How Much Luggage Can I Bring to Asia?

Your dreams of traveling to enchanting Asia are finally about to be realized. Your flights are booked and your plans are settled, but are your bags packed? As you attempt to balance preparedness with efficiency, keep these tips in mind to help make sure your luggage is as ready for your Asia journey as you are.

· Baggage restrictions vary by airline. Some U.S. airlines allow passengers flying internationally to check two bags, each weighing 50 pounds or less. However, some carriers allow considerably less. Check with us or your visit your airline’s web site before you travel for specific information about checked baggage costs and oversized luggage fees.

· Always stow copies of important documents such as passports in a piece of luggage in case the original documents are lost or stolen.

· Consult your Asia Transpacific Journeys Travel Guide often while packing – it contains a detailed packing list for your specific destination.

· Keep in mind that laundry service is available in nearly all locations, so pack light. Also note that skimpy clothing is not acceptable in some Asian countries where modesty is highly valued.

· Many travelers feel more prepared when they pack precautionary medications and basic first-aid supplies.

· Remember to bring camera equipment, chargers, travel journals, and other personal items, and bring a small bag or backpack to carry them conveniently on day excursions.

· Consider leaving some room in your luggage to bring back souvenirs or gifts. Some travelers also bring items to donate, such as supplies for a remote village school.

Postcard from Our Traveler: The Reluctant Traveler in Burma by S. Jay Keyser

The author on one of his many reluctantly taken journeys, with his wife and friends.

The Train from Maymyo, Burma

George Orwell spent a year in Mandalay as a police officer, including time in Maymyo (42 miles east of Mandalay) where he trained with the Burmese army. Even today a large military presence permeates the town thanks to its being the home of the Defense Services Academy. Oddly, Orwell’s Burmese Days doesn’t mention Maymyo, although the town appears briefly in Homage to Catalonia:

Mentally you are still in Mandalay when the train stops at Maymyo, four thousand feet above sea level. But in stepping out of the carriage you step into a different hemisphere. Suddenly you are breathing cool sweet air that might be that of England, and all round you are green grass, bracken, fir-trees, and hill-women with pink cheeks selling baskets of strawberries.

Maymyo was to be the British home away from home. You can see this when you visit the Maymyo Botanical Garden. It is both lovely and pathetic.   It is beautifully laid out and is surely a pleasant promenade on Sunday afternoons. The pathos lies in its having been created on the advice of a Kew Gardens landscaper brought over for the express purpose of making Maymyo more like England. It never quite works, of course; hence, the overwhelming sense of loss that hangs over the garden. It must have been like spending holidays in a waxwork museum.

There is a train that travels northeast from Maymyo to Naung Hkio. It is a ride worth taking. If you stay on it long enough, you cross a 109-year-old bridge, the so-called Gokteik Viaduct, just outside of Naung Hkio. When it was completed in 1901, the bridge was the largest of its kind. Sir Arthur Rendel, an engineer with the Burma Railway Company, supervised the construction. The Pennsylvania Steel Company manufactured the parts. The point of the train ride is to cross this ancient trestle—all 2,260 feet long and 1,200 feet high of it. When the train reaches the bridge, you can stand at the end of the car and with the outer doors open look down into the gorge. You could never do that on an American train. This is the train that Paul Theroux writes about in The Great Railway Bazaar. Composed of fifty-year-old Japanese rolling stock, its appointments are old, worn out and for the most part no longer working.

At every stop vendors walk up and down selling things to eat and drink; noodles, bananas, sweet cakes, even cups of water. Over the years the window ledges have become encrusted with the detritus of these transactions. This has its attractions for, for example, a mouse that scampered up and down the carriage like a cartoon conductor.  It stopped every so often, looked around as if it wanted to gather an audience, then scurried on. He reminded me of Mr. Jingles in the Stephen King novel, The Green Mile.

Someone asked if it was a trained mouse.

“Well, of course, it is,” I said. “After all, we’re not riding on a bus.”

Since retiring from his prestigious post at MIT, Dr. Keyser has been following his wife around the world and documenting his experiences on his blog, The Reluctant Traveler. As he says: “The blog came about when I realized that I was married to an inveterate traveler and that I, an inveterate risk avoider, was psychologically unable to let her travel without me.”

An excerpt from his travel journals appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, May, 2000 under the title “Faint of Heart in the Heart of Darkness.”  His latest travel book, I Married a Travel Junkie (2010), is available online at the Harvard Book Store or at as a Kindle book. We’ve read this book—and his witty commentary has sent a round of chuckles through the office.

We’ve had the honor of arranging travel for Dr. Keyser and his wife to Burma, Laos, Thailand, Australia, Bhutan, and Burma, and hope to have them travel with us again soon!

Postcard from Our Traveler: Travel Through the Lens by Susan Cohen

I come from a family of travelers.  My dad hitchhiked across the United States (for fun) in the late 1920s.  My brother B explored the Amazon when trading in plastic containers was a monumental event!  My sister H rode horseback across Kenya and my brother J loves back roads in his 4WD vehicle.  I choose to take my camera to colorful places and explore exciting new cultures with an open mind and a smile.

Travel in India—just saying the name puts all five senses into overdrive!  But, my story is more about the people I saw, met, smiled with, and felt the bonds of our common humanity.

Varanasi, on the Ganges river, is the holiest of Holy cities.  Multitudes come to bathe in the sacred waters.  But, [above] is my photo of a young boy sullenly rolling a large green leaf for his family’s betel business.  Does he wish he were playing soccer with his friends?  Did he pray earlier that morning?  Does he question what his adult life will be like?  Is he there day after day?  What if I were his mother?  How I wish I had the ability to sit with him and share our stories.

Pushkar This portrait of a camel trader is one of my favorites.  Look at his eyes! Can’t you just see his pride and strength?  I imagine him as a leader in his tribe, the husband of a beautiful wife with a jeweled nose ring and a father to strong sons.  He later turned, smiled and invited us to share a smoke.

Deogarth Village
We spent a wonderful night in a palace converted for guests and had sundowners with the Maharani, a beautiful, gracious woman with perfect English.  She was so welcoming and eager to discuss motherhood across our cultures and the choices her daughters now have.  The next morning I strolled through the village by myself, greeting everyone who was up and about as early as I was.  I happened upon an elderly woman sitting against a turquoise door.  She saw my camera and shyly lifted her sari and smiled so I could capture her photo.  Her only wish was to see my LCD display.  I wanted to hug her and tell her how beautiful she was to me in her age and wisdom.

India is priceless!  You must go!

When Susan Cohen retired from early childhood education in 2001, her gift was a 1 megapixel camera. She has since plunged into photography, taking several years of Fine Art Photography classes to refine her craft. Her dedication has paid off—she was published in National Geographic Traveler in April, 2009; made the cover of Shutterbug magazine in July, 2009; and several of her pictures are displayed on Susan also took 2nd Place in the Asia Transpacific Journeys Client Photo Contest 2009. Whether it’s spending time with her six grandchildren or traveling the globe, Susan and her camera are ready for the next adventure!

We’ve been honored to have Susan travel with us on two trips, Treasures of India and Bhutan: Inside the Dragon Kingdom, and hope to have her (and her camera) travel with us again soon!

Guest Post: Andi Perullo in Hong Kong

While traveling to China with girlfriends several years ago, we decided to separate for a week. They went to Beijing, a city I had visited twice before, and I went to Hong Kong.  There was only one thing on my agenda: to see an obscure monastery that I had read about and could not get out of my head.

It’s called the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery and—since I have a minor obsession with all things Buddha—I swore to myself that I would visit this place if I were ever in Hong Kong. I could barely find anything online about it. There was hardly any mention of the monastery in the Lonely Planet Hong Kong guidebook either. The description made it sound like it was a place that could be ignored. Thankfully, I didn’t listen to the review. When I finally arrived at the monastery, I quickly discovered that this place simply cannot be missed.

It is vital to get precise directions before you begin your adventure, because you can’t see the monastery from the road that takes you there. It is perched on top of a hill and requires a hike to get to it (expect around a 30-minute walk). The hike began in a bamboo forest and I truly felt like I was in ancient China.

As I approached the top, countless golden Buddha statues began to emerge. They were on either side of the path and each had a different facial expression. Despite its name, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery actually has more like thirty thousand Buddhas; every year more and more are added.  To be surrounded by that many holy statues evoked such a peaceful feeling within me. I completely forgot that I was in one of the largest cities in the world.

At the top of the hill, I was greeted by a massive pagoda, several temples and even more Buddhas. During my visit, there were no other tourists around; I had the entire place to myself, minus some monks and nuns who were deep in prayer. I spent several hours wandering around and admiring the magnificent grounds. Unfortunately I had to leave earlier than I wanted to since I had a taxi waiting for me and another monastery to check out. However, I will forever remember my experience at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery thanks to its beauty and serenity. What it made it extra special was that it is a hidden gem—and there are so few of those left in this world!

Andi Perullo was a semi-finalist in our 2010 India Photo Contest. An avid traveler, she has visited about 40 countries…and counting. So far in 2010 Andi has been a Lonely Planet Featured Blogger and her website was voted Top 100 Independent Travel Websites. When she is not exploring the far reaches of the world, Andi practices Chinese Medicine in her hometown of Charlotte, NC.

How to Prepare Yourself to Travel to Japan

The islands of Japan, with their harmonious coupling of cutting-edge technology and time-honored tradition, beckon from across the Pacific. As your far-away dreams materialize and your travel plans form, keep in mind a few items that will help prepare you for your journey to Japan.

First, confirm your travel plans with a trusted travel company. At Asia Transpacific Journeys, our exemplary reputation with the world’s most respected cultural organizations will put you at ease. Our exhilarating Small Group Trips and private Custom Journeys to Japan will provide an unrivaled, rich and immersive Japan vacation experience.

Make sure your party’s travel documents, including passports, are current. Then, let one of our travel experts assist you in arranging your flight to Japan. We will take care of the logistics so you can focus on soaking up as much as you can of Japan’s thrilling landscape, unforgettable people, age-old customs, and progressive achievements.

Before you travel to Japan, you will receive a customized Japan Travel Guide to help you familiarize yourself with Japanese customs and etiquette. This comprehensive book also includes a few key phrases of the Japanese language that you may want to memorize prior to departure, as even the most basic attempts at Japanese will go a long way to facilitate meaningful interaction with its people. Our Japan Travel Guide also includes tips on cultural traditions, historical background, and destination information to familiarize you with Japanese culture. It includes a Japan reading list that provides wonderful suggestions for you to explore Japan’s rich literary traditions.

Although you can never fully prepare yourself for a life-enriching travel experience to one of the world’s oldest and most complex cultures, learning as much as possible beforehand will make your journey Japan immersive and meaningful.