Go Beyond the Ordinary in Australia

Asia Transpacific Journeys’ trips to Australia visit iconic sights for which Australia is justifiably famous, but also offers travel to remote areas of Australia that many travelers do not get the chance to experience. A trip to these off-the-beaten-path regions can turn the average Australia travel experience from something ordinary into something extraordinary.

The west coast of Australia is covered with sparkling white beaches and crystal clear blue waters perfect for snorkeling, exploring or relaxing. From the islands and gorges of The Kimberley, to Shark Bay and the Ningaloo Reef, the area is a vacationer’s paradise.

After spending time in Sydney, Cairns and at the Great Barrier Reef, take a cruise on the luxurious Australian yacht, True North. The West Coast Explorer cruise is the perfect way to round out your Australia vacation and see everything that this wild and beautiful land has to offer. True North cruises provide an ideal opportunity to get out of the cities and often crowded tourist areas and experience the Australian wilderness at its best. It’s the perfect add-on for any of Asia Transpacific Journeys’ custom trips to Australia.


Learn more about Asia Transpacific Journeys‘ trips to Australia and True North cruises by speaking to an Australia Travel Specialist at 800-642-2742.

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


Cambodia Travel Destination Voted #1 World Heritage Site

The 12th-century temples in Angkor, Cambodia, stand as astonishing remnants of the powerful Khmer Empire that once ruled Southeast Asia. The ancient site last week picked up a new accolade: most beloved World Heritage Site.

That assessment comes from the travel website TripAdvisor, which partnered with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre to find out which sites travelers would recommend as must-see tourist stop.

Do not hesitate to contact one of our Travel Specialists (800.642.2742) if you want more information on travel and tours to Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

National Geographic: India’s Grassland Kingdom


© Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic


100 tigers, 2,000 one-horned rhinos, 1,800 wild buffalo … Kaziranga National Park is India’s Grassland Kingdom

By Douglas Chadwick
Photograph by Steve Winter

Fewer than 200 were left in the north Indian state of Assam a century ago. Agriculture had taken over most of the fertile river valleys that the species depends on, and the survivors were under relentless assault by trophy hunters and poachers. Kaziranga was set aside in 1908 primarily to save the rhinos. It held maybe a dozen. But the reserve was expanded over the years, given national park status in 1974, and named a World Heritage site in 1985. During the late 1990s it grew again, doubling in size (although legal issues remain to be settled). Now Asia’s premier rhino sanctuary and a reservoir for seeding other reserves, Kaziranga is the key to R. unicornis’s future.

A thundering conservation success story, the park also harbors almost 1,300 wild elephants; 1,800 Asiatic wild water buffalo, the largest remaining population anywhere; perhaps 9,000 hog deer; 800 barasinghs, or swamp deer (it’s a main enclave of this vanishing species); scores of elk-like sambars; and hundreds of wild hogs. Read more…

Continue reading

Less Stuff, More Vacations Brings Happiness

We had a hunch all along: a recent article in the New York Times makes the case that leisure time, not consumer goods, is the key to lasting happiness.

New research finds that experiences—such as travel, being with friends, a day at the ballpark—purchase the most happiness bang for the buck. Acquiring possessions, by contrast, is an endless, unfulfilling cycle, the studies show.

If unbridled acquisition results in clutter and deflated hopes, while travel with friends and family creates joy and enduring satisfaction—happiness, in other words—what are you waiting for?

Only one component of consumption is positively related to happiness—leisure consumption.” DeLeire, University of Wisconsin; Kalil, University of Chicago

It’s better to go on a vacation than buy a new couch.” Dunn, Van Boven and Gilovich, Harvard University.

Investment Strategy: Join a Small Group Trip or let us create a personally tailored Custom Journey for you today. It’s the best investment in happiness you can make.

Call a Travel Specialist at 800-642-2742 or email us directly about your Asia travel plans.

“Eat, Pray, Love” in India and Bali

Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love can embark on their own quest for worldly pleasure, spiritual enlightenment and meaning in life by traveling to India and Bali, two of the three lands featured in Gilbert’s candid memoir of self-discovery. We at Asia Transpacific Journeys are experts on everything from ashrams to art in both India and Bali, where we’ve been organizing travel for individuals on their own journeys of discovery for nearly 25 years.

The book, which is scheduled to emerge as a movie starring Julia Roberts on August 13, 2010, paints shimmering pictures that stay with the reader. India is intense and chaotic, yet deeply absorbing and for Gilbert life-changing. One of the world’s most ancient cultures, it indeed seems to possess a special wisdom that Gilbert is not alone in seeking.

Bali is altogether different, a soft-spoken, gentle, lush, green and tranquil island of great natural beauty. It was in Bali that love came the author’s way, and whether romance lies in store or not, the island casts a spell on all visitors with its quiet spirituality.

Asia Transpacific Journeys offers a 16-day journey called India: In the Realm of the Spirit that focuses on the contrasting spiritual traditions in the region. Travelers visit sacred temples, join pilgrims at holy sites, and practice yoga at a world-renowned retreat in the Himalayas.

On Bali and Beyond travelers discover hidden gems on an incredible 17-day exploration of this magical land. The journey features sailing, snorkeling, dance and the arts, wildlife, ancient cultural traditions and UNESCO temples sites.

We can also create private Custom Journeys to India and Bali for individual travelers, their family and friends. These depart on your timeframe and incorporate special features completely tailored to each traveler’s unique interests.

Sri Lanka: Checkpoints in Paradise

The New York Times featured an article on tourism in Sri Lanka as reported by Lionel Beehner

“…In recent months, tourism has steadily inched upward from past years, thanks to efforts by the government and local entrepreneurs to redevelop the eastern coast and to build an airport down south near Hambantota. The tourism ministry has also begun a “Visit Sri Lanka 2011” public relations blitz to rebrand itself after the war…

But it is the country’s tranquil beauty that draws most visitors. “You don’t need to do a great deal to have the good life here,” said Ivan Robinson, a British real estate developer who refurbished a colonial manor in the south. “The rivers are full of fish. Fruit falls off trees.” Water buffalo graze beside Buddhist stupas. Elephants roam freely. And innkeepers warn guests to keep their windows closed to avoid pickpockets — not people, but monkeys swinging from the trees.

Then there are Sri Lanka’s famed beaches, crescent-shaped coves of white sand framed by colorful bungalows and bamboo groves. An unintended consequence of the war is the coastline’s lack of development. You can stroll past beat-up outrigger boats, which look like showpieces from a maritime museum, and past fishermen on wooden stilts. Or hike inland to discover hideaway guesthouses carved from old gem merchants’ homes, with mango gardens and infinity pools tucked into their courtyards…

But it is the southern town of Galle that is the coast’s biggest draw. The city feels more European than South Asian, owing to the fact that its center — a jumble of quaint gem shops, cafes and guesthouses — sits within the weather-beaten walls of a Dutch-built fort…

High up in Sri Lanka’s hill country, the feeling is more authentic, less touristy. To get there, hop on the train that rattles past rain forests, tea plantations and elephant orphanages. The final stop is Kandy, famous for its lakeside shrine called the Temple of the Tooth…

But it is Kandy’s Buddhist roots that entice most visitors. Head to the Y.M.B.A. (Young Men’s Buddhist Association) around sundown to witness a pooja dance. Dancers twirl about in red and gold sarongs, clink brass rings and bang on drums before staging a fire-eating ritual. Or hop on a tuk-tuk, the motorized rickshaw taxis all over Sri Lanka, to make the drive to Dambulla, an ancient complex of cave temples stuffed with reclining Buddha statues.”

To read the complete article, visit NYTimes.com

Visit our site for information on creating a custom private trip to Sri Lanka for just you and your family or friends.

Cherry blossom season begins in Tokyo

USA Today published an article on Cherry Blossom Season in Tokyo by Jay Alabaster.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency said Monday that the country’s capital was officially in bloom, a closely watched announcement that marks the start of the yearly cherry blossom viewing season.

The annual rite of spring in Japan goes back hundreds of years and involves sitting under “sakura” trees and taking in the fluffy pink flowers, which drop off about a week after they appear. In Tokyo, residents flock to parks to lay down tarps and claim the best spots, then host elaborate picnics and long drinking sessions.

In Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, a small group of flower viewers gathered underneath cherry trees laden with pink buds…

Japan designates certain sakura trees for monitoring all across the country, and considers a region to be in bloom when at least five or six flowers can be counted on its trees. On Monday, an official government counter visited the Yasukuni Shrine, home to Tokyo’s trees, and proclaimed the city abloom.

When 80% of the trees’ flowers have opened, typically a few days later, an area is officially designated as in “full bloom,” prime time for blossom gazing and revelry.

This season starts a day later than last year in Tokyo, but six days before the historical average. The first flowers have bloomed earlier in recent years, triggering concerns of global warming. In the southern, warmer Okinawa islands, cherry blossoms began blooming in late December.

To read the complete article, visit usatoday.com

Visit our site for information on group travel to Japan or creating a custom private trip to Japan for just you and your family or friends.

The Life of Buddha, PBS documentary

The Buddha, a two-hour documentary for PBS by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the Buddha’s life, a journey especially relevant to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion. The program was produced in conjunction with the exhibition Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art, organized by Asia Society Museum, New York, opening in March 2010. The companion website for The Buddha, launching in early 2010, will feature the work of some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors, who across two millennia, have depicted the Buddha’s life in art rich in beauty and complexity. Hear insights into the ancient narrative by contemporary Buddhists — including Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Join the conversation and learn more about meditation, the history of Buddhism, and how to incorporate the Buddha’s teachings on compassion and mindfulness into daily life.

Premiering April 7, 2010 at 8 p.m. EST on PBS stations nationwide


Dazzling, dizzying Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Los Angeles Times featured an article on modern architectural delights in the ancient city of Chiang Mai as reported by Susan Spano

“About 30 years ago, the gods of style looked down from design heaven on a town in central New Mexico. It was dusty and small, but they thought it had potential, so they nodded and turned it into Santa Fe…

They’re at it again in Chiang Mai, the old northern capital of Thailand, founded at 4 a.m. on the eighth day of the waxing moon in the month of Visakha and the Year of the Monkey, or 1296, a date dictated by Indian cosmology. More than 700 years later, a construction boom has given Chiang Mai some of the most stylish hotels and restaurants in Southeast Asia. Galleries and design stores have opened, showcasing a trove of textiles, ceramics, furniture, antiques and architectural salvage…

Builders have sought inspiration from the gilded temples and traditional teakwood houses. Designers and buyers come for the arts and crafts, which add an elegant Asian echo to contemporary minimalism…”

To read the complete article, visit LATimes.com

Visit our site for information on group travel to Thailand or creating a custom private trip to Thailand for just you and your family or friends.