Category Archives: Vietnam

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

Explore & Experience Southeast Asia with VExplore Tours

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.

Read More: WIT Agent Wailana’s Trip to Thailand and Laos with VExplore Tours

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:

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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Filed under Asia, Laos, Vietnam

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

“The Quiet American” and Other Classics of Southeast Asia

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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. 

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

Christmas in Asia

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Vietnam: A Photographer’s Paradise

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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: 

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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.

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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!

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