Category Archives: Asia

Should You Visit Japan in the Winter?

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Spoiler alert: you should! 

The Land of the Rising Sun rarely disappoints, regardless of the season you visit. In the Spring, there are cherry blossoms, in the summer, festivals galore. The autumn is a melodious eruption of colors with the changing leaves and the winter–well, the winter.

Tokyo brings in stylish events and warm, fairytale lights throughout the city.

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Here are 5 Reasons to Visit Japan in the Winter Months: 

1. Japan has Mild Winters.

While we usually associated winter in Japan with snow, the autumn and mild weather actually lasts a bit longer than in most countries. In November and December, autumn leaves and crisp air linger on.

Even when it becomes full-fledged winter, it’s still quite dry. Winter, which lasts from December to February, ranges from 10-12ºC (50-54°F) in the day, and 2-5ºC (35-41ºF) at night.

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2. Christmas is still a thing. 

Though Christmas isn’t a public holiday in Japan, it’s still celebrated, especially among couples. Rather than having any family connotation, it’s viewed more as a romantic time, like a second Valentine’s Day. This is accentuated by Tokyo bursting into thousands of LED lights. So expect magical winter wonderland if you visit in late December!

To enjoy the illuminations at their best, head out to Ueno or Roppongi Hills.

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3. New Year’s is marked by Festivals & Family Time.

New Year’s is a big event, even bigger than in the U.S., you might even say. The period from December 28 to January 5 is known as oshogatsu, a time to visit families and enjoy seasonal dishes (osechi ryori) like black soybeans, red sea bream, fish cake, and soft, delicious mochi. Don’t miss out on other events like temple rituals and ice skating rinks, a common sight during this time.

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4. Hokkaido is the Ultimate Winter Destination.

Hokkaido is a perfect winter destination you might not have heard of. The northernmost province of Japan, Hokkaido is renowned for its ski resorts, powdery snow, and hot springs resorts and towns.

If you’re in Sapporo in February, don’t miss the Snow Festival, a snow sculpture competition that attracts more than 2 million visitors each year. People come from all over the world to compete and show off their gorgeous ice sculptures.

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5. The View of Japan’s Mountains are unparalleled.

About 73% of Japan is mountainous, so don’t be surprised that some of the most photogenic shots you could take in the countryside are of mountains. And there’s no better time to enjoy the scenery than in winter. Due to the mild weather and clear skies, the view of the peaks, including iconic Mt. Fuji, are close to magical.

Take a train out from Tokyo is explore these peaks. It’s also a perfect time for quiet, introspective walks up these mountains or strolls through the countryside villas.

Thinking of Japan in the Winter? There are some amazing itineraries to explore the Land of the Rising Sun in Winter and multi-day hiking trips in the Spring. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com to learn more from our travel agents. 

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Why NOW is the time to go to Myanmar

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WIT Agent Pam Davis recently had the opportunity to with V’Explore to Myanmar. She discovered that there has never been a better time to explore this fascinating nation. Read on to find all about this still-enigmatic country.  

Writes Pam:

“NOW is the time to go.  Tourism is now on the rise a bit. There are now direct flights from China into both Yangon and Mandalay.

Yangon, the biggest city, is easy to explore

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“Starting the trip in Yangon, we spent the night on arrival at the  Suli Shangri La Hotel.  The Yangon airport is not too far from the city center, but the trip takes about an hour because the traffic is incredible.  The hotel is lovely – my room overlooked one of the major temples of Yangon.

Buddhism in Myanmar means temples…

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“Buddhism is everywhere in Myanmar – it is more a part of everyday life for the people than anywhere else I’ve been.  Even in the streets of Yangon you see monks with bowls collecting food offerings.  People cook breakfast with a little extra, then go to the streets and give it to the passing monks.  This happens throughout the country.  People also go daily to pray in the various temples and shrines.

Visited Shweadgon Temple which is the major one in Myanmar, took a quick walk through the downtown area to see the old British colonial buildings, and ended at Scott’s Market, a covered market in the center of the city.  Stayed at the Rose Garden Hotel in Yangon.

Explore Myanmar & SE Asia with Vexplore Tours

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…A LOT of Temples

“Flew to Mandalay in the morning of the next day and stayed at the Mercure Mandalay Hill, a very nice property.  Mandalay also has a number of temples, a castle with wall and moat, and Mandalay Hill which is topped by another temple and has a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.

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There’s even a breathtaking Land of Temples

“Flew to Bagan.  Bagan has been added to the UNESCO world heritage list for its temples.  The temples are built on a plain, nearly 40 square miles filled with temples that date anywhere from 1100 to the current day.  We were taken by a horse cart to visit the main sites, and participated in a meditation session with one of the monks.  Spent 2 nights in Bagan at a property called The Hotel at Tharabar Gate.  It was lovely, and near one of the main entrances to Old Bagan.

Explore: River Cruises in Myanmar

Buddha statues and Bungalows at Beautiful Inle Lake

“Flew to Inle Lake.  This was an interesting area – lots of different tribal groups with different traditional dress that is still worn.  In the lake there are houses built on stilts where the fishermen live, and the fishermen have an interesting way of rowing dugout canoes with their leg while standing up – I guess it frees their hands for fishing with nets and baskets.

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We also visited a cave where there were over 5000 Buddha statues that had been placed inside.  We were also there during the Full Moon Festival where 5 Buddhist statues are taken from the main temple and rowed on very ornately decorated barges to 5 different villages in the course of a week.

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Stayed at the Treasure Inle Lake Resort which had overwater bungalows built on docks stretching out into the water.  There is a lot of building in this area – a new Novotel Resort and a beautiful property called the Aureum Palace Hotel which is a 5 star property.

Read more about Buddhas & Boats on Inle Lake

Final Impressions of Myanmar?

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I found the country to be very beautiful, the people warm and welcoming.

Enjoyed the country and enjoyed traveling with V’Explore.  I’ve found their service to clients to be excellent and they have excellent ground services in all the countries where they travel.

Good to Know Before You Go

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Daily costs are very affordable

Meals and taxi costs are very low – a dinner with drink at a hotel restaurant came to $10.

A “high tea” at the Leading Hotel in Yangon was $18.00 and rivaled anything you’d see at the Empress in Victoria.

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Be Prepared to Haggle

You do need to practice your bargaining skills when shopping in the handicraft markets, but for $5-$20 you can get some beautiful things.  Even in shops, the list price is just a suggestion and you can almost always get a 15-20% discount by asking.

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The Countryside is Rugged

In the countryside the roads aren’t as good so everything just moves at a slower pace.  As long as you have a good local operator they take all of this into account when doing the transfers.

Traffic is Rough

Traffic throughout the country is horrendous – a 5 mile trip can easily take an hour, 2 lane roads become 4 lanes automatically and you are sharing the road with cars, trucks, horse and bullock carts, scooters.

Interested in checking out options to Myanmar? Call our travel agents at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Asia, Myanmar / Burma

SALE: Solo Travelers on Star Clippers 2020

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Attention Solo Travelers! Dreaming of the alluring ports of the Mediterranean or Southeast Asia? Have the sweet and salty air scents on the tip of your nose? Well, you’re in luck!

SALE for Solo Travelers

Star Clippers is offering a SALE just for solo travelers next summer!

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Mediterranean sailings glide through the turquoise waters on a traditional tall sailing ship. Pay call to the delicious ports of Malta, France, Monaco, Italy and the forever Greek Isles.

Southeast Asia sailings drift through deep indigo waters and tropical beaches of Southeast Asia — Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia.

Book by October 31, 2019!

Sail Summer 2020!

Book a select 4 to 28-night sailing on Royal ClipperStar Flyer or Star Clipper and Star Clipper will waive the single supplement fees. Solo Sailings start from $1,110.

Why choose Star Clippers?

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In 1991, Star Clippers launched its first ship the “Star Flyer,” a recreation of the classic sailing ships of the 19th century. Since then, it’s been sailing four gorgeous ships around the world! 

This is the cruise for you if you’re looking for a new way to travel! You’re looking for new experiences.

These ships are a luxury ship experience with a casual, laid-back vibe. The size and nature of the ship allow it to visit ports inaccessible to larger cruise ships.

The journey is as awesome as the destination.

Ask your WIT travel agent more about Star Clippers’ incredible and unique sailing ships. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Asia, Cruises, Europe, Star Clipper

Travel News: Archaeological Discovery In Egypt To Boost Tourism

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Archaeological Discovery In Egypt To Boost Tourism

Travelwirenews reports in a major archaeological discovery, Egypt on Saturday unveiled the tomb of a Fifth Dynasty official adorned with colourful reliefs and well preserved inscriptions. The tomb, near Saqqara, a vast necropolis south of Cairo, belongs to a senior official named Khuwy who is believed to have been a nobleman during the Fifth Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt about 4300 years ago. “The L-shaped Khuwy tomb starts with a small corridor heading downwards into an antechamber and from there a larger chamber with painted reliefs depicting the tomb owner seated at an offerings table,” said Mohamed Megahed, the excavation team’s head, in an antiquities ministry statement. Flanked by dozens of ambassadors, Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enani said the tomb was discovered last month. It is mostly made of white limestone bricks. Ornate paintings boast a special green resin throughout and oils used in the burial process, the ministry said. The tomb’s north wall indicates that its design was inspired by the architectural blueprint of the dynasty’s royal pyramids, the statement added. The excavation team has unearthed several tombs related to the Fifth Dynasty. Archaeologists recently found an inscription on a granite column dedicated to Queen Setibhor, who is believed to have been the wife of King Djedkare Isesis, the eighth and penultimate king of the dynasty. Egypt has in recent years sought to promote archaeological discoveries across the country in a bid to revive tourism that took a hit from the turmoil that followed its 2011 uprising.

California Plans Ban On Single-Use Toiletry Bottles In Guest Bedrooms

Travelmole reports California could become one of the first places where hotels are banned from providing single-use mini plastic toiletry bottles in guest bedrooms. The US state’s lawmakers have proposed a bill to ban single-use plastic bottles in all guest accommodation to reduce unnecessary plastic waste. Instead, hotels would have to use re-fillable bulk dispensers. If the law is passed, it would take effect in 2023 and would ban plastic bottles under 12 ounces. “By not offering small bottles of personal care products, hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments can promote more sustainable business,” said assembly member Ash Kalra.

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Paris Restaurants To Charge Cancellation Fees & Fines To No-Show Clients 

RT .com reports cafes and restaurants in the French capital have opted to follow the lead of hotels and guest-houses, and start charging their customers with cash penalties for late cancellation of reservations or failing to appear in time. Hundreds of Paris eateries are currently adopting the system that is widely used in the hotel industry, the Times reports. Restaurants oblige clientele to leave details of their credit cards while making reservations, with big-name places warning customers over a potential charge in case of a no-show. The measure is reportedly connected to losses the restaurants have to suffer when people make several reservations for the same day and then cancel at least one of them. “Even in great restaurants, customers cancel without having the slightest idea of the economic impact of their action,” the managing director of Les Grandes Tables du Monde, an association of top restaurants Nicolas Chatenier told the media. Restaurants reportedly have to follow the trend due to French gastronomical habits, in particular, fondness for lengthy meals. 

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Singapore Changi Airport Opens Mega Mall

Changi airport on Wednesday opened a $1.7 billion retail and nature-themed complex that aims to give it a competitive edge as an air hub in the region. The 135,700 square meter, 10-story complex, named the Jewel Changi Airport, offers 280 retail and food outlets as well as a hotel and is linked to Changi’s Terminals 1, 2 and 3. It is more than just a shopping mall as it houses the world’s largest man-made indoor waterfall, surrounded by a lush artificially created rainforest to give shoppers a unique combination of both retail experience and leisure. Standing 40 meters tall, the gigantic circular water feature has become the main attraction for visitors with its water plunging from a height of about seven stories from an oculus in the huge glass roof of the building. The climate around the waterfall is controlled to appear cool and misty. The complex, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, is aimed at turning the airport into a tourist destination and attracting more transit visitors. Taking advantage of Singapore’s abundant rainfall all-year round, the waterfall uses rainwater that has been funneled into it, with the water also diverted for irrigation of indoor plants. Changi airport was voted by air travelers as the world’s best airport for the seventh consecutive year this year, with Tokyo’s Haneda airport in second place and South Korea’s Incheon airport coming third. It is the world’s seventh busiest airport for international traffic, with a record 65.6 million passengers passing through last year.

More information here: www.Jewelchangiairport.com

Other attractions at the Jewel include: 

  • It will house SIN’s largest indoor garden; Forest Valley, Canopy Park, light and sound show at the Rain Vortex which is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (5 stories)
  • Forest Valley is a 5-story garden, made up of around 3000 trees and palms with plant species from Australia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Thailand, and US
  • Canopy Park is located at the top level of the complex. Spanning 14,000 sqm (approx.. 11 Olympic-size pools), it is the home of the play attractions, a topiary garden and all-day dining options set within a/c comfort.
  • There are 2 mazes, a hedge maze and a mind0boggling mirror maze — And if that’s not enough, there is a walking net, suspended over a 25meter void. 

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Filed under Asia, Egypt, Europe

Top Posts of 2018

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Another Year has come to a close, so for today we’re bringing you the WIT Blog’s Top Posts for 2018. 

It’s been a doozy of a year – January 2018 was our top month on the blog ever! Take a look and get inspired for your own upcoming adventures in 2019!

Posts that Played the Most

Where to Spot the Southern Cross: Letting the constellations guide your travel this year?

2018 Travel Trends from our Travel Agents: See if our predictions were right!

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Embark on an Incredible Voyage on the West Coast of South America: an older post from 2015, check out similar itineraries with G Adventures

A Drive through Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland: seabirds, basalt cliffs, mountain peaks, waterfalls, oh my!

Questions to Ask before you Book an All-Inclusive Resort: The Whats, Wheres and What ifs

Itinerary: 13 days on South Island, New Zealand: How would you spend your two precious weeks in New Zealand?

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A Closer Look: Ithumba Safari Camp in Kenya: Explore one of our favorite camps in beautiful East Africa

2018 Travel Trends: Walking Tours in and out of Town: Tours we recommend on the cobblestone and the trail

6 Hacks to Get Your Luggage through the Airport: A must-read for your sanity!

Where are you going in 2019? Let us know! Leave a comment or email us at inquiry@wittravel.com.

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Singapore’s Kampong Glam Neighborhood: Glimpse of the Arab World in Asia

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For many travelers, Singapore is nothing more than a stopover to their way to Thailand, the Philippines, or Bali. But a fascinating country that just oozes the word multicultural, Singapore is definitely worth a second look. Thanks to airline codeshares, it’s easy to build 1-2 days extra onto your trip for a couple hours or days in this intriguing city-state. Sometimes these extra days are a merciful bonus, considering jet lag!

One of the best places to center yourself is Kampong Glam, Singapore’s oldest neighborhood and the former Arab Quarter. Arab influences are very much a part of the area–from rug shops to incense parlors to the grand Sultan Mosque. Yet it still has a very trendy, hip vibe that’s hard to miss. It’s a unique look into the Arab World, right in the heart of Asia.

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WIT Correspondent Wailana recently visited the neighborhood to check out everything it had to offer. Here are her best tips:

What to Do

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Malay Heritage Center

Be sure to drop by the former residence of the Sultan of Johor–Istana Kampong Glam (85 Sultan Gate). This complex is a merge between British colonial architecture and Malay landscaping. Today it serves as a home to the Malay Heritage Center, where you can learn about Malay culture, heritage, and crafts.

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Sultan Mosque

While in Kampong Glam, you can’t miss the golden-domed Sultan Mosque (3 Muscat St), an icon that dominates the skyline. Built in the 1820s, between its intricate latticework, salmon patterns and chaperone palm trees, you can’t miss it. Non-muslims should check out the indoors, open daily from 9am to 1pm, and 2pm to 4pm.

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Haji Lane

Where to Shop

Haji Lane is a picturesque street lined with boutiques, cafes, and street art, and while arguably a tourist trap, is definitely worth checking out. Pick up a delicious meal in one of the streets halal cafés, or pick up a designer dress from a market stall. Some of my favorites included Tangers (73 Haji Ln), which does Korean, Japanese, French, and local designs, and nearby Molkan Fabrics (72 Arab St), which specializes in traditional attire like Malay songket suits and the two-piece baju kurung.

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Carpet Sellers

Where to Eat

The multi-faceted history of Singapore means that there will always be fantastic places to eat. In Kampong Glam, you can savor a range of tasty Hainanese, Indian, Malay, Japanese, Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and Western flavors that no know limit. Grab your cash and visit Singapore Zam Zam (697-699 North Bridge Rd) first of all, an Indian Muslim restaurant that has been a corner staple since 1908. Popular dishes include the briyani, spiced rice dish, roti prata, South Indian flatbread, and murtabak, stuffed, fried pancake. For the Indonesian flair, try Warong Nasi Pariaman (738 North Bridge Rd), which since 1948 has been serving up succulent steaming dishes like nasi padang (steamed rice with meat dishes) and ayam goreng (chicken deep fried in coconut).

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Sultan Hotel

Where to Stay

The adorable, white Sultan Hotel (101 Jalan Sultan, #01-01) is colonial architecture at its finest, with archways and floral-inspired latticework. Located on the edge of Jalan Sultan street, it’s just a short walk to the nearest light rail station, a nearby Hawker complex, and Chinatown.

Or spoil yourself at the luxurious, 5-star Naumi Hotel Singapore (41 Seah St), which aims to spoil with avant-garde curves, oasis-themed decor, lavish rooftop pool and a contemporary call to minimalism.

See you in Singapore!

Willamette Intl Travel regularly books trips to our clients that may include a free stopover. Ask us about options to explore the glittering city-state of Singapore. 

503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com

 

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Silk Road of China with Art Tours by Amy, October 2019

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Amy Osaki from Art Tours by Amy has announced their most recent tour on the Silk Road!

It promises to be a spectacular, one-of-a-kind itinerary focusing on Art and History along China’s Silk Road.

Silk Road of China: Art, History and Archaeology

October 10-20, 2019

Join Art Tours by Amy’s third trip across China, and journey from Xi’an over two thousand miles west to Kashgar. For thousands of years, the Silk Road connected China with the Mediterranean Sea over four thousand miles distant. This route was already a thousand years old when Marco Polo made his journey in 1271.

Call Willamette Intl Travel to arrange your once-in-a-lifetime tour through ancient art and history of the Silk Road

503-224-0180  |  inquiry@wittravel.com

  • Traverses the eastern part of the route, including three Chinese provinces
  • Xi’an, home of the Terracotta warriors
  • Jiayuguan and westernmost part of the Great Wall
  • imposing sand dunes of the Gobi Desert
  • Dunhuang and Mogao Caves filled with a thousand years of Buddhist art
  • Silk Road city of Turpan
  • Bezeklik grottoes
  • alpine lake of Tianchi in the Tian Shan (Celestial Mountains)
  • Bazaar & mosques of Kashgar
  • Muztagh Ata and Kongur Mountains, the tallest peaks in the Pamir and Kunlun mountain ranges
  • Pre-Trip Tour Available: Oct 8 in Beijing

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Click here for the detailed trip itinerary.

View slide show from the previous Silk Road trips:

2013 Silk Road trip

2011 Silk Road trip

READ MORE:

Art Tour of Japan with Amy

Art Tours by Amy | Mountain Hiking Holidays

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Filed under Asia, China