Tag Archives: asia

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

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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And the World’s Most Popular Destination of 2016 is…

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Bangkok has officially overtaken London as the World’s Most Popular Destination! This according to Mastercard’s annual Global Destinations Cities Index.

The capital of Thailand is expected to welcome 21.47 million international visitors this year. This is nearly twice the local population of 10 million! It has been named the “Word’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure. 

London falls in a close second with 19.88 million, and Paris in third with 18.03 million.

There’s just no beating a fascinating city like Bangkok, what with its colorful markets, accessible temples, affordable day trips, amazing food, friendly locals and budget shopping centers. In Thailand, you definitely get your bang for your buck.

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Elsewhere in Asia, the cities of Osaka, Dubai, Singapore and Seoul are also  growing steadily in terms of tourism. We look forward to seeing who’s on the top list next year.

In other news: Happy Columbus Day in the USA, and Happy Thanksgiving Day to our Canadian neighbors!

Our Agents at Willamette Intl Travel would love to arrange an unforgettable trip to Thailand and SE Asia for you. Call us 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Pam in Japan! : FAQs

Our readers might remember that our own agent WIT Pam spent two weeks last year in Japan visiting her son Matt, who is living and working in Tokyo. As it has been years since anyone from Willamette spent time in Japan, we were thrilled when she came back with such great firsthand feedback!

Have you been thinking about travel to the Land of the Rising Sun? Pam will be happy to answer your questions about travel in Japan and arrange a spectacular trip for you. Call her for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email pamd@wittravel.com. 

Pam used Delta nonstop, and booked a package plan with a prepaid hotel in Kyoto, which saved a lot on airfare. Whilst in Tokyo she visited the famous Asakusa, Shinjuku & Ueno areas–each with their own unique flavor. She took a day trip to Kamakura, where you can tour the many temples without the throngs of visitors found in Kyoto. And she did take the Shinkansen train to Kyoto, spending a fabulous 3 nights there.

Here are a few quick questions we had for her on logistics while traveling in Japan: 

What is the link for the portable wi-fi you used? I used http://www.japan-wireless.com There are a lot of companies that do this, but this is the one where Matt has his phone and they are one of the larger providers in Japan. The device cost $55.00 U.S. for 9 days. It allowed me to use Google maps and their GPS function on my I-phone. I could sync it to 4 different devices. It can be delivered to your hotel.

Is there hardware that needs to be returned to the company you rented from, and if so, how is it returned? In the package you get they include instructions for syncing it to your device and a prepaid return envelope. You can drop it in any post box in Japan and it will be returned to them. It is about the same size as a cell phone.

Prepaid ticket for the airport bus: How did you pre-purchase the voucher? I got the bus voucher from JTB in Los Angeles at the same time I got the Japan Rail Pass. It would have been ok to purchase the bus ticket when you got there – it was a little hard finding the booth. I went out to where the buses left and found the bus, and they directed me back inside the terminal to the place where the voucher had to be exchanged. If I were doing it again, I would opt to take the train into the city – it is faster and goes to more stations than I realized.

Green Class Japan Rail Pass: There are multiple train companies in Japan – Japan Rail is the only one you can use on the pass, so depending on where you are traveling you sometimes may still have to buy some tickets. They do go most places, though. You also have to watch what kind of train you are taking – some of the newer high-speed trains still have supplements that you have to pay on top of the pass. I think that for tourists it is worth getting the Green Pass – I can’t stress how crowded and miserable the trains are around Tokyo – and if you are in the Green Car at least they are a little less packed. The long-distance trains from Tokyo to Kyoto can be reserved – there is a small fee for doing this, but you are guaranteed a seat and car number. This can only be done in Japan at a ticket office. I got a 7 day pass so didn’t use it on my arrival. The passes are for consecutive days only, so it didn’t make sense for me to have it validated until I was within 7 days of leaving Tokyo, since Matt isn’t on a JR line. I used it from Tokyo to Kamakura and back as a day trip, from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, for a side trip from Kyoto to Nara and back, and for the return Narita Express back to the airport. The pass price was about $316 and Matt’s ticket purchased from Tokyo to Kyoto round trip around $210. So I figure it was good value for me, but I wouldn’t do it for somebody who was just traveling one way from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka, say.

Suica or Pasmo card: Are the kiosks all over so they can easily be re-charged? Are they loaded only with cash, or can they be loaded from a debit card or credit card? These are 2 different cards both pre-loaded with money but they are universally accepted. The kiosks where I bought the cards were self-service – located in the train stations, and I think Matt said that you could buy them in convenience stores also – like a 7-11, of which there are thousands. We ended up reloading the cards at the train stations – Japan uses a lot of cash and you end up with pounds of small change, so we would take the card to the machine, toss in the cash and change, and it all got loaded on the cards which was a good way of getting rid of it. There were instructions on the machine that could be switched into English.

This feedback was also featured in our Winter newsletter. Give us a call for a hard copy in the mail!

 

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Why Laos should be on your bucket list this year

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laos-foodConsidering Laos this traveling season? Southeast Asia is really opening up these past few years, with countries like Bhutan, Burma and Laos in full bloom. Discover Laos on a connecting flight from Thailand or Vietnam!

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that WIT Agent Wailana took a trip to Laos a while back. This country often gets overlooked with more popular neighbors like Thailand and Vietnam. But there’s a lot that Laos can offer the curious traveler.

Here are our top reasons to visit Laos in the next few months:

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The best lunch in Asia!

FOOD

Yes. The food is phenomenal, with fresh, tasty dishes with an optional spice kick. Steamed purple sticky rice, larb (marinated meat with herbs), uniquely spicy papaya salad, steamed fish in banana leaf, river weed (think seaweed except from the Mekong), and breaded pork wrapped around sugarcane. Plus let’s not forget the awesome food markets.

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Kuang Si Waterfalls

NATURE

Laos’ dense jungles and river remain largely unexplored, meaning that the air smells crystal clear. There’s something to be said about climbing a holy mountain above Luang Prabang, lush with trees and the heavy scent of flowers, and gazing over at the fog-smothered streets below.

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Temple and Market

RELAX

Laos is often described as more relaxing and peaceful than its bustling neighbors. Everything is unhurried here–the buses, the store hours–it’s a rural countryside with a laid-back vibe. Perfect for a tranquil getaway.

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Boats leaving for School

THE MEKONG

The life and blood of Laos. No trip to Laos is complete without a river cruise or at the very least a riverbank stroll along the Mekong. This is where people have fished, drawn water, and made their homes. Schoolchildren often head out from their villages on boats in the early morning for school.

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Popular Paintings on the Street

A Magical Home away from Home

And imagine this: end of the day, twilight, after a long day exploring the market and visiting waterfalls. The day’s heat is dimming. You duck into a little open-air cafe in Luang Prabang, next to fading French colonial buildings. The fans are spinning, you’ve a cool beer lao in hand, and your gaze reaches out over the calm and murky waters. The only sounds are the crickets and the rustlings of a few passerby. Take a breath, settle back, and linger.

Spiked your Interest? You can read more about Laos on our previous posts: Here, Here and Here

Our Agents love to share our travel knowledge with you. Call us at 503-224-0180 for more SE Asia info or email info@wittravel.com.

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Monastery Morning Ritual

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Vexplore Travel: Unique Itineraries

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We recommend Vexplore Travel to our clients heading to SE Asia looking for unique, personalized and down-to-earth trips. Vexplore provides everything from cultural culinary packages to golf getaways to adventures off the beaten path.

WIT Blogger Wailana went on a trip with Vexplore last year, and attests to the friendly and professional service from their team. Her 9-day trip took her to Bangkok, the night market at Chiang Mai, peaceful Luang Prabang and the diverse villages along the Mekong. Email her at wailanak@wittravel.com for more information about this region and all Vexplore has to offer.

Check out her photos from the trip in our Gallery: Thailand and Laos.

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Vexplore can personalize any trip according to your tastes. But check out some of their small group itineraries on schedule:

10-Day Myanmar Discovery

Yangon > Bagan > Heho > Inle Lake > lake villages > Yangon

Marvel at Myanmar’s spectacular monuments, including thousand year stupas and pagodas. Browse local markets, trek through villages and sail overnight in Inle Lake. Discover the rich history of this country, just blossoming into its own.

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7-Day Nha Trang Scuba Diving

Ho Chi Minh > Nha Trang > Ho Chi Minh

Embark on an adventure of a lifetime and learn how to scuba in Vietnam. When you’re not touring the cities for some rich cultural sightseeing, you’re swimming, jet skiing, windsurfing and scuba diving at the laid-back, white-sand city of Nha Trang. Uncertified and certified divers both welcome.

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10-Day Path of Vietnam Culinary

Hanoi > Halong > Hanoi > Hue > Ho Chi Minh > Mekong Delta > Hanoi

This trip’s all about the food—explore Vietnam’s rich culinary traditions while sightseeing in Vietnam’s main cities. Cooking opportunities await you at Hoi An’s Red Bridge cooking school. You’ll purchase your own ingredients at the local market and learn from expert chefs. At Cai Be on the Mekong you’ll visit the floating market, learn about traditional candy-making, and sample local favorites like rice paper, coconut candy and popped-rice cake. And of course—the junk cruise on Halong Bay is not to be missed!

Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel to find out more about unique trips to SE Asia. Contact 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

photos courtesy of Vexplore Travel

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Agent Trip to Thailand/Laos: Part Two — Ayutthaya

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Earlier this September, WIT Agent Wailana traveled with our preferred vendor Vexplore Tours through Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai in Thailand, and Luang Prabang and the Mekong River in Laos!

She came back with a lot of useful firsthand knowledge of her destinations, plus some insider tips. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting sections of her feedback. Read on for details!

 

In case you missed Part One on the Mekhala Cruise, click here to read it.

After a refreshing breakfast aboard the Mekhala ship, I disembarked on the banks just outside of Ayutthaya. We were driven via our trusty bus into town, stopping for a local treat on the way: Roti Saimai, or cotton candy wrapped in a sweet green-colored crepe.

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Ayutthaya is a small city north of Bangkok that is famous for its ancient temples. As a previous political capital of Siam and a major trading city in Asia for centuries, Ayutthaya is a worthwhile stop for any art lover or historian. In 1700 it became the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants, and courted international merchants from as far as the Arab world and Europe. This all came to an end when the Burmese invaded the city in 1767 and almost burnt the city completely down to the ground.

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Ayutthaya historical park covers the ruins of the old city and contains more than ten Wats, or temples. No one has time to see them all—but definitely stop by the incredible Wat Chai Watthanaraman and Wat Mahathat. At the latter you can see the partially concealed head of Buddha, nestled in the tangled branches of a Bodhi Tree.

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We arrived at a bike shop just across from one of the temples, rented used bicycles with IMAG1121low seats and with a guide went on our merry way. Warning: driving in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted, even if only on a bike! You can easily bike from one Wat to the other, and for a longer drive, even out to the rice paddies in the countryside.

 

After the bike ride and temple visits we were greeted by an air-conditioned van full of mangosteen and coconuts, a special treat in such September heat!

 

Next Up: Laos!

For more photos from Wailana’s trip to Ayutthaya, check out the gallery: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/gallery/thailand-with-vexplore/

WIT Agents have all traveled extensively throughout Thailand and we continue booking clients regularly to this country’s top destinations, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Samui, Krabi and Phuket! Whether you’re traveling on your honeymoon or with a larger family, Thailand is a great choice for first-time and experienced travelers alike. Call 503-224-0180 to speak with one of our agents about a trip that’s right for you.

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Filed under Asia, Thailand, Vexplore