Category Archives: Asia
Looking to Step off the Beaten Track in Vietnam?
Think you know Thailand? Think again!
Always wanted to explore inner Myanmar?
VExplore Tours is one tour company that we highly recommend for unique itineraries in Southeast Asia. Discover a world beyond stuffy museums and explore terraced paddies, ancient stupas and hidden rainforests that are usually unknown to the avereage tourist.
VExplore guides seek to open up new roads to travelers, so they “don’t just visit – they explore and experience.” Here are some unique itineraries that delve deeper into the heart and soul of Southeast Asia:
Discover the Central Highlands of Vietnam
11 Days / 10 Nights – Saigon – Pleiku – KonTum – Buon Me Thuoc – Danang – Hoi An
For travelers who want an overview of Vietnam’s countryside
Step off the beaten track into Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Traverse splendid tea, rice and rubber plantations and encounter unique ethnic tribal groups exhibiting their traditional lifestyle through their work, ancient ceremonies and rituals. Immerse yourself in the serene and lush landscape of picturesque waterfalls, lakes, rivers, emerald mountains and the bucolic setting of lakeside minority groups.
From $1958 per person, includes: private roundtrip airport transfers, local English-speaking guide, 8 full days sightseeing tour with admission fees, 10 buffet breakfasts, 7 lunches and 2 special dinners, 10 nights superior hotel accommodation
A Photography Expedition in Northwest Vietnam
12 Days / 11 Nights – Mai Chau – Moc Chau – Nghia Lo – Tu Le – Mu Cang Chai – Fanxipan Mountain – Sapa
For travelers who are photography enthusiasts or professional photographers
Trek deep into NW Vietnam to capture breathtaking panoramic images of stunning emerald terraced paddies, spectacular mountain passes, scenic valleys and crystal clear mountain streams. Photograph timeless village life, lively local markets – Vietnam is a photographer’s paradise.
From $2219 per person, includes: private roundtrip airport transfers, local English-speaking guide, 11 full days sightseeing tour with admission fees, 11 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 nights superior hotel and 3 nights homestay
Island-Hopping in Southern Thailand
8 Days / 7 Nights – Phuket – Koh Yao Yai – Krabi OR Koh Samui – Koh Tao – Koh Phangan
For beach lovers and watersports enthusiasts
Thailand’s tropical islands are renowned for their idyllic and exotic beaches, top diving areas, laid-back vibe and scores of water activities. Discover prehistoric worlds of hidden sea caves, recline on pristine sandy beaches, kayak through secluded coves and sample succulent seafood.
From $1169 per person, includes: private roundtrip airport transfer, joining speedboat transfer islands-hotels, one day sightseeing tour, buffet breakfasts and 7 nights superior hotel accommodation
Secret Adventures of Thailand
9 Days / 8 Nights – Bangkok – Khao Sok Elephant Hill – Cheow Larn Lake – Khao Lak
For travelers looking to get off the beaten track in Thailand to explore the country’s beautiful rainforests
A remarkable opportunity to explore rare primordial rainforests and bond with elephants at the eco-friendly Elephant Sanctuary.
From $1868 per person, includes: private roundtrip airport transfer, local English-speaking guide, 6 full days sightseeing tour including admission, 8 buffet breakfasts, 5 lunches and 2 special dinners, 6 nights superior hotel accommodation, 2 nights Luxury Tented Camp.
Myanmar, The Golden Land and Ayeyarwady River
11 Days / 10 Nights, Yangon – Mandalay – Ayeyarwady River – Mingun – Sagaing – Bagan – Kalawa – Inle Lake
For travelers who step back in time to explore Southeast Asia’s last undeveloped frontier.
The mysterious land of Myanmar showcases its rivers, lakes, magnificent ancient stupas, monasteries, one-legged rowing fishermen, village life, extraordinary markets and the holiest sights in magical Myanmar.
From $2588 per person, includes private roundtrip airport transfer, local English-speaking guide, 10 full days sightseeing tour including admission, 10 buffet breakfasts, 9 lunches and 2 special dinners, 8 nights superior hotel accommodation, 2 nights onboard Ayeyarwady River Cruise.
A Tapestry of Adventure in Northern Laos
14 Days / 13 Nights, Golden Triangle – Houeyxay – Nam Kan National Park – Mekong River – Pakbeng – Oudomxay – Muang La – Nong Khiaw – The 100 Waterfalls – Pak Ou Cave – Luang Prabang
For travelers who love adventure and heading off the beaten track.
Relish the adventure of exciting river trips and nature at its most exotic. Trekking and gliding through pristine forests, you will experience wildlife encounters in Black Gibbon territory and find yoruself overnight in an amazing treehouse high up in the jungle canopy. As you venture from the Thai Golden Triangle into the lush and remote mountainous areas of Northern Laos you will encounter intriguing local hill tribes and find there is no experience like this anywhere in the world.
From $3868 per person, includes private roundtrip airport transfer, local English-speaking guide, 12 full days private tour including admission, 13 buffet breakfasts, 10 lunches and 2 dinners, 30 nights superior hotel accommodation.
Our longtime friend Amy Osaki of Art Tours by Amy is guiding a trip to the little-known side of Japan. She usually leads only one or two art tours each year.
This November, explore Japanese art through iconic castles, monasteries, museums, and gardens. Step back in time and visit the home of a famous garden designer, remote art islands in the Seto Inland Sea, and discover the 1100-year-old Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.
Ask our WIT travel agents for more information or to secure your spot on this marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime tour. Space on this special trip is limited, but a deposit will guarantee your reservation. 503-224-0180 or email email@example.com.
Amy studied art at the Louvre Museum in Paris, holds a master’s degree from Winterthur Museum, and worked as a museum professional for over a decade including six years at the Portland Art Museum. She has led art trips to Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Barcelona, Budapest, Krakow, Peru, Japan and Russia for the past sixteen years.
Japan Heritage: Art, History & Gardens
Dates: November 3-12, 2018
Arrive in Kyoto and depart from Takamatsu. Your travel agent will be happy to organize your flights in and out of Tokyo.
Day 1 – Kyoto: Nijo Castle, Ryukoku Museum, Nishi Hongwanji
Visit the palaces and the gardens of the Nijo Castle World Heritage Site built in 1601 for the Tokugawa shogun. At the Ryukoku Museum and Nishi Hongwanji, step further back in time and learn about the birth of the Buddha 2,500 years ago in India and the spread of Buddhism to Japan 1,000 years later.
Day 2 – Kyoto: Kyoto National Museum, Kawai Kanjiro
Today is a visit to the iconic Kyoto National Museum was established in 1897 as one of three national museums founded to preserve traditional culture, antiquities, temples and shrines. In addition, visit the museum’s new wing designed by architect Yoshi Taniguchi (who also designed the MOMA in New York). After lunch, proceed to the private home of Kawai Kanjiro, a ceramic artist who led a movement known as “mingei” whose aim was to perpetuate traditional Japanese folk arts at risk of disappearing due to the rapid modernization. Preserved by his family, the home exhibits over four decades of his art as well as the kiln (one of only 4 surviving in Kyoto) used by Kanjiro and other artists to fire their work.
Day 3 – Himeji Castle
After breakfast, travel via high-speed train (shinkansen) to Himeji town. Spend the day exploring Himeji castle built in 1609 and the best preserved of the feudal castles in Japan. Traverse the moat, pass through the gate, follow stone paths, and if you wish, climb the many flights of stairs to the summit of the inner keep of the castle where you can gaze out over the town.
Day 4 – Kyoto: Tofukuji Temple and Mirei Shigemori Garden Museum
Tofukuji, a temple built in 1236, is known for its spectacular display of fall foliage. Less well known are the four gardens at the head priest’s residence designed by Mirei Shigemori. In 50 years, Shigemori designed more than 180 gardens in Japan and worked with Isamu Noguchi on the UNESCO garden in Paris. We will visit the temple and gardens at Tofukuji, and in the afternoon Shigemori’s home and private garden. Shigemori described the melding of the classical and contemporary in garden design as “eternal modern” and his descendants have preserved his home and garden as a museum.
Day 5 – Teshima and Benesse House
Depart Kyoto and travel by train and bus to Uno port where you’ll board a ferry to Teshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea. In 2010, a new program on Teshima Island opened as the Teshima Art Museum designed by architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito. The result is the “successful integration of art, architecture, and nature.” Continue to Christian Boltanski’s seaside art installation of Archives du Coeur which also opened in 2010. In the afternoon, journey by boat from Teshima to Naoshima where you’ll enjoy a two-night stay at the Benesse House Park Hotel designed by Tadao Ando. After dinner, you may visit the Benesse House Museum which is open to hotel guests until 11pm. In addition, enjoy over forty artworks in the hotel and on the grounds of the hotel and the museum.
Day 6 – Inujima and Benesse House
This morning, journey by boat from Naoshima to Inujima to experience another contemporary art project by Benesse House. Opened to the public in 2008, the Seirensho Museum on Inujima was created by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi and artist Yukinori Yanagi. Explore five art houses in Inujima village, a project led by architect Kazuyo Sejima and art director Yuko Hasegawa. Revel in the tranquility of the village and contemplate the industrial legacy and subsequent rebirth of this remote island.
Day 7 – Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art
Depart Naoshima by boat and travel to Uno port. Here, board a private bus for the journey north. Stop at the innovative Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art described by the New York Times as “more startlingly original than any built by a major city in recent years.” Conceived and designed by Arata Isozaki (who also designed the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles), this innovative museum is a delight and a splendid example of site-specific contemporary art. After lunch and the museum visit, continue north to Matsue, a city near the coast of the Sea of Japan.
Day 8 – Adachi Museum, Lafcadio Hearn Museum, Matsue Castle
Travel by private bus to the Adachi Museum. Created by Zenko Adachi, the museum melds its art collection with its garden. Adachi designed the gardens to be viewed simultaneously with the paintings and strived for the viewer to be “moved by beauty.” Adachi said, “The garden is, so to speak, a picture scroll.” You can take a virtual step into the gardens thanks to the Google Art Project. The Adachi Museum also exhibits a collection of ceramics by Kawai Kanjiro. Return to Matsue and continue the journey into 19th century Japan with a visit to the home and museum of Lafcadio Hearn. Hearn arrived in Japan in 1890 on assignment for Harper’s Monthly magazine. In Matsue, he married Setsu Koizumi in 1896 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen. He wrote 30 books celebrating the beauty and mystery of old Japan. Afterwards, tour Matsue Castle before returning to our hotel. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.
Day 9 – Ohara Museum of Art
Depart Matsue by private bus and journey south to the Ohara Museum of Art in Kurashiki near the city of Okayama. Opened in 1930, the Ohara Museum was the first museum in Japan to exhibit western art. Works by Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, and Calder fill the galleries. Some, including Waterlilies by Claude Monet, were purchased directly from the artist in the 1920s. Ohara’s son expanded the collection to include Japanese craft including ceramics by Kawai Kanjiro and Bernard Leach who was a British potter and leader with Kanjiro in the “mingei” movement to preserve traditional Japanese folk art. After lunch, cross the Inland Sea via the Seto Ohashi (bridge) and arrive on the island of Shikoku.
Day 10 – 88 Temple Pilgrimage
Today we’ll experience a portion of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, a route closely associated with his life. Travel by bus from Takamatsu to visit five temples and learn about the pilgrims (known as henro in Japanese) who travel from all over Japan and the world to undertake the pilgrimage. Zentsuji (Temple 75) is often said to be the place where Kobo Daishi was born in the year 774. Consider purchasing a temple stamp book (called a nokyocho). At each temple office, you can have someone stamp your book with the vermilion stamps bearing the temple’s name. Then, using a calligraphy brush, symbols representing the main deity of the temple are handwritten in your book. You can acquire a blank book that you can use for any temple in Japan or a special book made specifically for the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Perhaps you will return someday to complete the entire route! Return to Takamastu for a farewell dinner and overnight.
- 10 nights of lodging in Western-style hotels/inns
- 2-3 Japanese-Style meals per day -> 10 B, 10 L, 7 D.
- Price: $6,650
- Single Room: $500
- Access to museums and attractions,
- admission to all sites,
- all ground transportation,
- expert insights into the art and culture of Japan provided by your trip leader and local experts.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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!
Wit Blogger Wailana is currently in Bali, Indonesia over the winter holidays.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Frequent flights from PDX to Singapore and onward to Bali, Indonesia. To speak to one of our travel consultants, email email@example.com.
More Reading on Indonesia:
We asked our agents the upcoming travel trends they see in the coming year. Here are their Top Predictions for 2018:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 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.