Tag Archives: asia

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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Thailand & Laos with Vexplore

Check out the photos from our agent Wailana’s educational trip to Thailand and Laos, Sept 2014! Stay tuned for her trip report–coming soon!

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Pam’s Trip to India: Part Three — Mysore to Alleppey

This past April, Pam was invited on a guided tour through Southern India. Today we continue with Mysore, Calicut, Kochi, and Alleppey. In case you missed her notes on Bangalore and Coorg, check out Wednesday’s post.

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In Mysore, we visited the Maharaj Palace dating back to the early 1900s, where the royal family still resides. It was a magical evening viewing the Palace when it was lit by thousands of little lights outlining the building. On special days they light up the palace at night – we were lucky to be there for that time, so wandered around the outside in the evening with thousands of little lights outlining the building. It was a festive atmosphere, with lots of local families also out to enjoy the display.   Also went to the Chamundi Temple at the top of a large hill – this was a Hindu temple. Because cows are considered sacred and can’t be harmed (there are severe penalties for hitting a cow with a vehicle, and they are everywhere in India), there were lots of cows around the temple.

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The next day was one of the longest drives of the trip – 5 hours from Mysore to Calicut in the northern part of the state of Kerala. Much of it was through mountains and a national park. Stopped at an eco-resort for lunch – this was another interesting stop because we were there on the day that Kerala celebrates new year. We were served a vegetarian feast, served on banana leaves and eaten with our hands. I couldn’t really get the trick of eating rice with my fingers so I made a giant mess, but it was delicious! The resort was beautiful, with cabins scattered along a creek. It was the beginning of the monsoon season, though, so this was the place we encountered a lot of rain.

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Continued down the coast the next day to Cochin (Kochi), about 4 hours. Kochi is a lovely city with some unique sights. Stayed in a historic hotel called the Bruton Boatyard – this was an old boat building business transformed into a hotel. My balcony overlooked the sea, and it was really beautiful. The next morning went to the waterfront where they fish with Chinese fishing nets – these are large nets attached to a fixed platform, like a pier jutting out into the sea. Then several men raise and lower the nets, catching whatever happens to be swimming by at the time. These aren’t used anywhere else in the world except Kochi and in China. Kochi was a city where there were lots of influences, so we visited a Dutch Palace, the Episcopal Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral (where Vasco da Gama the Portuguese trader is buried). That evening attended a Kathakali dance, a unique costumed dance style native to Kerala.

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The next day was spent traveling south from Kochi to Alleppey where we boarded a house boat and had a day trip on the backwaters. These are canals that come in from the sea, lined with houses and lots of little boats. You can stay on some of the boats for an overnight. The last night was at the coconut Lagoon Hotel—this was very nice, out on an island with individual cottages with outdoor showers.

It was interesting going back to India after not having been there in 20 plus years. It has changed drastically – there are signs everywhere of an improving economy–the infrastructure is much improved, and there is clearly a rising middle class.  However, there is still a lot of litter and garbage everywhere, and we still did see people farming with ox-drawn plows.

I found Southern India fascinating and so different from Delhi and the North, it seemed like a separate country. The thing I like about India is the variety – there are so many religions, languages, and landscapes (everything from high mountains to deserts to tropics) that you could visit lots of different areas there without seeing the same thing.

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For more photos from Pam’s amazing trip, check out the gallery: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/gallery/india/

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Pam’s Trip to India: Part Two — Bangalore to Coorg

This past April, Pam was invited on a guided tour through Southern India. Her route included Bangalore, Coorg, Mysore, Calicut, Kochi, and Alleppey. Here’s her feedback:

The first afternoon in Bangalore (Bengaluru) we toured the Lal Bagh Gardens there. This is a large botanical garden with trees and plants imported from around the world, then continued to the Bull Temple which had a huge, carved bull in black stone.

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The next morning we left for about a 4 hour drive to Hassan, visiting a Jain temple called Shravanabelagola along the way. This temple was at the top of a huge granite outcrop, and you had to climb 712 hand-carved stairs to get to it. This is one I had to miss because I just couldn’t make it. You had to go barefoot or in socks, the rocks were slick, and there were all those stairs!

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We also stopped at the Hoysalesvara Temple at Helebid, which is a star-shaped temple, covered with beautiful carvings of Hindu gods, animals and birds. There was a temple festival going on while we were there, and this was a highlight of things to see – families were out in their best clothes, bringing flower offerings and offerings of coconuts, which were handed to priests who then smashed them open – quite a mess with coconut water and shells everywhere.

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Continuing on the road, the driver just stopped by the side of the road at a random village and told us that we could get out and wander through. Again everybody who lived there was surprised to see us and the one person who spoke English asked us why we were stopping, but then proceeded to give us an impromptu tour of the town, including a visit to his own house and showing off his newborn calf.

Coorg (Kodagu) is in the hills and much cooler than lower elevations, so many resorts have been built there and Indian families go there for vacations. We stayed at the Heritage Resort which one of a chain of hotels owned by Indo-Asia Tours. It was very comfortable with individual cabanas stretching up a hill – at the top of the hill was the restaurant and pool, with fantastic views over the mountains. That evening I went to visit a different hotel – the Orange County Hotel which was exquisite. They were built in a coffee plantation, with individual villas with plunge pools, gorgeous landscaping, 3 or 4 restaurants.

On our drive from Coorg to Mysore, we stopped at the Namdroling Monastery, the largest Tibetan settlement in India. The Indian government has given the Tibetan refugees some land to government autonomously – you pass over a border, go through some farmland, and come to a very large and active Tibetan monastery. It has been there since the 1950’s when the refugees left Tibet.

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More photos can be viewed here. Stay Tuned Until Friday for her comments on Mysore to Alleppey!

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Pam’s Trip to India: Part One – Photos

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This past April, Willamette Intl Travel Agent Pam was invited to attend a 3-day conference on tourism in Delhi, followed by a tour through Southern India. After the Delhi conference, she flew up to Bangalore, the center of “high-tech” industry in India, where she spent one night before continuing on through the region. Her route through Coorg, Mysore, Calicut, Kochi, and Alleppey included a tour of beautiful botanical gardens, famous and less famous temples, privately-owned coffee plantation and several villages.

On Wednesday we will share some of her firsthand feedback, but for now check out her photos from the trip: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/gallery/india/

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Summer Travel with Asia Transpacific Journeys

Some of our readers might remember that Willamette Intl Travel partners with Asia Transpacific Journeys, a leading tour operator in Asia. Read more about ATJ’s exclusive brand here.

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Willamette Intl Travel agents can help organize your trip with ATJ, book your airfare, and customize your pre- and post-travel arrangements. Call us today for a consultation, at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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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!

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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