Postcard from Our Traveler: A wonderfully planned Vietnam itinerary

Trip to Vietnam

Trip to Vietnam

I just wanted to let you know that our trip to Vietnam was wonderful, awesome and perfect in every way thanks to your help and the great local agency and guides in the country. The accommodations were great – in the case of the Victoria at Hoi An, incredible. The itinerary was a perfect balance of touring and relaxing.

Best of all were the guides and drivers that expertly shepherded us through your wonderfully planned itinerary with their great insights and knowledge of the regions. Not only did they know the important things to tell us but they also added in culture, custom and personal stories. Their outgoing and winsome personalities made us feel so content and comfortable. In particular, Dong in Hanoi has an incredible sense of conveying just the right background and history to make sights in Hanoi so interesting by sharing tidbits one would not find in a tour book or with a less engaging guide. When we asked him how the rice was grown and harvested he had the driver pull over, jumped out and plucked a small plant shoot and proceeded to give us a lesson in how rice is sown, grown, harvested and exported! His English is perfect, he led us to just the right restaurants and coffee shops and was so enjoyable to be with.

Although impossible to pick just one place or experience as the top highlight I think it was the bike day in Hoi An with the cooking lesson and lunch with the local family – what a unique experience of a lifetime that was! Ngoc, the family cook told us he taught himself English by watching American movies – which was probably true in that he has all the funny lines memorized. I think his meal was one of the best we had in the country. The guide there, Tho, clearly enjoyed his job and his enthusiasm shined through. He even suggested that we bring our laundry along on the bike ride and drop it off a a local laundry, for the experience as well as for the fact that we were able to have a whole load done for what one item would have cost at the resort. This is the kind of attentiveness these guides offered.

Ending our time in Saigon with Lam was a treat as well. He is so pleasant and being the seasoned guide that he is, could sense that my husband was really interested in the Reunification Palace and seemed to show him every broom closet with a story to tell. I really cannot think of a single thing I would change, except the time and traffic to get to the Mekong Delta (which you warned me about and is no reflection on the guide or driver). While the floating market is an incredible thing to experience we were mixed (two for and two against) as to whether we might have wanted to do something else in the country with the time and effort it took to take that in.

We were also blessed with some things that were not on the itinerary but nevertheless helped make the trip better — really nice weather (unusually so for this time of year according to the guides) and coming home the plane was not full so we ended up with a center seat to spread out a little which was a great treat, being so tired with such a long trip ahead of us. So, much thanks for your time and expertise. We can’t wait to share our photos and stories with friends and we’re sure some will want to be in touch with you themselves.

Best regards,

Carrie W.
Houston, TX


Carrie embarked on a Highlights of Vietnam custom tour arranged by our expert in Vietnam vacation packages, Travel Specialist Tom Lastick. This was Carrie’s first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys, and we hope to help her and her family plan another trip to Asia in the future.

A Staff Postcard from the Field: Travel to Papua New Guinea

I Am Wontok

Papua New Guinea travel notes from Kirsten Louy-Nasty, Operations Manager at Asia Transpacific Journeys

Papua New Guinea Travel

My Trip to Papua New Guinea

Twenty-two years ago, when I was in college, I was fortunate enough to travel Papua New Guinea to visit my parents who were living there, working on various developmental projects. They lived in Port Moresby for over 3 years; I was able to visit them twice.

I’ll never forget my first night when I peered out my bedroom window and saw a man—who I was later to find out was our security guard—creeping through the backyard with his bow and arrow, barefoot. This was Papua New Guinea….However, the reason I was there was to be with my parents, to be “home,” because home was anywhere they were at the time. While we did do some exploring ourselves such as river rafting, accessing some remote tribal communities in the highlands, visiting small villages outside of Madang and testing our will for the taste of beetle nut, I was really there to be with family, to touch base, to go to the market with my mom, to celebrate being together and to reconnect. Papua New Guinea, in essence, became a home for me, because that is where my family was.

Twenty-two years later fate played its hand and I was presented with another opportunity to travel back to Papua New Guinea for business. I was invited by Papua New Guinea Tourism and Myriad Marketing to represent my company, Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ), to explore the lodges, the itinerary possibilities, observe a very local sing-sing (celebration or festival), travel by boat on the Karawari River and to meet our ground staff and reconnect with our tour leader. All in an effort to bring updated travel information and knowledge about travel in Papua New Guinea back to our team in Boulder, Colorado.

As the chosen representative of my “tribe” I took the opportunity with open arms. I vowed to bring back vital information, what was happening, how have things changed and what remains the same.

As soon as we flew in to Port Moresby and glimpsed the landscape, the famed bird of paradise logo on the black and red flag, I knew I was home. I came home to the level of comfort offered by the lodges amidst tribal structures and guarded negotiations for bride price. I came home to the raw sense of people living their lives still somehow untouched by forces that fill our stress levels here in North America. I came home feeling at ease with a ‘community’ I somehow already knew. I came home to the smoky earthy smell of villages and people. I came home to the muddy thick earth beneath my feet. I knew the smell of hot fresh coffee from the plantation down the road each morning and I knew the feeling when I shook hands with the people greeting me and welcoming me to their village.  I knew by the smiles of those that I came in to contact with that we should be there, we should be observing and experiencing one of the most amazing still very tribal destinations on earth. I knew the value of a pig, a woman and of land (sometimes in that order) and how these three key elements play a vital role in the survival of its people, even today. And finally, I knew the meaning of “First Contact” and how the bulus, or airplane, has played a role in this rich and rugged landscape and still does today, delivering food, supplies, medical inventory, parts to machinery and the wonderful local beer.

Papua New Guinea remains the land of the unexpected and is a true mind-boggling adventure. Even after having been there some years ago, I am in awe of what I observed. Some things have changed but in a sense nothing has changed at all. I was saying goodbye to one of our business associates, who is from Papua New Guinea, the night before flying to Brisbane to begin my long journey home. She looked at me and said, “you are wantok” which means “one talk”— someone who speaks my language, part of my tribe, my relative.

I am wantok…and when we travel, we are all wantok too. We do become part of a global community, a force that is bigger than just you and I. We become part of a family of understanding, a family that crosses borders and offers forgiveness. I am wantok and every time you choose to cross time zones and borders or reach out to others and call a place home, even if temporarily, you are wantok too.

Contact us at 1-800-642-2742 or for information on joining one of our signature Papua New Guinea tours to visit this amazing area.