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

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


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.

For the Traveler Who Has Seen It All

Mongolia, the Last Frontier

This summer, traverse the golden sands of the Gobi Desert to discover untouristed, vast and untamed Mongolia—heir to a remarkable history and clinging to ways of life that have endured for centuries. On Mongolia—In the Path of the Nomad you will:

• Ride a camel in the Gobi Desert
• Explore desert, steppe, forest and mountain
• Savor lunch with nomads, and Mongolian feasts
• Stay in a ger, the traditional collapsible yurt of the nomad
• See archery, wrestling and horse racing at the Nadaam Festival
• Experience authentic song and folk dance performances

Dr. Steve Halkovic

This in-depth journey will be led by Dr. Stephen Halkovic, who holds a Ph.D. in Inner Asian Studies. He is the veteran leader of nearly 100 trips to Mongolia. Scholarly and passionate about the region, Steve’s in-depth knowledge, infectious laughter and engaging style make this a once-in-a-lifetime Mongolia adventure.

This year, don’t just take a vacation. Journey Beyond the Ordinary™ with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

Tour Leader Postcard from the Field: Mongolia

By Dr. Stephen Halkovic, Asia Transpacific Journeys Tour Leader / PhD in Inner Asian Studies

As I unpacked from this year’s Mongolian tour, I reached into a side pocket of my carry-on luggage and found a very crudely carved bear. It was only about four inches long and made of reindeer antler. It was unimposing with no real value as a work of art. However, the memories that it produced in me are unforgettable.

Lake Khobsugol and its reindeer population

Lake Khobsugol and its reindeer population

No matter how many times I have been to Mongolia, and by now it is probably sixty times, something new always seems to happen. This year our tour took us to the eastern side of Lake Khobsugol. This is a much less developed part of the lake, but with a new and wonderfully located ger camp on a beautiful cove.

The day after we arrived the group set off some by horseback an hour and a half ride and some by boat to visit a reindeer herding family. These reindeer herders live under incredibly difficult conditions. Their dwellings are similar to native American tepees, and they live in them all year long even when the temperature drops to more than 40 degrees below zero. Our group sat and talked to the herder while our local guide translated. These herders have to be totally self reliant, making sure to keep their herds in the best possible shape as their lives depend on their animals.

This couple was so gracious to us sharing their homemade bread and cheese with us. As he spoke about his religion—he is a shaman—he lit his pipe. The group was immediately fascinated for the pipe was about a foot long and both the stem and the bowl was made out of a single piece of larch. This was something that I had never seen before. At the end of our visit he took out some antler carvings and members of our group bought some of these for 1 or 2 dollars. Finally one of the group asked if they could buy his pipe. He had two. He agreed for $2. Someone else asked to buy the second pipe and he sold it as well. Before we left, we found out that this was his second wife. His first was eaten by a bear.

As we left the tent the herder presented me with his bear carving. This was his totem as a shamen. At dinner that evening our conversation revolved around our meeting with the reindeer herder. Some were worried that the herder would not be happy not having a pipe to smoke.

The next morning we had an eight o’clock departure in order to reach the airport for our flight. Waiting for us by our vehicles was the reindeer herder. He had made two new pipes overnight and they were eagerly purchased. I will never forget the wonderful bear carving and the industrious pipe making carver.

Dr. Stephen Halkovic has a PhD in Inner Asian Studies, specializing in Mongolia/Tibet/China from Indiana University, and taught there for 14 years. While teaching at IU, he started to lead tours to Soviet Central Asia and Mongolia during the summers. In 1980 Stephen started lecturing and leading tours into China. By 1984, he was much more interested in the travel business than academia and started to lead tours full time throughout Asia and remote regions throughout the world. Since the ’80s he has led 100 trips to China, over 50 to Mongolia, and more than 15 to Tibet. He is the author of two scholarly works on Mongolia. His unsurpassed knowledge, infectious laughter and engaging style make him a superb travel companion.


Dr. Halkovic leads many of our Small Group Tours, limited to 18 travelers, including Mongolia: In the Path of the Nomad, departing annually in July.

Mongolia travel-much more culturally rich than you can imagine

Luxury travel to Mongolia - authentic cultural experiences

Luxury travel to Mongolia - authentic cultural experiences

Connoisseurs of adventure travel take note: Mongolia remains one of the last great frontiers for experiencing traditional cultures that has remained unchanged for centuries, making it one of our favorite destinations.

Mongolia cracked its door ajar for the outside world just over a decade ago and the few who have ventured in have been startled to behold one the world’s last remaining horse-based nomadic cultures. The tidal wave of modern pop culture has not yet swept through Mongolia, and the pervasive tentacles of the Information Age have not yet wrapped it in wires and circuitry.

Largely unchanged since the days of Genghis Khan, Mongolia represents a rare opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the ancestors, in the path of the nomad. Most Mongolians adhere to Tibetan-style Buddhist beliefs. The tenacious nomads live in round, collapsible gers (yurts) with their livestock and beloved horses always nearby, practicing a pastoral lifestyle and moving with the seasons. Travel through this wild and remote part of the world, experiencing Mongolia’s amazing landscape, wildlife, and nomadic people. Immerse yourself in the culture—and the pace—of an era long forgotten by Western civilization.

Travel to Mongolia is perfect in June and July so contact us now with any questions – we offer custom travel to Mongolia as well as offer a small group tour with a departure this July 1. Download the full Mongolia Small Group Trip itinerary at our site.

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.