Category Archives: Thailand

WIT Agent in Thailand: Part 1, Bangkok & Ayutthaya

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WIT Travel Agent Lindsay went on a FAM trip to Thailand last month, in order to inspect various accommodations, tour guides, and tours. WIT only works with tour providers who offer the highest quality of service. Here is Lindsay’s report, Part 1. 

Call us to arrange your own unique tour to Thailand! 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Photos from Lindsay’s Trip to Thailand

First Day

Our driver picked us up in mercifully air-conditioned vans, complete with leather seats and even a Nespresso machine. Our first stop was a restaurant by the river, where we dangled our feet over the water. We filled our bellies with a gigantic bowl of noodles, and a dozen small dishes served family-style. Still recovering from jet lag, my stomach wasn’t quite ready for Thai food–but the chicken satay and soup proved delicious and flavorful.

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Our hotel, Sala Ayutthaya, was just a few doors down from the restaurant. The staff greeted us with elegant flower pieces and butterfly pea tea, a sweet, vibrantly purple drink. Rooms here were open concept, with glass walls that divided the bathroom from the bedroom, and a bathtub enclosed with the shower.

That first day, we tried our hands on a local treat that was like a pancake wrapped around Thai version of cotton candy. I was quickly learning how much Thailand loves their sweets! We also learned to make fish mobiles from bamboo, before sitting down for the evening welcome meal, complete with delicate dancers.

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Rice Farm Tour

The next day, we started with a tour of a local organic rice farm, quite unique in that it was both organic and grew rose-colored grains. We learned about the history of rice farming, as well as the actual practice of growing rice. After the farm, we enjoyed a light meal of traditional Thai dishes–including succulent, freshly grilled river prawns–and after that, it was time to explore the ruins of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand for 400 years.

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Bangkok

Next, it was off to Bangkok for a couple different river cruises. Our first stop was at Baan Dvara Prateeip, to a meditation retreat in Koh Kret, where we learned about meditation and traditional Thai flower arrangement techniques. Lunch was delicious and interactive, we learned to cook noodles and had a wide variety of Thai dishes and sweets. The second half of the river cruise included a Thai massage, before we finally arrived at Avani Riverside hotel, with its endless river views from each room. The rooftop bar had spectacular view of the night market across the street, a Ferris wheel and food carts. Our dinner was an international buffet at the Anatara resort: delicious grilled seafood, sushi, Mac and cheese for home’s sake and of course Thai dishes as well. They truly make you feel welcome here, with nightly dance performances (they even invite guests up to join them).

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Tune in Next Time, Lindsay’s Trip to Thailand, Part 2!

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Filed under Asia, Thailand

WIT Agent in Thailand

WIT Agent Lindsay recently went on an investigative trip through Thailand. And she brought back her photos that we’d like to share with you post-holiday.

Tune in next time when we’ll hear her full report!

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Street food market in Yodse area

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24hour flower market

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Reclining Buddha at Wat Po (short name for full name, also known as Temple of the Reclining Buddha), next to Grand Palace

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Sitting Buddha from Wat Kanlayanamitr

Just wanted to let you know I made it safely and the welcome dinner was so beautiful. Dancers, music, activities, beautiful dishes and such lovely people. The farmer’s house was so special and they were very welcoming. It has been a great first day. Ayutthaya is very relaxed and peaceful right on the river. Looking forward to seeing the contrast of Bangkok!

More about Thailand on our Blog: 

Shopping in Thailand

Mekong Cruise

Ayutthaya

Mekhala Cruise on the Chao Praya

Thailand with Vexplore

Reading List: Thailand

Chinese New Year

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Filed under Asia, Thailand, Travel by Holiday, Travel by Taste

3 Cool Places to Take the Kids Over Winter

As most tried and true families know, winter doesn’t just mean bundling up and curling up by the fire. Sometimes you want to hit the ski slopes! Here are just a few ideas of cool winter fun to take the kids over the holidays.

Family Ski Vacations – Club Med

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Club Med is usually associated with its awesome beach resorts in the Caribbean. But there are several top-of-the-line ski lodges as well. An all-inclusive ski vacation can be just what you need to pack it all in one package: ski lessons, entertainment, guides, meals, childcare—all included in a roasty-toasty chalet in the French Alps. Club Med offers 18 locations in France, Italy and Switzerland for the little ones to try out their ski legs – so you can relax and focus on making memories. There is Val Thorens Sensations, a must for the ski fanatic; Peisey-Vallandry, a charming chalet with classic Savoy architecture. Their newest resort, Les Arcs Panorama, will open December 2018 and will offer cross-country and downhill skiing alike, plus a heated swimming pool and a Children’s Club.

Japan for Kids

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With loads of attractions, quirky shops and street festivals, Japan can be a real treat for kids. Blow their minds with the awesome view from the Skytree, the city’s highest observation deck at 1476 foot. The Akihabara district is a Mecca for anime-fans, while Asakusa Temple will transport you to the old Edo period. Robot-themed restaurants, ninja school, novelty capsule machines — what’s not to love? Brush up on their Hayao Miyazaki film trivia at the Ghibli Museum, or if they get bored, try out fun foods like okonomiyaki (“Japanese pizza”), dessert crepes, tempura and fish-shaped waffles. If all else fails, there’s always Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea.

Thailand with Kids

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With its affordable prices, colorful landscapes and tons of adventures to be had, Thailand is great for families! Show them around temples in Bangkok, gorge on funky fruit you just can’t find at home, or hit the beaches at Phuket. They might not be ready for Thai spice, but start them off slow with something universal like Pad Thai or Pad See Ew or banana pancakes. I bet you anything they’ll get addicted to mango sticky rice! The best part about Thailand is that the dollar goes a long way. For a family of 4 in the touristy areas, you’ll spend around $40 per night—less in the countryside or mountains. In Phuket, Krabi or Koh Phi Phi, kids can try out sea kayaking, snorkeling, elephant trekking. Hint: If you can, try to save Bangkok for last. The hubbub of this wild town can be a bit dramatic for young kids not used to the fast pace. Start off with a few days in Krabi or Phuket, then head up north to Chiang Mai before capping off your trip with Bangkok.

We’ve booked countless families on adventures abroad. What are you waiting for? Just go! 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Asia, Europe, France, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Thailand

Sail the Mekong with the Brand-New Emerald Waterways Harmony

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If you love Emerald Waterways, here’s your chance to join their brand-new river cruise ship on the Mekong River.

The 84-passenger Emerald Harmony, will sail the Mekong River in 2019.

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Emerald Harmony will have many of the features of the line’s European “star ships,” including:

  • Panorama Balcony suites with drop-down windows
  • Asian design touches
  • Horizon Bar & Lounge will be Asian-themed
  • the ship’s main dining venue, Reflections Restaurant, will serve a locally-inspired menu.

One standout feature of the ship is that it will be built to allow access to the center of Ho Chi Minh City, so passengers can embark there as opposed to a dock outside of the city. Emerald Waterways has been sailing on the Mekong since 2014, with a chartered vessel, Mekong Navigator.

Emerald Harmony will be the first time that the company has put a “star ship” style ship outside Europe.

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Itineraries

Beginning August 2019, Emerald Harmony will sail three itineraries in Vietnam and Cambodia:

a 13-Day Majestic Mekong River Cruise – cruise tour sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, with time for Angkor Wat; 

Your journey begins in Siem Reap, where early mornings and ancient architecture promise to be the perfect combination. Angkor Wat is sure to fascinate, as is Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Then your journey along the majestic Mekong introduces Phnom Penh, invites you to a family-owned silk-producing factory and to attend a scarfweaving workshop in Long Khanh Island. Continue onwards before leaving your Star-Ship at the center of Ho Chi Minh City for a two-night stay in a 5-star colonial-style hotel.

a 17-Day Treasures & Temples of Vietnam & Cambodia: that adds stops at Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north;

Begin your adventure in Hanoi, where centuries-old architecture is a wonderful nod to the past and the Old Quarter strikes a fine contrast with its many temples. Cruise the emerald waters of Halong Bay in a traditional junk boat, learn of Ho Chi Minh City’s fascinating war history and embark on a once-in-a-lifetime river cruise along the Mekong. Enjoy tuk-tuk and ox cart tours in Phnom Penh and finish your adventure in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, where you’ll witness Angkor Wat and attend a circus performance.

and a 21-Day Grand Tour of Vietnam & Cambodia that encompasses all of the above, plus Hoi An and Hue.

Hanoi’s labyrinth of streets is filled with food stalls and markets. Journey to Halong Bay and embark on a traditional junk boat as you sail its ethereal waters, and drive through Da Nang before crossing the Pass of Ocean Clouds. Discover Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi Tunnels, before meeting your Star-Ship and sailing the Mekong, stopping off in My Tho, Sa Dec and Phnom Penh. Conclude your trip with three nights in Siem Reap, attending the Phare Cambodian Circus and visiting the historic Angkor Wat.

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Inclusions

Fares for Emerald Harmony will have the same inclusions as other Emerald Waterways ships:
  • transfers,
  • port charges,
  • meals,
  • unlimited wine and beer with lunch and dinner,
  • bottled water in the cabins,
  • complimentary Wi-Fi,
  • at least one shore excursion in every port and
  • all onboard and excursion gratuities.
  • During the cruise tour portion of the trips, hotel, internal flights and transfers are also included.

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Filed under Asia, Cambodia, Cruises, emerald waterways, Thailand, Travel by Ship, Vietnam, Vietnam

Shopping in Thailand

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Thailand is many things—a beachfront resort, a major tourist attraction, the home of beautiful elephants—but one of the best sights its known for are its markets. The whole of southeast Asia is a great place to pick up quality souvenirs and tacky knick-knacks alike, but it’s Thailand—with its night markets, floating markets, outdoor malls and waterside shopping centers—where you can truly say you’re in a shopper’s paradise.

Our agents can organize an unforgettable trip for you and your friends or family to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the country’s two main shopping hubs. Follow one of our guides to the JJ Market (aka Chatuchak Weekend Market), a gigantic bazaar that covers 35 acres! Here you can pick up some gorgeous Thai silk, Celadon ceramics, teak wooden crafts—or fun, eclectic items like vinyl records or suits of armor. At Asiatique Night Bazaar, a waterside trade port-turned-outdoor-mall, you can browse over 1500 different boutiques while you snack on ice cream. Wander an after-dark mall like Rot Fai or one of the famous floating markets like Taling Chan, just 12 km from downtown Bangkok.

One of our clients, Dave H., lived in Thailand for 4 years and says that if you’re ever in the country, to check out these places:

Venus Thailand, Bangkok

Jewelry store that is honest and fairly priced. They’ve catered to expat and embassy staff for years and strive to do their best and keep their excellent reputation.

Sop Moei Arts, Bangkok and Chiang Mai

A 30-year-old nonprofit where you’ll find excellent silks, woven baskets and other crafts.

Mengrai Kilns, Chiang Mai

Famed for its fair-priced celadon, with colors of blue, green, turquoise and rare purple.

We at Willamette Intl Travel have a few knowledgeable vendors in Southeast Asia who organize trips, guided and independent, for our travelers. Whether you’re into traditional cooking or overnight hiking or just splurging on shopping, we can point you in the right direction! Call our travel experts to plan your trip today!

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Filed under Asia, News, Thailand

Explore China with Wild China

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Wild China is an exceptional travel company that offers amazing trips of a lifetime in China and southeast Asia. Over the years, Wild China has received numerous awards, including NatGeo’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime and Travel + Leisure’s Trips of a Lifetime. It has also been named one of NatGeo’s Best Adventure Travel Companies (On Earth).

Wild China was conceived by founder and Yunnan local Mei Zhang during a 56km pilgrimage in the Himalayas. During her grueling hike, she had no guide, lodgings or transport. Her challenges inspired her to pioneer a service for other travelers to enjoy China’s stunning cultural and natural landmarks with expertise and comfort.

For those exploring China for the first time, their escorted itineraries take guests to Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and other familiar marks on the map. Experience China with an experience team of travel professionals, with just your family or in a small group of 12 like-minded individuals.

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For seasoned travelers, Wild China offers personalized adventures in unique locations, such as the rugged Xinjiang Province or the Tibetan Plateau. Their team of expert adventurers will take you on unforgettable journey through the rich landscape that is East Asia.

Trips are offered as private tours (fully flexible) or small group tours (with scheduled departures). They also lead education tours designed to empower young people to make a difference in local communities.

Upcoming Trips Include: 

4-Day Beijing’s Past & Future

5-Day Escape to Lhasa

10-Day Ancient Tea and Horse Road with adventurer Jeff Fuchs

13-Day Gastronomic Tour of China with food writer Fuchsia Dunlop

and many more!

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Call your agent at Wittravel to learn more about these awesome trips—503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Asia, Bhutan, China, India, Thailand, Tibet

Agent Trip to Thailand/Laos: Part Four — Mekong Cruise

Last month, WIT Agent Wailana traveled with our preferred vendor Vexplore Tours through Thailand and Laos. This month we are posting sections from her journal–read on for her insider tips!

In case you missed Part Three on Luang Prabang, click here to read it.

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Mekong Sun

The next morning we embarked and sailed north of Luang Prabang on the Mekong River. This river cruise was truly a unique experience.

Our ship, the Mekong Sun, was a midsize riverboat with 16 crew and 14 cabins. The Sun typically sails 3, 6, or 8 days from Luang Prabang, though there is the impressive 10-day to Chiang Saen or 12-day to Vientiane cruises.

The ship moves at a leisurely pace, so that you might hardly notice the current at all. Like all water traffic on the Mekong, the Sun does not travel during the night due to riparian flotsam and jetsam. Breakfast is Western, lunch is Western/Asian mix buffet, Asian set meals for dinner with some limited choices for drinks. If you’re brave, try lao lao—distilled Lao moonshine served in shot glasses—or any of the delicious South American or French wines.

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lao lao jars

While I was onboard, passengers were a mix of Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Americans, Thai, and one journalist from Hong Kong. There’s ample space onboard—you never feel too crowded with an open-air sun deck and a shaded dining area—however, there’s no A/C anywhere except in the cabins, so travelers during the humid months (summertime) be aware!

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Pak Ou Caves

Three days on the Mekong is a good amount of time—the first night is docked at Luang Prabang, followed by a morning food market visit and afternoon sail up to the Pak Ou Caves. On the third day, passengers can visit a few villages along the riverside and top it all off with a splendid BBQ dinner on a sandy beach.

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Kids at play between school

The marvelous cruise director Ben leads the shore excursions to the villages and serves as a facilitator between the crew and the passengers. He even shares meals with the guests and one evening on the cruise he does an hour presentation on Lao culture and history.

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off to school in the morning

I think the ship would have benefitted with a bit more on-ship activities in the lazy afternoons—tai chi or yoga for example. One afternoon the chef did hold a cooking demonstration on Lao cuisine.

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children reading the side of a temple

The Mekong Sun – Just the Facts, Sir

  • Built in Laos in 2006
    • 2 decks with 11 classic cabins on the main deck (12 m²/129 sq ft), all facing out onto the water and with wide sliding windows with a French balcony providing a fantastic view of the passing landscapes
    • 3 superior cabins, one in the bow of the main deck (16 m²/172 sq ft), two on the upper deck (18 m²/194 sq ft). The two cabins on the upper deck have their own small private balcony; the one in the bow has a superb panoramic view to the front
    • All cabins with en-suite shower/WC and air-conditioning
    • Large sun deck with bar service and restaurant/bar area
    • All guided offshore excursions and meals are included
  • Catamaran, two steel hulls, two decks, with teak and mahogany superstructure
    • Weight: approx. 100 tons
    • Length: 40 m
    • Width: 7,5 m (at its widest part)
    • Depth: approx. 0,9 m
    • Two diesel motors with 550 hp each
    • Fire alarm
    • Crew: 16
    • Construction completed in 2006

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Filed under Asia, Cruises, Laos, Thailand, Travel by Ship, Vendors, VOTM, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?