Asia continues to be a strong region for tour operators. The value for the dollar remains strong, the area is still a new discovery for most Americans and the region it is perceived to be secure. Following are some interesting tour options for 2009.
New for 2009 for Tauck World Discovery is “India’s Golden Triangle,” a 13-day trip through the north of India, with stops in Delhi, Udaipur and Jaipur. The program presents India’s cultural heritage and visual spectacle. After landing in Delhi, travelers spend three nights at the Oberoi New Delhi. Also included are Varanasi, the “Holy City of India,” on the banks of the River Ganges; Khajuraho, the site of medieval Hindu and Jain temples dating from 950 to 1050; and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Also visited are Lake Pichola, Saheliyon Ki Bari, Fateh Sagar Lake and Gurgaon. For more information, call 800-468-2825 or visit www.tauck.com.
Abercrombie & Kent is offering the 17-day “India - Tigers, Temples & The Taj Mahal” as one of its Marco Polo Club Invitationals, combining India’s cultural and architectural marvels in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra with the wilderness experience of the jungle parks, Kanha Tiger Reserve and Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Participants will track the Bengal tiger, leopard, hyena, jackal and wild boar in the game reserves, visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise and sunset, cruise Bombay Harbor to Elephanta Island’s rock-carved cave temples, and have the opportunity to shop for blue pottery and jewels in Jaipur. For more information, call 800-554-7094 or visit www.abercrombiekent.com.
Collette Vacations is offering an in-depth, 13-day escorted tour called “Japan’s Hidden Treasures,” which places ancient traditions and the historic roots of Japanese culture side by side with modern industrial Japan. The itinerary traces the country’s history from its first ancient capital, Nara, to its present-day capital, Tokyo, with three guest lecturers providing insight into the background that lies behind the modern image of Japan. Travelers will learn about the life of a geisha and the Samurai, the craft of wood-block printmaking, and the history of medieval Japan’s first contact with the West in 1542 to its rise as a modern industrial giant. The tour visits Hakone, Nagano, Takayama, Kanazawa, Otsu and Kyoto. Call 800-717-9191 or visit www.collettevacations.com.
Globus’ 14-day, independent Monograms offering visits Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. It’s loosely structured for independence and flexibility, while still providing a basic itinerary to give shape to the trip and ensure that participants get a good taste of the destination. It begins with a three-night stay in Tokyo, with a guided sightseeing tour, followed by a flight to Beijing, with a tour to the Great Wall of China, and three nights in Shanghai, with a sightseeing tour, a stroll along the Bund and a visit to the Shanghai Museum. It winds up with a three-day visit to Hong Kong, with a guided sightseeing tour, a cable car ride up Victoria Peak and a sampan ride on Hong Kong’s harbor. For more information, call 800-221-0090 or visit www.globusjourneys.com.
Trafalgar Tours’ “Majestic China” is a 17-day escorted tour that combines visits to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong with a cruise down the Yangtze through the Three Gorges. Beijing highlights include the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, as well as a night at the Beijing Opera. In Shanghai the itinerary includes a performance of the Shanghai Acrobats. Also included are visits to Xi’an and the Guilin Li River. For more information, call 800-854-0103 or visit www.trafalgartours.com.
General Tours World Traveler is offering a 15-day small-group escorted tour called “Spirit of India and Bhutan.” It includes cities of northern India, such as Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi and Kolkatta, and Thimpu and Paro at the base of the Himalayas in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Highlights include a visit to Shishu Bhawan, the children’s home founded by Mother Teresa; a walk or horseback ride to Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest Monastery; Agra’s Fatehpur Sikri, the perfectly preserved, 16th-century red sandstone ghost town; Agra Fort; and Varanasi, the ancient center of Hinduism. For more information, call 800-678-7942 or visit www.generaltours.com.
Travcoa’s “Bhutan & Sikim Unveiled” is a 15-day escorted tour of highlights of India and Bhutan. The tour begins in New Delhi, India, where you will visit Humayun’s Tomb, the 16th-century final resting place of the second emperor of the Mugal Dynasty, and the Qutab Minar, a towering red sandstone tribute to Islam. In Darjeeling, you will climb 9,000 feet on horseback to see the sunrise over Mount Everest, travel along the Teesta River to Gangtok and visit Rumtek, the largest monastery outside Tibet. In Bhutan the itinerary includes tea estates; fortresses; the ancient capital, Punakha; the old winter capital, Paro; and the Taktsang Monastery on a cliff 3,000 feet above the valley. Call 800-992-2005 or visit www.travcoa.com.
Absolute Travel’s “Skyscrapers and Sand” is a nine-day trip that combines Singapore and Langkawi Island in Southeast Asia. The first three days of the trip are spent in Singapore, with a half-day tour of the highlights of the city, and a night safari at the Singapore Botanical Gardens, followed by time for independent touring. The Singapore stay is followed by a flight to the island of Langkawi, with accommodations at the Datai boutique hotel, in a tropical rain forest with a white-sand beach facing the Andaman Sea. A half-day tour of Langkawi is included, as well as a half-day mangrove safari to look for birds, monkeys and reptiles. The trip can be customized to order. For more information, call 800-736-8187 or visit www.absoluteasia.com.
Asia Transpacific Journeys’ “Indonesia: Bali and Beyond” takes travelers beneath the surface of Indonesia, from Bali to Komodo, Kalimantan, Borneo, Yogyakarta, Borobudur and Java. The package incorporates accommodations ranging from modern inns to traditional lodges. Highlights include sailing the Komodo Archipelago on the tall-ship Adelaar, snorkeling over coral reefs, visiting remote tribal villages, a private performance of the kecak dance in Bali and an encounter with orangutans in the wild at Camp Leakey. Call 800-642-2742 or visit www.asiatranspacific.com.
Big Five Tours & Expeditions’ “South India Highlights” allows participants to explore the south of India, including tropical, seaside Madras and the ancient shore temples of Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram. Travelers will visit the backwaters of Kerala on a houseboat; explore Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary on a boat safari in search of tigers, wild elephants, deer, monkeys and birds; and encounter Cochin’s mix of Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Muslim cultures. Call 800-244 3483 or visit www.bigfive.com. SITA World Travel is offering the 14-day “Mystic Marvels of Indochina,” which includes Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Siem Reap, Cambodia. Highlights include festive dinners featuring traditional food and entertainment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City, a water puppet show in Hanoi, a Cu Chi Tunnel excursion, boat trips on the Perfume River and Tonle Sap, and tours of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom and Halong Bay. For more information, call 800-421-5643 or visit www.sitatours.com.
Pacific Delight Tours is offering a 14-day Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia package in its Super Value series, designed to provide highlights of Southeast Asian culture, including Vietnam’s Halong Bay and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. The program is escorted in Vietnam, and locally hosted in Bangkok and Cambodia. Highlights include the Royal Grand Palace in Bangkok, the Ho Chi Minh House in Hanoi, the “Hanoi Hilton” prison and a tour of the Old Quarter tour by pedicab. For more information, call 800-221-7179 or visit www.pacificdelighttours.com.
Ports of India is providing a mix of India’s urban and wildlife experiences titled “Golden Triangle With Tigers.” The nine-day program visits Delhi, Agra, Sawaimadhopur and Jaipur. Included are a full-day tour of Old and New Delhi with three World Heritage Sites, the Taj Mahal at sunrise and a jungle safari in the Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary. Call 800-995-7997 or visit www.picassotours.com.
Goway Travel offers the 14-day, independent “Best of Korea & China” program, which includes Seoul, Gyeongju, Busan, Beijing and Shanghai. It’s a rare opportunity to visit Korea, and it’s combined with the major attractions of China. A morning tour of Seoul includes such places as Gyeongbokgung Palace, the National Museum, the Blue House (Presidential Palace), the Folklore Museum, Insadong Alley and the South Gate Open Market. Half of the trip is in Korea, the other half in China. Call 800-387-8850 or visit www.goway.com.
Mayflower Tours’ 12-day “China and the Yangtze River Cruise” program is includes the major sights of Beijing; a flight to Xian for the terra-cotta warriors, and the Tang Dynasty dinner and show; a tour of Chongqing; and a cruise on the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges. For more information, call 800-323-7604 or visit www.mayflowertours.com.--David Cogswell