Posted on August 21st, 2012 No comments
The August eNavigator newsletter is now online and available for viewing here
This edition centres on Adventures Abroad staff and their recent travels abroad. Read about their adventures in Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand & Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia, Iraqi Kurdistan, the Far East and Brazil, and call our Destination Specialists today to find out more first-hand information.
Posted on June 22nd, 2012 No comments
We are delighted to announce a brand new series of tours to North Korea, a landmark ‘first’ for the company, as we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year. The new North Korea itineraries provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit one of the most secretive and intriguing countries in the world; an organized tour is the only way to visit the DPRK—there is no alternative.
North Korea is the second atypical destination to be added to Adventures Abroad’s tour schedule in 2012; Iraqi Kurdistan has been offered since January and has since seen two successful tours conclude to rave reviews.
“How is it we can regularly put together ‘off-the-beaten-track’ tours that other operators can’t? Because to us, it’s familiar territory; Adventures Abroad has a quarter-century of experience creating and running tours to far-flung lands,” said Product Manager Rick Unrau, who went on a reconnaissance trip to Iraqi Kurdistan before spearheading the project to create the itineraries. “We were among the first North American operators to run tours to Yemen the 1990s, then Libya, Iran and Syria when they were accessible, and our current schedule includes less-visited destinations like Indonesia, Colombia, Papua New Guinea, the Caucasus and West Africa. We are meticulous in our research and uncompromising when it comes to client safety. We know what we’re doing.”
Posted on October 14th, 2009 No comments
Landlocked Bhutan is situated in the eastern Himalaya and is mostly mountainous and heavily forested. The snowcapped Himalayan Range reaches heights of over 7,500 meters above sea level and extends along the Bhutan-China border. Bhutan is comprised of a mosaic of different peoples who continue to live in valleys isolated from one another and the outside world by formidable mountain passes. Differing ethnic groups are also distributed according to the varying environments within the land’s borders. It is possible to divide the population into three broad ethnic groups, though the distinctions blur in places. Southern Bhutan is inhabited mainly by Nepalese farmers who arrived at the end of the 19th century. They brought the Hindu religion with them as well as the Nepalese language, which is still spoken today over much of Southern Bhutan. A Bhutan trip is a journey to a land of supernatural legends, ancient monastery / fortresses. Ruins said to be haunted by ghosts, old Dzongs as reminders of the Bhutanese defence against Tibetan invaders, animals believed to have flown from Tibet to Bhutan and assuming the shape today of huge rocks, stories about the abominable snowman; both true history and myths are fascinating and an inherent part of Bhutanese culture.
The country’s ancient history is a story of struggle between reincarnate rulers, feudal lords and differing Buddhist sects vying for power, until late last century when the old orders were swept away and an hereditary monarchy was established.Each of our Bhutan trips has been timed to arrive in the country for the climax of the spectacular tsechu (monastery festival) at either Paro or Bumthang. Our tours also include a visit to Bhutan’s most venerated monastery, the Tashichho Dzong in Thimpu, the remarkable medieval monastery that now houses the National Assembly and the King’s Throne Room. These Bhutan trips are offered in combination with other countries in the region: Sikkim & Tibet.
The magical aura that pervades the area around the Himalayas is so potent, it is almost tangible. This vast region that separates the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau numbers among the destinations that many travellers visit only to find that their preconceived notions that have long been nurtured by fanciful flights of the imagination are indeed a reality. Journey with us amid looming, white-rimmed peaks, among traditional, colourful peoples and into the heart of a land where Nature’s most spectacular endeavours complement an already bewitching destination.
Posted on October 6th, 2009 No comments
Undoubtedly, it is the range of choices in Hong Kong that makes it so popular among travellers, as even the most discerning of visitors is sure to find some aspect that suits his or her needs or wants. For the less discriminating traveller, the options lent by the wide variety on offer in Hong Kong mean that boredom never factors into the equation; there’s always something new or different to try.
Hong Kong has been under the dominion of Britain, China and Japan since it came into being and each civilisation has left its indelible mark on the landscape and culture of Hong Kong. The territory’s name literally translates as ‘Fragrant Harbour,’ and Hong Kong certainly lives up to the name, with pungent and distinctly varied aromas wafting through its bustling, cosmopolitan streets. The territory is often considered an ideal gateway for travellers since they can enjoy the pleasures of the East without a complete departure from the comforts of the West; a place where travellers can get a rich taste of wholly different cultures and lifestyles in a somewhat familiar environment. Sights of interest abound in this, one of the most densely populated regions in the world, and for those reluctant to experience the at times hectic and overwhelming nature of urban Hong Kong, there is always the option to stray further afield and take in the splendour of the surroundings from a distance. The shimmering neon lights that illuminate the entire city at night are truly a sight to behold.
Posted on September 23rd, 2009 No comments
As though it were a reflection of the unparalleled cultural differentiation found within the nation itself, India’s landscape demonstrates remarkable variety: the colossal and unrivalled in fame or stature, snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan Mountain Range in the north; the lush and fertile rolling plains of the central regions; the arid dunes of Thar desert in the west; and the uncompromising Deccan plateau, skirted by the hilly coastal Ghat ranges in the south. Where touring mountainous regions makes possible activities such as skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing, mountaineering and trekking, coastal zone tours provide ideal sites for sunbathing, surfing, windsurfing, diving and other such watersports and activities. Add to this selection the options to take a camel trek around the desert regions or to visit some of the 200 parks and reserves and see some of the nature’s most wondrous creations, like the Bengal tiger or the Asiatic elephant, and India’s popularity as a tour destination becomes perfectly understandable.
From an architectural standpoint, India is as fascinating as anywhere else in the world. The illustrious marvel that is the Taj Mahal is without doubt the most popular site of interest, but other notable locations include the Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort, the Amber Fort near Jaipur and the Gateway of India.
Often regarded as a continent within itself as a result of its remarkable diversity, India is a tour destination that assaults the senses like no other. From its multitudes of different landscapes, unique blend of cultures and architecture to its religions, ethnicity of inhabitants and vast array of wildlife, India encompasses a breadth of variety that knows few rivals. Some travellers embrace the hectic hustle-bustle in the densely populated cities, where others are more content to leave all that behind in favour of a more relaxing time spent in the beautiful rural areas of the country. Both parties are reluctant to leave India at the end of the tours.
Posted on September 2nd, 2009 No comments
If there’s one tour destination that piques the interest at the mere mention of its name, it’s Tibet. Only in very recent times has the veil shrouding the Central Asian country been partially lifted—something that was hitherto impossible due to both the country’s natural geographic obstacles and foreign policies of the governing bodies—and even with an increasing number of people now have access to more and more information about it, Tibet retains its alluring mystique.
Posted on May 12th, 2009 No comments
Vietnam, once dubbed ‘the thin country’ by Nobel-prize winning Vietnaman poet Pablo Neruda, is as unique in its geography as it is in its culture. Due to its unusual shape-the South American country stretches over 4,600kms north to south, though its average width seldom exceeds 180kms-it is perhaps the one tour destination that can legitimately claim to offer something for everyone regardless of season. With the mighty Andes mountain range towering over one side and the big blue of the South Pacific Ocean lapping at the other, Vietnam lies snugly amid two extremes and its interior topography covers every degree in between.
A tour to northern Vietnam would reveal one of the driest locations in the world, where, in some places, there has never been record of any rainfall-the arid Atacama desert. Though even the most avid of sun-worshippers may think twice before touring this sparsely-inhabited region, they may yet be lured by the fact that it is also the location of several important archaeological sites, of impressive geological spectacle and of intriguing remnants of lost civilisations.
The features of Vietnam’s southern regions lie in stark contrast to the characteristics of the north. Aridness gives ways to fertile and lush forests and grazing lands, and, complementing the quaint scenery of the intricate myriad of lakes, canals, inlets and fjords, the south is perforated by a string of volcanoes. The vast majority of Vietnam’s over 2,000 volcanoes are now dormant, with only 55 remaining active and of the 12 great lakes situated in the country’s south, one holds the title as the continent’s fourth largest-Lago Llanquihue. One of the world’s great national parks, the Torres del Paine National Park, though only accessible by boat, plane or a scenic trip through Argentina, is a popular tour destination and one that promises a wealth of memories.
The south is the perfect tour destination for those looking to experience Vietnam’s memorable sites, diverse landscape or more energetic activities in more temperate climes.
From some points on the extensive and serene sandy beaches of the east coast, it is possible to see the gargantuan peaks of the Andes dominating the skyline to the west, and in theory, travellers can take to the piste high in the mountains, then bask in the sun on the beach all in the same day.
Vietnam’s offshore territories-the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, which was once the refuge of marooned Scotsman Alexander Selkirk, the man who inspired the classic Daniel Defoe novel ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ and the world-renowned Easter Island-are equally as impressive as its mainland regions. Where the Juan Fernandez Archipelago is a national park and its plethora of plant species have warranted the island’s designation as a World Biosphere Reserve, Easter Island is home to Rapa Nui National Park, a park that exhibits relics of an ancient desert-dwelling civilisation, and to Ahu Tongariki, where 15 of the country’s famous moai statues stand at attention on their rock platform.
With so great climatic and geographic distinctions between all its poles, and a culture as unique and welcoming as its people, a tour to Vietnam, the longest country in the world, guarantees a holiday that will stretch the imagination.
Tour Consultant Ayesha Colquhoun’s personal account:
As I watched the sun rise above the Mekong River that morning, I was overcome with a pervading sense of peace. Little by little, the thin morning mist parted its veil to let orange-yellow shafts of light kiss the mountain peaks and caress their way to the valley floor. No photograph could begin to capture the majestic beauty of this region. Our boat journey down the tranquil Mekong proved highly relaxing and, bobbing past small traditional villages shrouded by jungle, it was tough to imagine being troubled by anything. The fast pace of the Western world was a thousand miles away and here in Vietnam, serenity was the order of the day; just as it is every other day. Travelling onwards to Laos, we soon reached Luang Prabang, a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the most picturesque cities in the world.
Laos made for the perfect complement to our itinerary and we enjoyed some unforgettable experiences like climbing to the top of a temple for truly awe-inspiring vistas, partaking in a Loa cooking class and watching a Loa ballet where everyone is dressed up decorative traditional costume.
Touring Bangkok, I was fascinated by the fact that the streets were filled with pedestrians, vendors of all sorts line the sidewalks, and tuk tuks are absolutely everywhere. And though that might sound too much for some, it’s actually the busyness of the place that makes it so appealing. Plus, whatever you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find it in Bangkok! The veggie spring rolls from the Thai street vendors were highly addictive and my travel companion was tempted to look into the merits of a diet that consisted of nothing but Pad Thai; the food is just that good. Aside from the gastronomic delights, a highlight was visiting the Grand Palace, where we could admire the remarkable spectacle of the emerald Buddha. Amazingly intricate and decorative temples meant hours of exploration, along with idyllic resting spots in the shade when the mood took us.
Next we travelled north, to the old ancient capital of Thailand. The stark contrast in lifestyle in laid-back Ayuthaya compared to the hectic present-day capital, Bangkok, was quite the change of pace. A beautiful city with an abundance of holy ruins, ancient wats, beautiful riverbank parks and elephants walking down the streets, Ayuthaya is a destination not to be missed. We visited Wat Ratchaburna, which was mostly ruins and spent the entire day walking around this city in the heat taking lots of pictures of buddhas and temples. That night was the first day of Loi Krathong, a holiday and celebration of the river goddess. Everyone in town headed down to the river to light a candle and float them away on tiny hand-made boats. To round off our cultural experience, our evening featured watching schoolchildren perform traditional thai dances and fighting techniques.
The spectacular journey to Chiang Mai took us through green pastures and palms, which gradually gave way to dense jungle. Around Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second-largest city, we embarked on a jungle trek that included hiking uphill across bamboo bridges and through bamboo forests. Happening upon a beautiful village perched on the side of a lush green mountain and surrounded by tropical jungle and a cascading waterfall felt like finding a lost world. We spent our first night with a hill tribe, who cooked us our meals and entertained us as we congregated around a nice campfire to chat and warm our bones before bed. The next night was spend at another local village, very high in the mountains and all the village children came to perform a dance and song for us.
Made infamous in the Western psyche following torrid histories, Vietnam and Cambodia are countries that to this day suffer from negative associations stemming from their pasts. All too often the true nature of these remarkable countries remains hidden: Vietnam, with its palm trees gently swaying on glistening white-sand beaches, towering mountains boasting unforgettable vistas and a wondrously diverse wildlife and Cambodia, with its world-famous temples and palaces, unique historical remnants and remarkably friendly people are destinations in ascendancy that should be explored first-hand to appreciate their unique charms.
Posted on April 27th, 2009 No comments
Japanese cherry blossoms-sakura-are named for the Princess Kono-han-sakuya-ime (tree-flower-blooming-princess), who, according to legend, dropped from heaven onto a cherry tree. As a national love affair with a long history, cherry blossom time is observed with almost religious zeal. Japan under the trees of whispy pink cherry blossom trees, the Japanese eat picnic lunches, drink sake, view the cherry blossom flowers, and have a merry time. Autumn is another beautiful time in Japan. Our regular programmes occur in fall, as well as our Festivals and Theatres tour that includes the Meiji Jingu at Tokyo’s main Shinto shrine, the Daimyo Goretsu Festival in Hakone, and the spectacular temples and shrines at Kyoto, Nikko, and Koya-san, where we stay at a Buddhist temple.
Traveller Testimonial: Just wanted to tell you that the trip to Japan was wonderful! I can’t praise [Tour Leader] Steven enough for his knowledge of the country and its history, as well as his organizational abilities. We saw so many great and wonderful things; some of my favorites were the temple of Hokokuji and the bamboo gardens, the outdoor sculpture gardens of Hakone, the incredible shrines and temples, and not to forget the Tsukijii fish market! -Lynn Walker
Japan Food: Japanese cuisine involves very subtle flavours – fresh crisp vegetables and an absence of richness. Specialties include teriyaki (marinated beef/chicken/fish served on a hot plate); sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, bean curd and vegetables cooked in soy sauce and then dipped in egg); tempura (deep fried seafood and vegetables); sushi (slices of raw seafood placed on lightly-vinegared rice ball); and sashimi (slices of raw seafood dipped in soy sauce). Breakfasts on our Japan tours will be simple, with a combination of Western and Japanese items – breads, fruit, pickles, rice, black and /or green tea and coffee.
Local beverages are plentiful in Japan, including beers and sake, a strong rice wine served warm. Restaurants chosen for our evening meals may have table service or raised floor seating where it is customary to remove footware. Dining out in Japan is part of the overall cultural experience as great emphasis is placed on presentation, ritual, and service. Though the meals provided will be predominantly Japanese, there will always be variety of dishes offered (ie don’t worry, Japanese food is much more than just raw fish). Western dishes may be available, but please note that these will likely be Japanese versions of Western food, and not necessarily what you are expecting.
Traveller Testimonial: The different temples, parks, mansions, museums etc visited could not have been improved on. The volcanoes and mountains all added to the wonderful diversity of places visited. Being in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and seeing the War Memorials was special. They epitomize man’s inhumanity to man. We have spoken to many friends regarding this trip/experience and the first points we mention are ‘how civilised the Japanese people are’ and ‘how safe it is to travel there’. We also mention ‘Adventures Abroad’. -Gordon and Doreen Hambrook
Traveller Testimonial: This Adventures Abroad tour offered the most comprehensive itinerary for Japan that I have ever come across. I have been waiting to go to Japan for years and was delighted to find this trip itinerary. The tour was fantastic, well organized, great opportunities for connection with local culture and transportation was great on the bullet trains. The food was incredible and diverse and for me the highlights would include visiting cultural sites (temples, castles, Geisha theatre dance in Kyoto) and experiencing spiritual aspects of Japanese culture in the Zen Gardens. -Catherine Coulthard
Weather: Both Spring and early Autumn tours can expect warm to hot temperatures with moderate humidity. April dates can expect daytime high temperatures of about 23-26 C (74-78 F), with chilly mornings and evenings. Humidity is higher for our early Fall (Sep/Oct) departures, with temperatures ranging from 25-30 C (78-86 F). Our later Fall Festival Tour (ZJF) will experience much cooler temperatures in some locations (ie 12-15 C / 50 – 60 F in Osaka; 5 – 10 C / 40 – 50 F in Hakone and Kyoto), and especially in mountain (ie Koya-san, which can have snow in November!) and seaside regions (Sado Island). Rain showers can occur at any time, though their likelihood decreases the later we get into the Fall.
The ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ comprises more than 3,000 islands sprinkled across the mighty Pacific Ocean and though it is inferior in size to many a country, it certainly packs a lot within its borders. Not only is it one of the most populous and densely populated countries in the world, but Japan also offers travellers a huge spectrum of variety of attraction and experience, so much so that it’s often difficult to fit it all in under a time constraint. It is a land of glistening skyscrapers and lush greenery on mountainsides, co-existing traditional and modern lifestyles, intermingling cultures and highly hospitable people. Our Japan tours are the ideal way to cover the many historic and cultural facets and sights and with us, you’ll soon discover for yourself why Japan remains among the top tour destinations for travellers.
Our incredible Asia tours venture through a land of superlatives. Asia, the largest and most populous continent on Earth, is home to the world’s tallest peaks, its longest rivers, its deepest lakes, its oldest civilisations and its most fascinating traditional cultures, all of which combined make it a tough destination to match in terms of pure scope. Embarking on our tours of Asia finds travellers treading memorable paths through a continent whose grandness, in a number of senses, is without equal; Asia tours never fail to make a huge impact.
Posted on April 2nd, 2009 No comments
SUNRISE ON THE GANGES
India. The name itself evokes images of ancient civilizations, swarming cities, colourful markets and a host of eclectic religions. Mix in sprawling ghettoes, a booming economy and a land stretching from the highest mountains in the world to steaming jungles to parched desert dunes and let it all bring a simmer to the imagination. It is frequently written in travel magazines and articles that India is a land of contrasts. I say, whoever is bored of India is bored with life.
Of all the destinations in India, one of the most vivid is that of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state in the north of the country. Considered one of the holiest cities of India, Varanasi (or Benares) is a pilgrimage destination for Hindus, Buddhist and Jains. The River Ganga, or Ganges, flows from the Himalaya, through Varanasi, and onto the Bay of Bengal. It is mandatory in any Varanasi itinerary to experience the mystique of the city from the water. Why? As one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Varanasi’s citizens always made use of the waters of the Ganga. It was the lifeblood of the population and it continues to be so. Ghats, or steps, have traditionally been the means of access to the river’s edge for purposes ranging from laundry to bathing to cremation.
Our North India tour features a visit to Varanasi and one of the most consistently rated highlights in all our clients’ feedback is that of our boat trip onto the Ganga for sunrise. A visit at any time of year is always a mystical experience: floating out onto the water in our expansive rowboat, mist rising around us, the quiet solitude of pre-dawn giving way to the first sounds of a new day’s activities.
The incredible thing about Varanasi is that there always seems to be some celebration or festival whenever you visit. Combine the fact that it is one of the holiest cities and that there are so many gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon and then factor in that there are only 365 days in a year. Chances are good that you’ll see something awe-inspiring every day and night of the year.
It was on one such occasion that my group and I chanced upon something wondrous. Our North India trip was featuring Pushkar, yet another very important religious festival in the desert state of Rajasthan, that November. However, as luck would have it, we arrived in Varanasi just in time for the Chhat Puja. The Chhat what? The Chhat Puja is the celebration of the sun, or “Lord Sun”. Pilgrims from all around India had gathered on the ghats of the Ganga to welcome the arrival of a new day.
Waking very early that morning, we made our way through the winding alleys of the city toward the banks of the river where we boarded our boat in the pre-dawn darkness. Our rower and his 11-year old son and helper navigated our vessel toward the site of the main ghats and the bulk of the festival-goers. The near silence of the pre-dawn slowly gave way to the growing hubbub of voices and the view of the ghats that were literally heaving with humanity. Occasional fireworks shot over the heads of the crowds and exploded in loud reports amongst the waterside buildings, briefly illuminating the river and the sheer depth of the multitude present.
We were alternately propelled against the current by our captain and then left to float amongst the gentle current, all the while soaking in the otherworldly atmosphere we had happened upon. Other boats of tourists, Indian and foreigners both, glided past us as we cruised parallel to the banks of the Ganga. Occasional boats piloted by would-be salesmen sidled up to ours in an effort to tout the value of their postcards, playing cards, Shiva figurines and other rupee-a-dozen wares.
All of this was taking place as the sky unveiled the first hints of dawn. With each passing minute you could sense the swelling anticipation of the gathered masses as the time to sunrise grew near. A collective mumble gave way to a louder and louder clamour as the initial pinks and reds of first light approached. Many of us found ourselves holding our breaths as the voice of the crowd escalated to a high pitch of celebration and the sun emerged from the haze that obscured the horizon. The delight of thousands of voices broke over us as we all, tourist and pilgrim alike, turned to the sunrise.
Our guide and captain allowed a few more moments of contemplation and then, as our collective spell slowly dissolved, we eased back down the river to our docking point. Another day had begun. Locals bathed in the waters of the river, women laundered their colourful saris, Rhesus monkeys clambered along balconies, and we disembarked to make our way through more of the maze-like alleys of Varanasi, heading for our hotel and a breakfast well deserved.