Asia Transpacific Journeys is excited to announce our new weekly blog feature, Our Travel Inspiration. Designed to inspire our fellow travelers, each Monday we will be posting a travel quote that speaks to us followed by a carefully-curated selection of current Asia and travel-related news stories that we are excited to share. We hope you will follow along with us each week!
Asia in the news—these stories caught our eye:
- Bhutan and the Maldives face off…in basketball?
- Just in time for Halloween—would you spend the night in Istanbul’s “cursed palace”?
- Nothing like an insider’s guide to make a city come alive. Now we can’t wait to return to Bangkok!
- Cambodia offers so much more than just Angkor Wat. Check out the French-colonial capital of Phnom Penh the next time you’re in Cambodia.
- Ever heard of Durga Puja? These fabulous photos of the Hindu festival will have you ready to book a trip to India!
Stay in the know with these trends in travel:
- With the cold weather moving in, we’re dreaming of a sunny afternoon at one of these swimming pools…
- Encouraging sustainable tourism has always been a priority of ours—we’re happy to see so many more travel business on the same page!
- Conde Nast Travelers has released their list of 2013’s Top 100 Hotels & Resorts in the World—were your picks included?
We’d love to hear your feedback—please comment below. And please come back next Monday for more of Our Travel Inspiration!
I have no doubt you have heard this many times before, but we wanted to share our enthusiasm about our Tour Leader, Suzanne Noakes! We were greeted at the airport like this was her first group tour! She focused in on each individual’s special interests, was always available for extra bird walks, always had a sense of humor and always kept us fully informed about up-coming activities and all the extras that were added. She was a natural for special touches for special needs—she would say to the local guides, “SPEAK LOUDER, I am hard of hearing!” when in reality, it was my husband Bob who was hard of hearing.
She went out of her way to ensure the safety of all group members, especially on the walks on slippery mud paths—she was always right there to assist. She always made sure to do a personal re-introduction to the chief villagers, before we intruded on their territory, and it was obvious they loved her greetings. And, very best of all, she never rushed us out of any village visit. She gave us plenty of time to explore on our own. We felt the itinerary was an ideal mixture of destinations and cultures and to end up in Tufi was spectacular. We are so glad to have had the extra days—the snorkeling was awesome!
One of Suzanne’s comments really stuck with us. When a bridge was destroyed on our way to the airport in Mt. Hagen, in no time at all, she had a Plan B. We knew we were in good hands when she said “leave the worrying and stress to me—thats what you are paying for!” LOL! Suzanne made the trip exceed our expectations! Thanks so much for this adventure of a lifetime!
- Sue and Bob
Sue and Bob embarked on our Small Group Tour Papua New Guinea: Island in the Clouds – Tumbuna
with a Custom Extension to Tufi to relax and explore the beautiful coastal environment. Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick, planned their itinerary. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
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.
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.
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.
From Delhi, we have been whisked away to the magical kingdom of Rajasthan, worlds removed from the urban hustle bustle of India’s capital. If Delhi still retains images of a colonial empire, Rajasthan sweeps you back in time to a land honed by its harsh desert conditions—an agrarian landscape painted in shades of gold and ochre and dusky red sandstone. Veiled women drift past, gracefully balancing water bowls on their heads, small children tucked protectively under their arms. At long last, I gaze upon the sacred cows of India, omnipresent, unattended and uninterested in anything or anyone around them. They can be found wandering into homes or shops or splayed out asleep on busy streets as cars swerve to avoid them and pedestrians politely sidestep them. What can possibly be going on in their bovine brains? “Hey, let’s check out the action at the local wadi. Omar the ox is pulling that wooden wheel around and around in a circle!.” “Nahh, think I’ll take a nap.” If there was ever a lucky gene pool for animals, the sacred cows of India have scored big-time. Chickens? Not so lucky…
We arrived in Delhi from Singapore, where we had been for a few days, and so we awoke our first morning un-jet lagged, fired up and ready to go! We had prepared ourselves, somewhat trepidatiously, for what we had been told by one and all would be an “assault on the senses”. We were girded for the crowds, the cows, the abject poverty, the dazzling sights and sounds, the smells of tumeric and cumin wafting in the air: exotic and overwhelming Delhi in all its past glory and present chaos of humanity swarming in all directions.
What always makes a trip special is the unexpected, the unplanned that burnishes the memory and stays with you years after when the visit is but a distant memory. For us, it was something both whimsical and endearing, followed by something powerful and life affirming.
Read more of Molly’s story here: Our Passage to India Journey
Want to take that perfect photo on your next trip? Renowned photographer Michele Westmorland shares her tips for capturing those memorable images.
1. Ask permission when photographing people.
Respect will get you a long way when photographing people in foreign lands. Engaging a person and getting their approval is the cornerstone of cultural photography. Of course, with large crowds, that is not always possible, but when singling one person out, just ask or move on.
2. Pack light and review equipment needs.
Review all your equipment needs and make a list. Not only will this ensure you don’t forget any important gadgets but it will also help you to be selective and abide by airline weight restrictions.
I tend to select my lenses based on weight and needs. A wide-angle zoom lens such as a Canon 16-35 will provide the capability of photographing landscapes and large groups of people. A medium zoom, such as a 24–70mm, will give you nice portrait photos or detail shots. Then to finish, a telephoto zoom will provide the best results for wildlife, such as birds.
It’s easy to just focus on capturing the “big picture” but don’t forget to get the details. When taking portraits, focusing on interesting elements such as the hands, an interesting piece of clothing or jewelry or a musical instrument being played.
5. Circular Polarizer
I never leave home without mine. A polarizer allows those rich forest images or puffy clouds to really pop.
6. Back-Up Those Images
Don’t rely on just your laptop or viewing device—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about people losing their precious images from device failure. Small portable drives are inexpensive and can give you peace of mind that you will get all of your images home safely.
7. Why RAW
If your camera has the ability to shoot in RAW format—use it! RAW format this is like having a negative of your image—it allows you to post-process the images the way you saw the scene through the lens. JPEGs take up less space but they compress the image, limiting your post-processing options.
8. Know Your Camera
Make sure you understand your camera. I am always happy to help sort out cameras but with so many cameras on the market it’s impossible to know the details of all of them. If you do not know the ins and outs of your camera, bring or download the manual—it will come in handy.
Experience Papua New Guinea with Michele this June on our “Through The Lens” small group trip. Michele Westmorland, a veteran of dozens of trips to Papua New Guinea with deep local connections, will facilitate wonderful cultural interactions and provide expert technical advice.This is travel as artistic endeavor, a deep immersion in the sound, shape and color of the world’s most kaleidoscopic land.
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.