Postcard From Our Traveler: Our Trip of a Lifetime

Travel to Asia

Our trip has been incredible!  We are in Hong Kong now until 3/3, but we are
done with the whole part you helped plan.  And I want to tell you that
everything you said was true.  :-)

Having you/your company take care of all the arrangements was a major plus
factor, and as you had said, if we could afford it, it was well worth the
money.  This type of travel, flying from point to point with passport
controls, hotels, languages, etc. is very wearying, and we feel that the
reason it was less so was because we were met in each country.  This took
some of the foreignness out of the experience.

For us, having the cruise to break up the being on the move format was
delightful.  Of course, the sightseeing was superficial being in each place
such a short time, but we mostly like the ship life of having everything
there and easy.  We would have done better to have had you arrange for land
tours for us from the ship, as you suggested.  Many of them were silly
stopping at different factories, etc.

Here is a little feedback, which I think you would want, but honestly you
are hearing from some EXTREMELY satisfied clients.

The guides were excellent; they were all such nice people, friendly, and
eager to please.  The one in Myanmar, her name is Toe Khin Khin, was far and
away the best.  And having her fly with us to Bagan (our favorite place)
made things so easy.    She had lots  of information,  laughing and so much
fun to be with, sensitive about what her clients like to do, and the most
rare quality she has is fitting in with the exact mood that is called for.
For example, when we were in a temple and feeling spiritually connected or
watching a sunset, she laid back and just enjoyed that feeling with us.  She
pointed out special opportunities that we just lucked into:  seeing the
children’s novitiate procession in Bagan and also attending her coworker’s
wedding reception.

Hotels were beautiful.  One thing that amazes me is that none of them had
more than 2 dresser drawers for clothing.  We sometimes had an additional
little cabinet brought to the room.  Of course a cruise ship spoils us all,
since every nook and cranny is outfitted with more drawers and closets than
you could use.  The pool in Siem Reap was fabulous – gorgeous, huge, warm –
although the room was quite tiny.  The pool in Laos was not heated, and with
the 30 degree drop in temperature at night, it was unusable.  The charming
manager Eddie said they have a plan to heat the pool in the future.

Tom, the choice of places to go, how much time to spend in each place, the
sequence of when to go where — was just about perfect.  We appreciated your
info book encouraging clients to speak up and tell their guides what they
like to do best.  When Toe told us that our second day in Bagan was going to
be spent on a 3-hour drive each way to Mt. Popa, we said NO WAY.  We could
not tear ourselves away from the spiritual other-worldly experience of just
being amidst these pagodas.  So we stayed in the area and found marvelous
things to do.

Thank you so much for the work you put into making this a trip of a lifetime
for us.  We will never forget it and hope we have a chance to recommend you
to others in the future.

Kind regards,
Lenore & Peter,
New York, NY

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Lenore and Peter embarked on a custom Asia trip, discovering: Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Singapore. Their custom itinerary was planned by Asia Travel Specialist, Tom Lastick. This was their first trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys.

A Postcard from Our Traveler: An Unforgettable Adventure

 

Howard and Miriam S. recount their experience with a custom Vietnam luxury travel package from Asia Transpacific Journeys:

We were very satisfied with the itinerary that you helped us develop for our twelve days in the country.  Our days were very full.  Most nights we fell asleep before 9 o’clock  P.M., tired, satisfied and still a little jet lagged.  I suppose we would have enjoyed the luxury of having a couple of half days with nothing scheduled so we could rest and catch our breath.  Nevertheless the full days allowed us to see and experience many incredible things.

Our three guides, Lan, Hung and Vu, were excellent.  Each man met us at the airport and took us where we needed to be without any problems.  They were always on time.  They were friendly, knowledgeable and spoke freely with us about  all kinds of issues, including government corruption, the War, religion, family structure, etc.  We definitely learned more from our guides on our custom trip than had we been part of  a large group tour (of Vietnam).

Sometimes we  enjoyed going off script with our guide.  In Hanoi, we told Lan that we wanted to more closely experience life in the city.  Lan took us on a meandering walking tour of the flower district near central Hanoi.  That was a great detour for us.  Then, at our request, Lan took us to a gritty local restaurant he knew well, that served some of the best pho’ in Hanoi.

Sofitel Hotel

We thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay at the Sofitel Hotel in Hanoi.  The room was luxurious and the service was superior.  We enjoyed waking up to the sumptuous breakfast buffet every morning.

While waiting for Lan to pick us up one rainy morning, we saw a taxi back up into a woman speeding along on a scooter.  She appeared to be hurt but help came right away.  Otherwise, we were amazed how motorists were able to maneuver around each other without regard to traffic rules, without running into each other.  This is one of our lasting impressions of our Vietnam experience.

In our one full day in Hanoi, we saw Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, the One Pillar Pagoda, Ho’s home, the Museum of Ethnology, Hoa Lo Prison, and capped off the day with a wild cyclo ride in the French Quarter.  The day was rainy and hazy which only added to the experience.

The next day we drove 3 1/2 hours through numerous small towns to Ha Long Bay.  Our time spent at Ha Long may have been the highlight of the trip.  We received a warm welcome from the Paradise Cruise people.  We were escorted to our ship, the “Paradise Luxury,” which lived up to its name.  The accommodations were luxurious, the food was wonderful.  We thoroughly enjoyed a rowboat tour of a fishing village and the next morning enjoyed a hike through a large cave on one of the islands.  The air was misty, just like every photograph of Ha Long that we have ever seen.  We probably would have enjoyed spending one more night and day cruising around the islands of Ha Long Bay.

Halong Paradise Cruise

Halong Paradise Cruise

We flew to Da Nang and were met at the airport by our new guide, Hung.  From that point we were with Hung for nearly five days.  We enjoyed every moment with him.  He exhibited a deep understanding of Vietnamese history and culture.  He is an amateur photographer with a wonderful eye for beauty.

We were very satisfied with our accommodations in Hoi An at the Life Heritage Resort.  We liked how we could take a few steps from the calm of the resort and find ourselves surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Hoi An’s marketplace.  We found a nice Vietnamese lady who washed all of our clothes, same day service, for $5, whose business was three steps away from the hotel.

We have many, many exquisite memories of our time with Hung in Hoi An and Hue.  The morning of our first whole day in Hoi An, Hung led us through a 16-mile bicycle loop past lovely neighborhoods, new beach front hotel developments, shrimp farms, pig farms, a spice village and finally, the center of Hoi An.  Hung met us that morning, promptly, with excellent quality mountain bikes and helmets for everyone.

Along the way, we were fortunate to call on Rod Sims, an American Vietnam War veteran from Georgia who has returned to the Hoi An area to live out his days.  Apparently Rod has lived with extreme feelings of remorse and guilt over his involvement in the Vietnam War.  He expressed to us that he is now devoting his life to doing good deeds for the Vietnam people, including raising money for children with birth defects.  We felt honored and inspired to spend 30 minutes with Rod in his home.

We spent a long day driving over 400 km to see some rather notorious historical sites associated with the Vietnam War.  Hung noted that it was rare for Americans to ask to be taken to such out-of-the-way places.  For many years I have wanted to visit My Lai.  We drove a long way to get there.  When we arrived, we viewed a short documentary of the massacre and toured the small museum, which did not shy away from presenting every horror that happened that day.  We saw foundations of the homes that were burned to the ground which had signs listing the names, sex and age of every occupant who was killed.  We are both so glad that we visited My Lai.  We went inside the Vinh Moc tunnels (these are the ones where a person can almost stand up).  We stopped at fire support base Camp Carroll and later visited the marine base at Khe Sanh.  These were meaningful stops.  We were able to appreciate the densely forested mountains that surround these places, which helped us appreciate where and how the War was fought.  We crossed the rebuilt bridge spanning Hien Long River at Dong Ha, in the DMZ.  It was incredible to stand where so much history has been made.

Hung took us to My Son to wander among the Hindu Temples.  Apparently,  the original 70 temples have been reduced in number to a mere 20.  We arrived at My Son on a drizzly late afternoon after all of the tourists had left.  I think we both felt a little like Indiana Jones.  We both felt the magic that I have felt a few times in my life when standing in a sacred place.

We decided to drive over the mountain pass rather than through the tunnel on our drive from Hoi An to Hue.  Glad we did.  The views of the coastline were spectacular.  We took a full afternoon to explore what’s left of the Forbidden City in Hue.  While much of the site was destroyed and badly damaged at the Tet Offensive, what’s left still left us in awe.  We wandered from building to building, through lovely ornate gates bearing images of dragons and the phoenix.  We were able to sense the grandeur of the Imperial Court as it existed in the 19th Century.

A word about the Pilgrimage Resort where we stayed while we were in Hue:  The resort itself is reason enough to visit Hue.  The bungalow-style suite, eco-friendly landscaping and pool were beautiful beyond words.  We would have been very happy to stay there for a few extra nights.

We felt particularly close to Hung, liked him a great deal and had a bit of an emotional farewell at the airport in Hue.  We were met by our third guide, Vu, when we arrived at HCM City.  We had a busy day shopping in the frenetic market place, stopping for lunch at Pho’ 2000 (where Bill Clinton also stopped for lunch), touring the Reunification Palace and visiting the War Remnants Museum.  At this point, I think my wife, Miriam, had had enough of unexploded bombs, photos of human tragedies caused by the War, etc..  Still, these displays were informative (notwithstanding the propaganda) and deserve to be seen.

Our accommodations at the Caravelle Hotel were very satisfactory.  We enjoyed the central location which allowed us to wonder away from the hotel for dinner and to explore the historic neighboring hotels, City Hall and a somewhat incongruous upscale mall.

We took a long drive west toward the Cambodian border with Vu to visit the fascinating Cao Dai Pagoda.  We saw a religious ceremony in progress.  We then visited the Cou Chi Tunnels.  We could not resist the temptation of disappearing in the tunnels ourselves to experience real claustrophobia.  As much as anything, experiencing the tunnels impressed upon us the strength of the Vietnamese people, their love of country and their will to survive.

We left HCM City for Phuket, Thailand, where we rested and relaxed for eight days.  Our trip was a perfect combination of intense activity, followed by a chance to replenish ourselves.

As you know, I had had some prior experience visiting Southeast Asia in my trip to Burma in 1999.  For Miriam, however, this was baptism by fire, because she had never before been to Asia.  This was an unforgettable adventure for both of us.  We felt as though we really saw and experienced a great deal, although Hung was quick to point out that we had merely “scratched the surface”.  Still, we had a very rich experience indeed.  We saw first hand, an ancient culture rooted in tradition which finally has a chance, in peace, to develop fully into a modern nation.  Life in Vietnam seems to play out right on the street.  Lots of contradictions, but a place that  we would relish the chance to return to.

Perhaps we’ll talk in a year or two about planning an adventure to Laos and Cambodia.  Our thanks to you, Lesa and your staff for orchestrating such a memorable and smooth adventure for us.

Howard & Miriam S.
Miami, FL

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This was Howard’s second trip with Asia Transpacific Journeys, and his wife Miriam’s first. Begin planning your next unforgettable custom trip today, 800-642-2742.

Asia Transpacific Journeys Explores Sacred Himalayan Kingdoms and Wildlife in India and Sri Lanka

Asia Transpacific Journeys  has introduced three new Asia tour packages, offering exotic winter getaways. These new packages offer travelers unprecedented access to sacred sites and centuries-old rituals, face-to-face meetings with formerly endangered wildlife and Asia’s secret island hotspot.

Indian Tiger

India: A Jungle Book Journey

India is famous for its dazzling cultural treasures. What is less well-known of the subcontinent is that it is home to some of Asia’s greatest wildlife. This extraordinary, 17-day journey departs December 3, 2011 and March 3, 2012. It features naturalist-guided travel by foot, elephant back and 4WD to three of India’s most important preserves; havens for the once nearly extinct, magnificent Bengal tiger as well as species as varied as one-horned Indian rhino, clouded leopard,  wild Indian elephant, jackal, fox, bison and myriad bird species. Additional features of India travel itinerary include:

  • Gorgeous eco-lodges and upscale hotels
  • Excellent chance of a wild tiger sighting
  • Elephant-back rhino safari
  • Access to remote areas of national parks
  • Special meetings and discussions with conservationists
  • Rickshaw ride through Old Delhi
  • Magnificent fortresses, mosques and UNESCO sites
  • Witness cultural performance within temple grounds

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Sri Lanka: A Journey with the World Wildlife Fund 

In its new adventure to Sri Lanka, Asia Transpacific Journeys teams up with the World Wildlife Fund to offer a wildlife tour to Sri Lanka, a seldom-explored spot that is considered one of South Asia’s best-kept wildlife secrets.

Few destinations as geographically small as this island nation offer so many cultural treasures and such great wildlife biodiversity. Sri Lanka is considered a “super hotspot” for endemism and contains many unique plants, birds, reptiles and mammals. In fact, new species are still being discovered here. With a focus on the central and southern highlands, this March 2012 journey takes you to several national parks, and onto the calm seas off the southern coast.

This 14-day itinerary with departures beginning March 10, 2012 features the following components for a well-crafted wildlife tour of Sri Lanka:

  • Explorations of four national parks, including an in-depth visit to Yala National Park to search for the elusive leopard.
  • Several opportunities to see wild elephants.
  • Whale-watching expeditions to look for blue and sperm whales, which congregate in high concentrations along the Sri Lankan coast at this time of year.
  • Visits to important cultural spots, including the Rock Fortress at Sigiriya and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.

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Sacred Mountain Kingdoms: Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan

The mountain kingdoms of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, thousands of feet above sea-level, hidden amidst the world’s highest peaks, stand literally and figuratively above the rest. A trip highlighting three UNESCO world heritage sites is ideal for those seeking adventure and spiritual perspective.

Departures for this 20-day excursion begin April 5, 2012 and travelers will enjoy an itinerary that includes:

  • Tour leadership by an expert on Asian culture.
  • Meet monks in remote monasteries.
  • Sacred lake amid spectacular Himalayan vistas.
  • Drive along the Friendship Highway, border crossing from Tibet to Nepal.
  • Witness Hindu ablution ceremony at sacred river.
  • Medieval towns housing preserved temples.
  • Visit fertility temple where hopeful couples make offerings.

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Learn more about once-in-a-lifetime trip to Asia by speaking with an Asia travel specialist today at 800-642-2742.

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

Laos
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

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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.

A Staff Postcard from the Field: Discovery in China

China travel notes from Chris Dunham, Asia Travel Specialist


Ni hao from China!

I’m currently on a whirlwind visit to cover 9 cities in 17 days. It’s amazing to see all the changes that have occurred within China since my last visit. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Yunnan Province, which is new for me and I would fully recommend you visit Kunming, Lijiang, Dali and Zhongdian if you are looking for something different from the traditional tourist track in China. Yunnan is very tribal and while many parts of China are predominantly of the Han majority, Yunnan’s population is comprised mainly of ethnic minorities such as Naxi, Tibetan and Yi Peoples, to name a few.

My favorite experience so far was in Zhongdian, which is about as close to resembling Lhasa, Tibet as one can get without actually traveling to Lhasa. As a side note to this story, my fiancée, Ali, is back in the US and she is constantly on my mind as we are getting married in about two months, but she couldn’t take the time off to travel with me this time around. On this particular day in Zhongdian with my guide, I hiked up to the top of Dabao Monastery just on the outskirts of Zhongdian, where I lit Yak Butter Lamps for my future with Ali as well as all of my family. Then, I was blessed by the Chief Lama of the Monastery and given some lovely prayer beads, which I am still wearing. Finally, I purchased Tibetan prayer flags from a local woman and wrote down my wishes for a good life with Ali on the prayer flags and then hung them in the sea of prayer flags on the side of Dabao Mountain. Our names and wishes for a good life are still blowing in the wind on those prayer flags. I will always cherish the time I spent in Zhongdian and I look forward to my next opportunity to return to this gem nestled along majestic mountains and beautiful countryside.

My account above is just one of the amazing, beyond-the-ordinary experiences I’ve had while in China. Time is fleeting, so keep traveling!

Zai-jian,

Chris