Unusual Asia

Depart the United States for Bangkok, Thailand. Your morning departure takes you toward the Himalayas and into Kathmandu, a kingdom nestled amidst the terraced hillsides that foot the tallest mountains in the world. Only recently have travelers begun to unravel its cultural ethos, experiencing only as a visitor can, the true wonder that is Nepal. Today you are in search of three cities: Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. Find all three so very different, colorful and exciting. The lend of Hinduism and Buddhism among the people of Nepal manifests itself in their temples and shrines.

Early next morning, you will have the distinct pleasure of flying alongside the highest mountain peaks of the Himalayan chain. Have you camera ready to capture their awesome beauty. Continue onward to Tiger Tops, a private run “jungle resort” offering amenities in food, comfort and service, truly unexpected within the heart of a jungle. Wake to the trumpeting call of the elephants as they beckon you for a morning’s safari. Whether sighting Bengal Tiger, rhino or merely bird life and deer, your safari across river, through marshlands and jungle, will not soon be forgotten. Continue by longboat as you slowly drift down the Rafti River, making your way to the disarmingly quaint Tharu Village for a nights lodging.

Your custom luxury tour returns you to Kathmandu for a last view before flying on to Bhutan, home of the “Thunder Dragon.” Wedged in between its two giant neighbors, India and China, it is secluded by the tall mountain ranges that surround it. There is little wonder why this fascinating kingdom remains so unknown the outside world, welcoming so few visitors to enjoy its unique culture. At the entrance to the valley near Thimphu stands the ancient Simtokha Dzong. An old fortress monastery, this 17th century edifice once was Bhutan’s center of higher social and religious teaching. Continue on to the lush vegetation of Paro Valley. Here you will trace the flow of the Pato Chu River to Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s oldest and most sacred monasteries. It is soon apparent how closely intertwined the land and the religious fervor are to the vast majority of remarkably good-natured Bhutanese. This evening, you are invited as the special guests for dinner within a private home. Next morning, fly from the tree-lined hills of Paro Valley to the bright, cosmopolitan city of New Delhi.

A morning excursion takes you to Agra for a visit to the exhilarating Taj Mahal. Your guide appreciates the importance of this major treasure and will stroll along the footpaths of the gardens, providing ample time for you to photograph and reflect upon the serenity inspired by this remarkable site. Your cross-country drive to Jaipur begins with a visit to the city of Fatephur Sikri. This spectacular sandstone site remains remarkably intact given its start desert surroundings. The route to Jaipur leads you past caravans of camels and tribesmen en route to the old “Pink City.”

A visit to Amber Fort, the wind palace, city museum and the enchanting spice market complete your visit to Jaipur. A drive to the Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary begins your hunt and capture, by photograph or in memory, of the elusive and awe-inspiring Bengal Tiger. The chance to find the tiger in these environs is excellent with the sightings prolonged as the experienced rangers track the markings of this treasured animal. Fly to the city of New Delhi where the stark contrasts between the visits to outlying cities will now seem dramatic. Begin your sights with a view of the Parliament, India Gate, and President’s House. Continue to Old Delhi for a visit to the Jama Masjid Mosque where a fervent call to prayer pervades the narrow cart lanes of the Chandi Chowk Bazaar. Stroll through the Red Fort with its massive walls providing a dramatic backdrop for the modern high rises within the capital. Completing your visit to New Delhi, fly on to the city of Amritsar, site of the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines.

One must visit the temple at day and night to witness the depth of the steadfast devotion the believers have in their faith. Hundreds of followers fill the lanes and their hearty welcome to visitors is genuinely warm and inviting. Pilgrims from afar enjoy the hospitality shown to them which includes both meals and lodging. Enjoy a special treat in the evening when you witness the pomp and ceremony of the Regimental Guards of India and Pakistan during the lowering of flags at the border crossing. Next morning return to New Delhi in preparation for your journey homeward carrying with you all of these magnificent memories to recall over a lifetime.

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First Cabin Travel's Unusual Asia Tour provides a rich combination of tours highlighting the hidden gems of the Asian Continent.

The terraced hillsides of Nepal nestle against the Himalayas, offering amazing panoramic views. Southern Nepal includes the small town of Lumbini, birthplace of the original Buddha. A deeply religious and aesthetic people, the Nepalese ornament their buildings and temples with extraordinary carvings and paintings. The magnificent Chitwan National Park contains exotic fauna, including elephants, leopards, and the legendary Bengal tiger.

Bhutan, which means "Land of the Thunder Dragon," lies between India and China. It is a remote paradise of rich fertile valleys and snow-capped mountains. The countryside is dotted with amazing monasteries that attract pilgrims from all over the world. Tourism has now only begun to reach Bhutan; a visit to the country offers a rare opportunity to view unspoiled natural beauty and to enjoy the hospitality of a people to whom a foreign visitor is still a welcome novelty.

India is a richly diverse country, comprising twenty-two states and the region of Kashmir. It supports a population of nearly one billion. Despite more than fifty years as a democratic nation, Indian states still retain their unique cultural and religious heritage.

In the Punjab lies the Golden Temple, an amazingly ornamented edifice constructed in the middle of Lake Amritsar. Its name comes from the patina of gold covering its top two-thirds. The Golden Temple is the holiest of Sikh shrines. Devotional scriptures are sung daily, beginning early in the morning and lasting long past sunset. The waters and the lyrical chanting induce a deep peace in visitors and pilgrims alike.

The experienced guides at First Cabin Travel ease border crossings and explain the intertwined cultural and political histories of the countries on the Unusual Asia Tour.