Turkey – Tea with the Locals

Travel to Turkeyby Richard Earls.

“Yes, the British and the Japanese have their tea customs and rituals, and I wouldn’t want to take away from the special nature of either of those cultures. But if I had to choose where I would most like to have a cup of tea with the locals, it would be Turkey. Tea shops are a focal point for street level Turkish culture and most good things happen in the presence of a cup of fine Turkish tea. The Turkish people prefer the black tea (or Cay in Turkish) and it is at the center of daily life there, offered everywhere as a gesture of hospitality both before and after meals…

Tea is a good place to begin understanding how to visit Turkey. This is a land of relationships, where time sits still to permit you to go about getting to know your surroundings. Here, travelers are welcomed and greeted with both respect and curiosity. The antiquities, thermal pools, coastline and Turkish baths are all there waiting to be explored, but it is in the marketplace with the people that Turkey is best experienced, because it is there that the warmth and culture of this ancient civilization is authentically expressed…

Turkey is not a destination to hurry through. Experience it slowly, like a fine cup of hot, black Turkish tea.”

To read the complete article, visit travelresearchonline.com

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

Istanbul, European Capital of Culture 2010

The Daily Telegraph featured an article on Istanbul being the European Capital of Culture for 2010 reported by James Bedding

Istanbul may be European Capital of Culture for 2010, but it by no means needs special events to be worth a visit. Its sublime Ottoman mosques and Byzantine churches, its sprawling palaces and bazaars, and its spectacular location overlooking the waters of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus are without parallel. Add the fact that Turkey is currently very affordable and the locals famously welcoming, and you have all the ingredients for an unforgettable city break whenever you go.

This year, celebrations highlight everything that makes the city special. First as Constantinople and later as Istanbul, this has been the capital of two great empires. Straddling two continents, the city has been the gateway through which Eastern influences have reached Europe, as well as the West’s window on the Orient, Asia and the Islamic world.

To read the complete article, visit telegraph.co.uk

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

Laos: Asia’s New Cultural Hot Spot

Travel + Leisure magazine featured an article on Laos becoming Asia’s new hot spot, as reported by Guy Trebay.

…Luang Prabang is a rare place in Asia—a calm and somnolent city, a town of narrow lanes and polychrome temples and worn timber houses and scabbed colonial colonnades, all set along a peninsular thumb that juts toward a bend in the Mekong River and is surrounded by mountains that are like palisades shutting out the wider world.

There are other protections as well. Since 1995, when UNESCO inscribed Luang Prabang on its list of World Cultural Heritage sites, designating it “the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia,” teams of architects and planners, mostly French, have labored to hold back the inevitable tide of development, retarding if not altogether halting the changes that often spell doom when some lovely and untouched backwater becomes the next destination. And Luang Prabang is surely that place…

The city I found was dozy and small enough to cover on foot in a day or two but best experienced over the course of a week. Like the mandalas some Buddhists use as aids to meditation, Luang Prabang turns out to be a city of recurrent patterns, of images and motifs explored and repeated, refined across centuries and with the clear-cut goal of hastening enlightenment. It was for centuries a royal city, but just as important was its role as a monastic center. Even now the temple complexes are active centers of worship and learning. The saffron-robed monks you see everywhere are more than local color. They are the animating force of the city, the engine whose sound is the always-audible hum of their prayers.

To read the complete article, visit Travel and Leisure.com

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

The Flavor of Bali, at Roadside Stands

The New York Times featured an article on Bali’s roadside stands, as reported by Gisela Williams.

There are two kinds of culinary travelers who end up on Bali: ones who don’t flinch at spending hundreds of dollars for a bottle of Rioja at a trendy Asian-French fusion restaurant, and those who are obsessive about going as local as possible…

While guidebooks and hotel concierges may warn you that eating at a warung is a little like playing Russian roulette with your stomach, they are probably being overly cautious. The truth is that the street food in tourist-friendly Bali is as sanitary as what you’d find in most American cities, if not more so.

Besides, if you heed their warning, you’ll miss some of the best food the island has to offer…

Thanks to the ravings on foodie blogs like Eating Asia, and an episode of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” where the host declared its babi guling, or roast pig, the best that he’s ever had, Ibu Oka has become a tourist magnet…

To read the complete article, visit NYTimes.com

Visit our site for information on group travel to Bali or creating a custom private trip to Indonesia to include a cooking school or culinary focus for just you and your family or friends.

Travel on a World Wildlife Fund trip to Yap

© Elissa Poma/WWF-US

© Elissa Poma/WWF-US

Elissa Poma from WWF shares her passion for the dance traditions of Yap.

The art of dancing holds such an esteemed placed in all cultures, throughout all of time. That’s especially true of the Yapese — traditional dance remains a strong part of their identity. Every Yapese person, regardless of his or her place in society, is expected to know how to dance — in fact, as soon as a child is old enough to pay attention and follow instructions, his parents begin teaching him. They’re performed during special occasions, such as big feasts and marriages.

I appreciated that the traditional stick dance these teenage boys were performing is still alive in their culture and not just for tourists. And the precision with which they performed one evening during sunset was masterful and hypnotizing.

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

In Laos, It’s all About Weave

The New York Times featured an article on the silk-weaving tradition of Laos, as reported by Sandra Ballentine.

For many years the ancient silk-weaving tradition of Laos was stifled under the Communist regime that took over the country in 1975… Today, however, with the government amenable to entrepreneurship and tourism, affluent and educated Lao expats, as well as conservation-minded foreigners, have revived this once-endangered art.

The first stop on any silk route should be Vientiane, Laos’s capital, which is usually overlooked for the more picturesque town of Luang Prabang. But it is in Vientiane where you find couture-quality textiles rather than the cheaper fabrics aimed at the tourist trade.

Not far from Luang Prabang is the tiny weaving village of Phonesay. You have to cross a rickety, suspended wooden bridge and then dodge chickens on a dirt road to reach it, but here you can see weaving at its most traditional. As they have for hundreds of years, the women mind the children and weave in their bamboo-and-thatch houses all day while the men fish the Mekong River.

To read the complete article, visit NYTimes.com

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

Where Camels Once Trod, a Train Crosses Australia

The New York Times featured an article on Australia’s transcontinental train, The Ghan, as reported by Iver Peterson.

The Ghan, part cruise train, part the working train that it started as, 90 years ago, is Australia’s transcontinental north-south line — a private railroad now running for 1,900 miles with just four stops through the vast interior of the country (and 1,900 miles back) twice each week. Northbound, it rolls from Adelaide on the temperate southern coast, through low desert plateau at Alice Springs, and on to the tropical lushness of the Top End, as Aussies call their northern coast, at Darwin on the Timor Sea.

The train was originally called the Afghan, after the camels that provided earlier transportation into the Australian interior; it has since been shortened to the Ghan, and a camel with its rider is the train’s ubiquitous trademark.

The entire trip from Adelaide to Darwin lasts 48 hours.

To read the complete article, visit NYTimes.com

Visit our site for information on group travel to Australia or creating a custom private trip to Australia, to include a ride on The Ghan, for just you and your family or friends.

Kawagoe, Tokyo of Yore

The New York Times featured an article on Kawagoe, a city close to Tokyo, reported by Ken Belson.

TO learn about Tokyo, you sometimes have to leave it. The capital has been rebuilt so many times that those wanting a glimpse of what it looked like years ago head to places like the Museum Meiji-Mura, more than two hours away.

But the city of Kawagoe, right in Tokyo’s backyard, is a more practical alternative. Less than 45 minutes by train, the center of Kawagoe is filled with a well-preserved collection of century-old kura, or warehouses, that still double as stores, workshops and homes.

Many kura are clustered around an even older wooden clock tower and a jumble of buildings from the Taisho and early Showa eras that create the feel of a small town with a charm missing in many Japanese cities. A former castle town, Kawagoe does such a good job evoking the Tokyo of yore that it is affectionately called Little Edo, a reference to the ancient name for Tokyo.

To read the entire article on travel to Japan and see a slide show visit NYTimes.com

Visit our site for information on creating a custom private trip to Japan, to include a visit to the ancient city of Kawagoe, for just you and your family or friends.

Exhibition Review | ‘Traveling the Silk Road’

The New York Times featured an exhibition review on the Silk Road at the American Museum of Natural History, as reported by Edward Rothstein.

“You are about to make an unusual journey,” a wall label proclaims at the beginning of an exhibition that opens on Saturday at the American Museum of Natural History. Normally that promise would provide reason enough to be wary. But this is something different.

You are welcomed by life-size camels laden with worn canvas sacks, their bodies framed by sand dunes stretching into the distance. A while later, near a 17-foot-long wooden Chinese loom, you find bowls filled with mulberry leaves on which scores of white worms are gnawing. You see, too, what kind of cocoons they soon will weave, and how these sacs might then be boiled and unwound into silk threads. And later still, you seem to arrive in an outdoor market in evening as the sounds of footfalls and animal cries mix with the murmur of voices; stalls are piled with produce, furs and spices, including a leopard skin, a yak tail, pheasant feathers, lapis lazuli and barrels whose smell suggests that they are filled with rose petals, jasmine oil and patchouli.

To read the entire article and view a slideshow, visit NYTimes.com

To learn more about travel to China, including following the Silk Road route, see a full itinerary on our site of ‘Silk Road: History’s Great Thoroughfare’ China Trip.

A Humble Road to the Noble Truths in India and Nepal

newyorktimes-logo A New York Times article on a spiritual journey to India by Ralph Frammolino.

“When the head monk strode in, our worlds finally merged. As he beat time on a wooden instrument, we performed a Korean chant of the Heart Sutra, a traditional teaching on emptiness. Yet what filled the room was full and deep, the atonal harmonies of a Buddhist ensemble — at once jarring, beautiful and transportive.”

To read the entire New York Times article, visit NYTimes.com

To learn more about travel to India, we specialize in travel to India and can customize a trip for two or suggest small group tours to India.