Category Archives: Asia

2018 Travel Trends: Walking Tours in and out of Town

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We know that many of our clients are revving up and ready to hit the road this year. Stay active and keep on adventurin’, that’s what we always say.

One of the coolest experiences you can have on a trip is a walking tour – it’s simple, doesn’t take too much time and effort, keeps your blood pumping, makes you feel energetic, and is a fantastic way to tour the city or countryside the way the locals do every day. Plus, you often get to see a side of the destination that many tourists don’t.

Here are some of our favorite walking tour companies – call Willamette Intl Travel to book yours today. 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com.

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Walking in Venice: luxury tours focusing on history, art and photography with art aficionados to the Accademia, or the Ca’Rezzonico, or the Ca’Pesaro and Fortuny Museum. Discover Renaissance Venice at the height of its power.

Spanish Trails: our in-country supplier for tours of Barcelona, Madrid and the Catalonian Coast. They offer small group walking tours in the city, wine tours in La Rioja region, or succulent food-tasting tours.

 

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Photo from Context Travel

 

Context Travel: Small group tours and private tours in many cities around the world, from Edinburgh, Budapest and Istanbul to Philadelphia, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro. Spend the day with a local historian or scholar who will enchant you with their in-depth knowledge.

Chocolatine: How can we forget lovely France. Chocolatine provides a wealth of fun private walking tours (including those hard-to-find tickets to exclusive Parisian events!) all around Paris, Provence, Normandy and throughout.

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Adrienne & Renato: Adrienne & Renato are a husband-wife team, she from Portland and he from Naples. With their team of local guides they can arrange everything from private Pompeii tours to dinners in the Tuscan countryside. Their services include close, personal attention illuminated by a background in art history and mythology.

Art Tours by Amy / Mountain Hiking Holidays: It seems every time we check in with these folks, Amy and John Osaki have something new and exciting up their sleeves. Amy organizes the art tours in Europe and Asia, and John heads the mountain hiking trips all across the globe. Look for the next trip to explore the heritage of Japan, November 2018.

Marissa: Marissa is a one-of-a-kind one-woman operation in Buenos Aires. She’s organized tailor-made tours in and around the city for more than a decade — we highly recommend her if you’re in town!

“When you spend a day with Marisa in the fabulous city of Buenos Aires, you become Argentinian!!” ~~ John @ Wittravel

Sherpa Expeditions: Looking for a multiday challenge? these folks curated self-guided walking and cycling trips throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. They supply you with the itineraries, some of the gear, and hand-picked B&Bs and inns to give you that small-town feel!

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Happy 2018 All!

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January 10, 2018 · 7:47 am

From the Frontier: WIT Correspondent in Bali

Wit Blogger Wailana is currently in Bali, Indonesia over the winter holidays.

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Report from Ubud – Technically it’s rainy season now, but it’s been rather moderate, humidity balanced with light afternoon showers, so it’s not overbearing.

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Thailand has a reputation of “Land of Smiles,” but it’s no less true in Bali, where the locals are warm and welcoming. It’s busier than I imagined, with avid scooters winding through the streets. Keep close to the sidewalk!

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It’s true what they say – Ubud is a yogi paradise, with comfortable yoga cloth shops, inexpensive spas to pamper your skin and muscles, healthy vegan bowls and sessions of acupuncture and reiki healing setting your chakras in place.

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But it’s also a place of daily spirituality, with Hindu gods looking down at you from the temples, and grimacing statues at each house’s entrance to keep bad spirits away. Religious structures and houses alike are carved from black lava rock, and smothered lovingly in moss.

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There seems to be a statue at every corner, every entrance, large and small, and a tiny shrine in every courtyard, a tiny house-like building fit for a bird. I watched a Balinese girl walk past flowering lilypads to each shrine, leaving a smoking incense stick. She placed a small offering of leaves woven in small square baskets, filled with flowers and bits of rice and crackers, tributes to appease demon spirits.

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Frequent flights from PDX to Singapore and onward to Bali, Indonesia. To speak to one of our travel consultants, email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

More Reading on Indonesia: 

Brief Bali

Asia with Avanti Destinations

Bali with Star Clippers

Reading List: Indonesia

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2018 Travel Trends from our Travel Agents

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We asked our agents the upcoming travel trends they see in the coming year. Here are their Top Predictions for 2018:

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Getting to Know One Place

More and more of our clients want to stay and get to know a place intimately. After all, isn’t it a hassle to unpack every day and head to different hotels each night? Slow down your pace, kick back, and “go local.” Spend less time rushing from town square to town square, and more time sipping coffee or wine at an outdoor café watching the new landscape unfold in front of you.  

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Intimate Cruising

Cruises have always been popular, but we’re definitely seeing more clients look to unique itineraries: small ship cruises and river cruises set outside of Europe. During peak travel periods, European waterways and towns along the rivers can experience overcrowding and high water levels, so we sometimes recommend that clients look at alternative rivers—the Mekong or Yangtze for instance. Many reputable tour companies, such as Viking Cruises and Alexander + Roberts, offer spectacular land + cruises to discover the heart of Asia. Small ship cruise lines, such as Windstar, also provide a more personal service and slower itinerary that’s unavailable with a larger cruise ship. Clients that aren’t necessarily into cruises may find what their looking for with small ships that are destination-focused, with long days and evenings in the port, as well as offer tasty food and a casual ambiance.

Small Group Travel

A Small Group is any group under 20 participants. The smaller a group, the more exclusive experiences that you can’t get on your own, and has the ability to market toward your individual needs and interests. Long a love of baby boomers, we’re seeing millennial travelers in particular, who once preferred striking it on their own, curious about small groups. Tour operators like G Adventures really tailor their trips to this crowd, providing unique, spur-of-the-moment trips that offer something really unique. Alexander + Roberts is also known for its small groups. Fancy a private tour of the Vatican Museum? Book a small group tour with Willamette Intl Travel.

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Active Adventures

Adventure Travel is at an all-time high in the industry, and even the less adventurous can join in on the fun. We’re seeing the rise of awesome active tours—even among ages 70+—that include hikes, bikes, off-the-beaten-track itineraries. Get out of the city and instead spend a week touring special small towns, in a small group no less. Enjoy the elephant orphanage at Ithumba Camp in Kenya, have lunch with a KGB officer, admire the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, swim with a wild ray off Kailua-Kona on the Big Island… the experiences are out there. Get active!

Solo Travelers

Good news for solo adventurers! Solo travelers are getting their due – popping more on the radar of tour and cruise companies. We’re seeing solo supplements shrinking, as it gets less costly to travel on your own.

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Asia

Asia, always popular with our West Coast clients, is abuzz—with diving and cultural tours in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Japan, always a trend, is seeing a lot of intriguing culture-focused cruises around the country (already selling out fast!). We’ll definitely be seeing a rise of Japan travel, especially considering the Olympics 2020 in Tokyo is just around the corner.

Europe

Summer in Europe is already booking up – no surprise there! We’re seeing a lot of awesome small ship sailing around Croatia and the Adriatic Sea for folks with families. If the Mediterranean holds your heart, we’re seeing unusual itineraries off the usual Rome, Amalfi Coast and Venice — especially Sicily and Puglia (southern boot), both of which have been receiving a lot of press in the last year. Portugal is also back with a vengeance, extremely affordable for Europe, rich in culinary delights, hotels and sea views at a singular price. On the flip side, Scandinavia—despite its expensive reputation—is also seeing a resurgence of interest—in particular, Norway. Has Oslo, Copenhagen or Stockholm been on your bucket list for a while? Seeking out traces of your ancestors’ roots in the Scandic countryside? Don’t wait – plan your summer in Europe now!

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Africa

All of our clients who have been to East Africa talk of it as an experience “of a lifetime,” and WIT Owners Christina and John return every year for its incredible landscape, herds, and people. Sadly, we are getting more reports of dwindling elephant and rhino populations, and the future is uncertain for these graceful animals. We hope more see the immeasurable value of Africa before it’s too late.

Australia

Australia has definitely been on the up the past year, and this year will likely be no different. Clients are interested in exploring Australia in-depth, and its many curious corners, for a longer time period—it’s huge after all, nearly 3 million square miles—booking a month or longer.

 

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Asia with Avanti Destinations

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This is the time to book travel to Southeast Asia, for travel in November to March as the dry and temperate season rolls in, and the Chinese New Year seems to awake everyone up out of their wintry reverie.

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We’re excited to be working with Avanti Destinations as one of our reputable tour guides in Asia. Avanti makes it simple to book hotel, transport and tour packages with local guides, and their customizable itineraries just shave off the hassle of travel planning.

Let Willamette Intl Travel design Asian itinerary for you and your travel companions, complete with flights and a personalized package. Whether you need an affordable hotel package, or would like to build in some unique culinary or outdoor escapades, Avanti offers a hassle-free way to build it into your existing Asian itinerary.

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Want to leave it to the professionals? Avanti can take care of you from the moment you step off the plane to your last spectacular evening in Asia.

Or perhaps you like planning hotels on your own, but need a fun tour of downtown Ho Chi Minh and not sure where to start looking. Not sure how to make friends in the rice terraces of Sapa? Avanti’s got you covered:

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Thailand: Discover the “Land of Smiles” on the bustling streets of Bangkok, to the famous temples of Chiang Mai, to the achingly gorgeous beaches of Phuket.

China: As part of an Asian cruise, spend 1-3 nights post-cruise in Hong Kong exploring Kowloon. Or build in a stop at the ancient port city of Shanghai, now one of the most technologically advanced cosmopolises in the world.

Myanmar: Looking to explore the blooming country of Myanmar? Go back in time to a simpler Asia with Avanti’s Myanmar Essentials: Yangon, Bagan and Manadalay.

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Singapore: Explore Singapore Highlights, such as Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Majestic Gardens and Little India, experiencing a one-of-a-kind after dark wildlife safari adventure–on your way to connect to Bali.

Taiwan: Uncover the sleeping, hidden gems of Taiwan, its ornate temples, beautiful lakes and stays in the countryside.

River Cruises: Enjoy ancient waterways with a Mekong River Cruise, Halong Bay Cruise or Yangtze Upstream Cruise.

And Many More Destinations: Japan, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, etc. 

Our Agents at Willamette Intl Travel can design your Asian adventure from start to finish. Call us 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Asia, Avanti, Cambodia, China, Europe, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam

WIT Agent Abroad: Nancy in China with Alexander + Roberts (with insider tips!)

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Today WIT Agent Nancy is heading out to China with Alexander + Roberts! We’re excited to see what she’ll uncover.

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What is Alexander + Roberts?

A&R organizes small-group tours with no more than 16 guests for those who want to explore at their own pace with a bit of company. These are culturally rich itineraries led by local, certified guides, exploring the heart of a country at a steady, comfortable pace.

Many of our agents have traveled with A+R in different locales and would love to discuss options with you. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

For an itinerary in Japan with Alexander + Roberts, click here

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Highlights of the Middle Kingdom

Nancy’s upcoming 10-day itinerary combines land + river – covering Beijing, exploring the Wu Gorge and Three Gorges Dam aboard the Yangtze Explorer, Xi’an and Shanghai.

Among the highlights along the way:

  • Experience life as a city resident as you browse in a market for produce to bring to your hosts, a local Beijing family who will offer real personal insight into this rapidly evolving city.
  • Learn Tai Chi with a master as you join him for a private class at the Temple of Heaven.
  • A Xian resident shares his lifetime of experience as you explore with him through a city market filled with exotic fare.
  • + Sit down in one of Shanghai’s newly popular wine lounges and learn about China’s emerging taste for fine vintages… Enjoy a congenial luncheon and a glass of the house favorite.
  • + Includes 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Itinerary

BEIJING

With your expert guide, venture out into the mountains outside Juyong Pass to walk atop the breathtaking Great Wall. In Beijing, tour the grand palaces and pavilions of the Forbidden City.

You’ll start the day with a private Tai Chi lesson and learn about daily life in old China, then fly from Beijing to Yichang to board the Yangzi Explorer for a night in a balcony stateroom.

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YANGTZE EXPLORER

The leisurely cruise charts an upstream course along the Yangtze. Visit the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower dam. The ship journeys up Shennong Stream, where you might catch glimpses of sampan boats poled by Tujia boatmen and the elusive Golden Hair Monkey.

Explore Fengdu ‘s New City and take part in lectures and hands-on workshops in Chinese calligraphy, traditional brush painting, Mahjong and the art of dumpling making.

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XI’AN

Fly from Chongqing to Xi’an to admire China’s ancient capital for 13 centuries, its bustling Muslim market, and the world-famous terracotta army.

SHANGHAI

Lastly, fly to Shanghai for a tour of the lovely Yu Yuan Garden and a world-famous Shanghai acrobat show.

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HONG KONG EXTENSION – 4-Day POST TOUR

Experience facets of Hong Kong which few visitors ever glimpse. We include your flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, 3 nights at the 5-star Kowloon Shangri-La, daily breakfast, lunch at Jimmy’s Kitchen and our exclusive Be a Hong Kong Insider full-day tour.

Insider Tips on Travel to China

PLUS: Nancy’s got the scoop on insider tips from A+R! Some tips for traveling with A&R in China:

  • Joining in with tai chi? Pack some looser, clothes, perhaps layers. Barefoot is acceptable.
  • There is no tailor onboard the Explorer ship, so ask your tour escort early in Beijing in case you need some clothes repair.
  • Doing some independent wandering during free time from your hotel? Always get the hotel’s business card, written in Chinese, to show a taxi driver when you need to find your way back.
  • If you take USD cash to exchange, bring nothing bigger than $50 bills and in pristine condition. Best to bring mostly smaller bills.  Keep exchange receipts and don’t over-exchange so that you return home with local currency.
  • Silk scarves are very popular. You will be asked if you want “real” or “almost real”. If you don’t ask or are not asked, you will be directed to the least expensive ones, which are the fakes. Best deals for real silk scarves and also wool shawls is in Beijing. Ask your tour escort where to find the best!
  • A&R selects hotels partially for those that have money exchange ability. Some hotels don’t even charge A+R passengers to exchange money. 
  • Always ask the escort for their opinion on how much local currency you may need/want over the next few days.
  • Have a shopping list and ask your first guide for the best places to obtain the items during your itinerary. Follow his recommendations. They are spot on.

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Travel News: Florida Keys to Reopen to Tourism On October 1

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Florida Keys to Reopen to Tourism On October 1

After the damage the island chain sustained during the passage of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Keys have announced that they will be ready to welcome back tourists ahead of schedule, on October 1. Previously, tourism officials had estimated that the Florida Keys would be able to reopen by October 20, to coincide with the beginning of Key West’s Fantasy Fest. The destination was already able to welcome cruise ship calls this past weekend, however. At the same time, tourism officials caution that not all lodging, including RV resorts and other tourism facilities, are operating on a normal basis, and are advising visitors to call ahead to ensure that their hotels and favorite attractions are open.

Alaska and Singapore Team Up on Miles

Now you can earn reciprocal miles on both Alaska Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Passengers are now able to earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel on Singapore Airlines, and redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles for travel on Alaska Airlines. Singapore KrisFlyer is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Delta To Offer free In-Flight Messaging

Delta Air Lines announced today that it will be offering free access to in-flight internet for customers to access iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger on any flight with Gogo Wi-Fi starting October 1st but there is a catch. When the company says “messaging,” they mean “text messaging” so no pictures, videos, GIFs, or audio messages allowed. Delta used to price in-flight messaging starting at $2.95 (prices varied depending on your flight), the new service is a nice addition. If you’re willing to pay for the full Wi-Fi pass, you’ll be able to send the full range of telecommunication messages.

Netflix In-Flight Streaming To Be Made Available For Aircraft

Netflix’s in-flight streaming is available through a few carriers around the world, but it’s far from a staple of air travel. More often than not, technological limitations will force you to download that new show before you leave home. It could be far more common going forward, though. Netflix is launching an initiative that will use its mobile device encoding technology to make Netflix accessible on aircraft that don’t always have the luxury of fast satellite internet access. Mobile encoding uses far less bandwidth than what you get on the desktop. A “DVD quality” stream uses just 250 Kbps, for instance. it’s good enough for a seat-back display or a tablet and importantly, it won’t clog an aircraft’s WiFi network. You’d still need a reasonably fast connection to serve a large volume of passengers, but it beats having to limit access to just a few people or none at all. Partnerships with airlines should kick off sometime in early 2018. Netflix isn’t naming specific airlines, but it’s safe to say that this opens the door to carriers that couldn’t even consider the idea before.

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Hawaiian Airlines To Partner With Japan Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines and Oneworld member Japan Airlines yesterday signed a comprehensive new partnership agreement that will greatly enhance the ease and comfort of travel for passengers traveling between the two island chains. The agreement between Hawaiian Airlines and Japan Airlines, signed at a ceremony in Tokyo, takes effect March 25, 2018 (subject to government approval). The agreement provides for extensive code sharing, lounge access, and frequent flyer program reciprocity. As part of this comprehensive partnership, the two carriers also intend to establish a joint venture designed to provide even more choices, convenience and enhancements to the traveling public to/from Japan and beyond to multiple Asian markets. JAL guests will have unlimited access to Hawaiian’s vast neighbor island and Japan-Hawai’i network, including non-stop flights between Sapporo and Honolulu.

Silversea Announces Refurbishments Of Two Cruise Ships, Silver Muse and Silver Whisper; also Lengthen Silver Spirit

Continuing plans to upgrade the fleet to the same standards as its newest ships, Silversea has scheduled a refurb for two of its vessels, Silver Wind and Silver Whisper. The dry dock for the ships is scheduled for December, the line said in a press release. The changes are part of the “Muse-ization” of the line, where refurbs draw inspiration from Silversea’s flagship, Silver Muse, which debuted earlier this year. Silver Whisper will have a “significant redesign” of its public areas. The decor was inspired by Silver Muse in the upgraded areas, which will include La Terrazza, the Observation Lounge and Panorama Lounge. Silver Wind will have similar upgrades also drawn from Silver Muse, the line said. Among them will be new chairs and carpets in the casino and floor upgrades in the spa and salon.

Silversea will also give Silver Spirit a dramatic makeover next March when it lengthens the ship by 49 feet. The work will be done by the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo. Silver Spirit will be cut open and a prebuilt midsection dropped in and attached. The new real estate will contain 26 Veranda Suites, six Silver Suites and two Panorama Suites. Other upgrades will be inspired by the cruise line’s newest flagship, Silver Muse, including new dining venues and decor in suites and public areas indoors and out. Technical upgrades will also be made. The 540-passenger Silver Spirit debuted in 2009, and was then considered the line’s largest and most modern ship. It currently boasts multiple dining venues, including a supper club, Relais & Chateaux restaurant and sushi venue, and all oceanview (most with balcony) suites with butler service.

NCL Shifts All Eastern Caribbean Routes To Western Through End Of Year

Cruise Critic reports Norwegian Cruise Line is shifting its eastern Caribbean cruises to the western Caribbean through year’s end in light of damage to destinations from hurricanes Irma and Maria. Earlier, the line had changed the routes up until November. For example, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Getaway cruises from Miami will visit Roatán in Honduras, Harvest Caye in Belize and Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico. On an alternative route, Norwegian Escape will call at Falmouth in Jamaica, Grand Cayman’s Georgetown, Cozumel and the line’s private Bahamian island, Great Stirrup Cay. Norwegian ports that were badly impacted include Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and St. Maarten. The line said it’s currently assessing any potential damages in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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