A Staff Postcard from the Field: Clean Water Brought To You By Asia Transpacific Foundation

Clean Water Initiative

I LOVE  Burma. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. If you’ve never been you HAVE GOT to go. There are many wonderful places in Asia, but Burma is special. It’s amazing! The people are so kind and gentle.

The last time I visited in 2011 I dropped by the factory that makes ceramic filters that produce clean water for locals. It’s funded by our very own Asia Transpacific Foundation and I highly recommend a visit to any of our travelers! It’s located in the village of Twante which has been a pottery center in Burma (Myanmar) for centuries.  It is a two hour drive from Yangon, along the red mud banks of the Irrawaddy River. It was a thrill to finally get to visit this village. It has been functioning like a well oiled machine for over four years.

As I arrived the local supervisor, wearing his best shirt and the traditional longyi (men’s sarong), flashed a huge grin in my direction and came to meet my vehicle.  He and his crew had been anxiously awaiting my arrival. I clasped my palms together in the traditional greeting and they all did the same. Then they presented me with tea and snacks. After this warm welcome I was invited to see the progress at the plant and meet the workers, who take great pride in their jobs.  The kiln was precisely built, and had been used to fire many loads of filters. As a matter of fact, filters were everywhere, in various states of finish.  Some were being pressed from raw clay that had been mixed with rice husk to create the required post-firing porosity, some were being dried in preparation for firing, some were being unloaded from the kiln and being tested for flow rates, others were being painted with colloidal silver and being packed for shipping to surrounding villages.  There were at least 30 people working diligently at all this.

All this is a huge success story for the people of this area! Clean water is virtually non-existant in many parts of rural Burma. Asia Transpacific Foundation and donations from our travelers have generously funded this effort. I was happy to see the diligence and dedication that the workers bring to their jobs, the clean drinking water that each filter provides and the income that this project provides for the workers and their families.

Later that day as my driver and I headed down the dusty red dirt road, I looked back to see all thirty of the employees smiling and waiving a warm good bye. The warmth of the Burmese people once again touched my heart.

~Rebecca Mazzaro, Asia Travel Specialist

Rebecca in Burma

The normally non-smoking Rebecca Mazzaro, Asia Transpacific Journeys Travel Specialist Extraordinaire, throwing caution to the wind in an effort to connect with locals in Mandalay, Burma


Rebecca became hooked on travel after spending a year of high school in a small Spanish province bordering Morocco. She studied Environmental Biology earning her degree at CU Boulder. A musical streak culminated in a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a penchant for travel manifested itself in years spent guiding around the U.S.

She fell for Asia during extensive travels in the region, where she expertly captures its people and places in photos. She revels in sharing her deep first-hand knowledge and was named a Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist for 2007. Rebecca was also named one of the World’s Top Travel Agents by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2011.

Travel to Japan to See Newly Designated World Heritage Sites

Travel to Japan

Travel to Japan

Thanks to its rich history and nature, Japan has already been recognized as a country with many UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites with 14 designated destinations.  An additional two locations came into the international spotlight when they were added to the list this June.



Hiraizumi, a Northern Metropolis

Hiraizumi may seem like just one of the many historic temple towns, but founded in the 12th century, this was the political and commercial center of Japan’s northern region. This time, UNESCO recognized the legacy of the Fujiwara family.

The Fujiwara’s rivaled the capitol in Kyoto and established a northern political and cultural power hub with the paramount art and architectural techniques of that time, and the cultural and historic significance and appreciation of the remaining pieces.  The most significant sign of the past political power in Hiraizumi is Chusonji-Temple, an elaborated structure in such a rich design from its heyday. Konjikido, literally translated as Golden Hall, has fortunately been preserved – because among all the magnificent constructions of a 20-year project, it is the only original structure to survive fires and wars. Protected inside a later-constructed concrete pavilion, Konjikido is a must-see. The structure is covered with gold leaf inside and out and is full of Buddhism statues in the alter – which portray the Fujiwara Lord’s aspiration for Buddhism and top-quality designs.

Although Hiraizumi is located in the northeast region of Japan, fortunately the March earthquake didn’t affect the area at all. The international attention this region has received due to the earthquake has become a great momentum for the region’s tourism recovery.  Along with the Shirakami Mountain Range that was designated as a world heritage site in 1993, Hiraizumi has become one of the highlights of the northern Japan travel.

Tokyo’s Hidden Beaches, the Ogasawara

The Ogasawara Islands, also known as The Bonin Islands, is an archipelago of over 30 small subtropical islands located 1,000km (620 miles) directly south of Tokyo.  UNESCO found these hidden islands under Tokyo’s municipality as a natural sanctuary for a unique ecosystem.  Consisting of over 30 tiny islands, including well-known Iwojima, the Ogasawara Islands cherish very lightly worn jungles and infinitely blue beaches. The islands create a perfect environment for a very rich ecosystem which includes: one-of-a-kind mammals, over 400 native plants and several ocean species that create one of the world’s rarest scuba diving spots. Ogasawara is nicknamed the Oriental Galapagos.

As the Ogasawara becomes more well-known among outdoor lovers, there have been talks on building an airport to improve the weekly ferry shuttle between Tokyo’s downtown port and Chichi-jima Island, the most populated among the Ogasawara.  However, the high vulnerability of the area’s untouched, unique ocean life and ecosystem keeps the islands airport free. It also makes the islands’ wealth of nature even more attractive – as a hidden gem of Japan.

Ogasawara, Tokyo Beaches

Ogasawara, Tokyo Beaches


Wanting to experience the ancient wonders of Japan for yourself? Learn more about small group Japan tours or custom travel to Japan organized by our Asia Travel Specialists. Visit Asia Transpacific Journeys online or call 800-642-2742 for more information.


Asia Transpacific Journeys wins Travel + Leisure World’s Best Award: A letter from our Founder

2011 World's Best Awards

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.

Warm regards,

Marilyn Downing Staff

Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President


Asia Transpacific Journeys’ 2010 Client Photo Contest Winners

Our clients crossed time zones, date lines, and oceans to experience the farthest reaches of  Asia—where many found a fabulous photo opportunity around every corner. We asked our travelers to submit photos of their travels to Asia.

We started with 216 beautiful entries and our staff narrowed it down to 50 semi-finalists. Then Asia Transpacific Journeys Founder & President, Marilyn Downing Staff, selected the first, second and third place winners of our 2nd Annual Client Photo Contest.

Following are the winning entries and Marilyn’s commentary on the photos.

1st place, Train Station Vendor, India © Dimitra Stasinopoulou

“Captures the optimism of this young train station vendor and the magical light of India. A lovely environmental portrait.”

2nd place, Rice Planting near Hue, Vietnam © Joseph Lambert

“Beautiful composition. The millennia-old rhythm of women planting rice–the essence of life in Asia.”

3rd place, Angkor Wat, Cambodia © Gene Hollander

“Interesting, edgy and a foray into using technology as a portal into another way to see our world.”

This year we also presented a People’s Choice Award, and held the voting on our Asia Transpacific Journeys Facebook page. Our fans and travelers cast their votes, selecting Bob Fink’s photo of two girls in Laos as the People’s Choice winner.

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who participated. These photos truly define a Journey Beyond the Ordinary™.


How Much Luggage Can I Bring to Asia?

Your dreams of traveling to enchanting Asia are finally about to be realized. Your flights are booked and your plans are settled, but are your bags packed? As you attempt to balance preparedness with efficiency, keep these tips in mind to help make sure your luggage is as ready for your Asia journey as you are.

· Baggage restrictions vary by airline. Some U.S. airlines allow passengers flying internationally to check two bags, each weighing 50 pounds or less. However, some carriers allow considerably less. Check with us or your visit your airline’s web site before you travel for specific information about checked baggage costs and oversized luggage fees.

· Always stow copies of important documents such as passports in a piece of luggage in case the original documents are lost or stolen.

· Consult your Asia Transpacific Journeys Travel Guide often while packing – it contains a detailed packing list for your specific destination.

· Keep in mind that laundry service is available in nearly all locations, so pack light. Also note that skimpy clothing is not acceptable in some Asian countries where modesty is highly valued.

· Many travelers feel more prepared when they pack precautionary medications and basic first-aid supplies.

· Remember to bring camera equipment, chargers, travel journals, and other personal items, and bring a small bag or backpack to carry them conveniently on day excursions.

· Consider leaving some room in your luggage to bring back souvenirs or gifts. Some travelers also bring items to donate, such as supplies for a remote village school.