Category Archives: Vietnam

Asia with Avanti Destinations

travels in asia

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.

scenery-2846777_640

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.

victoria-bay-2904283_640

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:

ancient-1822502_640

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.

hoi-an-2919621_640

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. 

Leave a comment

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

“The Quiet American” and Other Classics of Southeast Asia

ocean

By Wailana Kalama

Bangkok overtook London last year as the world’s second most popular travel destination!

If you’re joining fellow travelers and heading to Southeast Asia, you’ll need some reading for the plane. Step into these books and understand just a little bit more about what makes this region tick.

Graham Greene, The Quiet American. Travel writer Pico Iyer has long proclaimed a long affinity with Greene: “who, almost in spite of himself, taught me and so many others how to move around the world and even how to hazard trust.” Greene’s most famous novel centers around the relationship between the cynical Brit, Fowler, and the idealist American, Pyle. This book is a fictional essay on the moral ambiguity of love and war, and the impossibility of neutrality. My Favorite Quote: “Innocence is a kind of insanity.”

Aung San Suu Kyi & Alan Clements, The Voice of Hope. An icon of peace and optimism in a corrupted society, Kyi rose to headlines when her country Myanmar opened its borders in 2010. This biography takes the reader directly into the heart of Myanmar and Kyi’s struggle, her optimism, and unfailing commitment to her beliefs. My Favorite Quote: “Saints are sinners who go on trying.”

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.

–Aung San Suu Kyi

George Orwell, Burmese Days. I always enjoy reading Orwell, ever-sensitive to the plights of common men. Drawing from his experience as a police officer in 1920s Burma, Orwell’s novel addresses bigotry, racism, and imperialism. My Favorite Quote: “There is nothing like an earthquake for drawing people together. One more tremor, or perhaps two, and they would have asked the butler to sit down at table with them.”

Marguerite Duras, The Lover. Believe it or not, but Duras’ The Lover was the subject of my bachelor’s thesis. A non-traditional spin on a time-honored story, this short book follows an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. It’s all about colonialism, feminine writing, marginalized people, and–if you believe my thesis abstract–a bit of Saïd’s Orientalism thrown in there as well. A chaotic, instinctual and dreamy read. My Favorite Quote: “Very early in my life it was too late.”

Read our earlier post on WIT Agent Nancy’s favorite books to take with you on a trip to Southeast Asia.

Heading to Southeast Asia in 2017? Give us a call! We have the know-how and the connections to land you a trip of a lifetime! call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

xgxqkw-urkc-annie-spratt.jpg

1 Comment

Filed under Asia, Cambodia, Europe, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam

Christmas in Asia

ggbgpfbjbgy-tim-mossholder

Christmas is a widespread holiday, celebrated in countries all over the world. Did you know that it’s a popular holiday even in the Far East?

Though many people don’t associate Christmas with Asia, this holiday is celebrated all the way from Japan to the Philippines. Depending on where you go, it can be a religious holiday or a secular time with family and friends.

In Japan, Christmas is widely popular as a holiday for friends or lovers. Cities decorate their streets and halls with Christmas trees and illuminations, and pipe out Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on the radio. Japanese people may eat Christmas cake, a sponge cake with whipped cream and fruit toppings. December 25 is a romantic holiday, with many Japanese preferring to spend a romantic day with their significant other.

wzecrmjohkq-alisa-anton

In Hong Kong, locals go all out with a festive Christmas. December 25 is an official holiday in Hong Kong, and the city dresses up in massive Christmas Trees, German-style Christmas markets and beautiful light shows. The ballet does a yearly Nutcracker that is a delight. You can get your photo with Santa, known in Hong Kong as Lan Khoong or Dun Che Lao Ren.

In China, the New Year usually overshadows Christmas as the most important holiday. Still, many Chinese people like to get into the holiday spirit just for fun. Children can get their photos with Santa (known as “聖誕老人 shèngdànlǎorén”) at department stores, and people give out cellophane-wrapped Christmas apples as gifts.

b-2c667kt9o-joanna-kosinska

In Korea, where 30% of the population is Christian, Christmas is a holiday for families and lovers. This official official holiday is a time for families to get together and eat traditional dishes like barbecued beef, kimchi and rice cake soup. Santa Haraboji is a traditionally dressed grandfather with a top hat (gat) and blue robe, who hands out gifts to children. Like Japan, it can also double as a romantic night with your significant other!

In the Philippines, thanks to Spanish influence, Christmas is a huge holiday. Filipinos decorate their homes with candles, lights and wreaths, and dress up a bamboo pole with a lighted star. Christmas Eve is a big deal—people don’t generally sleep this night, instead they hold the Feast of Noche Buena, which begins after midnight. The dinner consists of delicious oxtail stew, stuffed chicken, pudding and sticky rice. Children line up in front of an elder family member, who passes out coins as gifts.

Vietnam also gets into the secular spirit with decorations and light shows all over Ho Chi Minh City. People throw confetti and eat out in fancy restaurants.

Next Week is Christmas! Where are you spending the holidays? Let us know in the comments!

a0azf4h5zzi-aaron-burden

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam

Vietnam: A Photographer’s Paradise

vietnam8

Vietnam is a gorgeous country, an absolute paradise for photographers. Several award-winning photographers are based in Vietnam these days: Ehrin Macksey, Réhahn, Quinn Ryan Mattingly, plus many more. Its landscapes and cities speak to the heart and the eye in an inviting and unflinching way.

Willamette Intl Travel is proud to have sent countless of our clients to discover Vietnam for themselves. We can arrange travel for you and your family with knowledgeable guides, on eye-opening trips to temples, rice paddies and old world streets. Plus, who can resist a cooking class for spicy spring rolls in Old Saigon? Call us to find out more: 503-224-0180. 

Feel free to flip through the photo album: 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more eye-candy:

A bilingual photobook, Huế – The City of Crying Stones, was published last week in Paris and features 200 bw and color photos of Huế, Vietnam’s capital in the years from 1802 to 1945.

Also, check this article out on local street photography in Hanoi.

Thinking about a Spring getaway to Vietnam? February and March are some of the best months to travel to this unique and flavorful country. In Fall, too: the mid-autumn festival Tet is one you’ll be talking about for years to come. Call us up for a chat! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

1 Comment

Filed under Asia, Europe, Vietnam, Vietnam

Emergency Case Study: Vietnam

This past weekend (Nov 9-11) Typhoon/Tropical Depression Haiyan passed from the East Sea (aka South China Sea) through Northeastern Vietnam and into mainland China. Many airports were forced to close and the cities of Danang and Hue had to manage without power. Some travelers were advised to evacuate, as in our case study below.

Willamette Intl Travel agent Nancy had organized a tour for travelers Arianne and Jason with V’Explore Tours, one of our preferred vendors in SE Asia. They had originally planned to travel from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh on Monday, but due to the storm were forced to fly on Saturday instead. The timeline that follows is based on time in Portland, Oregon (15 hours earlier than Vietnam time).

Friday Nov 8, AM: Nancy speaks with V’Explore manager Derrick Tran about the situation. Tran maintained in touch with the Vietnam offices so is aware of the emergency services on the ground. Chau, V’Explore’s general manager in the country, has already contacted clients and provided his 24/7-hour cell phone.

Friday, Nov 8, AM: Nancy contacts Jason and Arianne, asking them if they wanted to move their Ho Chi Minh flight to Saturday. The hotel already plans to move them to their sister hotel, away from the beach. She assures them that the hotel staff is quite capable at preparing for storms, but advises them that it may be better to leave central Vietnam earlier, as the typhoon is quite large.

Friday, Nov 8, PM: Derrick Tran speaks with Jason and Arianne, and recaps the evacuation operation for Saturday to Nancy.

Saturday, Nov 9, AM: V’Explore tours arranges emergency transfers to Hue that evening, to catch a flight to Ho Chi Minh City at 6pm. Chau organizes two extra nights at a hotel in the city. The staff charges the cost of the flight and the hotel to the clients’ card. The emergency transfer evacuation from Hoi An to Hue is complimentary from V’Explore. After their flight on Saturday, both Danang and Hue airports close.

Monday, Nov 11, AM: Since the clients had purchased travel insurance from Nancy before their departure, Nancy files a claim upon their behalf to cover the cost of the extra hotel nights and the flight. Any unexpected expenditures are currently being worked out.

By Monday, Nov 11, many tours had recommenced and by Tuesday status quo had returned to Vietnam. We’d like to thank all of our fantastic vendors and agents who worked hard to manage the safety and comfort of our travelers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, News, Our Travel Agents, Vietnam, Where in the World is the WIT Client?

Textiles & Culture of Southeast Asia

We interrupt our two weeks in Iceland to exhibit this exclusive escorted tour in Southeast Asia!

Check out this Small Group Journey around Southeast Asia (max 2-10 Guests!!)

The journey takes you through the artistic and cultural heart of Vietnam – Cambodia, Laos – Thailand. You can book one leg or combine both!

Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 for more information or to start your adventure!

https://i0.wp.com/www.vexploretravel.com/data/gallery/fullsize/aodaidihoc89871866.jpg

 I. VIETNAM – CAMBODIA (September 4-16, 2014)

Hanoi – Sapa – Danang – Hoi An – Siem Reap

Our journey begins at the charming and vibrant capital city of Hanoi. Visit the Ethnology Museum, which will provide an illuminating introduction to the costumes and lifestyles of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam.

Visit Bat Trang village, the most ancient and famous Vietnamese pottery village that is still running and developing new pieces.

Discover the highland peoples of northern Vietnam by taking a train to Lao Cai and drive to Sapa for the valley of “Cat Cat” village – the settlement of a Black H’Mong ethnic group that still retains its unique customs and practices. We will have the opportunity to see and learn the process of indigo dyeing and hemp weaving. Visit “Ta Phin” village, where we will have an experience to learn the secrets and techniques of the amazing embroideries from the ladies of the Hmong and Red Dao minority groups.

https://i2.wp.com/www.vexploretravel.com/data/gallery/fullsize/tetque7739.jpg

Spend time at the amazing Coc Ly market of local ethnic groups—the colorful Flower H’Mong, Dzao, Nung, PhuLa and take a soft trek to Ban Pho village, home of the Flower H’Mong. Take a scenic boat ride along the Chay River and stop at the village of the “Tay” people. We’ll travel to the charming city of Hoi An, a UNESCO heritage site.

Discover the art of ancient silk weaving techniques of the Cham folk in Quang Nam province, witness the full cycle of silk making from silkworms to dress, and learn the difference between natural silk and synthetic silk in this charming village located in the hub of Hoi An.

Flying from Danang to Siem Reap, we’ll visit the magnificent and unrivalled temple complex of Angkor Wat and the National Angkor Museum for an overview of Angkor history. Explore a variety of the textiles that are distinctive to Cambodia—ikat silks, known as chong kiet; the twill-patterned silks known as hol; and weft ikats, once recognized as the best in the world.

https://i0.wp.com/www.vexploretravel.com/data/gallery/fullsize/img53369145.jpg

II. LAOS – THAILAND (September 16-25, 2014)

Luang Prabang – Mekong River – Chiang Rai – Bangkok

Our adventure continues to ancient Luang Prabang, its beautiful temples, gorgeous textile galleries and one of the best craft night markets in Asia. As the centre of textiles in the region, we can explore age-old traditions and lifestyle, home grown materials used in textile and enjoy hand-crafted goods with a field day at the craft centre in Luang Prabang where the fascinating world of Lao Textiles come alive. Create your own silk textiles and discover the secrets of natural dyes when you learn how to weave with your own private teacher overlooking the mighty Mekong River. We have an opportunity to participate in the morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting alms for early risers—a unique Laos tradition.

https://i0.wp.com/www.vexploretravel.com/data/gallery/fullsize/p18b7844.jpg

We take a cruise up the Mekong River to Pakbeng, stop at the mouth of the Nam Ou River to visit Pak Ou caves where thousands of Buddha images are found. Observe rural life in a Kamu village at Ban Houy Phalam along the Mekong River. Visit the Hmong and Lahu tribes. Get ready for a firsthand experience on how to make a Hmong batik handkerchief with Hmong ladies. Take a nature walk up to the Lahu hill tribe through plantations and corn fields scattered with small bamboo huts.

Visit Doi Tung, a site of major socio-environmental projects, the Mae Fah Luang Garden and the Royal Villa. We travel to the Golden Triangle on a long-tail boat for a cruise on the Mekong River down tot eh fishing village of Baan Had Krai. Our journey will end at Royal Bangkok, where we’ll visit the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kaew) built in 1782 by King Rama I.

Included—

–          Roundtrip airport transfers

–          Local English speaking guide in each city

–          Accommodations based on Twin/Double sharing

–          Daily buffet breakfast, most lunches and dinners

–          Daily tour sightseeing included, admission fees

Prices (approximate)

–          Land tour Vietnam – Cambodia $2428 per person

–          Land tour Laos – Thailand $2349 per person

–          Domestic Air ticket in Vietnam $125 per person

–          Domestic Air ticket in Thailand $145 per person

Prices are per person, based on double occupancy. Offers are subject to availability at time of booking. Prices do not include visa fee, taxes, fuel surcharges and airline baggage fees.

Agent Nancy has traveled to Southeast Asia multiple times, and would love to give you her firsthand account! Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for her scoop!

2 Comments

Filed under Asia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vendors, Vietnam