would end in 1742 when the French sent a colonial mission from their outpost in Mauritius to take possession of the highly-reputed islands. They aptly named the main island Ile d’Abondance (Island of Abundance) though its name was soon officially changed to Mahé (its name to this day) after the Governor of Mauritius who had sponsored the colonizing endeavor. The French named the whole island group after Louis XV’s Minister of Finance, Jean Moreau de Séchelles, and that name has stuck through thick and thin. The French colonists imported and planted nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper – all enormously valuable spices at the time – and brought in African slaves to work the plantations. This dark history importantly gave root to what is today a vibrant and beautiful creole or “Seychellois” culture, rich in folk traditions and famed for its ginger-spiced cuisine which mixes African, French and Asian influences and capitalizes on the islands’ abundant fresh seafood. The mix of African and European cultures also gave rise to the colorful Seychellois patois which enriches the island’s culture to this day.

 

The British and French would tussle over these (and innumerable other) island chess pieces in the period of colonial conquest and European imperial power politics during the 18th and 19th centuries. French hegemony over the Seychelles would officially come to an end in 1814 when the British formally took possession of the islands as part of the spoils of the Napoleonic Wars, the islands would remain British until independence in 1976.

 

Cruisers usually visit one of several ports in what is known as the Inner Islands. That’s good, because the Inner Islands are the most dramatic and granitic, whereas the outer islands (most of which are uninhabited) are more coralline. Yet there is plenty of coral and wonderful snorkeling around the granitic islands, so it’s the best of both worlds. The most commonly visited port is the capital city of Victoria on the “big” island of Mahé. The capital itself offers interesting architecture and history, but the island’s greatest draw is the natural beauty of its granite-pillared beaches. Another draw on Mahé is the Morne Seychellois National Park, which covers 20% of the island and offers great hiking, though primarily in the thick forest of the interior rather than on the granite-studded coast. A second port often visited is the fabulously beautiful island of La Digue with some of the Seychelles’ most iconic beaches, including Anse Source De L’Argent and Grand Anse (the French word anse means handle, as on a teacup, which reflects the shape of these gently curved beaches). La Digue is the 4th largest inhabited island in the Seychelles (after Mahé, Praslin, and Silhouette) but you can still walk most of it in a couple of hours. Bicycles and oxcarts are a great way to get around this tranquil island. La Digue is considered a birder’s paradise, but don’t miss the Aldabra tortoise preserve. A third port often visited is Praslin, which is known for one of the Seychelles’ most scenic beaches, Anse Lazio, as well as the Vallée de Mai preserve where the coco de mer grows in stately abundance. Praslin is where General Gordon came up with his theory that the Seychelles were the biblical Garden of Eden.

 

Depending on your itinerary, you’ll have lots of great options in the Seychelles. The main Inner Islands are quite close together - ferries between Mahé and Praslin take about an hour, between Praslin and La Digue only about 15 minutes.

 

That begins to scratch the surface of what’s in store for those lucky enough to visit the amazing Seychelles. It is surely a uniquely beautiful and interesting destination to set your sights on. Open your mind and get your camera ready!

  

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Dear Dr. Freedman,

My wife and I were on the Oceania Insignia from Singapore to Abu Dhabi 

and were lucky enough to attend all of your outstanding lectures - 

the best that we have ever attended in over ten cruises.

Thank you and kind regards,

Chris and Joanna Thomas

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SIMMERING SAIGON

© Dr. John Freedman, 2016

 

Vietnam’s most vibrant city makes not only my short list of My Favorite Asian Cities, but also my short list of My Favorite Cities of the World. It has all the requirements for a city that one can delightedly go back to again and again:  a rich and emotionally involving history, friendly and upbeat people, a peppy and positive vibe, eminently walkable streets and byways, unending color and diversity, a thriving economy assuring dynamic growth and change, and 

a local cuisine second to none. The ubiquitous pho (the city’s signature dish, an ultra-savory meal-in-a-bowl soup infused with fresh cut basil, chili and lime) is to me a metaphor for the city itself – always simmering day and night on every street corner, full of varied and colorful ingredients, redolent of exotic spices, and offering something different in every spoonful.

 

The city was officially re-named Ho Chi Minh City after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, but its original historic name of Saigon still has staying power, so you can feel free to use it without fear of political incorrectness. The area was first settled hundreds of years before the Vietnamese arrived, starting as the small port town known of Prei Nokor under the control of Cambodia’s imperious Kings of Angkor. After falling under Vietnamese suzerainty in the late 17th century, it quickly became an important farming area and bustling mercantile hub.  The hyper-industrious Viet people saw their city grow into the country’s largest city, its major commercial center, and its gateway to the world. The French were quick to make Saigon the capital of their showcase Indochinese colony in the 19th century. Even today the city retains and leverages a charming air of its “Indochine” aesthetic history with a rich heritage of French colonial architecture including the wedding cake City Hall, the old General Post Office designed by Alfred Eiffel, the Franco-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, and the elegant Opera House – all within a leisurely walk of each other in the city’s central District 1. The French café spirit lives on in Saigon where you’ll find the best coffee, baguettes, croissants and ice cream in Asia. Also in the easily walkable central district are the storied old hotels of yesteryear like the Continental (1888), the Majestic (1925) and the Rex (1927) – all doing a brisker business than ever. Within a short stroll is Saigon’s iconic Reunification Palace – a 1960s-era structure which formerly served as the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam’s leaders until it became the site where the Vietnam War decisively ended when a North Vietnamese tank bulldozed its way through the wrought iron front gate at 10:45AM on April 30, 1975. Another short stroll will take you to one of Saigon’s busiest and largest markets, Cho Ben Thahn. Just a short taxi ride away is Saigon’s energetic and culturally-rich Chinatown, known as Cholon. And any meanderings through the city will also take you to innumerable temples representing the region’s 4 major religions in all their syncretism: Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and ancient shamanistic folk religion.

 

In addition to its rich history, the city exudes a modern and youthful energy. Over 2/3 of its 8 million residents were born after the war, and they are busy-busy-busy – working, making deals, chatting, and eating. Saigon is one of Asia’s great “Marx meets Mammon” cities, and it is certainly one where Mammon has always had the strongest foothold. Most of the city’s youthful denizens are perched on one of the 5 million motorcycles which add even more color and kineticism to the cityscape. Just a few blocks from Saigon’s super-convenient downtown cruise port is the Bitexco Tower, a sleek modern skyscraper symbolizing Saigon’s headlong rush into the future - but surrounded by historic buildings which anchor it to its intriguing past. The indefatigable Vietnamese are constantly at it with urban improvement projects, 

yet they are seeing to it that the city remains one of the most walkable in the world, 

from its wide French-style tree-lined boulevards to its quaint sidestreets with endless opportunites for “people-seeing”.

 

Easy day trips from Saigon include the unique Cu Chi Tunnels where the Viet Cong impossibly lived underneath the feet of US and South Vietnamese troops, the astoundingly fecund Mekong Delta with its floating markets and picturesque towns such as Sa Dec (of Marguerite Duras’ The Lovers fame) and the whimsically Disney-esque Great Cao Dai Temple of Tay Ninh.

 

All in all I find “Simmering Saigon” to be one of the world’s most interesting, invigorating, and easy cities to enjoy. It is always a most welcome stop on any voyage to Asia!



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Dr. John is THE BEST lecturer we have ever heard on all our cruises - bar none.
Marilyn K, Oceania Insignia World Cruise
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Spectacular Angkor!

© Dr. John Freedman 2017


Of all my experiences in Asia, there is perhaps none more stunning and climactic than watching the sun rise over the incomparable Angkor Wat. It is difficult to capture the essence of this singular experience with the written word, but let’s try.

 

This architectural wonder of Angkor Wat served as the Khmer Empire’s great state temple (Angkor=Capital, Wat=Temple) in the early 12th century. It also was designed to serve as a magnificent mausoleum for its builder, the Sun God-King Suryavarman II. It has been described by observers throughout nine centuries with virtually every superlative available to writers in all languages. Intrepid French explorer Henri Mouhot, the temple’s 19th-century “discoverer” (of course, it had never truly been lost) wrote in his journal in 1862: “This grand temple, a rival to that of Solomon and erected by an ancient Michelangelo, is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.” Its unparalleled enormity is not disputed – it is the largest religious structure ever built. Its artistic beauty, depth and unity, along with its engineering genius, complete the picture of a structure that represents the apogee of classical Khmer architecture and one of the greatest human achievements of all time.

 

To watch the sunrise over the great temple, one has to set out not long after 5:00AM and carefully walk down the long stone causeway over the temple complex’s 700-foot moat. The builders of Angkor were masters of hydrology and the entire city was one of moats, canals, and great reservoirs known as baray. Angkor Wat’s huge moat was designed not only for protection and irrigation purposes, but also to create an earthly representation of the celestial ocean which surrounded the mythological home of the ancient Hindu gods, Mt. Meru. Angor Wat’s five grand towers or prasats are each shaped like a lotus bud and taken together they represent the five peaks of Mt. Meru. They are arranged in a quincunx (put that down on a Scrabble board and you win the game) which is an ancient Hindu pattern with four towers on the four corners of a rectangle and one majestic tower in the middle.  The saffron disk of the sun spreads a soft bath of light as it rises behind and then over this expansive and richly metaphorical “temple mount” scene.

 

Of all the superlatives used to describe Angkor Wat, three seem most apt and encompassing: spectacular (the wow factor is certainly the first reaction), timeless (thus one stands in the Cambodian jungle today to watch the sun rise over the tomb and funerary temple of a ruler who left this earth in the year 1150AD), and captivating (the fascinating history and culture of this great Hindu temple city, which later became Mahayana Buddhist and then Theravada Buddhist, is endlessly absorbing and intriguing).

 

Once the sun has risen, in the full light of the pleasantly cool morning, it is then a treat to follow the sunrise homage with a personal exploration of this amazing structure. Imagine three-quarters-of-a-mile of finely carved bas-reliefs depicting innumerable scenes from the Hindu epics as well as the pomp and ceremony of the Khmer Sun King’s court and gripping depictions of his epic battles. It is was said over a hundred years ago and still true today that Angkor Wat is the most richly and intricately carved building in the world. As you ascend the temple mount, you will cross three progressive enclosures, rising higher and higher until you reach the upper level of the temple mount from where you can gaze down at the vast jungle in which this improbable jewel is ensconced. Imagine the expansive jungle as it was in Angkor’s glory days:  peopled with over 1 million inhabitants in long-gone wooden and thatch houses. Today, only stone survives.

 

If you have very high expectations for your trip to Angkor Wat, prepare to have them exceeded by this indescribably beautiful and impressive monument to the great Khmer civilization that ruled the Indochinese Peninsula for more than 600 years. But there’s more! : The great imperial city of Angkor had hundreds of magnificent temples besides Angkor Wat, and many still stand today as testaments to this grand civilization. One should not miss the famed and exotic-looking Ta Prohm, with its symbiotic armature of giant fig trees, or the enigmatic Bayon with its 256 giant Buddha-like faces (actually the God of Mercy, Lokeshvara, before the later Buddhists gave him a sex change to the Goddess of Mercy– or perhaps the face of God-King Jayavarman VII who built the temple and fancied himself as the earthly incarnation of Lokeshvara). A perfect complement to a morning taking in Angkor Wat’s grandeur is an afternoon visit to Banteay Srei, a small and exquisitely wrought temple constructed of a rare rose-hued sandstone. Banteay Srei is renowned for the refinement of its intricate carvings on every pediment (the triangular area above an entrance doorway) and lintel (a cross-beam over an entrance doorway or wall) as well as its innumerable walls, doors, and arches. Dramatic episodes from the mythopoeic Hindu epics are finely carved, as if by a jeweler’s hand, at every turn. The carving was so exquisite that when the temple was first “discovered” in the late 19th century it was felt to date from the early 14th century, about 200 years after the building of Angkor Wat. But decades later the consecration stele was unearthed and the temple was able to be precisely dated to 967 AD — a full 150 years before the building of Angkor Wat had even begun. One can only marvel at this artistic tour de force and it is made all the richer by the soft glow of the late afternoon sun on the rose-hued stone.

 

For those who want to get (just slightly) off the beaten trail, the stunning temples of the Ruolos group just southeast of central Angkor predate Angkor Wat by over 200 years and can be seen in a solid half-day of exploration. The sacred mountain and waters of Phnom Kulen and the striking temples of Koh Ker to the northeast can easily be combined with a visit to Banteay Srei on a day trip. These forays will more than amply reward you for your initiative. The entire area in and around what is now the tourist mecca of Siem Reap (meaning “Defeat of the Thais” – though ultimately the imperious Siamese did successfully overrun and sack Angkor in 1431) is a vast array of magnificent architectural and cultural treasures.

 

The glories of ancient Angkor will never cease to amaze. Spectacular, timeless, captivating!


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John,

We thoroughly enjoyed your interesting and thought-provoking discussions 

onboard the Odyssea cruise!

Thanks,

Clint B


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The Grandeur of the Great Wall of China

© Dr. John Freedman

 

For me, there is simply no other experience on the planet like walking on the Great Wall of China. It is astounding on so many levels.

 

Its history and its great antiquity grip the imagination: from its origins in the 7th century BC, to its famous consolidation by China’s very first Emperor in 221 BC, to its remarkable enhancement into its current state of architectural grandeur by the great Ming emperors of the 14th and 15th centuries. The sheer scope boggles the mind. Can it really extend over 5,500 miles east to west across the vast expanse of northern China? Indeed it does. It stands without peer as both the largest and longest building project in human history. As a technological feat, it inspires awe. Looking around from any vantage point, it is an engineering marvel that seems to border on the impossible, carving a massive serpentine path along the crests of steep and craggy mountains. The natural beauty of its setting is breathtaking. The wall offers undulating mountain vistas, and its thousands of towers are never-ending, changing magnificently with the seasons.

 

From a functional standpoint, the wall is intriguing — and full of irony. Its principal function was always to serve as a defensive military barrier to protect the realm against invasion from the north by barbarian assailants. Secondarily, it served as an east-west transportation corridor for merchants and messengers, through otherwise impenetrable terrain. It also served important social functions, controlling migration and dividing civilized society from the hinterlands. Yet despite its grand extent and great utility, the wall ultimately failed in its principal military function: China – not once, but twice - succumbed to foreign invasion by northern intruders.  The Mongol hordes of Kublai Khan penetrated the wall in the late 13th century and ruled China for almost 100 years.  Less than 300 years later, the fierce Manchurian armies breached the wall in 1644 and stayed as ruling overlords into the 20th century. China’s final dynasty and last emperor trace their provenance to the Manchu invaders.

 

Today, the changcheng (“long wall”, as the Chinese very aptly refer to it) is China’s premier tourist attraction and undeniably qualifies as one of the world’s greatest wonders. Indeed, there is great accuracy as well as important irony to the common witticism that the wall - which was historically built to keep foreigners out - now brings them in by the millions.

 

Whatever part of the wall you visit, you will be impressed. There are several easily accessible spans around Beijing. The Badaling and Mutianyu sections of the wall are nearest to the city, northwest and northeast respectively, each 1-2 hours from city center by road. The Huangyaguan Pass section is nearest to the cruise port of Tianjin. All are striking and awe-inspiring as they carve their sure and mighty path over miles of rugged mountain terrain, enduring as a powerful symbol of a massive and mighty country with a fascinating but turbulent history. 

CHECK OUT 
some of Dr. John Freedman's other Travel Blogs:


Our cruise proved to be full of learning opportunities with four good lecturers. 

Our favorite lecturer was Dr. John Freedman, a retired medical doctor who had worked in Brazil,Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda, Cuba and Haiti.

His lectures gave meaning and insight to our ports of call.

 - Carol H

     Oceania Insignia World Cruise 2016


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