Tag Archives: indonesia

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

Reading List: Indonesia

Read before you go! Today we’re taking a look at some recommended reading of one of the growing tourist destinations, Indonesia! Take a look at some of these jewels from and about Java, Bali, and other popular locations.

Lyall Watson. Gift of Unknown Things. Examines symbiotic relationship of a community and its environment on an unnamed island.

Tim Flannery. Throwim Way Leg. A scientific expedition into Papua New Guinea.

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Simon Winchester. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded. A fascinating, interdisciplinary look at the 1883 eruption of Krakatau from the author of the Professor and the Madman.

Tom Severin. In Search of Moby Dick. Search for the globe’s last whale-hunters in the remote village of Lamalera, in Nusa Tenggara.

Christopher Koch. The Year of Living Dangerously. A stark account of a journalist living in Sukarno’s Indonesia during 1965.

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Helen & Frank Schreider. Drums of Tonkin. A team of husband and wife documents their 1963 voyage from Sumatra to Timor.

Jose Manuel Tesoro. The Invisible Palace. A nonfiction account of the murder of a journalist in Yogyakarta during the Suharto regime.

book3Giles Milton. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History. A depiction of 17th century Indonesian trader Nathaniel Courthroupe and his struggle to save a nutmeg-laden island from the Dutch.

Interested in booking a trip to Bali or any one of Indonesia’s gorgeous islands? Call us for more details, 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Top 2013 Destinations

This has been a fun and fabulous year at Willamette International Travel, and our agents are just as excited about 2013! Here are our top destinations to watch next year:

1. ICELAND

Thingvellir. photo by Daniel Williams, Creative Commons.

Iceland—land of midnight suns, eerie landscapes, wild frontier. Iceland has some of the finest natural wonders available to see in a small area. In 2008, the government established Europe’s largest national Park, Vatnajökull, covers about 12,000 square km. Visit ice caps and glaciers, spewing geysers, sulphuric deserts, golden falls, glacial lagoons, and some of the most dynamic volcanic activity you’ll ever see. During midsummer, the sun dips to the horizon, but never sets—and creates some gorgeous pale colors in the night sky. Visit hip Reykjavik and the therapeutic Blue Lagoon. Don’t miss Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, where the Vikings held their seat of government; or Snæfellsjökull National Park and its ice-smothered volcanic crater. The recent currency crash, devaluing the krona by nearly 75%, has opened up Iceland to travelers mindful of their budget. Beat the majority of tourist throngs by booking this year.

Brush up on: Icelandic. English is widely understood however, especially by the younger generations.

Bring: rainproof coat, sturdy walking shoes or rubber boots, leggings

Wittravel can customize some great adventures and assist you with airfare, accommodation, and car for traveling the fabled Ring Road.

2. SRI LANKA

Polonnaruwa Ruins. Photo by R Barraez d’Luca, Creative Commons.

Sri Lanka is an island that is recovering quite rapidly from a decade of civil conflict and the devastating 2004 tsunami. Let not the long flight from the continental USA deter you—Sri Lanka is an incredible destination. The tourism industry is stretching its wings, prices are affordable, low-cost flights from Bangkok, tickets are still affordable with much to see. There’s an array of topographies, climates, wildlife zones. Sri Lanka is a land where 2000+ years of culture and history is packed in just 25,000 square miles—from temples, old-style villages, green tea plantations, wild jungles, and coconut beaches. Head over to Yala National Park for some spectacular safari experiences and spot water buffaloes, birds, primates, elephants and leopards. Surfing is quite popular, as is the hike up Adam’s Peak, a mountain considered sacred by 4 local religions. Wander through the old Buddhist ruins of Polonnaruwa from the 12th century, stroll the ramparts of Galle, say hello to the world’s oldest living tree, Anuradhapura. Try the local delicious curry, feast on seafood on Negombo beach, visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and scale the steep Sigiriya rock fortress.

Brush up on: Sinhala, Tamil. English is commonly used in official areas and spoken by about 10% of the population.

Bring: mosquito repellents and creams

WIT agent and owner Christina has traveled to Sri Lanka. Call her up for more information.

3. GEORGIA

Svaneti – Svan Tower in Mestia. Photo by Deguonis, Creative Commons.

Georgia is a land of mountainous scenery, ancient churches and wine regions. The country’s complex history speaks in its cultural influences from Turkey, Persia, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. Explore sophisticated Tbilisi and admire its unique, fragile architecture, then head over to Gori, Stalin’s hometown, which still reveres its most famous resident. Venture out of the main cities into the ancient Christian town of Mtskheta or the fertile wine region of Kakheti. Curious travelers should wander into the mysterious and beautiful region of Svaneti, renowned for its mountain villages, tower architecture, and remote village communities. If you have time, check out the lush and green Rioni region in the west hills–known in ancient times as Colchis, the land of the Golden Fleece. The capital of Kutaisi is worth a visit to see the magnificent Bagrati Cathedral, Gelati Monastery, and the Rioni river.

Brush up on: Georgian in most regions, Russian if you are traveling where ethnic minorities live.

Bring: Study and comfortable walking shoes for rough terrain. If you do any sort of traveling inside the country, expect to leave the main road.

The MIR railway company offers a great two-week itinerary through Armenia and Georgia starting around 4,000 per person.

4. TANZANIA + ZANZIBAR

Zanzibar. Photo by Harvest Barrison, Creative Commons.

Tanzania is probably known best for the Serengeti safari plains, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mt. Kilimanjaro. There is no end to National Parks around the country, the northern ones tend to have more tourist infrastructure, while in the southern ones there are more wild fauna. Camping ranges from luxury tents to affordable ones. You can also visit numerous historical slave trade sites, kayak, scuba dive, or climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Spend a week traveling the plains of Tanzania and then retreat to the languid resorts on the isles of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago off of the fabled Indian Ocean. Zanzibar possesses a rich blend of African and Arabic heritage. There are a number of great resorts for indulging the traveler after a busy safari, and many fishing villages to keep you occupied. You may also explore Jozani Forest and its red Colobus monkeys or swim with dolphins off one of the many sandy beaches.

Brush up on: Swahili, Arabic (for Zanzibar). English is widely understood.

Bring: It tends to be very hot and dry in Zanzibar, so bring light, airy clothes that are still modest. The island tends to be conservative so be sure to pack a full body swimsuit!

We can recommend some top-level itineraries to Tanzania and Zanzibar. Our agents Pam, Linda, and Christina have been!

5. PERU

Machu Picchu, photo by audrey_sel, creative commons

Peru is a diverse country both in landscape and culture. From the wildlife-rich Amazon Basin, to ancient Incan Ruins around Cuzco and the lost city of Machu Picchu, the adventurous and curious traveler will never be idle. Wander through the streets of the colonial capital of Lima, sail on Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian Border, take to the sky and see the stunning Nazca Lines from the best bird view on offer. Peru is also home to some delicious and indigenous food—ceviche, rocoto relleno (meat-stuffed peppers), anticuchos (spiced grilled beef heart). If you’re brave, try a sampling of the infamous roasted guinea pig, and wash it down with the local cocktail pisco sour (grape brandy, lemon juice, egg whites, sugar).

Brush up on: Spanish, Quechua

Bring: anti-malarial medication

Avanti Destinations offers some great tour itineraries to Peru. Packages typically include tours, dinner, and transfers. Our agents Pam and Barb have been and would love to share their experiences with you.

6. BORNEO

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Mt. Kinabalu, photo by s-a-m, creative commons

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, with the area of square kilometers of 287,000 square miles. It’s divided among three countries: Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Borneo has long been a magnet for adventurers, naturalists and explorers. As a traveler, you can enjoy the plethora of adventures and wildlife the island has to offer. The highest peak is Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, with an elevation of 13,435 feet. Enjoy a night safari in the Danum Valley, visit the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, cruise up Oxbow Lake, visit Selingan Island for the turtles, journey through rural Sarawak, share your evening with the Iban people at one of their longhouses. Borneo is also known for its major river and cave systems—Clearwater Cave has one of the world’ longest underground rivers, and Deer Cave is home to 3 million + bats, with guano accumulated to over 330 feet deep.

Brush up on: Malay. English is spoken widely throughout the country.

Bring: Clothing fit for a rainforest—long-sleeved shirts, sturdy boots, wide brimmed hats, full-length and quick-drying pants with pockets.

G Adventures has a number of itineraries to Borneo that range from 10-19 days in a variety of activity levels to suit the client. Sleep in a variety of jungle lodges, mountain huts, villa huts and permanent camps during your stay and experience real adventures on Borneo.

7. INDONESIA

Indonesia market street. photo by craftivist collective, creative commons

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, and as expected of a country composed of 17,508 islands its regions are diverse both geographically and demographically. The most popular islands are Java, Sumatra, New Guinea, Sulawesi, and Bali. Tourists can venture out here for a real adventure. Catch glimpses of the legendary Komodo Dragon, visit golden temples in Yangon and Bagan, visit the fishermen of Inle Lake, go on a catamaran cruise or jungle safari. Indonesia has dozens of tropical forests, and when combined they make up the second largest rainforest in the world after Brazil’s. Shop around in the markets of Jakarta and Bali, or kickback in an idyllic villa in Ubud. A popular stop to Indonesia is Singapore. Spend a few days in the world’s busiest port, where it’s illegal to chew or sell gum.

Brush up on: The official language is Indonesian, but as expect with such a diverse landscape, there are 742 different languages and dialects.

Bring: Weather tends to be hot and humid, so pack lightweight, airy clothes.

Kensington Tours offers customizes tours to Indonesia for every type of traveler. They build in air and land transfers in your tour—important in an archipelago as large and diverse as Indonesia! Several of our agents have been—give us a call!

8. NEW ZEALAND

Aoraki. photo by Michael Bridgen, creative commons

With the recent release of the Hobbit, New Zealand will be sure to attract even more attention in this coming year. The country has always been a haven for adventurers and active enthusiasts. From the Southern Alps culminating in the highest peak Aoraki Mount Cook, to the breathless beauty of Fiordland National Park and the gorgeous Milford Sound, there’s no shortage of natural wonder here. Travelers can climb the massive glaciers at Fox and Franz Josef, or venture into the towns of Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland. Head over to Rotorua and its landscape of geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes. Head south to the Catlins for some amazing glimpses of marine wildlife—penguins, albatross, seals, sea lions. Hike into the rainforests and see the isles’ unique animals: the kiwi, the takahe and the tuatara.

Brush up on: Maori. English is one of the official languages of New Zealand but there’s such a rich culture in Maori, and many place names are still in Maori.

Bring: You will definitely need a good pair of hiking boots to take full advantage of New Zealand’s famous outdoors.

Qantas Vacations offers self-driving itineraries in New Zealand, and Willamette Intl Travel can customize your travels by hand based on your preferences. Most of our agents have been and can provide you with firsthand knowledge and tips.

9. BRAZIL

Iguazu Falls, photo by Phillie Casablanca, creative commons

When it comes to tourism, Brazil is on the cusp of a gigantic boom. With worldwide events such as the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, travelers have already started looking and planning their itineraries. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, with diverse landscapes to match (and explore). About sixty percent of the Amazon Rainforest is within Brazil’s borders; it is also home to one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands, the Pantanal. Don’t miss Iguaçu Falls (check out both Brazil and Argentina sides for the full effect), go to a soccer match, or dare through Carnival, a giant festival of parades, costumes, and revelries in February or early March.

Brush up on: Brazilian Portuguese.

Bring: Slippers and swimsuits. If you enjoy Rio’s famous beach, you’ll definitely want to pack these.

Avanti Destinations offers some great tour itineraries to Peru, fully customizable! Give us a call for more specifics.

 

10. YOU PICK

What do you think will be one of the hottest destinations of 2013? Tell us in the comments!

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