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ISSUE 62

Jul - Oct 2013

OFF THE

RADAR

5EXCEPTIONAL JOURNEYS

Daring itineraries into extraordinary places

SPOTLIGHT ON

We uncover the remote city of Loikaw in Myanmar

TRAVEL JOURNALS

Personal adventures and encounters in Asia

EXO INSIGHTS

Inside information from our travel experts


A rickshaw cyclist takes a break on the corner of a street market in central Yangon, Myanmar.

Discover the city and beyond

Experience Saigon in an environment inspired by Oriental traditions. Be at home at a hotel where you have the time and space to enjoy the things that are most important to you. Welcome to New World Saigon Hotel.

76 Le Lai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City tel: +84 8 3822 8888 saigon@newworldhotels.com www.saigon.newworldhotels.com

LUXURY HAS A NEW EXPRESSION IN DANANG Absolute tranquility and seclusion awaits guests at the newly-opened InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. Nested in its own private bay amidst the hills of the famous Son Tra Peninsula, distinctive Vietnamese architecture is matched by exceptional service to create first truly luxurious resort in the region. And, with our expert local knowledge, we’ll help you discover authentic experiences to make your stay especially memorable. Contact us now to enjoy our very special rate.

WHAT’S

NEW?

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

Exo Myanmar Leads The Way In Tourism Development Unprecedented is often the word used to describe Myanmar’s expansion as a tourist

in the region to perform such training. To handle these

destination. No country has undergone such rapid growth in such a short period of

developments we have seen our staff in the Myanmar offices

time – an effect caused by a country opening its borders in an age of globalization.

increase by more than 100 percent in the last eight months.”

“Previously, only the adventurous embarked on a tour of Myanmar, but now

Exotissimo Myanmar has been negotiating with hotel owners

more leisure travelers are also arriving and with a different set of expectations,”

to secure rooms and resolve any issues that may arise from

commented Richard Ludwig, Product Manager of Exotissimo Myanmar. He

the surge in demand over recent years. While there are still no

continued, “Guides, especially experienced ones, are at a premium this season. Exo

true 5 star hotel options, the choice of hotels in areas such as

is providing guide training and looking for bright, energetic new guides all the time.

Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle are satisfactory to most

We are also putting together a ‘First Aid Training’ program, the first travel company

traveler’s needs and requirements.

Do you live in an Intercontinental life?

Call us at +84 (0511) 393 8888 or visit danang.intercontinental.com In over 170 locations across the globe including: BALI

BORA BORA

FIJI

HUA HIN

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

3


New Appointments At Exotissimo Travel

Manu, Product Manager of Exotissimo Indonesia

We would like to introduce and welcome

EXO Foundation Launches New Website

two new product managers that have joined

EXO Foundation recently launched its new

Exotissimo, Emmanuel Henrotte or ‘Manu’

and improved website (www.exofoundation.

in Exo Indonesia and Johann Chabert in Exo

org), showing a new attractive design with

Vietnam. Manu was born in Belgium and spent

diverse features to facilitate a wider scope of

the past 7 years working in the travel industry in

communication and help perform its tasks.

Bali. He also speaks an impressive 5 languages. Manu will replace Nicky Henderson who is staying with Exotissimo to lead the product team as Group Product Manager. Johann Chabert is from France but for the past 3 years been running his own travel advice website in Canada. With their diverse knowledge of the

Johann Chabert, Product Manager of Exotissimo Vietnam

EXO Foundation has refreshed the portal's contents and appearance with the aim of reaching a wider audience, increasing the capacity to raise awareness and trigger action towards sustainable development, poverty reduction and responsible tourism practice.

travel industry, we look forward to the fresh

Exotissimo Travel, who is the main donator to the

ideas and enthusiasm Manu and Johann will

Foundation (1$ donated for each traveling client),

bring to their teams. Feel free to contact Manu

renewed its commitment and continuous support

or Johann using the details below: manu@

by introducing the new portal to the 150 French

exotissimo.com and johann@exotissimo.com

travel partners present, inviting all to contribute to this charitable initiative.

ExoConnect – Connecting You To Asia As part of our ongoing efforts to provide a

Exotissimo Academy 5 Coming Soon

higher level of service and added value, the booking process with Exo will be much faster and easier with ExoConnect, our new online booking system. Dan Tilley, Systems Project Manager for

Dan Tilley, Systems Project Manager, Exotissimo Group

Exotissimo Group said, “ExoConnect is our exciting new online booking system that will make all of our agent’s lives much easier. Hotels, transfers and Exo experiences can be booked and confirmed instantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with just a few clicks. We’ve made it possible to review existing bookings, check up-to-date rates and take advantage of special offers, all seamlessly accessible through your familiar Travel Trade account.”

Now in its fifth successive and equally successful year, Exotissimo are preparing for their annual training program to promote staff development with the core values at its very heart. Commencing in June, the schedule includes participation from each of Exotissimo’s destination countries. Exotissimo employees participate in a series of

For more information please contact,

interactive training modules, learning useful skills

marketing@exotissimo.com

in teamwork, communication and problem solving while incorporating the essential core values as listed below. Each participant will also learn to identify the unique selling points of Exotissimo and the travel desires and aspirations of each client.

Exotissimo’s Core Values

1. We are passionate about travel

4. We share our knowledge

2. We exceed expectations

5. We aim to be responsible

3. We dare to innovate, aim to

6. Yes we win

be unique

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

7. Yes we can, yes we care

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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1

3

2

6

HOME

For The Night 4

5

We’ve got some great ideas when it comes to recommending a hotel that offers something a little different. Whether it’s the location, architecture or history of the place that makes it extra special, try suggesting these distinctive abodes that stand out from the crowd. 1

A secluded beach hideaway in Indonesia

2

Traditional homestay in Cambodia

3

Charming boutique property in Laos

4

Luxurious resort in Vietnam

5

A living museum in China

6

Mountain-top temple in Japan

A world away from modern civilization

A very basic homestay option at

For clients staying in Pakse, we

Banyan Tree Lang Co is a luxurious

The Linden Centre occupies the

An overnight experience you simply

as we know it, Jeeva Beloam in

Banteay Chhmar, located northwest

recommend the Residence Sisouk.

addition to the Laguna Lang Co

historic and impressive property of

will not find anywhere else. Guests can

Lombok offers isolation in a simply

of Tonle Sap Lake and about 2

This charming boutique hotel,

complex, built on a splendid crescent

Yang Pin Xiang, standing as one of the

stay in a shukubo (Buddhist temple

stunning location. Surrounded by a

hours from Siem Reap. There are 8

formerly a private home, has just 14

bay offering unrivalled privacy and

most alluring and pristine examples

lodging) on the mountaintop of Mount

55 hectare nature forest preserve,

homestays in the area allowing the

rooms and has maintained its unique

exclusivity. The range of facilities on

of vernacular architecture in China.

Koya, a center of Shingon Buddhism for

the residence contains five beruga,

experience of a night in a traditional

style. The hotel welcomes guests

offer at the resort is so extensive that

Situated in the stunning landscape of

over 1200 years. The beautiful temple

perched on a sand dune above a

Cambodian style house. At just $10

with exposed wooden flooring and

for some clients there is no need to

Yunnan province, the centre is housed

constructed from wood provides a very

250 meter long white sandy beach,

per night, this is a value option for all

beautiful artworks. Unfortunately

venture elsewhere. On site guests are

in a display example of traditional

basic Japanese style room with shared

with views from their front terraces

travelers and in close proximity to the

there is no pool but this is made

treated to a fully equipped gymnasium,

Bai architecture – the Yang Jia Yuan,

facilities, allowing an experience similar

across the Alas Strait to the island of

temples of Banteay Chhmar, it makes

up by the superior standard of the

yoga pavilion, golf course, sport center,

built by the original owner, Yang Pin

to the daily life of the monks who reside

Sumbawa and the open Hindia Ocean.

a great place to spend a memorable

rooms which are possibly the best on

marine lab for divers and extensive

Xiang. In many ways the center is a

there. Traditional Buddhist cuisine is

Off the main power grid, Jeeva Beloam

night. It can be easily incorporated

offer in Pakse. Guests can enjoy their

meeting facilities for business clients.

living museum complete with modern

served in the evening and a delicious

uses environmentally friendly solar

on a journey from Battambang to

breakfast served in the lounge bar on

Each of the 49 all-pool villas are finished

comforts to ensure every guest feels

vegetarian breakfast in the morning as

power panels backed up by a diesel

Siem Reap or as an excursion from

the top floor with panoramic views of

with traditional Vietnamese architectural

well treated while engaging in the sites

part of the stay. The surrounding pine

fuel generator to provide electricity to

either city.

the city.

elements and furnishings of the finest

compelling history.

forest and Chinese graveyard add to the

the camp.

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

craftsmanship.

atmosphere.

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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Relive a resplendent past of a by-gone era, with a magical, colonial cruise on Halong bay. Experience Emeraude Classic Cruises, the luxurious choice to see one of UNESCO’s hidden treasures.

Born of Vietnamese imperial grace and refinement, Bhaya Cruises’ modern fleet offers a wide range of cruise options from private, intimate charter cruises for couples or small groups up to exclusive and luxury voyages aboard 20-cabin cruise vessels. Bhaya Cruises is also reputed as the most experienced and trusted mice supplier in Halong Bay cruising, serving up unforgettable moments and memories to last a lifetime. Soak in the sights, sounds and scenic delights of this majestic watery wonderland in unrivalled comfort, safety and hearty hospitality.

Ancient House River Resort Cam Thanh ward, Hoi An city, Viet Nam Tel: ++84 510 3930777 Fax: ++84 510 3930779 Email: sales@ancienthouseriver.com Website: www.ancienthouseriver.com

BHAYA CRUISES 47 Phan Chu Trinh, Hanoi,Vietnam Tel.: +84 4 3944 6777 | Fax: +84 4 3944 6776 Email: sales@bhayacruises.com | Web: www.bhayacruises.com

HUE - VIETNAM

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

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01 * INDO

Trek to Banunggulung to see Komodo dragons in the wild before heading to Pink Beach for an afternoon of snorkeling.

10 Days / 9 Nights

Sebayor Island

Banunggulung

KOMODO

Villages & Sailing (Flores & Komodo)

Pink Beach

Denpasar ê Kelimutu ê Ende ê Bajawa ê Ruteng ê Labuan Bajo ê Sebayor Island ê Komodo Island ê Rinca Island ê Bidadari Island

Labuan Bajo

Leave for 3 nights onboard a private sailing boat in Komodo National Marine Park.

Ruteng

Enjoy local food and visit the traditional Ngada village of Gurusina nestled on the slopes of the Inerie volcano.

Journey to the summit of Mt Kelimutu, stopping to see its three uniquely colored lakes.

A tour taking guests across some of Indonesia’s most spectacular islands including a hike to the top of the mysterious Mt Kelimutu, home to

Rinca Island

FLORES

three uniquely colored lakes that Kelimutu { Start }

Bajawa

change color throughout the year. Cruise through the Komodo National Marine Park to see prehistoric

Ende

02 * CAMBODIA Adventure Day in the Life Tour 4 Days / 3 Nights

Sunrise from Fuji’s Summit

Explore the magnificent Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom, Bayon and Angkor Thom temples.

still stand in this area of Cambodia. Lend a helping hand with village tasks such as planting rice and

village of Kampong Phluck.

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

Depart Tokyo for Lake

Stay in a traditional ryokan and enjoy a hot onsen spring bath before dining on a selection of delicious Japanese treats.

Kawaguchiko, an onsen

Join in with project work at Kompheim Village, helping to plant rice, harvest crops or learning how to make a thatch roof.

Siem Reap { Start }

guides certified by the Japan

Board a local boat and travel through this fascinating stilted village before exploring Tonle Sap Lake.

Mountain Guide Association. We then begin our ascent of Mt Fuji, reaching the peak

Tonlé Sap Lake

Mt Fuji

just before sunrise. Watch

{ Start } Tokyo

The bright lights of Tokyo are a sight to behold for any visitor. A truly captivating city where ancient pastimes are practiced next to pioneering modern day technologies.

the surrounding mountains light up as the sun floods the

Kampong Phluck

Kawaguchiko

where guests meet our expert

Beng Mealea

making thatch roof panels before visiting the stilted

Tokyo ê Kawaguchiko ê Mt Fuji

resort at the base of Mt Fuji

lesser known including

architectural feats that

The atmospheric, overgrown and crumbling temple of Beng Mealea is a captivating sight.

Angkor Complex

temples of Angkor to the

guests the stunning

HONSHU

3 Days / 2 Nights

From the magnificent

Beng Mealea, we show

03 * JAPAN

Kulen Mountain

Siem Reap ê Angkor Complex ê Kulen Mountain ê Beng Mealea ê Kampong Phluck

Komodo dragons in the wild.

horizon with the dawn of a new day.

Climb the iconic Mt Fuji and watch a spectacular sunrise from its peak.

Pacific Ocean ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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04 * THAILAND

05 * VIETNAM & CHINA Red River to Yunnan

Learn about a number of cultural past-times including Muay Thai, rice farming, Thai music and visit a center for elephants.

Chiang Mai

This in-depth experience introduces guests to both Vietnamese and

16 Days / 15 Nights

Chinese cultures while traversing untouched natural landscapes that

Hanoi ê LaVieVuLinh ê Bac Ha ê Sa Pa ê Lao Cai ê Puzhehei ê Yuanyang ê Luoping ê Hongtudi ê Shilin ê Kunming

are unique to the region. Trek along jungle paths to remote waterfalls in VuLinh, cross through rich green rice terraced slopes and into the spectacular Yunnan Province of China on an unforgettable journey.

Visit Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon in Nong Wang Temple for its Dvaravati and Indo-China arts.

Lampang

Dan Sai Hongtudi

Sukhothai Phitsanulok

Khon Kaen

Explore Sukhothai historical park, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Thailand.

{ Start }

Phi Mai

Khao Yai

Visit the less frequented Black Stone Forest and wander through the maze of stone trees where we enjoy a picnic lunch in the middle of the forest

Kunming Luoping Shilin

Bangkok

Andaman Sea

See the dramatic red/orange soils of Hongtudi, created by the rich minerals found in the earth here.

Puzhehei Yuanyang

Hike through a monsoon forest keeping a look out for wild gibbons, hornbills and monitor lizards.

Gulf of Thailand

Head to nearby Laohuzui to watch a spectacular sunset over a landscape of rice terraces as far as the eye can see. Sa Pa

Bac Ha Lao Cai

Trek to Cau Buc Waterfalls and explore the surrounding jungle with a local guide who teaches about the many rare species of flora and fauna

LaVieVuLinh { Start } Hanoi

Gulf of Tonkin

Thailand in Varieties

An extensive tour covering many of the fascinating historical and

12 Days / 11 Nights

natural areas found in Central, Eastern and Northern Thailand.

Bangkok ê Khao Yai ê Phi Mai ê Khon Kaen ê Dan Sai ê Phitsanulok ê Sukhothai ê Lampang ê Chiang Mai

From the Grand Palace and bustling streets of Bangkok we travel northeast through the beautiful natural scenery of Khao Yai park and into Isaan before heading back into central Thailand and up to the cultural city of Chiang Mai.

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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China

Mynamar

Loikaw

Laos

Thailand

Richard Ludwig, Product Manager of Exotissimo Myanmar

Spotlight On….

LOIKAW

Loikaw is the capital of Kayah State in Myanmar and located in the Karen Hill area, close to the State's northern boundary. The town is known for its varying hill tribes and THE Thiri-Mingalar Cambodia Taung Kwae pagoda, found in the centre of town. The Emerald Tree pagoda is located further south and boasts spectacular views of the lush Shan State hills and Kayah region. “I met a local woman who, when talking of

Tourist numbers visiting Loikaw are now on the

her age said “si sib”, which means 40 in Thai.

increase as the provincial capital of Kayah State is

Although she was Burmese, the woman had learnt

the latest city in Myanmar to forgo the formality

to speak Thai while living in Mae Hong Son, a

of requiring tourists to receive permission to

village located in Northwest Thailand and close to

visit. Accessible by road and boat (both five hour

the Myanmar border. The Padaung woman was

journeys) from the Inle Lake region, Loikaw offers

smiling because she had just returned from a visit

nine contrasting ethnicities. The area is adorned

to Panpet, her hometown village. This has been a

with hilltop monasteries from which to watch the

common occurrence over the last year for many

setting sun, intriguing treks, river rides through

in the Palaung villages of Kayah State, located

the city and an idyllic waterfall. The city is bisected

between the Thai border and Shan State in Eastern

by the Pilu River, populated by numerous lakes

Myanmar. The Padaung, more commonly known

and surrounded by mountains, creating one of

as ‘long-necks’, are with ever increasing frequency

Myanmar’s most spectacular cities.”

coming home as more opportunities begin to present themselves in the region.

Thiri Mingalar Pone Monastery in Loikaw

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

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travel

J O U RNALS

Mutianyu section of the great wall near Beijing

Julien Monnerie (center)

Real life stories and adventures by Exotissimo staff as they explore Asia.

Product Manager, China

Exploring the Great Wall of China by motorvan “I recently met the deputy chief of the village of Guandi at her house. It is a delightful place that has been transformed into a guesthouse with an ancient courtyard where we sat and enjoyed tea. I was on an exploratory adventure of the Great Wall in a motorvan. A way of travel that gives a lovely sense of freedom and privacy as you can retire to your van whenever you desire. From here I had a spectacular view of the ‘real’ Great Wall, lined in places by trees planted as part of the ‘Green Great Wall Project’. I was encapsulated as I discovered her commitment towards this incredible project. We were intrigued by the symbolism of what we could see. The historical Great Wall meeting the Green Great Wall, representing present achievements and future possibilities. From here we made our way to a section of the wall that few people know or dare to climb: Jiankou! We climbed along the highest point called ‘Heaven’s Ladder’ and enjoyed views of China to the south and Inner Mongolia in the north. After finishing our climb we made our way back to our motor home, enjoying a glass of wine and delicious barbecue while watching the sun set over the mythical wall, an unforgettable moment. The motor home was very well equipped and convenient for our needs. It was such a thrill to explore the wall in this unique way. The next day we tackled the Mutianyu section of the wall. It is not an easy walk but one with fantastic views and a great sense of adventure to it. We enjoyed our final lunch in the School House, a former school turned restaurant. There is also an art glass studio worth visiting, where they hire local people, grow their own food and follow sustainable operating practices. An all-round unforgettable experience.” EXO SUGGESTS: Two Great Walls by motor caravan (2D/1N).

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

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Visit the intriguing ‘Thrown Temple’ in the sleepy village of Misasa, Japan “The small town of Misasa in Tottori

While in town, you can visit one of the

prefecture is a charming overnight stop

several onsens – these are Japanese

for pilgrims and tourists intending to visit

style baths with special etiquette in the

the ‘Thrown Temple’: Nageire-do; a place

way of use. Usually they are attached

for monks-in-training or spa enthusiasts

to accommodations, but day-use is also

who visit to enjoy the radium-rich natural

possible. Misasa is also one of the rare

hot springs. The temple, Sanbutsu-ji, is a

places where you find a hot spring under

designated national treasure with several

the river bed – mostly men enjoy this

buildings scattered on the slopes of the

free, open-air bathing.

Mitoku Mountain. One of the buildings is Nageire-do, a wooden structure hanging

If you are staying overnight, I can

on the rocks that indeed looks like

recommend Hanaya Bekkan, a large and

someone randomly threw it there.

friendly ryokan. Oh, and don’t miss Mr. Kajikawa’s Barber shop and Museum.”

Katalin Rákóczi, Product Executive, Japan

It dates back to the Heian period (8-12th century) and folklore says that it was founded by En no Gyōja, the Buddhist ascetic and mystic. Apparently it was Gyōja who built the temple at the foot of

the mountain, and then with his strong power, threw it up into the rocks. It will take a good hour to climb up to Nageire-do, and it is a test for the muscles as you ascend and descend with the help of chains at various stages. Following some accidents, the rule now is

EXO SUGGESTS: Contact japan@exotissimo.com to find out more about including a visit to the 'Thrown Temple' in to an itinerary.

that lone travelers must wait for a buddy to climb up together.

Walk around the characterful streets of Chiang Khan in Thailand “Chiang Khan is a small and welcoming town located in Loei province that has a special place in my heart. The district of Chiang Khan is bordered to the north by the Khong River separating it from Laos. The town is quiet with a laid-back atmosphere, reflective of the simple lifestyle of its people. There are many old wooden houses making it extremely attractive and great for exploring on foot over a few days. The village has a number of old temples and the landscape beyond is breathtaking. Chiang Khan reminds me of my childhood and I could never grow tired of visiting this wonderful area. I always have a great smile when I visit this place. From here there are a number of travel options available. It’s easy to continue to central Thailand, Northern

Sunisa Yingkhum, Product Supervisor, Thailand

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

Isaan or even cross the border and spend some time exploring Laos.” EXO SUGGESTS: Visit the province of Loei during the famous ‘Phi Ta Khon Festival (4D/3N)’

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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the story

behind the

images revealing the storIES behind iconic images captured on camera.

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

Sculpted panels at Wat Xieng Thong These sculpted and gilded teakwood panels are actually found on The Carriage House, located at the eastern edge of Wat Xieng Thong, which itself is found at the northern tip of the peninsula formed by the Mekong River and the Nam Khan. Wat Xieng Thong is Luang Prabang's most extravagant temple. The panels themselves recount the Laos version of the story of Ramayana – the national epic of the Lao people.

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Pathway through a thousand Torii Gates

Crumbling remains of Beng Mealea An immensely atmospheric site containing the remains of a temple originally built in the Angkor Wat style close to Siem Reap in Cambodia. For years it was difficult to reach, but a road was

Fushimi Inari Shrine is a

recently built to the temple complex of Koh Ker that passes close to Beng Mealea, opening it up to

Shinto Shrine in South

the public. Primarily made from sandstone, much of the temple is now found lying in great heaps

Kyoto, Japan, famous for its

with trees and bushes thriving amidst the ancient courtyards, towers and passageways.

thousands of torii gates that lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. The gates are donations by individuals with the donator’s name and the date inscribed on the back as visible in the picture. The hike to the summit of Mount Inari and back takes about 2-3 hours.

Batak House Ornaments Batak architecture is very ornate and relates to traditions of

of a jabu, a Toba Batak house.

Treasure houses of the Mogao Caves

These houses are predominantly

Situated along the Silk Route at

boat shaped with intricately

the crossroads of trade, with heavy

carved gables and sweeping roofs

religious, cultural and intellectual

made from thatch. The front of

influences, the 492 cells and

the house extends further than

cave sanctuaries in Mogao are

the rear and is used to show fine

famous for their statues and wall

carvings and motifs. These may

paintings, spanning 1,000 years of

be cockerels, suns or geometric

Buddhist art. Carved into the cliffs

patterns, painted in shades of red,

above the Dachuan River in China,

white and black while the rear of

the caves shelter an immense

the house remains plain.

collection of Buddhist art.

various Batak groups in North Sumatra, Indonesia. This particular decoration is found on the front

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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{ Start }

Kong Lor Caves

4 hours

In Thakhek we advise 'Inthira' for charm and great food.

EXO Insights

A night here allows access to some of the most impressive scenery in Laos, try ‘Chantha House’ for access to local restaurants, or ‘Sala Kong Lor’ for superb river views.

Thakhek

1.5 hours

Savannakhet

For budget price accommodation use ‘New Saen Sabai’ and for something a little more luxurious with pool, we suggest ‘Daosavanh’.

3.5 hours

We suggest 'Residence Sisouk' for colonial charm or 'Athena' for more modern comforts and a swimming pool.

Pakse 1 hour

Champasak If it is a peaceful location your clients are after then suggest Don Khone and the ‘Sala Don Khone’ as a boutique hotel option. For a more luxurious option on Don Khong try a suite with stunning views at ’Pon Arena’, and if on a budget then we suggest the deluxe mountain/garden rooms here.

High-end clients are spoilt for choice here. The 'River Resort' offers excellent service and facilities while 'La Folie' offers a more rustic experience on the peaceful island of Don Daeng.

This month we take a closer look at Southern Laos with Product Manager James Pook as he travels from Kong Lor to Sipandon.

there is a simple yet intriguing Dinosaur Museum where the resident paleontologist is happy to give talks on their work. I found a couple of great new boutique hotels (Athena and Residence Sisouk) whilst in Pakse. Champasak is a tiny town on the Mekong River just 1 hour from Pakse, which has the best hotels in the region (La Folie and River Resort). The pre-Angkorian

Southern Laos allows the perfect

the latest offerings while for first timers,

journey with only torchlight to show

opportunity to stray from the

there are a treasure trove of sights and

the way! Extravagant stalagmites and

most regularly visited destinations

experiences to entice them with. Small

stalactites were visible along the trail.

in Laos and catch sight of a

groups or FITs with a sense of adventure

Kong Lor is certainly a major highlight of

country boasting an inherent and

(who have probably already visited many of

any itinerary, while short stops in Thakhek

undisturbed beauty. When selling

the more obvious areas in Southeast Asia)

and/or Savannakhet showcase the

Southern Laos to clients, it shows

will find it a very rewarding destination.

area’s colonial architecture with sleepy

an understanding of cutting

boulevards to explore. These sleepy towns

edge product and willingness to

I spent a week completing this overland

are best explored with an evening stroll

try something different in this

journey and would have to say the highlight

along the Mekong, enjoying local food

spectacular country. Southern

was visiting the stunning Kong Lor Caves

and Beerlao in simple pavement cafes.

Laos holds a special place for

and beautiful scenery that surrounds them. I

Thirteen kilometers north of Savannakhet

those second time visitors who

took a long tail boat along an underground

is a beautiful temple called ‘That Ing

are all too eager to hear about

section of the Hin Boun River – a 7.5km

Hang’ I visited while in Savannakhet itself,

temple of Wat Phou can be found on the edge of Champasak and is another major highlight. From this area it is possible to take a day trip to 4000 Islands, or stay on the islands for a relaxing and simple experience. Accommodation ranges from rustic and charming to the stylish and sophisticated, though in my opinion the accommodation is not really a selling point for this region, other than in Champasak. A journey through Southern Laos is full of experiences and provides a real sense of adventure.

1.5 - 2.5 hours (depending which island) Wat Phu Khmer temple in Champasak

4000 Island (Sipandon)

"I’ve always been a keen traveler and now lead a creative product department in Vientiane. Born in the UK I fell in love with Southeast Asia eleven years ago after my first visit. After working for some of our partners in the UK, I then joined Exotissimo to develop the inspirational experiences on offer in Laos. I love searching for ways to make unknown destinations accessible and developing new ways of experiencing the classic sights."

James Pook, Product Manager, Exotissimo Laos

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Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Chinese dragon dance

Thailand | 27 Sep - 5 October A colourful event held over a nineday period in October, this celebrates the Chinese community's belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month

Tenjin Festival, Osaka Japan | July 24 - 25

of the Chinese calendar will help obtain good health and peace of mind. Watch in awe at fire walking and body piercings

Tenjin Matsuri is the festival of the

performed to show power of their gods,

‘Tenmangu Shrine’ and honors its principle

strengthen the faith of their followers and

deity Sugawara Michizane, the deity of

rid them of bad luck.

scholarship. The festival involves inviting the deity out of the shrine and parading him through the city, carrying out various flamboyant festivities to entertain him, before taking him back to the shrine. For the people, the lively festivities manifest in a wonderful occasion, the days filled with traditional costumes, spectacular processions, evening firework displays and a celebratory atmosphere enjoyed by all.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival Indonesia | October 11-15

2013 marks a mammoth year for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival on Bali, as Southeast Asia's most renowned literary event gets set to celebrate its 10 year anniversary. The Festival comes full circle by returning to its original theme ‘Through Darkness to Light’ or ‘Habis

China | September 19 - 21

Gelap Terbitlah Terang’, honoring RA

Families gather together to appreciate and

rights pioneer.

offer sacrifice to the round bright moon and to enjoy eating moon cakes during this well celebrated festival. Moon cakes are offered to friends and family to show their respect. Other activities like dragon dancing

Kartini, Indonesia's beloved women’s

Boun Ok Phansa & Boat Racing Festival, Vientiane Laos | October 19

and appreciating the full moon are also considered highly important

TRAVEL

CALENDAR

Pchum Ben Festival, Cambodia

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

Pchum Ben Festival, Cambodia | October 3 - 5

The festival is widely regarded as the most important festival in the Khmer religious calendar and is a time when

At dawn, donations and offerings are

many Cambodians pay respect to their

made at temples around the city. In the

deceased relatives and ancestors. Laypeople

evening, candlelight processions are held

offer food and alms to Buddhist monks

around the temples and hundreds of

in temples as indirect gifts to the dead.

colorful floats decorated with flowers,

Another method is to throw rice balls in the

incense and candles are set adrift down

air or rice onto the fields, seen as directly

the Mekong River as a thanksgiving to the

helping the spirits.

river spirits. The next day an exciting boat race is held on the Mekong River.

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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EXOTISSIMO INTERVIEWS Is there anywhere you haven’t been to in Asia but would love to visit? I heard that the ‘floating mountains’ in the movie Avatar were inspired by the majestic peaks of Zhangjiajie National Park in China. The Southern province of Hunan, known for its excellent (spicy) cuisine and as the birthplace of Chairman Mao is an area I would love to see. As it’s fairly easy to get there from the main cities including Beijing, I will certainly explore this incredible area during my next trip to China.

Gaetan Decherf Sales Manager, Latin America

Where will your next adventure be to? My next adventure will take place amongst the hidden gems of Thailand’s southern coastline. I will journey to Khao Lak and kayak through the impressive Khao Sok National Park. I also aim to explore the Similan Islands and spend some time relaxing on the sleepy beaches of Koh Yao Noi near Phuket. There are so many stunning

Q A

islands to discover in this part of Thailand.

Where is the most remote place you have ever visited?

Do you have any advice for a first time visitor to Asia?

It’s probably the Sapa area of

As the saying goes, “it is better to travel than to arrive”, therefore

Northern Vietnam. This is an amazing

do not hurry and enjoy every moment before thinking about the

mountainous region where I spent

next stop. Take time to embrace what is in front of you now and

some time trekking. One day on the

don’t rush to the finish line.

trek we were unable to find a place to stay and ended up spending the night at a school in a remote village in the mountains. We prepared dinner for them as a way of saying thank-you. It actually turned out to be the best feast I’ve ever had in Asia.

Why do you think it is better to head off the tourist trail? Travelling off the beaten track is the best way to continually surprise yourself when travelling. While most travel companies offer the same classic routes to overcrowded places, travelling off the beaten track allows you to discover authentic cultures and find hidden gems while experiencing local traditions.

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EXOTISSIMO EXPLORER

Sapa area of Northern Vietnam.

ISSUE 62 / Jul - Oct 2013

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NXB Thông Tấn. Giấy ĐKKHXB số: 34-2013/CXB/117/04-01/ThT, cấp ngày 20/06/2013. In xong và nộp lưu chiểu Quý III/2013. Thực hiện: Tropika.vn Chịu trách nhiệm xuất bản: Vũ Quốc Khánh. Biên tập: Phương Lam Giang, Trần Ngọc Thương.

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Exotissimo Explorer No.62