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.
I just wanted to let you know that our trip to Vietnam was wonderful, awesome and perfect in every way thanks to your help and the great local agency and guides in the country. The accommodations were great – in the case of the Victoria at Hoi An, incredible. The itinerary was a perfect balance of touring and relaxing.
Best of all were the guides and drivers that expertly shepherded us through your wonderfully planned itinerary with their great insights and knowledge of the regions. Not only did they know the important things to tell us but they also added in culture, custom and personal stories. Their outgoing and winsome personalities made us feel so content and comfortable. In particular, Dong in Hanoi has an incredible sense of conveying just the right background and history to make sights in Hanoi so interesting by sharing tidbits one would not find in a tour book or with a less engaging guide. When we asked him how the rice was grown and harvested he had the driver pull over, jumped out and plucked a small plant shoot and proceeded to give us a lesson in how rice is sown, grown, harvested and exported! His English is perfect, he led us to just the right restaurants and coffee shops and was so enjoyable to be with.
Although impossible to pick just one place or experience as the top highlight I think it was the bike day in Hoi An with the cooking lesson and lunch with the local family – what a unique experience of a lifetime that was! Ngoc, the family cook told us he taught himself English by watching American movies – which was probably true in that he has all the funny lines memorized. I think his meal was one of the best we had in the country. The guide there, Tho, clearly enjoyed his job and his enthusiasm shined through. He even suggested that we bring our laundry along on the bike ride and drop it off a a local laundry, for the experience as well as for the fact that we were able to have a whole load done for what one item would have cost at the resort. This is the kind of attentiveness these guides offered.
Ending our time in Saigon with Lam was a treat as well. He is so pleasant and being the seasoned guide that he is, could sense that my husband was really interested in the Reunification Palace and seemed to show him every broom closet with a story to tell. I really cannot think of a single thing I would change, except the time and traffic to get to the Mekong Delta (which you warned me about and is no reflection on the guide or driver). While the floating market is an incredible thing to experience we were mixed (two for and two against) as to whether we might have wanted to do something else in the country with the time and effort it took to take that in.
We were also blessed with some things that were not on the itinerary but nevertheless helped make the trip better — really nice weather (unusually so for this time of year according to the guides) and coming home the plane was not full so we ended up with a center seat to spread out a little which was a great treat, being so tired with such a long trip ahead of us. So, much thanks for your time and expertise. We can’t wait to share our photos and stories with friends and we’re sure some will want to be in touch with you themselves.
Carrie embarked on a Highlights of Vietnam custom tour arranged by our expert in Vietnam vacation packages, Travel Specialist Tom Lastick. This was Carrie’s first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys, and we hope to help her and her family plan another trip to Asia in the future.
I Am Wontok
Papua New Guinea travel notes from Kirsten Louy-Nasty, Operations Manager at Asia Transpacific Journeys
Twenty-two years ago, when I was in college, I was fortunate enough to travel Papua New Guinea to visit my parents who were living there, working on various developmental projects. They lived in Port Moresby for over 3 years; I was able to visit them twice.
I’ll never forget my first night when I peered out my bedroom window and saw a man—who I was later to find out was our security guard—creeping through the backyard with his bow and arrow, barefoot. This was Papua New Guinea….However, the reason I was there was to be with my parents, to be “home,” because home was anywhere they were at the time. While we did do some exploring ourselves such as river rafting, accessing some remote tribal communities in the highlands, visiting small villages outside of Madang and testing our will for the taste of beetle nut, I was really there to be with family, to touch base, to go to the market with my mom, to celebrate being together and to reconnect. Papua New Guinea, in essence, became a home for me, because that is where my family was.
Twenty-two years later fate played its hand and I was presented with another opportunity to travel back to Papua New Guinea for business. I was invited by Papua New Guinea Tourism and Myriad Marketing to represent my company, Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ), to explore the lodges, the itinerary possibilities, observe a very local sing-sing (celebration or festival), travel by boat on the Karawari River and to meet our ground staff and reconnect with our tour leader. All in an effort to bring updated travel information and knowledge about travel in Papua New Guinea back to our team in Boulder, Colorado.
As the chosen representative of my “tribe” I took the opportunity with open arms. I vowed to bring back vital information, what was happening, how have things changed and what remains the same.
As soon as we flew in to Port Moresby and glimpsed the landscape, the famed bird of paradise logo on the black and red flag, I knew I was home. I came home to the level of comfort offered by the lodges amidst tribal structures and guarded negotiations for bride price. I came home to the raw sense of people living their lives still somehow untouched by forces that fill our stress levels here in North America. I came home feeling at ease with a ‘community’ I somehow already knew. I came home to the smoky earthy smell of villages and people. I came home to the muddy thick earth beneath my feet. I knew the smell of hot fresh coffee from the plantation down the road each morning and I knew the feeling when I shook hands with the people greeting me and welcoming me to their village. I knew by the smiles of those that I came in to contact with that we should be there, we should be observing and experiencing one of the most amazing still very tribal destinations on earth. I knew the value of a pig, a woman and of land (sometimes in that order) and how these three key elements play a vital role in the survival of its people, even today. And finally, I knew the meaning of “First Contact” and how the bulus, or airplane, has played a role in this rich and rugged landscape and still does today, delivering food, supplies, medical inventory, parts to machinery and the wonderful local beer.
Papua New Guinea remains the land of the unexpected and is a true mind-boggling adventure. Even after having been there some years ago, I am in awe of what I observed. Some things have changed but in a sense nothing has changed at all. I was saying goodbye to one of our business associates, who is from Papua New Guinea, the night before flying to Brisbane to begin my long journey home. She looked at me and said, “you are wantok” which means “one talk”— someone who speaks my language, part of my tribe, my relative.
I am wantok…and when we travel, we are all wantok too. We do become part of a global community, a force that is bigger than just you and I. We become part of a family of understanding, a family that crosses borders and offers forgiveness. I am wantok and every time you choose to cross time zones and borders or reach out to others and call a place home, even if temporarily, you are wantok too.
Contact us at 1-800-642-2742 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information on joining one of our signature Papua New Guinea tours to visit this amazing area.
I wanted to tell you what a fabulous trip to China I had. I loved it!!!!! Everything worked perfectly and I was delighted with all that we did. I have nothing but accolades for the trip so if anyone ever wants to know more about it, they are welcome to contact me. I will give it a rave review!
The Linden Centre, outside of Dali, was a perfect place to stay for three days. It is located right in the heart of a village and since we explored the area pretty thoroughly, I felt like I experienced village life as fully as possible – which was exactly what I had hoped we would do. To make things even better, the staff at Linden Centre was exemplary in their attentiveness, enthusiasm and ability to make us feel that we were a part of their community. It was really a great experience.
Our tour guides in China always tried to accommodate our tastes which was very sweet. Overall the food was great and the variety of restaurants we ate in was terrific from private homes to courtyards (restaurant in Kumming) to local favorites in each area to grand buffets in the hotels where we stayed.
Anna in Shangri-La was phenomenal. She was very knowledgeable, super accommodating, shared a great deal of information about her life and was full of energy and enthusiasm. She was outstanding.
I loved being in remote areas that were off the beaten track. The people in my group were terrific and that enriched the experience. And Steve was a great tour leader who was always cheerful, knowledgeable and had things under perfect control. It was a great trip, perfectly orchestrated, and it definitely enhanced my understanding of China.
Ilene joined our Yunnan, China: A Tribal Mosaic Small Group Trip led by Dr. Stephen Halkovic who has a Ph.D in Inner Asian Studies, specializing in China, Tibet and Mongolia. This trip was arranged by Travel Specialist, Eric Kareus. This is Ilene’s 4th trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.
My daughter, Anna, and I are back from your most wonderful trip to Southern India. It was superb in all respects and I would recommend it highly to anyone.
Our guide, Jairaj, was one of the main reasons that the trip was so memorable, and I wanted to make sure you knew what a truly superior person he is in representing your organization.
My wife started out as a travel agent and she and I, and later our whole family, have traveled throughout the world for over 30 years. We have been in groups large and small and have been led by innumerable guides. In all this experience we have never had a finer experience than the one we had with Jairaj.
Some guides are good with logistics, others excel in their lectures. Rarely, if ever, are they so strong in both as was Jairaj. He was meticulous in handling all the details of travel. There wasn’t a single hitch that we knew of. He set the right tone immediately upon arrival by telling us to contact him any time, about any thing. And when anyone did so, he readily and with good grace handled the situation. We heard no grumbling from anyone, and as you know this is not always the case.
As we bounced along on our journey, Jairaj lectured with great knowledge about the sights we saw. In the individual cities where we had local guides it was quite apparent that he often knew more than these specialists. Moreover, he was happy to discuss any subject whatsoever – whether culture, art, politics, society, etc. – that came to the mind of us travelers. In doing so he was always frank, incisive and extremely knowledgeable.
Through it all we were struck by Jairaj’s total commitment to the group and its well-being. He was amazingly upbeat, and we never detected any annoyance with anyone or anything. He rolled with all the ups and downs of travel, and was constantly focused on assuring that the tour members were well taken care of. Wherever we went he sought to enhance the experience, and even arranged for us to meet his charming family.
In short, you have a wonderful asset in Jairaj. He epitomizes the “gold standard” in tour leadership. You are fortunate to have him associated with Asia Transpacific, and we were blessed to have him as our guide through India.
Griffith and his daughter traveled on our ‘South India: Of Temples, Tea and Spice’ Small Group Trip which departs yearly in February. You can also create a custom, private trip to South India and requests Jairaj. This trip was arranged by Travel Specialist, Rebecca Mazzaro.
The Taunggyi (pronounced Tawn-gee) Balloon Festival takes place on the full moon in November in Myanmar’s Shan State. Tribal villagers come from all over the area with their handmade paper balloons in the shapes of animals like elephants and roosters, releasing them into the sky during the day. They range in size from that of a car to a house. Music and traditional dancing go on all day and late into the night.
As the night progresses more balloons are released, these often resembling a normal hot-air balloon and decorated with thousands of votive style candles. Most impressive, the balloons carry a payload of fireworks. The candles are lit and the balloon releases to cheers and dancing. At some point the paper catches fire, and the balloon incinerates in flaming ball. The fireworks are lit in the inferno, and the air explodes in a massive pyrotechnic display.
I wanted to check in now that we’re back from our trip to China and Hong Kong. Thank you very much for all your assistance and incredible work with this, the trip surpassed all expectations and was an experience that we will treasure for a lifetime. Every aspect was A+. The tour guides were knowledgeable and efficient, however we were most impressed with their keen ability to read us and quickly adapt to our preferences. They expedite some aspects when we weren’t as interested and focused more time on the aspects in which we gravitated towards which, given the cultural differences, astounded us. We couldn’t have asked for better guides.
The hotels were fantastic. The Peninsula Shanghai and Intercontinental Hong Kong were top notch. The Peninsula Shanghai was one of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed at and I will never know how you were able to get us a room with such a breathtaking view. We thought the Peninsula Beijing was nice, however a little tired.
Overall it was an A+. We are used to doing most planning on our own and thinking through every detail. It was refreshing to not have to worry about anything as every detail was already taken care of for us!
Thank you again, you have gained a customer for life and will be sure to let everyone know you and your team are top notch.