We travel to many destinations as a part of our work here at The Travellers Hut - On educational trips, as guests of wholesalers, airlines, hotels or tourist bureaux and of course travel on our own personal holidays. A few times a year Glenn also escorts our clients on The Travellers Hut's exclusive Destination Journeys.
We would like to share with you some of the experiences, good or bad, through the eyes of a trained travel professional's perspective.
We hope you enjoy reading our experiences.
- Written by Glenn Jarvis
As a travel agent most of my time is spent behind the desk creating memorable holidays and experiences for my clients, after many months of preparation and planning I hand over the documents wishing I could be a fly on the wall and be a witness to their adventure as it unfolds.
When I have the chance to escort one of our journeys I can be that fly.
It is immensely gratifying to be with my clients as the journey i’ve created leaps from the pages of the itinerary and springs into life. I receive a contented rush as I see my clients eyes fill with delight, smiles filling their faces as they enjoy the experience of travelling in the region of Indochina as I had hoped...
As many of you know travelling around Asia is my passion especially to the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma (Myanmar)
I first travelled to Vietnam in 1993 and have since been back on holiday, on educationals and escorting our Travellers Hut journeys on over 23 occasions. Much has changed as Vietnam has woken from a gentle yet frenetic slumber. Scenically the stand outs would have to be Halong Bay, Sapa, The Mekong Delta and the prolific farmlands. But by far it is the gentle people and the fabulous cuisine that stand head and shoulder as the reason I keep going back. The combination of fresh, gently cooked food laced with herbs and light sauces have your palate zinging for more.
Take a step back in time from Vietnam and you arrive in Cambodia. Again it is the people that stand out, gentle and kind despite their hideous and torturous past. The Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers are the life blood of the country and provide endless fascination as you witness the people living on the banks go about their daily chores. The highlight is definitely the majestic and varied Temples of Angkor on the outskirts of Siem Reap.
Taking a Mekong slow boat from Thailand into Laos is a sure way of leaving the hassled and hectic pace of life behind. Spend a few days journeying along the river through the remote wilderness and arrive to the gem of Laos, Luang Prabang. Nestled on the bank of the Mekong you have the opportunity of witnessing the monks for the early morning collection of alms and this gentle village comes to life each evening when the main street is closed to traffic overtaken by shops and stalls full of tasty treats, handicrafts and trinkets.
I was fortunate to travel to Burma now Myanmar last year, I was surprised at the cuisine, from the traditional fusion of food found in the surrounding asian countries with the addition of Indian type fare. Put simply, delicious ! I can’t decide the number one must see.. The over 2,000 temples and pagodas that dot the landscape around and amongst the small town of Bagan, or Inle Lake. During your time at Inle lake the traditional motor vehicle is replace by small long tail boats allowing you to explore the villages on the rivers and creeks that feed the lake and cruise around the lake itself. You motor past their houses and shops perched seemingly precariously on stilts, the floating farms on the centre of the lake are a must see, and you will marvel at the fisherman using one leg to row their boat leaving two hands free to use their fishing baskets to catch a haul of fish.
Travel to Indochina not only for the scenery and the culture but especially the cuisine.
- Written by Glenn Jarvis
In 2015 I was the guest of Avalon Waterways on a European river cruise, departing from Paris heading North West on the Seine River in France aboard Avalon Waterways Tapestry II.
Passing beautiful French countryside and visiting some quaint towns and villages, Vernon, Les Andelys, Rouen, Conflans and Cauderbec-En-Cau. Included were a variety of side trips each day to visit Monet’s Gardens – Richard the Lion Heart’s Castle – a visit to the local markets and villages with thatched cottages, The Normandy landing beaches and Auvers-Sur-Oise, the final resting place of Vincent Van Gogh.
Along with the included tours there were also optional excursions, in keeping with Avalon’s waterways philosophy of including most of your touring together with offering choice to either doing more touring, relaxing on the boat or wandering and exploring the town that your are berthed at. Some of the optional side trips were to Honfleur, with boats moored in a small harbour in the towns centre surrounded by beautiful old buildings that house an abundance of eateries and shopping opportunities or a visit to the stately Palace of Versailles.
Our Avalon river cruise boat load of Australian’s, English, Canadian’s and folk from the USA cruised under dozens of bridges and through half a dozen different locks. We all ate our way through some delicious meals (let’s not mention the weight gain) and passed at least a dozen other river cruise boats during our cruise... Of the boats we passed, only around half are suited to the Australian market, some are for German, French or Spanish speaking only... Which begs the questions not only which river do you choose to cruise on in Europe, but also which cruise company do you select?
You can choose the Seine, Saone, Rhone, Moselle, Rhine, Main, The Danube, Douro, Svir, Volga, Neva, Dordogne, Gironde, Garonne, Po and Elbe rivers, cruising with Avalon Waterways, Scenic, APT, Uniworld, Tauck, Crossi, Viking, Evergreen, Travelmarvel.
Then you also have a choice of cabin type, do you opt for a small window cabin, large window cabin, French Balcony Cabin, Balcony Cabin, Suite...But it does not end there. Which airlines and earlybird offer is best for you? Fly free, fly for $799, fly for $999...Do you opt for a cruise with fully inclusive touring, drinks and other value inclusions, or a cruise with less inclusions, wine and beer with dinner and more optimal tours while you are on board?
There are claims and counter claims by each cruise company that you would have seen on the telly, in the newspapers, and in the very heavy glossy brochures... We have a butler for you - We have larger cabins - We have larger balconies - We have more inclusions - We give you more choice - Our bed faces the river - We have the newest ship - We have the newest fleet of ships - We have exclusive berthing close to the centre of towns...It goes on and on.
One thing we know for certain is the vessels have to fit into the locks and under bridges so they all have a maximum width, height and length that they cannot vary and all the companies have to fit their inclusions, whatever they are, into those perimeters.
The options we have for European River cruising really is mind boggling, and there is no easy answer for you. It comes down to personal itinerary choice, your expected level of luxury and how much you wish to pay either upfront or while you are cruising. I would suggest you read the brochures from each company as carefully as possible, comparing inclusions and deals, but again this can be incredibly daunting. To make your selection process easier visit us at The Travellers Hut and will help you with your decision. We have been trained on each cruise company and are able to guide you step by step through each companies advantages to settle on a European river cruise that suites your
River cruising is an ideal way to travel through Europe, board, unpack once, relax and be pampered as your cruise from City to City, village to village and highlight to highlight. You will cruise past stunning scenery, taken on side trips each day to see villages, castles, cathedrals..., all the while enjoying delicious food, did I mention the weight gain? haha.
Whichever cruise company, which ever river you choose I know you will enjoy your European River cruise as much as I did with Avalon Waterways on the Seine in France.
I must tell you, watching the scenery with the french balcony doors open from the comfort of the river facing bed was sensational !
Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam – The population wakes early so daily work tasks can be done before the heat of the day takes hold. To capture the people of these fascinating countries at their busiest you will have to be up and about early as well. Experiencing the cities, towns and countryside as they slowly come to life is something to behold. Gradually the quiet pre-dawn is interrupted by crowing roosters, yes even in the cities, making way to the gradual hum of motorbike traffic, punctuated by ever increasing toots of their horns, the number of people and noise building and building to a frantic pace. A pace that even in our Australian cities cannot even come close.
An early stroll through the local parks has you seeing many people going about their morning rituals, exercising both body and mind. In a stark contrast there are thousands of people making their way to work, either hanging out of crowded buses or two, three or four people crammed onto every motorbike. Replace your wake up morning coffee by immersing yourself amongst the traffic with a cycle ride - a definite in your face early morning heart starter.
Watching the markets prepare for yet another busy day is another great way to begin your morning. Witness the steady stream and mind boggling variety of vegetables, herbs, meats and fish arriving before dawn ready for sale from first light until sundown. Stand back and watch the locals haggle for the freshest and best quality produce to take home and cook for the their daily meals. People usually shop every day at the markets and the range of fresh food on offer would make your local western homogenised supermarket blush with embarrassment.
Try an early start to your day, see Indochina at its best – You can always go back to your hotel for breakfast and a good lie down after the whirlwind experience.
- Written by Glenn Jarvis
Lets begin at Shinagawa station, the 9th busiest railway station in Japan, with over 336,000 passengers per day (Sydney Central has only 32,000 per day). It's a few minutes after 9am and the trains are still packed shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek, full with black suited Salarymen making their way to work. Travelling by train in Tokyo is surprisingly easy, so long as you can cope with the crowds. Although it seems daunting at first, after one or two trips you will proudly master the process of purchasing a subway ticket from the machine and think, what was all the fuss about?
The Tokyo rail system has signage and announcements in both Japanese and English on the platforms and trains, making your travel around Tokyo relatively easy. Oh and how many people are out and about catching trains at around 10pm on a typical week night? Yes even then they are verging on full!
Travelling around Japan on holiday as a westerner you quickly realise you are in the minority. There are over 126 million people in Japan, most with only 10 days annual leave combined with 16 public holidays a year. The combination of limited and short duration holidays and the large population makes travel a busy experience.
The majority of people travel around Japan by the Shinkansen – bullet trains, which put many an airline to shame with the amount of leg room and especially punctuality. It is worth noting that the average delay for a train in Japan is only 18 seconds. The most cost effective way for tourists to catch the trains is by using a Japan Rail pass, which are only sold outside of Japan. Before you can travel you exchange a voucher for your actual rail pass and book your seating which is essential for travel in peak times. Unlike travel in Europe, if you have a rail pass there are no additional fees for booking your seats. However, unfortunately you cannot prebook your seats on the trains before you leave Australia.
The Shinkansen trains are not designed for westerners and their large luggage, however the ever efficient Japanese people have a solution. The Takkyubin service. For a small fee you send your luggage from one hotel, overnight to the next, so all you have to take on board the train is an overnight bag. But will my luggage arrive at my next destination? Yes, you are in efficient Japan, your luggage will be there waiting for you!
Travelling to Japan is not as affordable as travelling to other Asian countries. Japan has a western standard of living and as such pricing for travel around Japan is similar to the prices you would expect travelling around Europe. However there is a misconception that to eat in Japan is expensive. I have found it is cheaper to eat in Japan than eating here in Australia. (Of course there are restaurants with ridiculous prices for meals, but that is the same everywhere.) When we think about eating in Japan we think the stereo typical, Sushi and Sashimi but the variety of meals is astounding and you just have to try Okonomiyaki!
Another way is to see a little of Japan is to take a cruise, this provides you with a glimpse of Japan as you cruise around it’s islands. However there are optional shore excursions you can join giving you a brief taste of Japanese sights, food and culture. While a cruise seems to be a one of the cheapest options at the outset. you have to remember to add on the cost of the shore excursions and realise you are only on shore for brief periods of time. A cruise is a great way to get a snapshot of what Japan is all about but you really only see such a small amount.
While it is tempting to travel to see the Cherry Blossom or the Autumn leaves remember the weather is fickle and you may be disappointed by nature not providing the predicted spectacle you were after. Also be very aware of the amount of tourists, mostly locals, travelling around.
Japan at those times, it is very crowded. While I do not want to say don’t travel to Japan during those times, just be aware of our unpredictable weather patterns and the popularity of seeing nature at its finest. You may find to the have best Japan experience is to travel out of these peak travel periods and also steer clear of mid winter when it is bitterly cold and mid summer when temperatures and especially humidity are at their most extreme.
Travel to Japan and you will experience a vastly different, unique and charming culture. Where politeness, order and punctuality abounds. You will marvel at the many temples and shrines and the natural beauty like Mt Fuji (although Mt Fuji does tend to hide behind the clouds a lot).
To enhance your Japan experience why not take a cooking class or two, a tea ceremony, dinner with a Maiko or even a visit to a sumo wresting tournament. Japan is like no other country in the world with its tradition and culture, it is definitely worth a visit and I know you will enjoy the experience.
Finally, I thought we would end where we began, at Shinagawa station take a look at the short clip Glenn captured on the Travellers Hut Journey to Japan that showcases the busy early morning salary man commute at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. Shinagawa Station Clip
Glenn escorted a group of clients around Japan in November 2015 with the assistance of Insider Journeys, Qantas and The Japan National Tourist Office in Sydney.
Also published in Central Coast Senior Magazine.
- Written by Glenn Jarvis
Fly into Sydney over it’s signature red roofed houses, fly into Yangon, Myanmar where red is replaced by blue…
Yangon Myanmar, the old Rangoon Burma, a bustling city with a mix of traditional Asia - markets, narrow laneways, hustle and bustle, combined with old colonial buildings, only some of which have been restored.
As you become accustomed with the frenetic pace of the city, suddenly you realise that unlike every other Asian city, Yangon has no motor bikes.. The story goes that motor bikes have been banned in the city ever since a general was knocked over by one. Myanmar has also recently lowered the tax on vehicles and as a consequence Yangon is struggling with busy intersections. They are building new flyovers and roads but the influx of cars and vehicles has exceeded the pace of the new road infrastructure. Add to that very limited space to park and it all adds up to chaos with peak hour lasting nearly all day .
When Burma changed from driving on the left to now driving on the right is that they did not introduce a rule to only allow right hand drive vehicles. (Again reportedly, the move from left hand drive was because the generals astrologer said that politically Burma was leaning too far to the left !) To this day over 90 % of the cars and indeed buses and trucks are all left hand drive, mostly second hand vehicles from Japan… So not only when you cross the road do you have to look to what we think is the wrong way for oncoming traffic you get even more confused with seemingly driverless cars !
The highlight of Yangon is definitely the Shwedagon Pagoda majestically sitting high on a hill that overlooks the city. The shrine dominates the landscape with it’s golden stupa glowing in the sunshine during the day and floodlit at night.
Time to move on from the city, it is the country regions where Myanmar comes to life..
Bagan a small town who’s population was forced to move in 1998 from the old town to establish a new town area without being provided with the basics like electricity and water. But over time that has changed with services gradually being provided. Bagan has it’s own character and unlike other Asian towns, it is seemingly ordered with plenty of trees, making it quiet and laid back.
The surrounding countryside is dominated by a mix of over 3,200 stupas, pagodas and temples. A short climb up one of the stupas and you can appreciate the number, as far as the eye can see, in every direction. Building amongst the stupas and temples is forbidden however farmers are allowed to plough the fields and grow crops adding to the beauty of the view. In the dry season when winds have died down and the weather favourable, at dawn the sky is littered with hot air balloons adding to this amazing scene, it would be hard to choose between being in the hot air balloons floating over this landscape or indeed being on the ground having these huge hot air balloons adding to the majesty of the stupas, temple and fields of Bagan.
A short flight brings you to the small airport at Hiho, the gateway to what I consider to be one of the most beautiful areas of Myanmar. 30 or so minutes drive from the airport is the town of Nyuang Shwe at the Northern end of the amazingly delightful, Inle Lake. Time to leave road transport behind for a few days, for the duration of your time on the lake you experience if from the comfort of a long tail speed boat. Witnessing daily life continue as if you were not even there. Passing fisherman that wrap one leg around an oar so they can manoeuvre their boat around, leaving both hands free to so they can fish. Your boat effortlessly making it’s way amongst the houses on stilts in the middle of the lake, occasionally stopping to see some home based manufacturing, like silk weaving or cigarillo making. Time for lunch your boat stops at one of the restaurant on stilts so you can dine on some of the most tasty food you will find in Asia.
The cuisine in Myanmar is a combination of what we think of as being traditional Asian cuisine with a large influence of cuisine from neighbouring India. Wow what an amazing mix of flavours and textures undoubtably the food in Myanmar is some of the best I have tasted. Farming on the lake is a major part of the inhabitants livelihood. Amazingly the farmlands you pass on dryland are replicated on Inle lake. Of course there is an amazing twist, floating reed farms. Row after row of crops like cherry tomatoes all flourishing in beds of mulch on top of carefully prepared floating reeds, an unexpected sight as your boat glides around the lake.
A few days witnessing life on the water and the banks of Inle Lake is truly worth your while. Typically after a day of amazing sights and meeting the local people your experience is usually punctuated with fabulous views of sunsets over the water from the accommodation dotted around the edge of the lake itself.
As you read this Burma or correctly Myanmar, will either be preparing for, or just had national elections to choose it’s next government, perhaps moving the country into a new phase… Regardless of the outcome of the election I firmly believe that tourism should flourish, not for the benefit of who ever is in power, but to benefit of the everyday people of Myanmar who’s lives are increasingly improving from the influx of tourism, it is the people of Myanmar we need to support by travelling there, not whoever is in power.
Tourism in Myanmar is still in it’s infancy compared with it’s regional neighbours, but that is rapidly changing with more and more 3, 4 and 5 star hotels being built, roads and tour infrastructure being put in place. Now is the time to travel to Myanmar to see and experience this emerging country before it changes even more over the next few years.
While some parts of Myanmar are difficult to get to, except for the most resilient and seasoned travellers,Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake are all easy to travel to with excellent accommodation and touring options. Bagan and Inle Lake are must see destinations for your visit to Myanmar, easily accessible and both affording amazing experiences - seeing monks strolling around the temples and stupas in one direction while in the other bullocks and cattle in the fields. The fisherman and people treating Inle Lake as if it was just another piece of land to grow crops to make a living for their viability and existence.
Traveling in developing countries can be difficult, however there is way you can travel to Myanmar without the hassle of long travel days and moving from hotel to hotel. Like Europe and the rest of Asia, river cruising is booming in Myanmar with the number of companies operating cruise boats increasing every year. Taking advantage of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers allowing travellers to effortlessly experience rural life and remote places that are hard to get to, sometimes impossible to get to by road. River cruising in Myanmar is an excellent way to be able to visit Myanmar, combining some truly unforgettable and amazing experiences as you relax on a river cruise boat.
If you are considering a trip to Myanmar, now is the time to visit so you can experience Myanmar before tourism levels increase and before the influences of the western world take hold. Glenn Jarvis
Glenn was recently a guest of Thai Airways, Helloworld and Insider Journeys on a educational experience through Myanmar.
- Written by Glenn Jarvis
Watching the changing colours of Uluru at sunset is a gradual yet appreciable change of hues. Ochre reds through oranges to light and dark browns. Sometimes the colour change is not fully realised until you take a look back through the photos you have taken during the time you were sipping champagne, watching the rock as the sun slowly dissappears for the day.
There are times where all the planets align and the change in colour of the rock is visually amazing, in fact you can be stunned at the colour change. Oddly enough you need a cloudy afternoon, not just any old cloudy afternoon though.
Ideally a band of cloud low in the western sky leaving just a sliver of skyline above the horizon. As the sun passes behind the cloud you get a false sunset with the rock slowly changing colour, just as you think the rock has assumed its final dark brown colour for the evening and you slowly turn to walk away you realise that nature has tricked the rock, oh yes indeed it sure has.
Suddenly the suns rays burst through below the band of cloud and above the horizon, once again bathing the rock in full sun light. Uluru shrugs off its dark brown night time cape and immediately takes on a vivid golden glow, the change of colour is striking and something to behold. This spectacular sight does not happen often but when it does it will remain an everlasting memory, nature yet again performing it's finest.
Glenn has travelled to Uluru on over half a dozen occasions, the most recent as a guest of Qantas holidays and Ayres Rock Resort