Postcard From Our Traveler: A Guide Beyond the Ordinary

Zaw Zaw Aung, Myanmar guide extraordinaire

Zaw Zaw Aung, Myanmar guide extraordinaire

When we first discussed traveling to Myanmar, we stressed that the most important thing to us would be the quality of our guide. We wanted a guide who was knowledgeable about culture and history, who would be able to guide us through important historical and religious sites and also be our escort into authentic, remote tribal villages. We wanted a guide who could communicate well in English, and would be very good company.

In matching us with Zaw Zaw Aung, you gave us all we requested and much more. The time we spent in Myanmar was truly exceptional because of Zaw Zaw’s many skills, both professional and personal.

As a guide, Zaw Zaw knew where to take us and when to take us there to have the most rich and authentic cultural experiences. He found a Nat Festival and took us there. He found a celebration of young men from prominent families dressed as princes on horses and elephants prior to becoming monks and escorted us there. If we passed the home of the widow of an important tribal leader or some traditionally tattooed ladies or “long neck women,” Zaw Zaw arranged to have us welcomed into their homes. When there was an English class going on, Zaw Zaw arranged for us to meet with students and teach a class. Zaw Zaw knew what time to visit each place to see not only the sights themselves but also the local people and their customs. Zaw Zaw was knowledgeable about history and current events and offered us deep insights into his country.

In addition to being enriching and informative, time spent with Zaw Zaw was also heartwarming and fun. Zaw Zaw is one of the most open and caring people we have ever met. We invited him to join us for many meals because his company was so delightful that we didn’t want to part when the touring was done. He was kind enough to spend some of his well-deserved rest time visiting with us.

When we requested a change in our program, deciding to skip a visit to Kalaw and spend an extra day at Inle Lake, Zaw Zaw made sure the change in itinerary went smoothly. Every request we made during the trip was accommodated graciously and, what appeared to be, effortlessly (although clearly Zaw Zaw put much effort into making it seem so).

When either of us did not feel well, Zaw Zaw was compassionate and helpful, going above and beyond anything we would have expected to make us comfortable and at ease. He was very sensitive to our preferences, noting what we liked to eat, how we liked to pace ourselves, the kinds of experiences we liked to have, even that we liked to have cleaning wipes on hand wherever we went. Without us ever asking, he took care of all of those things. He was always generous with his time, connections, insights and resources.

We cannot thank you enough for finding us such a wonderful guide and person to spend our time with.

– Miriam & Robert

Miriam and Robert recently returned from a Custom Journey of Myanmar (Burma). Asia Travel Specialist, Chris Dunham, planned their itinerary. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Postcard From Our Traveler: Exploring Borneo’s Jungles and Seas

One of the highlights of our Borneo tour was the time we spent snorkeling near Mabul Island. Mabul Water Bungalows’ guide, Jovi, took the two of us to the leeside of Sipadan Island, off the southeast shore of Sabah, Borneo, to snorkel among the rich marine life. While exploring the coral we saw what looked like a grey wall in the water. As we approached, the wall resolved into a school of Jacks—maybe a thousand of them, swimming in a lazy gyre twenty feet tall.  We joined in and swam with them—they were perfectly willing to let us join the ranks of their silver circle.

Thanks!

– Catherine

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During our trip to Borneo, one of the most unique experiences was when our Tour Leader, Barry Davies, our Borneo Rainforest Lodge guide, Theodore, and the two of us walked up the Coffin Trail overlooking Borneo’s Danum Valley.  On the way up, we found a pristine Bridal-veil Mushroom. At the time, a large black-tailed butterfly was feeding on the top of it. This mushroom spreads its spores the way flowers spread their pollen—not on the wind, but on the wings of their insect visitors. We passed it again on the way back down the trail but by then it was already starting to collapse.

Thanks!

– Steve

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Catherine and Steve embarked on our Small Group Borneo Tour The Wild Jungles of Borneo with a Custom Extension to Mabul Island to partake of the region’s fabulous snorkeling. Asia Travel Specialist, Pat O’Connell, planned their itinerary. This was their second trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Postcard From Our Traveler: A fabulous time in Myanmar

First, your itinerary was well-crafted to allow us to see as much as possible in the available time. We could tell that you had given considerate thought to maximizing our experience in Myanmar. I realize that there is always more one can see and that there were important sites that time and weather precluded our visiting. Nevertheless, we felt that we had a varied and comprehensive experience.

Secondly, we want to let you know that our guide, May, was wonderful. We have been on many trips and have had a number of good guides and others over the years. May is the best we’ve had in part because we didn’t feel as if we were just another pair of tourists to squire around. She made an effort to determine what we were interested in accomplishing (seeing the country, talking to and learning about the people and understanding the culture as well as using all the available time productively) and then working hard to make this happen. For example, she took us to umbrella factories, boat yards, tiny villages, school visits, medical clinics, orphanages, gold pounders, silver smiths, paper makers, palm sugar/moonshine factories, lotus thread weavers, private homes to name just a few extras. She even bought a decorated birthday cake for Adele. Most days we included several events which weren’t on the official itinerary. This was precisely the type of trip for which I was looking. We had many laughs with her and our drivers and were made to feel like part of the family.

Thanks again, Bill & Family

Bill and Adele embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering Myanmar. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

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Postcard From Our Traveler: Loving our trip to Laos

La Residence Phou Vao

 

Just wanted to let you know we are having a fabulous time so far in Laos. Our national guide is absolutely delightful, knowledgeable, and a real pleasure to travel with. Our local guide today was also outstanding. It was fascinating to walk through the different ethnic villages and talk with local people.

We loved La Residence Phou Vao.  It is spectacular. And we are enjoying Muang La Resort.

But I mostly wanted to thank you for arranging the command performance at the National Ballet Theater. Wow!!!  We so enjoyed the production which ran 90 minutes.  The main ballet was a representation of a Lao story that we happened to discuss at length the day before with Pon, as it was captured in a mural on a wall at Wat Xieng Thong.

Suffice to say that your careful attention to detail have been most
appreciated.

Thank you!
– Susan

Susan and Lawrence embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Eric Kareus. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

A Postcard from Our Traveler: The Girl in the Picture

a composite photo I took that day of the church and Kim then and now

A composite photo I took that day of the church and Kim then and now - Danny K.

While in Vietnam we had an unexpected and amazing experience. Remember I am an ol’ hippie and draft dodger of the Vietnam War era. The famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a little girl running naked through the streets of her village after being showered with napalm has haunted me for decades, as it has many others. I’m sure you know the picture. She is called simply the “Girl in the Picture”. Well we got to spend the afternoon at her home with her family and learned all about what happened to her after that tragedy. Everyone in the house (me, MJ, and our guide) were in tears as we looked at albums and watched videos.  Her name is Kim Phuc and she now lives in Toronto, after defecting there in the early 90’s. If you happen to be interested you can google her. There are info and you tube videos there on her site. My guide had never been there. I just asked her to take me to Kim’s village of Trang Bang after our Cao Dai temple visit (Trang Bang was about an hour out of our way, an advantage of custom travel) and we just ended up in Kim’s home talking to her brother’s wife and  children. Her brother is in the photo in front of Kim. He was not burned.

She was burned over 50 percent of her body which has near a hundred percent mortality. The photographer who took the photo grabbed her and doused her with water then took her to the local clinic. The next day he went back to check on her and she was in the morgue. He promptly discovered that she was not dead and took her to a regional hospital where she was transferred to Saigon. She subsequently spent 18 months in the hospital and had 17 surgeries, many of them by a burn specialist from the Univ of Chicago. Many people took an interest in her and contributed to her ultimate survival and this is all chronicled on the video and how she has kept up with them over the years and vice versa.

After all this Kim decided she wanted to be a doctor but Vietnam had other ideas. The govt jerked her out of school to send her all over the country and world to talk about the American imperialists who did this to her. She obviously did not want to do this. In the early 90’s she landed in Toronto on one of these propaganda tours. She got off the plane and asked for asylum and was granted it. It took several years but eventually her mom was allowed to move to Canada and Kim met a Vietnamese gentleman and they were married and had 2 children. She went to the Univ of Chicago to lecture at the request of the burn surgeon and was the keynote speaker at a huge Veterans Day celebration in Wash DC at the Vietnam Memorial. It was here that she met the American pilot who had ordered the mission that dropped the bomb. The pilot who actually flew the mission dropped the bomb on the Cao Dai temple (where the children were hiding) by mistake. He was a South Vietnamese. Over the years she has met all of these people and made a lot of peace for herself and them. She is now a UNESCO spokesperson and is extremely gracious, lovely and articulate. The video showed a lot of this happening and you can imagine how moving it was.

You can google Kim Phuc if you are interested and see some You Tube videos about all this. They are short and not nearly as good as the one I saw which is black market. I would love to get a copy but I doubt that will ever happen. There is a book about all this called “The Girl In the Picture” which I bought and intend to read soon.

As you can imagine I have left much of the story out but this was one of those very special days which occasionally break up the monotony of life and really give it meaning. Kim’s story in complicated ways has helped me to deal with my own demons about the Vietnam War.

– Danny K.
Paris, TN

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This was Danny’s fourth trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys. On this trip, planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick, Danny explored Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Bhutan. To learn more about planning your trip to Asia, call 800-642-02742

A Postcard From Our Traveler: Fantastic Extension in Cambodia

Cambodia

An amazing extension you planned for us…we loved it.. Huot was a really good , sensitive and knowledgeable guide…he mother henned us and informed us and was open to talking abt Khmer Rouge days ..He was understanding of our need for rest and cooling down !!! Do submit our recommendation for him.

The Koh Ker Beng Melia extesion was a fantastic wonderful surprise…to feel like Henri Mouhot with no one , virtually there…. FANTASTIC !!!!

Connected with Thuzar tho all too briefly as the hotel botched up room numbers and left her sitting in the lobby.  Alas. but got to see her wedding pix and cute crawler baby pix.

Our Cambodia time felt like a whole other trip  …wonderful.

Many thanks for all your planning.  We enjoyed the other couples as well though being younger they had a whole lot more energy.

Took in the Angkor theater  also… very nicely done in air conditioned comfort.

Many thanks once more,

Sandra L.
Cambridge, M

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Sandra is an Asia Transpacific Journeys travel veteran. This was her eight small group trip, arranged by Asia Travel Specialist, Rebecca Mazzaro. We continue to look forward to helping her plan her next big journeys!

To learn more about travel to Asia, or to begin planning your journey with a Travel Specialist, please call 800-642-2742.

A Postcard from Our Traveler: A Trip We’ll Treasure

 

John H. of Wisconsin recounts his experience with one of our group trips to Vietnam:

Linda and I returned home this afternoon after a great trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Bali.

We had a fascinating time and all the arrangements couldn’t have been better.  Thanks to you and your Asia Transpacific Journeys colleagues for helping make this such an interesting and memorable trip.

The guides and drivers in each country were all helpful and informative and went out of their way to help make our visits outstanding.  The hotels were excellent, and the detailed itineraries interesting and very well geared to our interests.

In short, we had a terrific time, and more than once turned to each other and said “Asia Transpacific really has done a great job!”

Thanks for making this a trip we’ll treasure.

Best regards,

John H.
Mineral Point, WI

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John embarked on a Custom Southeast Asia trip organized by Asia Travel Specialist, Chris Dunham. This was John’s first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Learn more about custom or small group trips to Southeast Asia by speaking with a Travel Specialist today, 800-642-2742.

Postcard from Our Traveler: Our Time in Myanmar was Utterly Fantastic!

Elise R. recounts her experience with a custom “travel to Myanmar” package from Asia Transpacific Journeys:

Hello!

Our time in Myanmar was utterly fantastic! Loved every minute.

Our guide, Win Htoon, was the BEST GUIDE EVER.  She had a expert grasp of English, a broad knowledge of everything Myanmar and beyond and a wealth of insider places to take us, off the “beaten track.” Further, she is a clothes horse– she was styling in a different wonderful Myanmar fabric every day… looked fantastic!  By the end of the trip, she was just another family member traveling along and enjoying the moments with us… laughing all the way.  We even taught her to snorkel at McCloud island!  And, at Sharon’s super wonderful surprise birthday party at the Green Elephant (how can we ever repay your generosity?), Gregg gave her his Kindle (about 35 books loaded on it).  We tipped her well.  Can you get her a visa to visit us?  She was superb.

McCloud Island was heaven.  Our own deserted island in paradise.  The bungalows were spacious, beautiful mosquito netting, immediate hot water, sheets and towels changed every day, great food.  Our cabana had a more modern air conditioning unit than Gregg and Ken had … oh well.  The snorkeling was fantastic.  There were only 11 guests.

Unlike Khao Lak Resort (however, great room again, dude!) which was full to capacity–mostly with grumpy dumpy Germans and sequestered serious Swedes.  They all looked out of their comfort zone at a beach scene.

As far as I am concerned, it was a total waste of time to go to Phuket.  But I was out voted and Sharon insisted I make a compromise (Gregg and Ken wanted to end their vacation at a beach Resort–they still have to work for a living and wanted down time).  It was time I would have preferred spent exploring more of Myanmar! But what’s done is done.

I would like to return and do some more tribe exploring in Kachin State and Kayah State.  But I suppose there are too many places to go in the world and I probably will never return.  We’ll see.

It was all so superb and remarkable. And changing rapidly!!!!!  We were mostly vegetarians on the trip and Win ordered for us— great, sumptuous feasts of food.

Good bye for now,

Elise R.
Corte Madera, CA

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Elise is a veteran Asia Transpacific Journeys traveler, this being her fourth journey. She traveled on a custom trip to Myanmar and Thailand.

There is no better time than now t0 travel to Myanmar. Find out why and begin planning your custom journey or small group trip today, 800-642-2742.

Postcard from Our Traveler: We Had a Fabulous Time!

Just a quick note to let you know that we had a fabulous time! It could not have been more engaging, fun, enlightening. Even the flooding in Bangkok was interesting. The guide Nyi Nyi Naing was with us the entire time and was absolutely fantastic!

This was the best trip we’ve ever taken. Will try to call you this or next week. Thank you.

Regards,

George B.
Belvedere, CA

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George and his family ventured on a custom trip to Myanmar and Thailand. This was their second trip to Asia, planned by Travel Specialist, Eric Kareus. Learn more about custom Asia trips by speaking with an Asia Transpacific Journeys Travel Specialist, 800-642-2742.

Postcard from Our Traveler: Papua New Guinea! On my Short List of 1,000 Places

Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, recounts her experience with travel to Papua New Guinea on an Asia Transpacific Journeys group trip:


A belated e-note to wax on about our August trip to PNG  — to say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience is a gross  understatement!  The list of superlatives is long – from the local  people, to those who comprised our group (all of whom had glowing things to say about Jarrod and Asia Transpacific Journeys btw — am cc’ing Jarrod on this so he  can bask in the praise, though I imagine he hears it often!) to our  leader Suzanne who everyone agreed was possibly the nicest and brightest  and funnest guide we’d ever come across – and that was one very well-traveled group of people (and one of the joys of the trip for that  reason).

The trip was especially wonderful to me, as I had  proofread my last chapter for the 1000 Places revision on the plane from  NY to Sydney — and for the first time in 4 years, I was able to  truly feel liberated and free to immerse myself entirely in the adventure  without any stress and deadline concerns. Now THAT was priceless!

So the revision (a complete rewrite) and gorgeous app for 1000 Places are out Nov 15 – just in time for Christmas!! :)

Big Book Tour Jan-March.

Many many (many!) thanks again for everything.

Warm regards,

Patricia Schultz
New York, NY

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Patricia Schultz is the author of, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. This was her second trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys, and we look forward to helping her explore many more of the destinations on her list.