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.

Asia Transpacific Journeys wins Travel + Leisure World’s Best Award: A letter from our Founder

2011 World's Best Awards

Dear Colleagues, Clients and Friends,

As the Founder and President of Asia Transpacific Journeys, I wanted to personally announce that we have recently been named a Top 10 Tour Operator on the 2011 World’s Best list by the readers of Travel + Leisure. Asia Transpacific Journeys is the only company specializing in Asia to win that coveted award.

The honor is particularly gratifying for being democratic in nature—as you may or may not know, winners are not picked by an editor, but rather determined by people who have actually traveled with us. Our sincere gratitude goes out to our travelers and industry colleagues for their vote.

This acknowledgement is not just a feather in our cap. It is an inspiration to us, and a challenge to deliver on the promise of extraordinary travel to Asia on into the future.

We look forward to creating many more journeys with you.

Warm regards,

Marilyn Downing Staff

Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President

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New Things: Eastern Bhutan Opens to Trekkers

At long last, Bhutan’s far east is taking visitors. For years the kingdom’s remote Merak and Sakten valleys have been largely off limits to outsiders, but the government is easing restrictions – somewhat. Starting next month, a handful of new operators will be permitted to lead small groups into Bhutan’s easternmost reaches.

If you ask us, Asia Transpacific Journeys is the way to go. The Colorado-based outfitter’s custom treks will take you deep into the stupa-specked land of the Brokpa people — one of the last remaining traditional Himalayan cultures — with a guide, cook, and horseman. For seven days, you’ll hike through pristine alpine valleys and forests, visiting with yak herders and farmers along the way.

“Virtually everything in their lives is handmade of their own indigenous materials,” says ATJ Founder Marilyn Downing Staff, who scouted the area in May and is pictured above with the Brokpa. “It’s very rare to find a culture like that in this day and age.” (From $395/day.)

By: Catharine Livingston, August 2010

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Click here to read the full article. To find out more about creating a custom trip to Bhutan, call Asia Transpacific Journeys to speak to a travel specialist at 800-642-2742.

‘The Cultures of Buddhist Asia—Japan, Laos, and Bhutan’ Named One of National Geographic Travelers’ Tours of a Lifetime

Three Faces of Buddha
“From the raked rock gardens of Kyoto to the temple architecture of Laos to the traditional paintings of Bhutan, explore how Buddhism informs three different cultures in this ambitious journey inspired by a longstanding interest of the operator’s founder. Highlights include an overnight in a shukubo (traditional Japanese temple lodgings) and a hike to the cliffside Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan. The outfitter has knocked off $400 from last year’s rate. Asia Transpacific Journeys: “The Cultures of Buddhist Asia—Japan, Laos, and Bhutan,” 17 days; $9,995.”


View the National Geographic Traveler article or visit our site for The Cultures of Buddhist Asia—Japan, Laos, and Bhutan Small Group Trip details.

Celebrate The World’s Most Pristine Forests on Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to share an excerpt from a recent article from Travel + Leisure, The World’s Most Pristine Forests, featuring the best preserved forests in the world. We were asked to provide tips on how to best experience travel to these amazing ecosystems.

Kayan Mentarang National Park, Indonesia
“Kayan Mentarang, on the verdant island of Borneo, is one of the last remaining homes to the rhinoceros hornbill and strange primates like proboscis and leaf monkeys. The big draws for tourists (and poachers) are the adorably petite Sumatran rhino and the Borneo pygmy elephant.

How to Go: Asia Transpacific Journeys suggests a six-day itinerary beginning at the village of Long Layu. Local Dayak tribes still live in communal dwellings and guests do, too, as there is no accommodation in the park.”

Daintree National Park, Australia
“At 160 million years old, this UNESCO World Heritage–listed spot in Oz’s far northeast region is one of the oldest undisturbed forest ecosystems on earth. It’s also a birder’s paradise—more than 430 avian species live in the forest, including 13 found nowhere else on Earth. And it’s home to the weird and wonderful peppermint stick insect: colored like candy, the creature creates a peppermint aroma to ward off predators. The Maardja Boardwalk (an easy stroll even for a lethargic walker) displays the transition from freshwater rainforest to saltwater mangroves.

How to Go: Asia Transpacific Journeys guests stay at Daintree Eco Lodge, a luxury treehouse set high in the canopy.”

Once in a Lifetime Trips

Asia Transpacific Journeys is featured in the new book Once in a Lifetime Trips: The World’s 50 Most Extraordinary and Memorable Travel Experiences by Chris Santella

In Once in a Lifetime Trips: The World’s 50 Most Extraordinary and Memorable Travel Experiences, Santella features fifty extraordinary vacations, each designed with a particular passionate pursuit in mind, from the most luxurious to incredible cultural trips.

Devising an off-the-beaten-path vacation can take tremendous research, since the most exciting trips are ones that few know about. Santella has done the detective work by canvassing experts (such as Town & Country‘s Pamela Fiore and Asia travel pioneer Marilyn Downing Staff of Asia Transpacific Journeys) to spark the reader’s imagination with some of their favorite trips—from visiting dinosaur excavation sites in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert to an elephant-back safari in Botswana to a wildlife tour of Borneo.

About the Author: CHRIS SANTELLA writes regularly for the New York Times, Forbes Traveler, and has contributed to numerous other publications including The New Yorker, Travel + Leisure, and Golf.