One of the highlights of our Borneo tour was the time we spent snorkeling near Mabul Island. Mabul Water Bungalows’ guide, Jovi, took the two of us to the leeside of Sipadan Island, off the southeast shore of Sabah, Borneo, to snorkel among the rich marine life. While exploring the coral we saw what looked like a grey wall in the water. As we approached, the wall resolved into a school of Jacks—maybe a thousand of them, swimming in a lazy gyre twenty feet tall. We joined in and swam with them—they were perfectly willing to let us join the ranks of their silver circle.
During our trip to Borneo, one of the most unique experiences was when our Tour Leader, Barry Davies, our Borneo Rainforest Lodge guide, Theodore, and the two of us walked up the Coffin Trail overlooking Borneo’s Danum Valley. On the way up, we found a pristine Bridal-veil Mushroom. At the time, a large black-tailed butterfly was feeding on the top of it. This mushroom spreads its spores the way flowers spread their pollen—not on the wind, but on the wings of their insect visitors. We passed it again on the way back down the trail but by then it was already starting to collapse.
Catherine and Steve embarked on our Small Group Borneo Tour The Wild Jungles of Borneo with a Custom Extension to Mabul Island to partake of the region’s fabulous snorkeling. Asia Travel Specialist, Pat O’Connell, planned their itinerary. This was their second trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
From Delhi, we have been whisked away to the magical kingdom of Rajasthan, worlds removed from the urban hustle bustle of India’s capital. If Delhi still retains images of a colonial empire, Rajasthan sweeps you back in time to a land honed by its harsh desert conditions—an agrarian landscape painted in shades of gold and ochre and dusky red sandstone. Veiled women drift past, gracefully balancing water bowls on their heads, small children tucked protectively under their arms. At long last, I gaze upon the sacred cows of India, omnipresent, unattended and uninterested in anything or anyone around them. They can be found wandering into homes or shops or splayed out asleep on busy streets as cars swerve to avoid them and pedestrians politely sidestep them. What can possibly be going on in their bovine brains? “Hey, let’s check out the action at the local wadi. Omar the ox is pulling that wooden wheel around and around in a circle!.” “Nahh, think I’ll take a nap.” If there was ever a lucky gene pool for animals, the sacred cows of India have scored big-time. Chickens? Not so lucky…
We arrived in Delhi from Singapore, where we had been for a few days, and so we awoke our first morning un-jet lagged, fired up and ready to go! We had prepared ourselves, somewhat trepidatiously, for what we had been told by one and all would be an “assault on the senses”. We were girded for the crowds, the cows, the abject poverty, the dazzling sights and sounds, the smells of tumeric and cumin wafting in the air: exotic and overwhelming Delhi in all its past glory and present chaos of humanity swarming in all directions.
What always makes a trip special is the unexpected, the unplanned that burnishes the memory and stays with you years after when the visit is but a distant memory. For us, it was something both whimsical and endearing, followed by something powerful and life affirming.
Read more of Molly’s story here: Our Passage to India Journey
Want to take that perfect photo on your next trip? Renowned photographer Michele Westmorland shares her tips for capturing those memorable images.
1. Ask permission when photographing people.
Respect will get you a long way when photographing people in foreign lands. Engaging a person and getting their approval is the cornerstone of cultural photography. Of course, with large crowds, that is not always possible, but when singling one person out, just ask or move on.
2. Pack light and review equipment needs.
Review all your equipment needs and make a list. Not only will this ensure you don’t forget any important gadgets but it will also help you to be selective and abide by airline weight restrictions.
I tend to select my lenses based on weight and needs. A wide-angle zoom lens such as a Canon 16-35 will provide the capability of photographing landscapes and large groups of people. A medium zoom, such as a 24–70mm, will give you nice portrait photos or detail shots. Then to finish, a telephoto zoom will provide the best results for wildlife, such as birds.
It’s easy to just focus on capturing the “big picture” but don’t forget to get the details. When taking portraits, focusing on interesting elements such as the hands, an interesting piece of clothing or jewelry or a musical instrument being played.
5. Circular Polarizer
I never leave home without mine. A polarizer allows those rich forest images or puffy clouds to really pop.
6. Back-Up Those Images
Don’t rely on just your laptop or viewing device—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about people losing their precious images from device failure. Small portable drives are inexpensive and can give you peace of mind that you will get all of your images home safely.
7. Why RAW
If your camera has the ability to shoot in RAW format—use it! RAW format this is like having a negative of your image—it allows you to post-process the images the way you saw the scene through the lens. JPEGs take up less space but they compress the image, limiting your post-processing options.
8. Know Your Camera
Make sure you understand your camera. I am always happy to help sort out cameras but with so many cameras on the market it’s impossible to know the details of all of them. If you do not know the ins and outs of your camera, bring or download the manual—it will come in handy.
Experience Papua New Guinea with Michele this June on our “Through The Lens” small group trip. Michele Westmorland, a veteran of dozens of trips to Papua New Guinea with deep local connections, will facilitate wonderful cultural interactions and provide expert technical advice.This is travel as artistic endeavor, a deep immersion in the sound, shape and color of the world’s most kaleidoscopic land.
First, your itinerary was well-crafted to allow us to see as much as possible in the available time. We could tell that you had given considerate thought to maximizing our experience in Myanmar. I realize that there is always more one can see and that there were important sites that time and weather precluded our visiting. Nevertheless, we felt that we had a varied and comprehensive experience.
Secondly, we want to let you know that our guide, May, was wonderful. We have been on many trips and have had a number of good guides and others over the years. May is the best we’ve had in part because we didn’t feel as if we were just another pair of tourists to squire around. She made an effort to determine what we were interested in accomplishing (seeing the country, talking to and learning about the people and understanding the culture as well as using all the available time productively) and then working hard to make this happen. For example, she took us to umbrella factories, boat yards, tiny villages, school visits, medical clinics, orphanages, gold pounders, silver smiths, paper makers, palm sugar/moonshine factories, lotus thread weavers, private homes to name just a few extras. She even bought a decorated birthday cake for Adele. Most days we included several events which weren’t on the official itinerary. This was precisely the type of trip for which I was looking. We had many laughs with her and our drivers and were made to feel like part of the family.
Thanks again, Bill & Family
Bill and Adele embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering Myanmar. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
Just wanted to let you know we are having a fabulous time so far in Laos. Our national guide is absolutely delightful, knowledgeable, and a real pleasure to travel with. Our local guide today was also outstanding. It was fascinating to walk through the different ethnic villages and talk with local people.
We loved La Residence Phou Vao. It is spectacular. And we are enjoying Muang La Resort.
But I mostly wanted to thank you for arranging the command performance at the National Ballet Theater. Wow!!! We so enjoyed the production which ran 90 minutes. The main ballet was a representation of a Lao story that we happened to discuss at length the day before with Pon, as it was captured in a mural on a wall at Wat Xieng Thong.
Suffice to say that your careful attention to detail have been most
Susan and Lawrence embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Eric Kareus. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
Our trip has been incredible! We are in Hong Kong now until 3/3, but we are
done with the whole part you helped plan. And I want to tell you that
everything you said was true.
Having you/your company take care of all the arrangements was a major plus
factor, and as you had said, if we could afford it, it was well worth the
money. This type of travel, flying from point to point with passport
controls, hotels, languages, etc. is very wearying, and we feel that the
reason it was less so was because we were met in each country. This took
some of the foreignness out of the experience.
For us, having the cruise to break up the being on the move format was
delightful. Of course, the sightseeing was superficial being in each place
such a short time, but we mostly like the ship life of having everything
there and easy. We would have done better to have had you arrange for land
tours for us from the ship, as you suggested. Many of them were silly
stopping at different factories, etc.
Here is a little feedback, which I think you would want, but honestly you
are hearing from some EXTREMELY satisfied clients.
The guides were excellent; they were all such nice people, friendly, and
eager to please. The one in Myanmar, her name is Toe Khin Khin, was far and
away the best. And having her fly with us to Bagan (our favorite place)
made things so easy. She had lots of information, laughing and so much
fun to be with, sensitive about what her clients like to do, and the most
rare quality she has is fitting in with the exact mood that is called for.
For example, when we were in a temple and feeling spiritually connected or
watching a sunset, she laid back and just enjoyed that feeling with us. She
pointed out special opportunities that we just lucked into: seeing the
children’s novitiate procession in Bagan and also attending her coworker’s
Hotels were beautiful. One thing that amazes me is that none of them had
more than 2 dresser drawers for clothing. We sometimes had an additional
little cabinet brought to the room. Of course a cruise ship spoils us all,
since every nook and cranny is outfitted with more drawers and closets than
you could use. The pool in Siem Reap was fabulous – gorgeous, huge, warm -
although the room was quite tiny. The pool in Laos was not heated, and with
the 30 degree drop in temperature at night, it was unusable. The charming
manager Eddie said they have a plan to heat the pool in the future.
Tom, the choice of places to go, how much time to spend in each place, the
sequence of when to go where — was just about perfect. We appreciated your
info book encouraging clients to speak up and tell their guides what they
like to do best. When Toe told us that our second day in Bagan was going to
be spent on a 3-hour drive each way to Mt. Popa, we said NO WAY. We could
not tear ourselves away from the spiritual other-worldly experience of just
being amidst these pagodas. So we stayed in the area and found marvelous
things to do.
Thank you so much for the work you put into making this a trip of a lifetime
for us. We will never forget it and hope we have a chance to recommend you
to others in the future.
Lenore & Peter,
New York, NY
Lenore and Peter embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Singapore. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.