Tag Archives: burma

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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What it’s Like Using a Travel Agent

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Willamette Intl Travel is a travel agency based in Portland, Oregon.
Thought about using a Travel Agent to book your next trip, but not sure what that might entail? According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), 85% of all cruises and 70% of all tours are finalized through travel agencies. Agents are invaluable resources who work tirelessly to provide you with excellent service before, during and after your trip.
 
But what does working with a travel agent entail, exactly? Particularly one of our awesome travel agents at Willamette Intl Travel? Let’s take a look!
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HAVE A CHAT

The first step involves sitting down with one of our qualified travel agents and discussing the potential trip. Sometimes clients have an exact itinerary already in mind, sometimes they have just a general idea. Your travel agent, with their years of experience and information, can help you narrow down your ideal trip.
This is the time to get a sense of your travel style, your needs, preferences, and budget, in order to plan the perfect package for you and your family. Your travel needs are the most important factor to us. We don’t try to upsell you or push an itinerary or destination when it obviously doesn’t work for you. We’ll find one that fits you best.
 
Agents typically ask for passport names and ages at this point, which will be necessary down the line to hold space on airlines, hotels or cruises.
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ENCYCLOPEDIC RESOURCES

Swimming through the endless volume of options on the internet can be a headache–that’s where the agent comes in. Travel agents do all the legwork for you, and draw from their vast, firsthand experiences in the industry. They know which tour guides to recommend and which cruise ship best fits your style and budget.
If you want a romantic week away, maybe a resort on Maui. More the adventurous type? We’ll recommend Costa Rica over, say, the Bahamas. If you want something new and luxurious—why not try river-cruising in Myanmar? We keep in mind travel trends and plan accordingly.
 
At this point, we communicate with you mostly by email and phone. Some clients prefer to return to the office to discuss the details of the trip further but it’s not absolutely necessary.
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DISCOUNTS AND PERKS

Next, we look into discounts and perks. We have access to offers and special packages that are sometimes exclusive to travel agents, or even to our particular agency. We might know which travel guide might be a perfect fit for you, and other times we supply a couple options to choose from. The industry is constantly changing, and as travel agents, we keep abreast of all changes.
 
This on-the-feet, out-of-the-box thinking especially comes in handy for a tailored or unusual trip, such as a cruise to Svalbard, vacation to Hokkaido, hike through the Dolomites, or safari in Namibia or Indonesia. We know how much a relief it is to speak to someone face-to-face who knows so much about the destination and has probably been there.
 
We work daily with global software platforms, which gives us backend access to air, hotel, car or other travel services worldwide, and compare prices and routes, to get you the most value for your price point.
 
We also assist with groups, such as wedding parties to Cancun, multigenerational trips to Disneyland, or educational programs to Lagos. We know it’s a headache to coordinate everyone’s plane, hotel, cars–and it’s our pleasure to do it for you.
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PROPOSALS

Once we come up with a plan, or even a few plans to choose from, we send our proposals your way. What’s more, we’ll advise you of any foreign travel requirements to your destination: travel advisories, required documents, weather conditions. We’ll answer any questions you might have. We always include any special terms and conditions, and notify you if something is nonrefundable.

RESERVATIONS

Once you give approval, depending on the trip, we may put a deposit or full payment down at this point. We never make deposits without checking with you first. Many tour guides or cruises require a deposit, with gradual payments or full payment required closer to departure. In some cases, tour guides require full payment upfront. If this is the case, we advise you accordingly.
Once first deposit is made, we recommend a travel insurance plan that is right for you. (Read more reasons why we love travel insurance.)

PERKS

Where it’s possible, we call in all the connections we’ve solidified over decades in the business. We contact the Sales Rep at the hotel or resort, and plan a special something at your hotel. Whether it’s a room upgrade, fee waiver, or popular but unattainable tour reservations–we’ll do our best to draw in all the perks. 
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DURING YOUR TRIP

Once you depart, our live phone service is available 24/7 for booked clients, to reach in case of emergency. If your flight is delayed and you miss your airport pickup, we’ll make the call. We work as a team, keeping extensive files on all of our clients, so if the agent with whom you booked is not available for some reason, another agent can fully assist you in an emergency. This type of personalized attention just simply isn’t available when you book through an online travel site. If some mishap happens, if your room is unacceptable or your ferry is delayed, you can call your travel agent and we’ll do our best to serve. 

AFTER YOUR TRIP

Welcome back! We’re thrilled that you booked with us. If there are any loose ends with any of your arrangements that we can help out with, we’ll happily address them.

willamette intl travel: expert trip curators and counselors

Are you in the Portland area? Give us a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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“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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River Cruises in Myanmar

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Have you always wanted to visit Myanmar but not sure where to start? A River Cruise is an exceptional way to see the highlights of the country, without all the hassles. Here we share what you might expect from an Irrawaddy River Cruise.

Unsullied Waters

Myanmar (otherwise known as Burma) only recently opened its borders after a good long 50 years, making it a prime destination for any globetrotter. The country has all the charms of SE Asia while still maintaining its individuality. Even in the more popular sites like the UNESCO Valley of Bagan, Myanmar is still protected from the inevitable changes of tourism.

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A River Cruise is the best way to visit the more remote villages of the north, just 30 miles from the border of China. Cruises can start from either north or south, but the country is perhaps best explored first in the relaxing north and later in the more chaotic, bustling markets of the south.

The Irrawaddy River, also known as the Road to Mandalay, will open your eye to the ancient and unblemished cultures of rural Myanmar. Step back in time to a land full of oxcarts, monasteries, village markets, toddy palm trees, pottery masters. If you’re lucky, you may even glimpse the elusive Irrawaddy dolphin!

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When to Sail

Prime cruise season is from September to April. The driest, and coolest, season is between November and February. Starting May, Monsoon season hits SE Asia in full force, when the snow melt from the Himalayas swells the river to disturbing levels—avoid the traditional summer months.

Ship to Ship

Though ship amenities and features differ from cruise line to cruise line (and often ship to ship), guests can usually expect high standards on our renowned trips. Spacious suites, with large closets and private bathrooms, premium bar and restaurant, fascinating destination lectures, onboard entertainment, and sightseeing adventures.

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What to Expect?

Cruises typically run around 2 weeks in length, roundtrip Yangon or Bangkok to Yangon.

That’s 14 days or more to explore the Golden Land of Myanmar from top to bottom:

  • Start with a walking tour of the Shwedagon, said to be the oldest pagoda in the world
  • Fly north to Bhamo, where your boat awaits
  • Sail past ornate shrines, hillside villages and teak forests
  • Stop at island villages, learn about daily life of schoolchildren and fishermen
  • Visit a local market, and ride an elephant through a sea of teak trees
  • Pay your respects at the monastery of Kya Hnyat and learn about pottery-making in Mandalay
  • At Amarapura, enjoy a sampan ride at sunset
  • Watch a traditional puppet show
  • Sip local tea at a speciality tea boutique
  • Marvel at the 2,000+ stupas and pagodas in the Bagan Valley

Got your curiosity piqued? Call us up for a chat about possibility to cruise or otherwise explore the fascinating country of Myanmar. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

READ MORE: Buddhas & Boats on Inle Lake

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5 Great Destinations to Fly in a Balloon (that aren’t Cappadocia)

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Photo by WIT Owner Christina, in Namibia

Have you ever flown in a Hot Air Balloon? Imagine drifting at a languid pace, above a breathless landscape, slowly transforming before your eyes with the sunrise. the crisp, open-air and the adrenaline from the height keep your senses alert. It’s an exhilarating experience like no other.

One of the more popular activities in Turkey is riding a hot air balloon above the rock chimneys of Cappadocia. The arid landscape, full of green vineyards and surreal limestone peaks, draws thousands of visitors each year. But what if you’re not in Turkey? Here are five of our recommended places around the world to hop in a hot air balloon.

1. Jaipur, India.

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan province in northern India, is known for its historic forts, pink palaces and ornate, fanciful architecture. A hot air balloon provides a bird’s eye view of the Palace of the Winds and the Amber Fort. Sunrise is always the best time to watch the colors unfold around you, from vast deserts to Rajasthani villages, and the majestic Aravali Mountain range beyond.

2. Australia.

Australia is a treasure-trove for hot balloon locations, with its miles of open, unexplored landscape. The Red Center is the country’s outback, home to the fiery monolith of Uluru, hopping kangaroos and surreal rock formations. Further south along the coast, the Yarra Valley also makes for some rich balloon scenery, with acres of blooming vineyards and orchards.

3. Yang Shuo, China.

Dramatic karst formations and green rivers make Yang Shuo a perfect destination for balloons. Located just northwest of Hong Kong, Yang Shuo is known for its outdoor adventures. Float slowly above peaks more than a kilometer high, above paddy fields, bamboo thickets, water buffalos and orchards of mandarins. The best time for views of the emerald landscape is the first two hours after sunrise.

4. Namibia.

This past autumn WIT Owners Christina and John guided a group out into the red deserts of Namibia. Their hot air experience remains one of the more memorable ones from the trip! Admire the desert world as the sun rises of pink sand dunes in Sossusvlei, over the rock formations of Naukluft Mountain. Marvel at the constantly changing kaleidoscope of colors, accentuated by big, bold shadows of cliff faces.

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5. Bagan, Burma.

The ancient city of Bagan is home to more than 2,000 pagodas, stupas and temples with a 26-square mile zone—a dizzying display of Buddhist piety. The “gilded city,” as Marco Polo called it, was once home to 13,000 temples in its 11th century heyday. The iconic landscape of stupas stretching out above banyan branches, and the mist-covered Irrawaddy River, is all the more gorgeous from the heights. But be aware that the balloon season is seasonal; due to strong winds, hot air balloons only ride from November to March.

Have a Destination you Recommend for Hot Air Ballooning? Let us know in the comments!

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Video: Myanmar

Check out more in our post on Myanmar.

Traveling to Myanmar? Willamette Intl Travel works closely with our vendors to customize a special vacation for you and your loved ones.

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Myanmar

The more weathered and experienced of travelers can claim familiarity with Thai markets, Japanese tea ceremonies and the archaeological treasures of China. But what about those smaller countries in Asia that have received less tourist and media attention? This week we are taking a look at three countries popping up more and more on the traveler’s radar: Bhutan, Bali, and Burma (aka Myanmar). Our wandering eyes are just peeking through to these unique, captivating and spectacular cultures.

photo by eGuideTravel

Myanmar (Burma)

Burma, or Myanmar as it is now known, is a country emerging from political turmoil. For nearly fifty years under the isolationist dictatorship of politician Ne Win, Burma has remained impoverished and underdeveloped state. Since 2011 however, the government has been instigating new reforms, leading to a flood of liberties and booming economy. International audiences are becoming more and more familiar with Burma—last year, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited the country to discuss state development, and earlier this year, theatres released the feature film “The Lady,” which focuses on Nobel Prize winner and democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to popularity and power.

Since Myanmar is young by tourism standards, much of its cultural heritage is still unspoiled—the countryside is pristine, sarongs are the norm, and throngs of tourists have not yet arrived with buses and hostels. In this country guests can get a true sense of the locals and lifestyles without suffering any inundation of tourist culture.

Willamette International Travel works with vendors to organize small group and individual travel to Burma. These tours are hosted by cultural experts that offer a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the history and land. The tours offer a fantastic opportunity to explore Myanmar’s rich heritage of architecture, lacquer, music, dance and textiles; your host will enlighten travelers about floating farms, holy sites, and the breathtaking Plain of Pagodas. The journey highlights Burma’s cities, the Irrawaddy River aboard the Road to Mandalay, and Inle Lake. Guests may attend a cooking lesson in a private home and or enjoy the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival and a traditional puppet performance. Visit Kengtung and the Ann people, known for their black teeth, take a pilgrimage to the gilded rock of Kyaiktiko, or see the magnificent extinct volcano Mount Popa. There’s even an option post-tour hot-air balloon ride over the plains.

Don’t miss the delicious cuisine, a mélange of seafood, vermicelli noodles, tea leaves, and the unique Burmese curry, traditionally less spicy than its Indian or Thai counterparts. For a treat, try Yenwejan tea or Toddy juice, a drink made from fermented palm sugar.

For some great recommendations on tours and/or flights to Burma/Myanmar, contact Willamette International Travel at info@wittravel.com or 503.224.0180.Tune in Wednesday for our next destination, Bali.

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