laos & burma
Mark Yacker, director, North America, Insider Journeys (formally Travel IndoChina), says countries like Laos and
Burma are becoming very popular for travelers looking to experience exotic destinations in parts of the world that are still in a development stage.
“There is enough infrastructure in these countries to make the journey very comfortable,” he says, “but step away from the big name sites and you will still find ancient customs and a traditional way of life being practiced by fascinating people who are excited about cross-cultural exchanges.”
A new Small Group Journeys itinerary is the 13-day Laos & Burma Experience ($3,930 pp). The itinerary begins with a slow boat ride along the Mekong River in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and continues to Laos to see the Pak Ou Caves before traveling on to the city of Luang Prabang for a stop at the Xieng Thong Palace, Wat Mai, and the Royal Palace.
Next it’s off to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to explore some of the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the National Museum and the gold-covered Buddhist stupa, Pha That Luang. Your clients will spend one night in Yangon, Burma, before heading to Inle Lake for a tour and visit to Phaung Daw Oo Ou Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred images of Buddah; the tour ends with two nights in Bagan, a city known for its beautiful temples. Accommodations include the boutique lodge, Sala Prabang; the Mercure Vientiane in Laos; and the Summit Parkview Hotel Yangon.
How about a 22-day tour to five of Indonesia’s islands?
G Adventures’ Islands of Indonesia journey ($3,299 pp), one of many new tours to Southeast Asia the operator is offering, explores the best of Indonesia, with plenty of free time for guests to explore on their own.
Highlights on this 22-day excursion include spotting dragons on Komodo Island and a boat trip to Rinca where travelers will sleep on a yacht either under the stars or in a bunk; a chance to meet the locals at a Ngada village; stopping at the tobacco plantations of Tebebatu; exploring the multi-colored crater lakes of Kelimutu; savoring local Indonesian cuisine and visiting multiple Hindu temples; and outdoor adventures from snorkeling to taking a swim in a waterfall.
By day 10, your clients will be soaking in the mineral waters of the Angseri Hot Springs, and by day 20, they’ll be enjoying a full day on the white-sand beaches in the Gili Islands where they can opt for some snorkeling, diving, horseback riding, or yoga.
The trip includes all internal flights, transportation via private van, public buses, boats and ferries, 21 breakfasts and two dinners, local guides, and only a max of 15 persons in a group.
cruise the irrawaddy
Mayflower Tours is offering a 15-day Myanmar and Irrawaddy River Cruise journey ($5,499 pp twin; cruise and land only) as part of its 2016 river cruise and small ship adventures holiday lineup; the tour also includes three nights in Bangkok with a guided city tour and some free time.
“As we continue to expand our river cruise and small ship adventures holiday selection, we knew our curious, discerning travelers would thoroughly enjoy the life-enriching experiences in Southeast Asia,” says John Stachnik, president and co-owner of Mayflower Tours. “This itinerary features ports of call showcasing palaces and pagodas, rich cultures, remarkable architecture and natural adventures, which truly bring this destination to life.”
Your clients will first fly to Mandalay, Myanmar, for a 9-night river cruise aboard the chartered RV Irrawaddy Explorer, a newly built vessel accommodating only 56 passengers. The onboard accommodations are done up in the style of the British colonial era; all meals are included and dinners are four courses served with complimentary regional wines, beers and soft drinks. The river cruise will make stops at Mingun; at Monywa to visit to the Hpowindaung and Shwebadaung Caves; the village of Yandabo; and Shwe Pyi Thar, Bagan, and Salay. Excursions are also included and guests will be led by local, English-speaking guides. The cruise departs on Sept. 16, 2016.
best of asia for millennials
Servicing today’s social media-savvy millennials, Contiki Vacations has a few Asia itineraries worth noting. Its 14-day Asian Adventure ($1,944 pp) takes travelers to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, and offers an interesting program called Me Time, allowing travelers a chance to build their own experiences on the trip.
For example, the Asian Adventure itinerary offers three Me Time choices: a group photo at Bangkok’s Grand Palace ($5); a Thai cooking class ($30); and a visit to the Akha and Yao hill tribes ($25).
“In comparison to Gen X’ers, millennials want to have a unique, but shared experience,” says Melissa da Silva, president of Contiki Vacations. “That is why Contiki builds in ME Time, so they can craft their perfect trip. However, they also want to share it and socialize, which is why being on a group trip like Contiki with other like-minded adventurers provides that social experience.”
Some highlights of this tour include a visit to two UNESCO World Heritage sites—Luang Prabang and the Angkor Wat Temples; a visit to the mountain-side Buddhist temple of Wat Phra That; a waterfall trip to Kuang Si; a city tour and visit to the Khmer Rouge “Killing Fields” genocide sites; experiencing a modern Cambodian dinner at a restaurant with former disadvantaged youth currently training in the field of hospitality; and visiting the vine-covered Ta Prohm temple.
Explore off the Port
If your clients are visiting Asia by sea, look into booking some off-ship excursions with Private Shore Trips, a tour operator of shore trips and city tours. The company recently announced new private shore excursions at major port cities across Asia, including Hong Kong, Mumbai, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh. The 6-hour Highlights of Kowloon Island tour in Hong Kong includes a private car ride to the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, one of Hong Kong’s top attractions; then it’s off to Kowloon Island’s bustling markets selling exotic birds, jewelry, and flowers. Tour prices start at $298 pp for two people, and your clients will meet a guide at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak cruise terminal. (800) 644-7814; privateshoretrips.com
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue archive): China’s Got it Going on (March 2015)
Contiki: (866) 266-8454; contiki.com
G Adventures: (888) 800-4100; gadventures.com or sherpa.gadventures.com/login
Insider Journeys: (800) 342 1957; insider-journeys.com or insider-journeys.com/agents
Mayflower Tours: (800) 323-7604; mayflowertours.com