A Staff Postcard from the Field: Clean Water Brought To You By Asia Transpacific Foundation

Clean Water Initiative

I LOVE  Burma. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. If you’ve never been you HAVE GOT to go. There are many wonderful places in Asia, but Burma is special. It’s amazing! The people are so kind and gentle.

The last time I visited in 2011 I dropped by the factory that makes ceramic filters that produce clean water for locals. It’s funded by our very own Asia Transpacific Foundation and I highly recommend a visit to any of our travelers! It’s located in the village of Twante which has been a pottery center in Burma (Myanmar) for centuries.  It is a two hour drive from Yangon, along the red mud banks of the Irrawaddy River. It was a thrill to finally get to visit this village. It has been functioning like a well oiled machine for over four years.

As I arrived the local supervisor, wearing his best shirt and the traditional longyi (men’s sarong), flashed a huge grin in my direction and came to meet my vehicle.  He and his crew had been anxiously awaiting my arrival. I clasped my palms together in the traditional greeting and they all did the same. Then they presented me with tea and snacks. After this warm welcome I was invited to see the progress at the plant and meet the workers, who take great pride in their jobs.  The kiln was precisely built, and had been used to fire many loads of filters. As a matter of fact, filters were everywhere, in various states of finish.  Some were being pressed from raw clay that had been mixed with rice husk to create the required post-firing porosity, some were being dried in preparation for firing, some were being unloaded from the kiln and being tested for flow rates, others were being painted with colloidal silver and being packed for shipping to surrounding villages.  There were at least 30 people working diligently at all this.

All this is a huge success story for the people of this area! Clean water is virtually non-existant in many parts of rural Burma. Asia Transpacific Foundation and donations from our travelers have generously funded this effort. I was happy to see the diligence and dedication that the workers bring to their jobs, the clean drinking water that each filter provides and the income that this project provides for the workers and their families.

Later that day as my driver and I headed down the dusty red dirt road, I looked back to see all thirty of the employees smiling and waiving a warm good bye. The warmth of the Burmese people once again touched my heart.

~Rebecca Mazzaro, Asia Travel Specialist

Rebecca in Burma

The normally non-smoking Rebecca Mazzaro, Asia Transpacific Journeys Travel Specialist Extraordinaire, throwing caution to the wind in an effort to connect with locals in Mandalay, Burma

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Rebecca became hooked on travel after spending a year of high school in a small Spanish province bordering Morocco. She studied Environmental Biology earning her degree at CU Boulder. A musical streak culminated in a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a penchant for travel manifested itself in years spent guiding around the U.S.

She fell for Asia during extensive travels in the region, where she expertly captures its people and places in photos. She revels in sharing her deep first-hand knowledge and was named a Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist for 2007. Rebecca was also named one of the World’s Top Travel Agents by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2011.

Postcard from Our Traveler: Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Laos
Honestly, the entire trip totally exceeded our expectations and was absolutely amazing. Wanted to thank you guys SO much for the best trip/experience I’ve ever had. We absolutely loved it and really appreciate all your hard work and patience :)

Just want to give a shout out to 3 of our guides that were really fantastic and went above and beyond the call of duty. They were absolutely amazing!

Qin from Guilin
John from Hanoi
Siphon from Luang Prabang

These guys were by far the best of the trip and made each destination so much more memorable.

Thank you so much again! It went by way too fast!

Lindsey P.

La Jolla, CA

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Lindsey explored China, Laos, Mongolia and Vietnam on a custom Asia trip arranged by Travel Specialist Jarrod Hobson. This was her first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys, but we look forward to working with her again on her next big journey.

Peace and Progress in Vietnam

Vietnamese Women

I first traveled to Vietnam in 1990.  Just emerging from the war, visas for foreigners were scarce, but I applied and was granted the privilege of a short visit.  Residing in Thailand at the time, it was just a short flight from Bangkok to Saigon, but it was indeed a world away.

Greeting me on that first trip were wariness, sadness and a lack of optimism about the future.    Vietnam’s strongest connections were with the Eastern Block, and that part of the world was beginning to crumble.

Personal consumer goods were almost non-existent.  Hand soap and basic cosmetics were treasures. Even pens and pencils were scarce.  I had purchased some of these precious commodities in Thailand with the intention of gifting them, as appropriate, to people I met on my journey.  I will never forget the gratitude with which some of these simple gifts were received.

Because of the long post war embargo, at that time virtually the only vehicles in the country were old American cars left behind as we left in defeat after the war.  Tenaciously maintained with hand made parts, it was not uncommon to see a 1950’s Studebaker, being used as a taxi, overloaded with passengers, poultry hanging from every window on the way to market.

There was almost total uniformity of dress.  Women wore the elegant ao dai, and men and women alike wore the conical hat and black, baggy pants of the peasant farmer.

This past week, as I arrived in Saigon once again, I experienced a very different place.  Industrious and thriving, the Vietnamese people have made their way quickly into the modern world. Saigon is now a city of contemporary architecture reaching for the sky.  Cars are modern, sometimes luxurious.  It is not uncommon to see BMWs, Mercedes and other luxury vehicles on the street. Brightly lit department stores carry Jimmy Choo shoes, Coach handbags and Armani designs. Italian gelato shops, American coffee houses and fast food abound.  The streets are clean, bustling, and the mood is upbeat.   Though certainly not everyone is well to do, there are possibilities now that were not even dreamed about in those dark, post war years.

As a long time observer of Vietnam, and their challenges, I stand in awe of their remarkable entry into the modern world. But, don’t let the modern façade fool you. Traditional Vietnamese culture is alive and well and readily shared, to the delight of this visitor.

-Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President, Asia Transpacific Journeys

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Discover the uniquely modern yet traditional culture of Vietnam for yourself with one of our group tour packages or luxury custom tours to Vietnam. Download a complimentary catalog or itinerary or speak with an Asia Travel Specialist to begin planning your trip to Asia, 800-642-2742.

WWF Announces $2.8M Indonesia Debt Swap

Forests of Borneo
WWF joined The Nature Conservancy and the Indonesian and US governments to sign a debt-for-nature swap agreement that will result in a new $28.5 million investment to help protect tropical forests in three districts on the Indonesian side of Borneo (Kalimantan).

This achievement is the result of two years of hard work and persistence by a joint US and Indonesia team.  Special congratulations is due to our Conservation Finance team of Esteban Brenes and Eric Swanson, who provided superb guidance and unrelenting energy, and to the Heart of Borneo team here and in Indonesia, namely Ginny Ng, Adam Tomasek, and Wisnu Rusmantoro, as well as to the leadership and vision of WWF Indonesia’s Budi Wardhana and Nazir Foead.

Other parts of the WWF network also contributed signficantly. WWF-NL and WWF-Germany joined with us to co-invest $2M as WWF’s aggregate contribution and co-financing of this program.

The funds from this debt swap will address the threat of deforestation and help reduce carbon emissions in Indonesia. It will invest in improved land-use planning to direct development toward already degraded lands; in improved management of protected areas, and other critical measures to reduce forest destruction; and also in supporting “green” Indonesia travel initiatives, other economic development opportunities, and local communities.  The swap will focus investment in three critical Districts, Kutai Barat and Berau in East Kalimantan and Kapuas Hulu in West Kalimantan province.

Notably, this swap also sets a major precedent, as it is the first debt swap under the U.S. Government’s Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) to have a major and explicit focus on averting climate change through tropical forest conservation.

Congratulations to all!

Tom Dillon
Sr. Vice President
Field Programs
World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US)

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Asia Transpacific Journeys offers several trips to Indonesia and Borneo. In June, Asia Transpacific Journeys teams up with WWF for our Into the Heart of Borneo small group trip. Learn more about travel to Borneo by contacting a Travel Specialist at 800-642-2742.