WHISPERS TRAVEL INSPIRATION FROM THE UK’S LEADING ASIA SPECIALIST
We are delighted to announce our brand-new tours for 2020!
What’s Hot in Latin America
Our Latin America expert tells us the must-sees and must-dos
A GREENER MEKONG
Embark on a ‘greener’ river cruise on-board the brand-new Victoria Mekong
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS ISSUE
We are so excited to bring you the newest edition of our magazine – it’s been a busy year here at Wendy Wu Tours! Over the past 20 years we have built up our expertise to an incredible range of 191 tours across 26 countries, and in 2019 we released 20 brand new tours across 11 new destinations. This coming year we want to go back to our roots, pay tribute to where we came from, and shine our spotlight on our number 1 destination: China.
Head to Head
New Tours for 2020
E-visa to China
Torn between China or Japan? Let’s delve into the differences between culture, food and attractions. We are delighted to announce our brand-new tours for 2020! Find out about our revolutionary 'China e-visa' and 'China new visa'.
New Mekong Cruise & Beach Breaks
If we can’t travel without trace – let’s at least travel responsibly
Meet the Stans
Read what customers have said about their recent Wendy Wu tour. Explore a different side of Southeast Asia with our brand-new cruise and beach itineraries. Our Latin America Product Manager, Gemma, tells us what makes this fascinating region tick.
Some exciting travel options from Wendy Wu Tours that will help you make a difference. Delve into the age-old cities, mountainous terrain and desert wonders of Central Asia.
This is why we have decided to return to the name Chinese Whispers. We feel that we need to value what we have that is different to other publications on the market, and that is our expertise in China.
Chinese Whispers represents our core brand, our heritage as the UK’s No. 1 China specialist, and the country that started us off all the way back in 1998. In this issue, we present to you our brand-new river cruise ship, the Victoria Mekong (p20), our new collection of great value tours, and a fresh, hassle-free way to travel to China (p8).
Lots of cheers,
Cover Image: The Golden Bridge, Vietnam.
We hope to welcome you on a tour very soon.
All holidays featured in this magazine are fully ABTA and ATOL protected and you will be provided with certification of this when you book. You’ll find further information about financial protections on our website. All prices listed are per person and based on two adults sharing standard accommodation and return flights from London Heathrow on selected departure dates. Prices correct as of 11 Dec 2019 and are subject to change. Booking conditions apply, please see our website for details – www.wendywutours.co.uk/help-and-advice/booking-conditions/
2 CHINESE WHISPERS | Call us on 0808 239 2148
OUR EXPERTS BRING YOU THE LATEST NEWS FROM WENDY WU TOURS
FREE BUSINESS CLASS UPGRADE with Air China* Saving up to £800 *Book by 31 Jan on selected tours . See website for details. Terms and conditions apply.
Looking for Wendy Wu tour quality on a budget? Then the Essential China tours are for you. Accommodation, flights, and all the classic sights are included along with the services of our expert local guides.
CHINA VISAS We’re excited to announce our new visa options for China – head to page 8 to understand more about our hassle-free visa.
THE VICTORIA MEKONG A brand-new, eco-friendly vessel owned by Wendy Wu Tours and programmed to show you the most authentic parts of the mighty Mekong River, either as part of our six exciting tours to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos or as a cruise-only experience. Cruise to page 20 to find out what she has to offer.
THE WENDY WU TOURS PRICE PROMISE We’ve just launched our brand-new Price Promise meaning if you find any of our tours cheaper elsewhere, we’ll match that low cost for you!
PRICE MATCH PROMISE Our tours are renowned for their comprehensive inclusions and exceptional value for money. We’re so confident you won’t find the same tour at a better price that if you do, we’ll not only match it, but we’ll also offer you a discount of £200 per person on a future booking.
100% NO SURCHARGE PROMISE
NEVER KNOWINGLY UNDERSOLD
Once you’ve paid, you’ve paid! As soon as we confirm your booking you can relax knowing the holiday price won’t increase and you’ll never have to pay extra for currency fluctuations and surcharges, etc.
If you find a Wendy Wu tour being sold elsewhere for less than our published price, let us know and we’ll match the price you’ve been quoted.
wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 3
T H E A W A R D - W I N N I N G TO U R S P E C I A L I S T
The Mekong is a must!
Combine Cambodia & Vietnam with a ‘Victoria Mekong’ cruise Vietnam and Cambodia are extraordinary, teeming with wonders from Phnom Penh to Angkor Wat and Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. The Mekong River shows this rich tapestry together and you can experience it all in real style aboard our brand-new, eco-friendly vessel, Victoria Mekong. Why not join her in 2020? We’d love to welcome you on board.
Offering the only direct service from the UK to Vietnam, fly in style on board Vietnam Airlines’ award-winning Dreamliner fleet.
Return economy class airfares All meals on fully inclusive Classic tours Victoria Mekong cruise All accommodation Transport, sightseeing and guides Visas Local beers, soft drinks and house wine with dinner on board the Victoria Mekong cruise 4 CHINESE WHISPERS | Call us on 0808 239 2148
Two iconic destinations come face to face in a battle for history and culture, food and attractions:
HISTORY AND CULTURE The imperial city of Beijing, dating back 3,000 years, is a treasure trove of ancient history, filled with temples from the former Chinese dynasties and, as home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, the Terracotta Warriors, China could be considered the capital of ancient Asia. If history is your thing, follow the path much-travelled by many before you along the Silk Road, where Genghis Khan is famously known to have controlled a huge amount of the trade routes through here.
Having closed off its borders for centuries known as the Sakoku period (country in chains), Japan only reopened for tourists in the 19th century, meaning its culture was developing for hundreds of years without any outside influence. Japanese culture is known widely as one of the most distinctive in the world, and is a nation represented by a fusion of old-world culture with modern Western life. With vending machines selling everything from rice to batteries, and the most high-tech toilets in the world, Japan really is the melting pot of old and new.
FOOD In China, each province is known for its own style of cooking which shapes the Chinese cuisine we all know and love today. Not many know that there are 1,366 miles between the traditional dish of Peking duck and the delights of dim sum, so that’s why we make sure there is time in each destination of our China tours to try the local delicacies.
No, Japanese food isn’t just sushi! The Japanese are primarily fish-eaters, but beef, chicken and pork also play a substantial role in their diet. Noodles are also a staple part of Japanese cuisine, served hot, cold, in soups, or as a standalone meal, sometimes with a dipping sauce.
ATTRACTIONS For all the panda lovers out there, Chengdu is the place to be with the Giant Panda Reserve based here, and the nearby Panda House at Chongqing Zoo, you can surround yourself with as many furry, tumbling friends as you like! Make the most of the futuristic, ultra-modern skyline of Shanghai, try the Huangpu evening cruise, the most stunning river cruise in the world! A visit to China would not be complete without a visit to the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, iconic in the history of China and both near Beijing.
TAKE ME THERE Ultimate China 27 days fr £4,790pp
Temples are a huge part of Japanese history, which is why we try to include as many of the iconic ones as possible on our tours. If you’re an animal lover, this may be a hard destination to resist as Japan is home to the adorable macaques, also known as Snow Monkeys, who play and bathe in and around the steam-filled pools at the Jigokudani Monkey Park.
CONCLUSION At first glimpse, Chinese and Japanese culture may seem very similar – the fusion of uber-modern technology and skyscrapers combined with the ancient traditions maintained through thousands of years are reflected in both cultures. But look closer, and you will notice the wonderful differences between the two. Why not head to both?
TAKE ME THERE Ancient Empires of China & Japan 20 days fr £6,490pp
wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 5
NEW TOURS FOR 2020
There’s nothing we love more than putting together tours, so we are delighted to announce our brand-new tours for 2020! We’ve expanded to another corner of the globe, created multi-destination tours, added river cruises, train rides and trips to famous carnivals! Here's a handful of what’s new….
ANCIENT EMPIRES OF CHINA & JAPAN
TREASURES OF TAIWAN
Two of our most popular destinations, put together in one fantastic tour! Why not tick two countries off the bucket list at once? Starting in Beijing, work your way down through China via Xian, stopping off at the Terracotta Army, Guilin, Yangshuo and back up to Shanghai, where you can experience a panoramic river cruise at night.
A complete loop of Taiwan, from Taipei to Kenting, taking in all the sights including Sun Moon Lake, a tea plantation, Tainan (Taiwan’s oldest city), Kaohsiung City and the Dragon and Tiger Towers. From there it’s on to Spring & Autumn Pavilion before visiting Taiwan’s largest monastery, Foguanshan.
From Shanghai, fly to Osaka in Japan, visiting Osaka Castle and exploring Japan’s most vibrant city. From there you’ll ride the bullet train to Okayama and Kurashiki, take a ferry to Miyajima Island and visit Hiroshima before jumping back on the bullet train to Japan’s old imperial capital – Kyoto. You’ll visit Japan's most famous zen garden and the Golden Pavilion, visit Fushimi Inari Shrine and go to the Nishiki food market, finishing off your time in Kyoto with an origami class and a ritual tea ceremony. On route to Tokyo, take a quick stop in Hakone to soak up the landscapes and views of Mount Fuji with a boat trip on Lake Ashi. Once in Tokyo, experience the neon lights, temples, peaceful shrines and tranquil backstreets.
You’ll visit Kenting National Park at Taiwan’s southern tip, before heading up to Sheding Nature Park and taking an ocean drive to Chihpen hot springs for relaxation time.
SCENIC SOUTH KOREA
COLOMBIA DISCOVERY TOUR
Asia’s most underrated beauty, with complex history, stunning countryside and full of ancient temples and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This tour covers the circumference of South Korea, showcasing well-known areas such as Seoul and Busan, as well as stopping at scenic marvels such as the Juknokwon Bamboo Forest, Jongmyo Royal Shrine (UNESCO), Gyeongju – the museum without walls, Naksansa Temple and Mount Seorak National Park.
Take a tour through Latin America’s rising star and world-famous coffee region as you take in sights such as the Monserrate Monastery, the Salt Cathedral, Cocora Valley and the exotic coastline of the Tayrona Natural National Park on your way from Bogota to Cartagena.
With trips up the N-Seoul and Busan Towers, a traditional cooking class, a handkerchief dyeing experience and tickets to a performance of the award-winning show ‘Nanta’ you are guaranteed an unforgettable and unique trip.
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Travelling northwards on a scenic drive to Taroko, spot wild monkeys and views of the stunning Cisingtan Lake before visiting one of the most beautiful national parks in the world, Taroko National Park. From there it's back towards Taipei with a few scenic stops along the way, and a trip to a whisky distillery. Once in Taipei, you’ll have a farewell dinner before heading back home.
This tour is more than just a journey, with authentic experiences such as a traditional salsa class, a coffee tour, orchid farm tour (where you’ll see some carnivorous plants!), a boat tour to the Rosario Islands for sunbathing, swimming or kayaking, as well as taking in the amazing Colombian architecture of Cartagena, Medellin, Cali and Bogota. New for 2020, we also have a special edition of this tour in February which incorporates Barranquilla Carnival – South America's second largest carnival and a once in a lifetime experience.
Our exciting new tour is the perfect option for those who want to experience everything China has to offer! From the Great Wall to the Terracotta Army you’ll see all the sights and delights, along with enjoying a river cruise and visiting a panda reserve. With stays in Beijing, Xian, Lhasa, Chengdu and Shanghai, you’ll cover the breadth of the country in only 27 days! Departs May, Sept & Oct 2020.
Travel through the picturesque Caucasus Mountains, sampling marvellous local food and wine on your way to Tbilisi, Georgia’s colourful capital. Experience the medieval Dilijan Monasteries and relax on the shore of Lake Sevan, the ‘Emerald of Armenia’. This wonderful 23-day tour covers the very best that Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia have to offer. Departs May & Aug 2020.
JOURNEY THROUGH JAPAN Perfect for those who want to take in the whole country in 14 days. Fly into Sapporo, located on the northern island of Hokkaido and work your way down the spine of Japan’s main island Honshu. Visiting a traditional onsen, a sake brewery, Tokyo, Mount Fuji and Kyoto, you’ll feel fully immersed into Japanese culture by the time you fly home from the booming city of Osaka. Departs May & Sep 2020.
Connecting Vietnam and Cambodia, the Mekong River is a vital source of food, infrastructure and life for locals. Cruise along Southeast Asia’s most beautiful river as part of our 2020 tour selection.
A MEKONG EXPERIENCE
A fusion of Cambodia and Southern Vietnam with a variety of memorable moments and cultural experiences. Explore the lush waterways of the Mekong Delta aboard our very own Victoria Mekong cruise vessel, learn about local life in Tonle Sap Lake, discover Saigon and Phnom Penh, visit the stunning Angkor Temples and take a cooking class in Cambodia. The perfect Mekong Experience!
Sweeping across three nations, take the journey of a lifetime through Southeast Asia. Starting off in Luang Prabang, travel slightly north to Hanoi and the world renowned Halong Bay, before heading down to Hue and Hoi An for an insight into local life. From there, it's onto Saigon, Can Tho and then aboard the Victoria Mekong as you cruise upstream on the Mekong River to Phnom Penh. That’s not all, the last part of your tour concludes at the amazing Angkor Temples, which have to be seen to be believed.
The most comprehensive tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. Starting in Vietnam you’ll visit Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An and Saigon before you board the Victoria Mekong to travel upstream into Cambodia, disembarking in Phnom Penh. From there you’ll fly to Siem Reap to reflect on its history, attend a cooking class and, of course, explore the fantastic Angkor Temples.
Starting in Cambodia, your first exploration takes place at the Temples of Angkor and Tonle Sap Lake, before flying to Phnom Penh to board the Victoria Mekong. Cruise downstream, across the border into Vietnam and towards Saigon. Fly up to Hoi An and then onto Hanoi to end your trip at the beautiful Halong Bay.
For a full list of all our new tours for 2020 go to wendywutours.co.uk/new-tours wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 7
New E - VISA TO CHINA We understand that visas can be confusing, especially when travelling to China. However, if you are travelling to China in 2020 you can now benefit from our revolutionary new China e-visa and hassle-free China new visa. Wendy Wu herself has spent months lobbying with the Chinese government, customs and immigration services to change the process of the Chinese visa system for UK visitors. After a lengthy consultation period, we are proud to announce our two new visa processes! Wendy has a habit of achieving the impossible, and many believed that this couldn’t be done, but Wendy took it upon herself to change things for the better, which has the potential to change the future of travel to China! It also means less stress and worry for our customers – who are of course – the most important people to us.
So, let us explain what the e-visa and the China new visa mean, what you have to do and how this can change the future of travel to China: 1. F rom now on,
anyone travelling direct to Chongqing from the UK as part of a Wendy Wu Tour can enter China with an e-visa.
2.If you are
Shanghai, direct from the UK, as part of a Wendy Wu Tour you can enter China with our China new visa.
" The e-Visa is a world-first! It has never been achieved before, which is what makes it so exciting! " – Wendy Wu, Founder and Chairwoman of Wendy Wu Tours
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3. T his means, no
more 10-page visa forms to fill out, no more making appointments with the consulate and queuing for fingerprints at the visa centre. All you have to do is provide us with a colour scan or copy of your passport, and a passport photo, and we’ll take care of the rest!
4. This can be done for all parties of over two or more. Any solo travellers will have to follow the old process in order to obtain a visa.
5. If you are travelling
to Beijing, you will need to follow the old visa process for the time being, and our team of experts will be there every step of the way to assist you.
New for 2020
Fly to Chongqing and make use of our revolutionary China e-visa on our newest tour to the Far East…
Sichuan & Yangtze Delights Dazu
Yangtze River Cruise
Just 90 minutes from Chongqing lies Dazu, home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Dazu Rock Carvings. Created between the 9th and 13th centuries, discover thousands of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist idols and symbols exceptionally carved into the rock faces across 70 sites. After breakfast in Chongqing, journey to Wulong where stunning natural scenery awaits. Explore the Wulong Karst National Geology Park with its dramatic limestone landscapes, and the Three Natural Bridges National Park with the largest natural bridge cluster in Asia. Known as ‘The Mountain City’ because of its highland surroundings, discover the fascinating history and opulent culture which make Chongqing a truly unique destination. Sights include Hongyadong, an impressive 11-storey stilt house built along the banks of the Jialing River and the peaceful plains of Eling Park which overlook the city. Dine on authentic Chongqing cuisine which is well known for its distinct, spicy flavours found nowhere else in China.
The ultimate way to explore the Yangtze, this tour includes a three-night river cruise down one of the world’s greatest waterways. Bask in China’s wonderful nature and soak up the incredible scenery with trips to the Three Gorges and Shennong Stream or Goddess Stream. A trip to China wouldn’t be complete without seeing the nation’s most lovable residents, the giant pandas. Visit Chengdu’s famous panda reserve and conservation centre where over 80 pandas live amongst the extensive bamboo trees and verdant spaces. After their fortuitous discovery in the 1970s, the fascinating Terracotta Warriors of Xian have become one of China’s most well-known attractions. With over 7,000 soldiers, horses and chariots, this life-sized army was commissioned by Emperor Qin Shi Huang to defend himself in the afterlife. Uncover the intriguing story behind the Terracotta Army before a stroll around Xian’s ancient city walls which are one of the best-preserved urban fortifications in China.
After a bullet train ride to Beijing, explore the capital’s ancient monuments, modern skyscrapers and dynamic culture which make it a destination not to be missed. A visit to a local family in the hutongs gives a deeper insight into everyday life in China, and a trip to the iconic Great Wall highlights the sheer magnificence of this legendary structure and the beautiful scenery that surrounds it. Discover the stunning décor of the Summer Palace, the former holiday retreat of the Qing emperors, soak up the harmonious ambience of the Temple of Heaven, head to Tiananmen Square and into the sprawling elegance of the Forbidden City.
TAKE ME THERE Sichuan & Yangtze Delights 14 days fr £2,990pp From the heart of Sichuan Province to the imperial highlights of Beijing.
wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 9
Located on the upper Yangtze River basin, Chongqing forms a peninsula of city life surrounded by natural mountainous territory. With a population of over 30 million, the city is so large (at 31,766 square miles in fact) that many people have reported getting lost! The city was named Chongqing in 1189, which translates to ‘double blessed’ and was separated from the province in 1997, soon becoming the largest municipality in Southwest China. Exclusively with Wendy Wu Tours, those flying into this charming city will no longer need to endure the laborious chore of a 10-page China visa application or queuing to have fingerprints taken at the consulate before departing. As of 2020, when travelling with Wendy Wu Tours, you can enter China via Chongqing with the world's first e-Visa. All you have to do is provide us with a colour copy of your passport, and a passport photo and we’ll take care of the rest! Known as ‘The Mountain City’, you’ll find a mixed terrain surrounding the
city, which benefits from water reserves, dense forestry, mineral resources and flora and fauna. Making it a top contender of places to visit on people’s bucket lists, especially as it’s a common starting point for a Yangtze River cruise. Tourists flock from all over the world to explore the city before heading downstream to the Three Gorges. Due to its location on the Sichuan plains, temperatures can reach a high of 34°C (93°F) in the Summer months and get as low as 6°C (42°C) in the Winter months. Fog is also common in Chongqing, especially in the Spring, which is why people also refer to the city as the ‘City of Fog’. Tourism to Chongqing is growing fast and it has been included in the top 20 LGBT friendly destinations in the world for 2020. Last year it was in the running for being the most visited city in China, coming third to Beijing and Shanghai! With many sites such as the UNESCO protected Dazu Rock Carvings and Wulong Karst National Geology Park – where you’ll find the three natural
10 CHINESE WHISPERS | Call us on 0808 239 2148
limestone bridges called ‘Heilong’ (Black Dragon), ‘TianLong’ (Sky Dragon) and ‘Qinglong’ (Blue Dragon), there’s so much to see and do outside the city, which is easily reached by a short cable car ride over the Yangtze. Chongqing is also great for those who like shopping, with all the well-known designer brands easily found within the shopping district and large shopping malls, which stay open into the early evening. At night, the tall skyscrapers that form the city’s sharp skyline are illuminated, making the view completely unforgettable. Take an evening stroll after enjoying a traditional Chinese Hot Pot (not like what we are used to at home!) and take in the city atmosphere and lights and you’ll be amazed at the diversity of the restaurants and bars.
‘After visiting Chongqing earlier this year, I was amazed. It’s one of the most vibrant cities I have ever seen, Chongqing could easily rival Shanghai!’ – Glen Thomas, Head of Group Sales & Partnerships, Wendy Wu Tours.
A captivating country of contrasts, from vibrant futuristic cities to imperial heritage and age-old traditions, Japan is an enchanting land of epic natural beauty and neon-lit streets. Explore this dream destination on an extraordinary adventure with Wendy Wu Tours. MORE DEPARTURES ADDED FOR 2020!
TAKE ME THERE Japan Uncovered 17 days fr ÂŁ6,690pp Our most extensive tour of Japan! Featuring modern cities, historical sights and beautiful landcapes.
wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 11
CORNER All the stories from your recent tours is something that sits close to our hearts. We love nothing more than hearing about the exciting things you got up to, what you thought of the destination and guide, or even what your individual tour highlight was. We know its cliché to say that all feedback is passed on, but here at Wendy Wu Tours we make sure every bit is read, listened to and forwarded onto the relevant team members, and even Wendy herself! It is, of course, the only way that we can improve, expand and continue providing you with world-class, award-winning tours. But for now, don’t just take our word for it – here’s what some of our customers have said oabout their recent adventures...
John & Jackie Yandle GOLDEN TRIANGLE – INDIA We arranged the tour to celebrate Jackie's 80th, we chose our tour well and were walking into the Taj Mahal at 06:30 on her birthday!! Quite an emotional scalp-tingling moment – it was magical walking through the entrance archway to see the Taj in the soft light of dawn.
Sally & Steve Sanders - Crook EXQUISITE CHINA My husband and I have recently returned from our trip to China and we wanted to let Wendy Wu Tours know about our thoughts on the trip. Firstly we were very impressed with the administration set up, all our queries and questions prior to the trip were answered quickly and confidently. The trip itself was way above all our expectations, the hotels that the company use for this tour are excellent, all the trips were well organised with a wide variety of subjects to suit everybody’s needs. Our guide Addison was very professional, caring and attentive to everyone’s needs nothing was too much trouble. He shared his knowledge of China and his passion of its culture and history. Addison’s attention to detail was admirable and we started off as strangers but by the end of the trip we were laughing and joking and were all friends known as ‘Addison’s 'family'.
Ken & Barbara DEAN INSPIRING INDOCHINA Our tours with Wendy Wu have all been first class with great tour guides, very good accommodation and meals, and brilliant administration, and our Vietnam tour was no exception. Our day trip from Saigon to the Cu Chi Tunnels provided an additional and unexpected highlight – the Cao Dai Holy See Temple. Beautifully constructed and complete with worshippers, it was just a wonderful sight to behold. The hillside town of Dalat was another highlight of our tour with visits to the Domaine de Mary Church and a steam train ride to Trai Mat village with its abundance of colourful temples. A great place to spend some hours. Of course, everyone has either heard of or seen Halong Bay, but to spend a night cruising the Bay with lovely cuisine and a visit to the extraordinary Hang Sung Sot cave was indeed a further highlight of this magical trip.
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The whole tour was extremely well planned and executed by Wendy Wu and Go India Journeys. All the hotels and restaurants were excellent and because we were encouraged to only eat at recommended premises, no one in the group suffered from Delhi Belly!! Our extensions to Shimla and Varanasi were really fabulous and the icing on the cake. Well worth the effort and expense. After our delightful gentle strolling around Shimla, to arrive in Varanasi for the Holi Festival celebration was quite a contrast! Varanasi did not disappoint, and we had a wonderful few days there. At dawn the morning after the noise, bells, incense and chaos of the Pooja ceremony of Ganga Atari, we returned to the banks of the Ganges to be rowed on the river. The sight of the Hindu devotees performing their ablutions and offering prayers to the rising sun was unforgettable. A fitting end to our tour.
Facebook Reviews en Triangle tour in India. "We have just returned from the Gold r extremely well and our Thoroughly enjoyed it. Looked afte le with his wealth of tour guide Jas made our trip memorab a." Caron information and his stories about indi
Philippa & Neil Wheeler TAILORMADE â€“ JAPAN I just wanted to drop you a line to say "thanks" for arranging our amazing holiday. We have seen, done and learnt so much from this amazing place and I wondered if you could possibly feed back to the company who provide the guides and the guides themselves for their exceptional commitment, knowledge and enthusiasm; they all made us feel so welcome and, although I'm sure they have taken many guests on similar trips, they made it feel very special for us. Manami, our guide, took us on two trips around Tokyo and showed us many beautiful and interesting places, she was also happy to answer our many questions on Japanese life and customs. When we stopped for lunch she handed us a beautiful calligraphy card with our names and the symbol for love on it which her husband had made for us the night before, she also gave us some handmade origami animals. This was really sweet and thoughtful as it was Neil's birthday; she also told the restaurant staff who made and decorated a special dessert for him We later visited numerous sites in Kyoto with Meiko who again was fun, knowledgeable and interesting and took us to a lovely mixture of old and new places including the monkey park, Nara and the bamboo forest. She was quick to assess what our interests were and made the tour fit with that. This was a lovely part of the trip where we got to see some of the more rural aspects of Japan with rice fields and traditional farming. Our final guide was Asako who took us to Kobe and explained about the influences on the city as well as the devastating earthquake. Our last trip was to the amazing Himeji Castle where we spent most of the day and got to experience some of her traditional rakugo, very entertaining. All of our guides made us feel extremely welcome and were happy to teach us about their culture and traditions, it was a truly lovely holiday and the insight these guides provided was invaluable. It was clear from the minute we stepped off the aeroplane this was a lovely, respectful culture and the kindness and help we were afforded by everyone was unbelievable.
"We have had three first-rate trips with Wendy Wu and made lifelong friends along the way. We are looking to visit Russia next year and plan to go with Wendy Wu Tours." Stuart
taken care of, would highly "Fantasic tour company. Everything recommend." Linda
"The whole Glories of China tour was perfect, great sites to visit, smooth and quick transfers, good hotels and restaurants, friendly and helpful guides (esp Helen Liao) but best of all it was great fun. It was faultless â€“ best tour we have ever had." Sam
James Reeve GRAND TOUR OF CHINA I felt the whole holiday, from initial booking and flight selection, to our arrival in Beijing and eventually our final destination in Shanghai was professionally managed. Ricky was a superb ambassador for your company and nothing was too much trouble for him. Myself and my wife thoroughly enjoyed the tour and all the stops and excursions along the way, and I would not hesitate to recommend your company to other travellers considering this type of tour.
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I am now really looking forward to my next holiday with yourselves in Nov 2020 to Cambodia and Vietnam.
wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 13
Treasures of Taiwan Wendy Wu Tours is proud to introduce the latest jewel in our crown with Taiwan joining our portfolio of extraordinary destinations for 2020 and beyond. Known as ‘The Beautiful Island’ Taiwan has a range of riches ready to explore, from stunning architecture to jaw-dropping scenery. But what makes Taiwan so special and why should you put this stunning destination top of your travel bucket list? As the Far East travel experts, we want to share with you everything that the Far East has to offer and with Taiwan, you will find everything that’s good about the region encapsulated in a single, diverse island. A real melting pot of Chinese, Japanese, Fujian and Taiwanese influence which is evident in the cuisine, architecture and religion.
standing still in earthquake conditions is visible in the observation deck. A giant, golden iron ball which keeps the building vertical is a reward, along with the views for anyone willing to brave the 40 second lift upwards towards the stars.
Let us take you through some of the treasures you can expect to see on a trip of a lifetime to Taiwan.
With over 15,000 temples to choose from, visitors are never far from a cultural experience with religion woven into the very fabric of Taiwanese life. Traditional Chinese religions live on in Taiwan where elsewhere modern life has eroded values once held dear. Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian influences are seen at every turn as well as more modern, free-thinking religious beliefs.
ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS Taiwan is home to one of the world's greatest modern architectural achievements, Taipei 101. Named after its home city and the number of floors the building is made up of, the world’s second highest skyscraper is undoubtedly the shiniest jewel of all Taiwan’s treasures. Designed to resemble a giant bamboo stalk, you can’t help admire the ambition that was achieved in constructing such a spectacular monolith in a region that has first-hand familiarity with earthquakes and typhoons. In fact, the technology that keeps this building
If you are looking to make a pilgrimage to Taiwan and really want to get familiar with the local sights, then a visit to the Longshan Temple in Taipei is the perfect choice. The oldest temple in Taiwan, originally built in 1738 has seen several reconstructions, most recently after the Second World War. The temple itself is open seven days a week, so plenty of opportunities to soak up the deep
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and relaxing scents of incense and the reassuring tones of prayer and contemplation.
SCENIC BEAUTY Surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna, Taiwan is truly spectacular with an abundance of National Parks and contrasting landscapes. Almost to the exact geographical point in the middle of the island is Sun Moon Lake, arguably the most pristine and naturally beautiful spot in Taiwan. Hikers are well catered for, with no end of trails waiting to be explored, as well as options for nautical adventures with boating on the lake. But it is cyclists who are truly spoilt, with the Sun Moon Lake area being consistently voted as one of the 10 best places to cycle in the world – and it'-s not hard to see why. But don’t just take our word for it, we have two departures in 2020, with corresponding dates in 2021. Visit in April or October, when the weather is pleasant and the temperature is perfect for touring this wonderful island.
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Brand New for 2020!
Mekong River Cruise & Beach Holiday Experience the very best of Vietnam and Cambodia with our brand new Mekong River cruise and beach itineraries. These flight-inclusive, week-long cruise and beach breaks combine the best of all worlds; small-ship luxury river cruising, the cultural treasures of the Mekong, and the coastal sands of some of Southeast Asia’s best beaches. As the ship makes its way along the Mekong, enjoy cocktail making demonstrations, cultural lectures and classical Apsara performances, and while away your evenings on deck as the sun sets over the delta, before retiring to your beautiful stateroom. Fine dining menus have been designed by an executive chef and gourmet food can be enjoyed al fresco on the panoramic deck, with all meals, local beers and house wines included.
Your holiday break begins with a luxurious three-night Mekong River cruise between Cambodia and Vietnam. Discover the sights and sounds of Mekong River life before a night in Saigon, and journey south to the Vietnamese coast to enjoy a few days at leisure on the glorious sands of Mui Ne, Phan Thiet or Long Hai. En route, experience the many threads of the vibrant tapestry of Mekong riverscapes through a variety of excursions. Shop like a local at the floating markets, discover the delta's history at a cultural museum, and get a taste of Mekong life with visits to cake makers, pottery studios and a plum wine farm.
On a four-night upstream itinerary, you’ll visit Tiger Island to meet local people still practicing traditional handicrafts: net weavers, wood carvers and incense makers. In Tan Chau, you'll watch the age-old traditional silk fabrication process in the only remaining Silk Village in the region, using plants and tree bark to dye the fabric. Later disembark in Phnom Penh and travel to the island paradise of Koh Rong for your relaxing beach break. And if you fancy switching things up and having your beach break first, or adding some extra excursions, nights or even alternative post-beach destinations, our team will be happy to tailor your trip too.
Your Vessel: The Victoria Mekong The Victoria Mekong is an intimate, luxurious small-ship experience. With a maximum of 70 guests, and excursions with a maximum group size of 24, she offers a rare opportunity to discover the world of the Mekong from a close-up point of view. Sailing between quiet, undiscovered Can Tho and the bustle of Phnom Penh, the Victoria Mekong’s ports of call includes island temples, plum wine farms and floating markets. On board, guests can make use of the spa, swimming pool, library, games room, mini golf course and lounge bar, and enjoy regular entertainment ranging from lion dance performances TAKE ME THERE to cultural lectures. All 35 Mekong River Cruise & Beach cabins have mini-safes, Holiday (Downstream) internet access and some of 8 days fr £1,399pp the largest private balconies 3nt Mekong River cruise combined on the Mekong. with the glorious beaches of Mui Ne or Phan Thiet.
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Victoria Mekong Cruise What’s included? • • • • • • • • •
Cruise excursions Ship and beach resort accommodation All meals during cruise, plus breakfast in hotels Free flow of tea, coffee, soft drinks and local beers on board House wine with lunch and dinner Daily sunset cocktail Refillable water bottle Onboard entertainment Ship crew gratuities
Tailor your trip • Private Angkor Wat or Halong Bay pre-cruise package • Cu Chi Tunnels, Historic Saigon or Phnom Penh by Cyclo excursions • Extended beach stay and local touring
We caught up with Michael Donlea, one of our travel-loving Product Executives, to give us the inside scoop on his first time to India.
Q. What makes India different to other destinations in Asia? I have found the people in all countries throughout Asia to be welcoming, but I have to say that South India was on an unprecedented level. Never have I been made to feel so welcome in any country. From smiling schoolchildren to grandmothers, everyone seemed curious to know where I was from and what I thought of India, and locals both young and old were keen to take endless selfies with me. The incredible warmth I experienced throughout my trip left me with many fond memories and a desire to return sooner than I originally planned.
Q. Were there any culture shocks you weren’t expecting? Surprisingly no! Whilst I had never been to India, I had travelled quite a lot around Asia so had a decent idea of what to expect. Some first-timers may need to adjust to the incessant beeping from tuk tuks and the level of humidity in coastal cities like Mamallapuram and Cochin, but the warm smiles from the locals and their never-ending hospitality more than makes up for this in my opinion.
Q. What was the best food you tried? I was a huge fan of something called channa masala; a lightly-spiced chickpea curry dish that I could happily have eaten every day! I’d enjoy this with a freshly-baked chapati and a cup of masala chai; a cardamom-infused black tea.
Breakfast aside though, on my second day I tried something called ajwaini tawa. This was a dish of grilled fish in a garlic and chilli marinade, and the fish was so tender that it nearly fell off the fork. I certainly had high expectations for the food here, and whilst no destination in South India disappointed, this dish in particular and its delicate flavouring blew me away.
the history and landscape of Southern India and was always on hand to answer any questions the group had. Hailing from Bangalore in the far south, he would tell us many stories about his country, and we found his passion for India and its many delights to be infectious.
Q. What’s a common misconception of India you found wasn’t the case?
I think the convenience of having everything arranged for you is the biggest bonus. That meant I could sit back and take everything in, safe in the knowledge that I didn’t have to budget for meals or to plan my day’s excursions or accommodation. Also, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet other like-minded travellers, share stories and get inspiration for my next big trip!
Many people don’t realise that India is a country of incredibly varying landscapes. Rather than just the arid deserts of places like Rajasthan and Gujarat, you’ve also got stunning natural coastline, chilly high-altitude destinations like Coonoor (8°C on the night we arrived) and lush rainforest throughout the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the far south. So green is the scenery in these two states that I frequently had to remind myself that I was travelling through India and not the jungles of Costa Rica!
Q. What advice would you give to a first-time visitor to India? I’d certainly suggest that you stick to bottled water during your trip. Also, as a tourist you’ll attract a fair amount of attention from Indian families but take the time to speak with them as they are truly lovely people who want to make you feel welcome.
Q. What was it like having a guide? I found it incredibly useful. Our guide was well versed in
Q. What are the advantages of going on a group tour?
Q. What were the best moments of your trip? I loved the opulence and grandeur of the Maharaja’s Palace in Mysore. The toy train ride from Ooty to Coonoor was a wonderful experience, and on a clear day the views of the winding green valleys are just breath-taking. Visiting Kumbalangi Village outside of Cochin gave us an insight into life in rural southern India, as the locals showed us their century-old techniques of crab fishing, basket weaving and pottery making. The best experience though was my stay on the houseboat in Kerala. Watching the sunset whilst lazily chugging downriver was a fabulous experience and the perfect end to such a diverse tour.
TAKE ME THERE Kerala & the Southern Highlights 18 days fr £2,990pp Travel from the stunning hill stations to the tranquil backwaters on this in-depth journey.
wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 17
Latin America We interviewed our Latin America Product Manager, Gemma Cope, to gain an in-depth understanding of what it is that makes this region tick and why it’s one of the hottest destinations in travel right now.
Q. What is it that makes Latin America so unique? I’m often asked this question and it’s so difficult to answer simply because Latin America is just so diverse. Until you’ve experienced it you can’t believe how vast the area is and how each country is so varied with its own culture and gastronomy. The climate even varies considerably from country to country. For example, on my last trip to Patagonia, I experienced all four seasons in one day, and this is hardly uncommon! Foodies are in for a treat here as the options to satisfy the palate are endless. If you like your seafood then the Chilean seafood, particularly the razor clams, fresh from the Pacific Ocean, covered in parmesan and sprinkled with lemon and coriander are a must! Lima boasts some of the best Nikkei restaurants (JapanesePeruvian cuisine) in the world whilst the hearty Portugueseinspired stews and AfroCaribbean cuisine found in Brazil are renowned in gastronomy circles. Talking of variety, well the differences in scenery says it all. Nowhere on the planet will you find such variation in one landfall, from the stunning beaches and coastline along the Pacific to the gentle warm waters of the Caribbean, as well as lush tropical forests and waterfalls, and by this I’m talking about the Iguazu Falls, a sheer testament to the wonders of nature. Then in complete contrast you have
the Andean Mountains as well in the South, some of the largest glaciers in the world, not to mention the active volcanoes.
Q. I want to see as much as I can in a short space of time. What do you recommend? That’s tricky! You know I’ve spent over 15 years living and travelling throughout the continent and I still haven’t seen everything. There’s always something new to see. I guess the best thing, given its diversity, is to be clear on exactly what you want to see and then research in-depth to find out which part of Latin America will give you that experience. I’d highly recommend an escorted tour if you do really want to see a lot in a short period of time. All of our tours are led by highly trained national escorts whose knowledge is second to none, plus with a maximum of only 20 passengers per group, you’ll get the preferential and personal treatment that is unique to Wendy Wu Tours. After you’ve experienced a group tour you can always return later and focus on the areas you liked the best.
Q. What are the must-see sights? Every country is littered with so many sights to see but if you have to break it down then I’d say the top sights in South America are definitely Iguazu Falls, Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, the southern Amazon rainforest of Brazil, Machu
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Picchu in Peru, Atacama Desert in Chile and The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. For Central America, my top sights are the rainforests of Costa Rica, Antigua in Guatemala, volcanoes in Nicaragua, Bird Lovers Paradise of Panama and the simply stunning islands of Belize. Also, a trip to Latin America would not be complete without visiting Mexico. This country has it all – the energy and vibe of Mexico City plus the foodie haven of Oaxaca and Mayan and Aztec ruins scattered across the country. After plenty of sightseeing, it’s then time to hit Baja Sur for the beaches and a spot of whale watching.
Q. What are the ‘need-toknows’ before a trip? Go with an open mind and just relax into the spirit and culture. I’ve lived in various locations around the world and I have to say I’ve met the friendliest people in Latin America, many of whom have become lifelong friends. If you go with a carefree and chilled attitude then you will absolutely get the best out of your trip and will have the time of your life. Life moves at a slower pace here and punctuality is not high on the agenda and so the quicker you adapt to this, the better.
Q. What is the most up-andcoming destination in Latin America right now? Definitely Colombia! In the past few years Colombia has completely reinvented itself and
is now the must-see destination for 2020. Colombia has an incredible amount to offer – from the bustling metropolis of Bogota to the hillside city of Medellin and the famous street art in the comunas. You’ve also got the lush Cocora Valley and coffee region as well as the colourful colonial city of Cartegena in the North. Whenever I’m in Colombia I make it a priority to visit Tayrona National Park and the idyllic Rosario Islands, just an hour’s boat ride from Cartagena.
Q. The new Latin America collection features 14 extensions to the group tours. Which ones are you most excited about? They’re all fantastic and really enhance the tours, however there’s one that I am so excited to have in the range and that’s The Galapagos Islands. There is nowhere like this, it’s a complete paradise for nature lovers. Each island has its own unique atmosphere, distinctive landscape and inimitable wildlife. The team have pulled out all the stops on this and we’re thrilled to be offering this fantastic eight-night expedition where you’ll witness the true glory of these islands in comfort from both land and sea. All in all a truly magical experience.
TAKE ME THERE Ultimate South America 28 days fr Â£7,590pp The best bits of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil on an epic adventure.
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‘The future will be green, or not at all.’ Jonathan Porritt
If we can’t travel without trace – let’s at least travel responsibly To travel without trace may well be impossible. But, to travel as responsibly as possible is something we can all strive for and be confident that we’re making a difference – a small difference, perhaps, but a start. Here are some exciting travel options from Wendy Wu Tours that will go toward making a difference.
VERY SLOW RIVER CRUISES We’re very proud of our new river cruise vessel, Victoria Mekong, for a number of reasons. For starters, she is not very fast. Indeed, with a cruising speed of just 6 knots, she can be overtaken by a vigorously rowed sampan or a ponderous rice barge in a hurry to reach Phnom Penh. But, getting from A to B as quickly as possible simply isn’t the objective here: it’s not the arriving, it’s the getting there that really matters. Moreover, it’s about getting there without causing too much water turbulence, by not unduly impacting the environment and, therefore, helping to preserve a vital habitat for wildlife. So you see, when you’re cruising one of the loveliest stretches of the Mekong Delta, where a rich tapestry of river life happens all around you, there’s just no need to hurry. Instead, relax and let Victoria Mekong move the scenery for you – without spoiling it for those that live there and those travelling after you.
LESS PLASTIC, MORE CLEAN WATER Relaxing aboard Victoria Mekong comes easily too, in fact you don’t even need to leave your cabin to enjoy wonderful river views from your private balcony. However, if you feel like a stroll why not head for the Roof Top Deck and, maybe, enjoy a round of mini golf? Later, if all that exertion means you need to cool down, head for the Infinity Pool Bar for a cocktail or a nice cold beer. Victoria Mekong has been built and fitted out to minimise the use of all plastics. Accordingly, there is no bottled water on board; instead, we provide every passenger with a metal flask that can be topped up at a number of water stations throughout the vessel. With this small step we can help eliminate plastic waste from the Mekong. And so, armed with a nice cool drink you might be tempted to find
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a spot in the sunshine where you can read a book – a river cruise is a great place to start your digital detox! – or maybe contemplate a dip in the infinity pool? Either way, as you watch the river slide by, you might also consider that the waste water generated aboard Victoria Mekong is scrupulously processed to the point where it is virtually good enough to drink alongside your cocktail! Victoria Mekong’s waste water is discharged into the river, but it is put back in a state that does not detract from the habitat of one of the Earth’s richest resources.
local cuisine on-board their state-of-the-art, award-winning Dreamliner fleet – the most fuel efficient aircraft in the sky.
After all, there are reckoned to be around 1,100 species of fish living in the Mekong and, despite the millions that depend on the river for food, either directly from fishing or from agriculture, it would be great to ensure that future generations can still count 1,100 different types of fish in the river. The Mekong River region is considered to be the second most diverse in the world after the Amazon, so it’s a significant resource that needs to be looked after.
So, if you’ve always wanted to stay in the jungle and meet the locals – the Iban headhunters are most convivial hosts – without jeopardising their way of life (don’t worry the headhunting was abandoned some years back), then how about a trip to Borneo? You can stay in an eco-lodge that has been designed to have the minimum impact on this most precious habitat and visit sanctuaries where the planet’s smallest bears are protected and native orangutans are returned to the wild.
Talking of resources, the sun shines for 8 or 9 hours a day in the early part of the year in the Mekong Delta, so it makes good sense for Victoria Mekong to harness that power with its large solar panels. By providing power to the ship like this, Victoria Mekong is less reliant on more traditional power sources and therefore she leaves less of a footprint in terms of noise, vibration and carbon emissions – and that has to be good news!
GETTING AWAY, SUSTAINABLY Of course, it’s hard to travel completely green when you have to fly, but there are a few ways you can make your initial journey a little greener at least. Non-stop flights are exponentially better for the environment and Vietnam Airlines offer the only non-stop service from the UK to Vietnam. Travel in style and enjoy a true Vietnamese experience with
To really get off the beaten track comes with its own set of considerations. By seeing another completely different way of life we run the risk of damaging the very thing we cherish and, therefore, we all need to be mindful of how we impact the places we visit. Yet there are places to stay – really, really out of the way places too! – that have managed to ensure that tourism works with the local environment rather than against it.
There are eco-lodges in Thailand too as well as opportunities to meet the people of the hill tribes and, not forgetting, the wonderful native elephants you’ll find in Chiang Mai the Thai Elephant Care Centre. If you want to travel more sustainably with Wendy Wu Tours don’t forget you can call our experts who’ll be pleased to help you plan a more eco-friendly holiday.
TAKE ME THERE Classic Mekong 17 days fr £3,690pp A Mekong Experience 22 days fr £4,190pp
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A moment in Macao
Forty miles from Hong Kong, across the Pearl River Delta, sits the destination of Macao with its sparkling skyline. Reflecting a mixture of cultures, the Portuguese arrived in Macao in the 1500s and their influence can still be clearly seen today across the destination making it a unique place to visit and the perfect additional stop to a China or Far East tour. CULTURE
Macao’s highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage listed Historic Centre of Macao, made up of 30 buildings and squares of both Portuguese and Chinese origin – all within walking distance of each other. Look around Taoist temples, baroque churches, a theatre, fortress and even a lighthouse. Taking pride of place are the iconic Ruins of St Paul’s, elegant Senado Square and Macao’s oldest building, the A-Ma Temple.
One of the first things to do when visiting Macao is to catch ’The House of Dancing Water’ show, it’s incredible to watch, featuring jaw-dropping acrobatics, as well as high wire stunts, fountain effects and somersaulting motorcycles. If spending more than one night in Macao, we recommend having a meal and then taking to the streets for a walk to soak up the atmosphere. A dizzying number of bars and casino’s will tempt you inside with their lights and sounds, as well as other shows and entertainment being available.
HIGHLIGHTS Macao is a destination of surprising contrasts. Take in the views from the top of the 338m Macau Tower– home to the world’s highest bungee jump! On Macao’s southern islands explore the streets, alleys and shops of atmospheric Taipa Village, and charming Coloane, home to Lord Stow’s bakery (and Macao’s most iconic snack, the egg custard tart) and the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion.
CUISINE Expect superb cuisine unlike anything you have tried before. From traditional Chinese and classic Portuguese dishes to a host of global options, your senses will be awakened by the taste and smell of delicious dishes. Macao is also home to one of the world’s first fusion cuisines,
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Macanese, combining influences from both China and Portugal as well as South America, Africa and India, with speciality dishes including African Chicken.
MACAO EXTENSION As there’s so much to see and do, our tour extension has been intricately designed to give you the perfect amount of time to soak up the magic of Macao at the beginning, or end of your Asian tour. This magnificent tour extension starts at only £199pp, which includes accommodation, transfers and a city tour. You will also be accompanied by our industry-leading guides whose unparalleled knowledge and talent will turn your tour into an unforgettable experience.
Follow in the Footsteps of the Famous... PAUL MERTON – CHINA The BAFTA nominated Paul Merton in China follows Merton’s six-week journey to China’s sprawling cities as well as some of the most beautiful scenery this fascinating country has to offer. Discover the contrast between the modern cityscapes of bustling Beijing and cosmopolitan Shanghai, to the ancient cultural traditions of rural China including the historic Henan Province and the limestone peaks of Guilin. Wendy Wu recommends: Wonders of China – 16 days from £3,190pp
JOANNA LUMLEY – JAPAN First aired on ITV, Joanna Lumley’s Japan sees the English actress, author and former model on a 2,000-mile journey across Japan’s four main islands. Starting north in the icy Siberian seas, Lumley travels to the subtropical islands of the south stopping at Japan’s main attractions on the way. This three-part series takes us to the city of Sapporo for the annual Snow Festival, to the stunning streets of Kyoto during cherry blossom season and the azure waters of Okinawa Island. Wendy Wu recommends: Journey Through Japan – 14 days from £6,290pp
MICHAEL PORTILLO – INDIA Follow Michael Portillo on BBC2’s Great Indian Railway Journeys taking us to every corner of this colourful country. Portillo gives us a taste of authentic Indian life showing us unmissable sights en route. From the dazzling Golden Temple of Amritsar, Portillo rides the famous ‘Toy Train’ to Shimla, travels down the Ganges and then through the desert of Rajasthan into the Golden Triangle to the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur and the world-famous Taj Mahal. Wendy Wu recommends:: Highlights of India – 18 days from £3,490pp
SUE PERKINS – THE MEKONG RIVER The Mekong River with Sue Perkins sees the TV presenter take on a life-changing, 3,000-mile adventure along one of Southeast Asia’s most important bodies of water. Starting in Vietnam on the vast Mekong Delta, Perkins begins her journey at the Delta’s largest floating market before travelling upstream to the paddy fields. In Cambodia she takes us to the extraordinary village of stilted houses, Kampong Phluk, then onto the rural waterfront communities of Laos before ending at the Mekong’s source in China. Wendy Wu recommends: Classic Mekong – 17 days from £3,690pp
JACK WHITEHALL – THAILAND, CAMBODIA & VIETNAM Starring comedian Jack Whitehall and his father Michael, Netflix original Travels With My Father follows the pair on a classic route through Southeast Asia. Taking in the sights of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, this series shows us some of Southeast Asia’s most iconic sights as well as a few off the beaten track. Highlights include a trip on The Eastern and Oriental Express to part of the Burma Railway, Cambodia’s world-famous Angkor Wat and Vietnam’s beautiful Ba Na Hills. Wendy Wu recommends: Mekong Explorer – 22 days from £4,190pp
ROMESH RANGANATHAN – SRI LANKA Asian Provocateur sees Crawley comedian Romesh Ranganathan embark on a soul-searching journey to Sri Lanka in an attempt to connect with his roots. In the six-part BBC Three series, Ranganathan explores his parents’ homeland taking part in religious rituals and everyday customs. From traditional blessings in Kegalle to the nightly entertainment of Colombo, and the ancient martial art of Angapora to traditional Kandyan dancing, Ranganathan gives us a glimpse into authentic Sri Lankan culture. Wendy Wu recommends: Sri Lanka Explorer – 18 days from £3,590pp
wendywutours.co.uk | CHINESE WHISPERS 23
Meet the Stans
There’s a vast swathe of land that nestles between India, Russia and China where merchants once undertook extraordinary journeys along what became known as the ‘Silk Road’. These ancient lands formed of mountains, desert and broad, open steppe are studded with age-old cities where vibrant blue domes and towering minarets stand. Join us as we take a tour of the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, otherwise known as ‘The Stans’… Our 26-day Journey through Central Asia tour offers truly breath-taking scenery, immersive experiences throughout each country, a deeper look into the history of Central Asia and a tour experience never to be forgotten.
Where the Silk Road crosses from the Middle East into Central Asia, you will find the most enigmatic of The Stans, Turkmenistan. Its most iconic site is the spectacular Darvaza Gas Crater; a huge depression resulting from Soviet experiments with natural gases. A miscalculation by scientists means that the fires have been burning continuously since 1971, and the now nicknamed ‘Gates of Hell’ is most fascinating to visitors.
Travelling across the border, you will arrive in Uzbekistan, home to the world’s largest open-pit gold mine and one of the most visually-impressive countries in Central Asia. The walled city of Khiva, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has striking architecture which includes Islom-Khodja with its eye-catching turquoise tiles and Madrassah Rakhimkhon, a centre of learning.
Another must-see is the ancient city of Merv, at one point the world’s largest city and an important centre of trade and learning along the Silk Road, until its destruction at the hands of Genghis Khan. Ashgabat, the nation’s capital, with its sparkling golden domes and white-washed contemporary architecture, will be another memorable stop on your Journey through Central Asia tour.
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Follow in the footsteps of merchants as you traverse the arid Kyzyl Kum Desert, arriving in the medieval city of Bukhara. Highlights here will certainly include Bolo Hauz Mosque, where meticulously-carved pillars support the mosque’s beautiful façade. Your visit to Samarkand’s spectacular Registan (pictured below), a six century-old city square surrounded by three exquisitely designed madrassahs is truly a unique experience.
The towering mountains and lush valleys of Tajikistan formed a key part of the Silk Road’s entry into Europe. With over 90% of the country classified as mountainous terrain, one can only imagine the difficulties that merchants faced on their arduous journeys to the spice markets of Asia.
The next stop on your journey will be Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth largest country, stretching from the Altai Mountains in the Far East to the shores of the oil-rich Caspian Sea. Beginning in Almaty, you will be introduced to some of its most well-known sites, including Republic Square, where a majestic winged snow leopard sits atop the Independence Monument, and the Central Mosque, a modern architectural marvel that accommodates up to 7000 worshippers. The city’s backdrop is dominated by the snow-capped Tian Shan Mountains, a spectacular sight and a further reminder of the mesmerising scenery that Central Asia offers.
A wonderful country in which to finish your tour, head straight into the thick of things at the Karakol Sunday Animal Market. Each week, thousands of Kyrgyz people descend from their mountain villages to haggle over the price of sheep and horses. Leaving Karakol, you will pass beautiful gorges and waterfalls before your arrival in the highland village of Bokonbayevo, to witness a spectacular tradition; eagle hunting. This hunting technique has been used for a thousand years by the locals and provides them with sustenance through the harsh winter.
You will arrive in Khujand, a city founded by Alexander the Great and nowadays known as Tajikistan’s transportation hub and cultural centre. Wander through Panchshanbe Bazaar, a hive of activity and one of Central Asia’s largest marketplaces. Travel to the foothills of the Tajik Mountains to visit the glistening waters of Iskander Kul (translates to Lake Alexander), one of the most picturesque lakes on the Silk Road. On your final day, you will enjoy a walking tour of Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s thriving capital.
You will also visit Big Almaty Lake, famous for its turquoise waters and magnificent mountain scenery, before driving through Charyn Canyon, an area which, with its red rock formations frequently draws comparisons to the Grand Canyon in the United States.
To round off your trip, your journey will take you to a mountain village where you will witness traditional horseback games (a favoured Kyrgyz pastime) followed by a leisurely hike through the pristine green valleys of Ala Archa National Park.
TAKE ME THERE Journey Through Central Asia 26 days fr £6,250pp Retrace legendary journeys on this unforgettable Central Asian adventure through the 'Five Stans'.
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A Sweet Feast Around the World When it comes to travelling, the chance to indulge in the local cuisine often comes at the top of everybody’s list. But when you’re faced with so many delicious options, how do you know which ones to go for? To make sure you don’t miss out on the very best, let us take you on a culinary journey to some of the sweetest spots around the globe. Grab a spoon, you’re in for a treat…
SUSPIRO DE LIMEÑA (PERU) Servings: 8 Ingredients: Manjar •1 can of evaporated milk (340g)
RED BEAN BUN (CHINA)
You can’t go to China without trying the red bean buns. A sweet version of the popular bao, these soft, doughy steamed buns are filled with a delicious red bean paste which is often mistaken for chocolate because of its colour. When you’ve indulged in all the red bean buns you can manage, try some of the other sweet fillings which include pine nut kernel paste and taro paste.
A traditional Japanese dessert made from sticky rice dough, mochi are gooey balls which are toasted and dipped in sauce or sweetened with a topping called kinako. If you head to Japan in Spring for cherry blossom season, you’ll find an even tastier version of mochi. From March to May, mochi often comes with a whole strawberry covered in red bean paste in the centre…divine!
SUSPIRO DE LIMEÑA (PERU)
•1 can of sweetened condensed milk (296g)
With a name meaning ‘sigh of the Lima lady’, Suspiro De Limeña is an indulgent dessert originating from Lima, the capital of Peru. It consists of a delicious creamy, caramel-like pudding known as dulce de leche (which you’ll see in many South American desserts), and is topped with a Port flavoured meringue and finished with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
•1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
• 2 egg yolks (at room temperature) Meringue • ½ cup of sugar • 2 tablespoons of Port • 2 egg whites (at room temperature) • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon Instructions: Manjar • Place the egg yolks into a bowl •Pour the evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan and boil over a low heat until almost caramelised • Whisk the egg yolks constantly whilst slowly pouring in the manjar mixture a little bit at a time • Pour the egg yolk/manjar mixture back into the saucepan and add the vanilla extract. Mix well and cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes
GULAB JAMUN (INDIA) The super sweet and sticky gulab jamun is possibly India’s most popular dessert. These soft sponge balls are made from a dough of flour and condensed milk, then fried and soaked in syrup. Usually flavoured with cardamom and rose, their name means ‘rose berry’ in Hindi. You’ll find these moreish treats all over India and are particularly common with street vendors as they’re so easy to make.
Chocolate lovers, this one’s for you. Created by a confectioner from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s traditional brigadeiro are a popular truffle-like treat which are often the star of the show for festive events. They’re made of sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter, and are then rolled in chocolate sprinkles for a delectable, sweet crunch.
26 CHINESE WHISPERS | Call us on 0808 239 2148
LUK CHUP (THAILAND)
Almost too pretty to eat, luk chup are colourful candy-like sweets that were traditionally created only for the royal family. They’re made from a mixture of mung beans, coconut milk and sugar which is blended into a paste and then moulded into intricate fruit and vegetable shapes. They’re then painted with vibrant food colouring and glazed to give a beautiful glossy glow.
•Transfer the manjar mixture into 8 individual cups, filling only half way Meringue • In a small pan, over a low heat, mix the Port with the sugar and bring to the boil • Add the egg whites to a clean bowl • Whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until fluffy • With the mixer still on, pour in the Port syrup slowly and beat until thick and glossy • Fill a piping bag with the meringue and pipe over the manjar •Sprinkle ground cinnamon on the top
ANDY'S HANDY TRAVEL APPS There’s no shortage of travel apps out there and it can be hard to determine the good from the bad and the downright useless. Enter our roving travel tech geek, Andy Wu. He’s scoured the virtual world for tried and tested mobile apps that make travelling a whole lot easier.
Trello | www.trello.com Organise your lists, reminders and ideas with Trello. One of the best organisational apps we’ve tested, Trello lets you organise everything in a very simple format. You can even add checklists, labels and dates so you stay on top of everything you need to organise. Perfect for holiday planning.
What 3 Words | www.what3words.com
What 3 Words helps you find, share and navigate to any precise location by way of a clever mapping system which organises each 3m square in the world giving it a unique 3 word address that will never change. Hotels, restaurants, travel guides and websites have all cottoned on to this and so download it now and find your way to anywhere in the world, even where street addresses don’t exist.
Google Translate | www.translate.google.com
Translate text, handwriting, photos and even speech in over 103 languages simply by typing. This app is a work of genius which saves hours of time. So never be stuck again with language, whether doing a grocery shop or reading important signs, this app breaks through all language barriers.
Revolut | www.revolut.com
Manage your money anywhere in the world with this nifty spending app. Spend abroad in 150 currencies with real-time exchange rates as well as being able to send and request money from friends and family at the touch of a button. Revolut offers a radically better way to manage and control your money.
App in the Air | www.appintheair.mobi
With real time flight status, airport tips, in-airport navigation maps plus ability to log all your flights, App in the Air is your one-stop personal flying assistant. The app can even check you into your flight, remind you of your baggage allowance and tell you the weather at your destination.
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Wendy Wu Tours Chinese Whispers Magazine – January UK 2020 Edition