What our Clients Say
Our commitment to that extra level of service for our clients is what keeps them coming back. Here's what some of them have been kind enough to tell us:
we had the best, most gracious, most informed, most helpful, most accommodative, I could go on and on, but in sum, my thanks in selecting Alok for our trip. More dialogue upon our return but in sum, it was out of this world!!!
Sorry it's been over 2mo.'s, but I've been thinking about Allen and my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. I wanted to thank you for arranging the trip on such short notice. All the important aspects like the flights, meeting the guides at the airports, the Visa process in Vietnam, all went smoothly. Like you said, the people in both countries were wonderful. We had many amazing experiences. Also,thank you for the cake and wine for Allen's birthday. Thank you again, and happy holidays.
I am still dealing with jet lag from the very long flights, but I completely enjoyed my time in Cambodia.
Whatever my expectations were, they were greatly exceeded.
The itinerary planning seemed about right to me. I didn't find myself wishing for more or fewer activities. The Killing Fields were important to see to understand the history and state of the country. It was good to have that at the front end to leave less serious fare for the rest of the trip. The animal rescue center was a highlight, and a good balance to the temples, as was the visit with Em Theay and her daughter. She was delightful and graced us with a song. The meeting was much more meaningful and enjoyable than I had expected. The cooking class was also first rate, much better than I might have expected. I have to say that the most other-worldly, mind blowing experience was the visit to the floating fishing village with the houses on stilts. That is a sight that I imagine very few people will ever get to see first hand.
The sunrise visit to Angkor Wat didn't beat the crowds, but of course was still amazing. Don't know if the time of year had anything to do with the large number of people, or if that is normal.
The guides were first rate, as were the hotel accommodations. The Sofitel in Phnom Penh especially was just excellent, without feeling 'stuffy'. It had a friendly atmosphere overall. I enjoy a good buffet, and my friends kid me about that. The breakfast buffet at the Sofitel was far beyond anything I could have dreamed up. It was so good that it is a highlight I will never forget.
Using tuk tuks to get around during free time was easy, inexpensive, and fun, so we didn't feel like we were dependent on having the bus available.
Loved the food. I very much enjoyed the fish amok and other dishes. Yes, I ate a tarantula for fun. Tasty!
Many thanks for a great trip,
Everything was really great. We really did enjoy every aspect of our tour. We are crazy about India. All the members of your Indian staff were very professional and good to us. What a wonderful way to discover India. Thanks for everything. There was no moments were we feel preoccupied or lost. A great way to travel.
We have started our formation yesterday. It is amazing what these organizations have accomplished: Sopar-Bala-Vikasa. It is a very good program they are presenting to us with some visit of there projects and installations. It is gone be a great month.
We are gone come back to you in the coming weeks, when we have more time.
Thanks for having us discover India in such a nice way!
Everything was OUTSTANDING!!!!!! It truly was a fantastic trip. You really know the ins and outs of the places and the guides were tremendous.
It was really great! We have a very nice schedule and we meet really nice people (drivers, guides and agency representatives). It was really well organise and secure. We appreciated a lot our trip and will recommend your company to our friends and family. Thank you for your work and well organization. Hope we have the chance to be in contact with you again. Louise tell me that you organize travel for others country so maybe an other year!
Our trip was just fantastic! You truly delivered the trip of a lifetime for our family. Our guides, Mr. Sareth and Mr Om, were both excellent, knowledgeable, and went beyond the usual tour guide role to really make the history, monuments, and people of Cambodia accessible.
We really enjoyed the Chen Sea Resort, the accommodations, food, beautiful beach, and staff were perfection.We especially enjoyed the Spa and had fantastic massages, facials, and manicures. On the last day we decided to venture out to try a Vietnamese restaurant and after a very long wild goose chase with a helpful driver who spoke no English, he took us to a resort that was quite close to the Chen Sea called Mango Bay. I'm a Vietnamese food fanatic, and this was some of the best I've had. Also, the setting was incredible; a large wooden deck over the black rocks and the South China Sea at sunset. They had some kind of accommodations but we didn't have time to see them. We also appreciated being met and guided through the airports so we had no worries about Visas or connections.
The agenda you planned for us in Cambodia was unforgettable and we enjoyed and learned from every single itinerary event. The Prince D'Angkor hotel was not great. The staff was wonderful, but the food was really bad. Even the buffet breakfast was not good, hardly any fresh fruit. But maybe we were spoiled by the incredible array of fresh fruits, juices, meats, Asian specialties, and bakery delicacies at the Chen Sea and the Sofitel in Phnom Penh! I'm not much of a breakfast lover, but those two hotels changed my mind about food in the morning.
Another problem with the Prince D'Angkor was the lack of an elevator and when we arrived, no bellmen to carry our luggage up two and for Linda's group, three flights of stairs. It wasn't really a big deal for us, but some people would definitely have a problem with that. The New Year's dinner was just awful, but they did have a wonderful program with traditional Khmer music and dancers. Unfortunately that was followed by ear-breaking pop music that even the younger people couldn't take.
Still, thanks to your excellent and challenging schedule of events, we were so filled with beautiful and stunning scenery and history that we were just very glad to be in Siem Reap. Our favorite restaurant there was called Nest Angkor Cafe Bar, with excellent Khmer food and fun atmosphere. The Night Market in Siem Reap was a great experience and so much more enjoyable and interesting than the Russian or Central Markets in Phnom Penh. Mr Om explained that because of Unesco, the streets of Siem Reap were pretty safe even at night. It was a wonderful place to be on New Year's Eve. Lots of crowds on the streets, but everyone was friendly and it was a great experience.
The floating Village, Kompong Pluk, was an absolutely essential visit. Although emotionally challenging, I felt that we really got an insight into rural life on the Tonle Sap. The people were wonderful and our kids all fell into a spontaneous volleyball game with the local children. Another unforgettable experience for our family. The Temples were fabulous and Mr. Om was the perfect guide; getting us there at sunrise before the crowds plus his knowledge of Khmer history and the Hindu and Buddhist influences was outstanding. I've forgotten the name of the restaurant that day but it was exceptional.
The cooking class at Sala Kdei was incredible. To be taken to the market to buy the food we were to learn to prepare was especially enriching and the chefs and staff were all excellent. The wooden house was a real treat to visit and the instruction and delicious food made it another incredible day.
Another cultural highlight was the Sovanna Phum performance. Wow, absolutely amazing music and performances. Meeting the "Tenth Dancer", Em Theay was a deeply moving experience. She and her daughter were most generous with their time and even sang two songs for us.
I could go on and on but I'm afraid I'm rambling. I still haven't completed my own journals or downloaded any of the thousands of photos I took or I could probably be a bit more specific. In short though, I cannot thank you enough for making this experience so incredibly rich, challenging, and ultimately rewarding. Thank you for your excellent and thoughtful itinerary, and the wonderful people that guided us through it. It's not often that two teenagers and a 60 year old Mom can share 20 days of international travel and enjoy literally every minute. Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the trip of a lifetime. Oh, and did I mention, we are already wanting to return to Asia?! We will certainly be calling you to plan our next adventure!
Christine, Sarahn, and Iahly Bastian
Thanks so much for checking in with us -- we have been on a whirlwind since returning home. Feels like we've been home just enough to put in 40+ hours a week at work and then we are off again. I do apologize for the major delayed response, but I have been wanting to write to you to say thank you.
Our time in Kerala was so nice! We really enjoyed all of the places where we stayed - the sights were beautiful - and the gentleman who was our guide//driver for the week was an absolute delight! We were laughing when we first heard that Kerala's slogan was "God's Own Country" - but after being there, they really are the Texans of India! We left Kerala about 50lbs heavier thanks to all the delicious food, and totally relaxed.
Thank you again for all of your help in organizing the week there. We really loved our time and have been telling everyone to put Kerala on their places to visit list. Hopefully, we will be back one day.
I hope you are well, and have some fun upcoming places to visit.
Thank you again for helping us to get away, rest, and come back to the States rejuvenated. We are grateful.
Alan and I both want to thank you for helping to plan an exceptional journey for us! The itinerary was flawless and the experiences rich and diverse in cultural and experiential ways.
We found each of our destinations to be unique and our guides to be knowledgeable, personable and open to whatever questions or changes we might have. It was really quite amazing how easily we moved from place to place and how effortless the transitions seemed to be.
We were struck by how welcomed we felt at each of our destinations and how helpful each of our drivers/guides were in providing us information that allowed us to move easily around in each of the new environments. The food and accommodations were exceptional. While we found sleeping difficult, this was partially due to the frequency of our moves and the style of mattresses which were unfamiliar to us. I also think we were trying to adapt to some of our emotional responses to the cultural and historical things we were exposed to.
As you know, we decided to break up the return trip from Kratie to Phnom Penh due to the length of travel. Our guide was exceptionally helpful in accommodating this change and arranging for a comfortable hotel where we could stay. All of the guides gave us opportunities to try local foods and explore the local culture of the areas. We would recommend all of them, but particularly My and Seam, who were both exceptionally flexible, warm, and open.
We are looking forward to seeing you for your 10th anniversary celebration. We will continue to highly recommend you to other travelers who are interested in visiting Southeast Asia! Thank you again for your wonderful assistance.
Susan & Alan
Hi Irene – I wanted to get back to you about our trip to Cambodia 1/13-20. We had a great time, and have only good feedback as far as our itinerary and the hotels. We had a great sail with the Wilkersons after Cambodia, and ended up spending a couple of days in Bangkok before returning home.
Everything went like clockwork with our tour, and we loved the accommodations and service in both the White Mansion in Phnom Penh, and Shanti Mani in Seim Reap. The guides and drivers worked out well, with a special shout out to our Siem Reap guide, Mork Vireak. His historical knowledge was exceptional, and he was always attentive, flexible and willing to accommodate requests which was appreciated.
This is not meant as a complaint, but something to note about the area around White Mansion Hotel; Because sidewalks were limited and the intensity of the traffic so high, we were not comfortable going anywhere by foot. The tuk tuks are all around and inexpensive so it wasn’t an issue finding transportation, but we did miss the ability to leave the hotel and walk or stroll around in the mornings or evenings. This may be the case everywhere in Phnom Penh but it seemed particularly bad in this area… much more intense than even Bangkok.
There wasn’t anything we would change in the itinerary for the time we had, so all in all a 10 out of 10 for us.
Thanks for putting the trip together for us. Hope to take more adventures in Asia in the future.
Hope all is well with you and Ambrose,
Ros and Curt
The trip was beyond outstanding! It met our expectations in every way and we can't thank you enough for all that you did to make that happen. Every guide was not only well qualified and easy to understand but a fun person to be around as well. Of course, we have our personal favorites, but each guide more than met our expectations, they kept us informed as to the schedule, they asked if we wanted anything different or added, they confirmed our flights and smoothed any glitches ( one flight was changed and they were able to get us back on track so we didn't miss our connection), and they made sure that we sampled the local cultures at every turn. Because the guides helped to make us feel so secure in our surroundings we felt empowered to explore on our own even more when we had the chance.
From the cars to the boats to the flights onward, everything went like clockwork as we traveled along. Everything was set up to make maximum use of our time and while we did not always appreciate the early wake-up we saw it's worth as we had a marvelous new destination to enjoy for the day.
The hotels were great and we thoroughly enjoyed the massive outdoor shower at the Inle Princess, that is something that will live in our minds forever. We enjoyed the breakfast selections, and each hotel was very different but equally great, hard to pick a favorite there. Everyone we dealt with in any of the hotels was outstanding and very willing to help make our day - especially when it was my birthday and I got to celebrate it at two different hotels, truly a memory I will enjoy - and a gift too. All of the meal selections were right up our alley, we might have enjoyed a bit more "street" food to be worked in but we managed to find that on our own so everything was covered fine for us.
The teacher in me has a critique to offer the guides that I wish we had heard more of the stories and legends of Myanmar and less Buddha. I understand their perspective but I know there must be more there that could be explored and I would have loved to learn. I also realize that this is a country that is slowly evolving and that our trip there in ten or so years might be very different.
The entire time at Inle lake is the universal choice for the most enjoyed - it was very different and totally unique. Being on the lake for one of the premier days of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival was one of the best memories for not just this trip but our life, which includes several of the best international sporting events. What a place! I didn't really appreciate all of the ins and outs of the boat, but it was a "necessary evil" and I was more than willing to do it once I realized how unique a place this was. As far as the least enjoyed, it was the Buddha stories for Mike - perhaps because many of the stories were repeated as we changed guides and locations - and the physicality for Sue - getting onto and off of some of the boats was almost a spectacle at times and taking off shoes and walking barefoot through the gravel from the car was difficult when I came from a culture that requires shoes in public at all times and I have grown soft over time.
Your suggestions were great and we can't stress enough how much we appreciate your help with those aspects. We saw what we wanted and got a very complete picture of Myanmar the country and Myanmar the people. We felt that the tips for the guides and the drivers were right on and appreciated without being too outrageous. Your choices for us were just right, we were able to experience new things and yet we felt totally secure in cultures that were previously unexplored, and that is why we travel - so it was noticed!
Once again - this trip was beyond outstanding and something we will never forget. All in all, if you ever need any "secret shoppers" to double check your choices, please give us a call - we'd be delighted to help out!
Thanks again for all your help and support in setting up and "pulling off" this epic adventure!
Mike and Sue Willeman
East Troy, Wisconsin
Ambrose & Irene -
Just wanted to say "Thank You" for all the time, effort and work the two of you put forth into my holiday to Bangkok, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.
I cannot begin to describe the experiences I had, the friendships I made, the impact of the sites I saw, the activities I participated in and have become richer for my time spent in these countries.
There were smiles, there were tears, there was determination as I was committed to executing my itinerary as outlined. While I usually end up with a cold on each trip which slows me down for a day, never I have I ever been as sick as I was, taking antibiotics and having several guides having to alter my program as they accommodated me. In the end I did accomplish all and I have to credit my guides for this unwavering support in this area.
When friends ask me what my favorite part of my trip was I say "everything" because the itinerary was designed for me. When asked, I also say "I would do the entire trip all over again as written."
My only recommendation to my family/friends - if possible do not travel during monsoon season - not because of the rain but what the impact the rain has on the environment - I have never seen so many landslides, walked in so much mud - however I have earned the right to discuss in minimal detail how monsoon does affect life in this part of the world I have been very honest in telling people I was advised it was monsoon season however I viewed it as a lot of rain when it truly is much more than that..
I was most taken how the two of you were able to yet again incorporate all of my interests in this trip while still ensuring I still experienced life in each of these countries. I can once again state - RLJ had my interests at heart when they designate my itinerary. I am truly blessed for having the two of you in my life!
Thank you again.
I hope you are doing very well!
Thank you so much for designing and planning our trip. The entire trip was wonderful! I was very impressed with how well-organized and efficiently planned our agendas were for each day. I enjoyed all of our activities! The itinerary allowed us to see and experience so much every day!
All three hotels were so beautiful and so elegant; and the staffs at each were awesome! I had a fantastic time at the hotels for relaxing and sleeping, swimming, resting, eating the delicious breakfast buffets, and even having a cocktail in the lounge. It was so fun and I felt completely pampered when returning to each hotel every evening. Staying at these hotels was fantastic!
Our guides were AWESOME! Ms. Angela, Mr. Om, and Mr. Koumpeak were the greatest, and I can’t imagine being taught and guided by any better qualified people! We ALL loved all three of our guides; they made us feel so welcomed. Each guide even taught us greetings, salutations, and how to say, “thank you” in each language. They were wonderful at keeping an eye on all of us. The humidity was considerable, and each guide consistently made sure we had water and a fresh toilette to refresh. Each guide educated us about the areas we visited, details regarding the history of each site, and shared stories and facts about the local peoples. Each guide’s enthusiasm was so awesome! I can tell that each of them love their home and the things they shared make me want to learn more about their homes and go back and visit them and their homes. These guides are wonderful people, and I enjoyed meeting them and learning from them!
Our drivers were great, too! Each of them were so kind, friendly, and considerate; and made sure the six of us were doing okay throughout the days.
I loved every aspect of the trip! I am glad I took so many pictures. What I liked most was not only the perfectly packed days and extensive details and education from Ms. Angela, Mr. Om, and Mr. Koumpeak, but also the overall experience of visiting such beautiful places and seeing and speaking with so many people while visiting. I had a great time!!
As far as what I liked least – I can’t think of anything. The trip went so fast and I wanted to stay longer!
Thank you so much, Irene! I had a fantastic vacation in Asia!
I cannot rave enough about Red Lantern, based on our recent trip to Thailand and Vietnam.
Some of the reasons I won't travel without them in future:
#1: Patience. I worked with Irene, who put up with my endless questions with great grace. She always responded promptly, with thoughtful answers giving full explanations of the reasoning behind her recommendations. She's a great listener.
#2: Local knowledge. Irene advised us on destinations, and then filled out the itinerary, based on firsthand experience at each location. On the trip, it showed.
#3: Unique experiences. Irene recommended several locations where we were the only tourists around, and the guides took us to many places we would not have discovered on our own.
#4: Affordability. Irene worked with us to meet our budget needs.
#5: Guides. We learned so much! They spoke English well and were knowledgeable and responsive beyond our expectations.
In short: we could not have been happier.
Irene – Like Kitty, I had a wonderful time on the trip. Some days my head was spinning because there was so much to take in. Viet Nam is a beautiful country with interesting people who are very resourceful. For much of the trip I was just in awe. The one thing that I have said to friends that sets this trip apart from others I have taken is that there were several days at a time when we did not see another foreigner and that was very exciting for me.
Guides – I enjoyed Angela and Diem the most. They seem to be the two with the most experience and also spent the time to understand what we wanted to do, see and eat and made an effort to make that happen. Actually, Bi went out of his way to do this as well. Bi and Angela were the best at food suggestions or restaurants with Diem very close behind. Hung sent us to very western places where only other westerners were eating. I learned a lot from each of the guides. You should know that the regional manager in Central Viet Nam called us twice while there to make sure that we were happy with our guide and that things were going well. He was very nice.
Hotels – I agree with Kitty that the hotels were all good. The Pilgrim Village would have made more sense if we had the time to linger at the pool. With our tight itinerary a simpler hotel would have been fine. This is not your fault and really a lesson for Kitty and I.
Itinerary planning – yes, perfect. Personally on my next trip to Viet Nam I would try and get directly to the central area and the Mekong Delta and spend as little time as possible in Saigon or Hanoi but I think as a first time visitor you have to go to the big cities to get a sense of the country. I also have told friends that Halong Bay is a bit like Disneyland. It is very touristy. I might go out for the day or spend one night but each time we got off the bus it was a bit like a cattle call with so many people marching up the steps to see the same cave or viewpoint. Clearly it is a must see but I would spend as little time as possible there.
Vehicles and drivers – Vehicles and drivers were fine. Our van in the south of Viet Nam was bigger than we needed but Kitty and I took advantage of the space to nap on our way back from the Delta to Saigon.
Thank you so much for a wonderful trip. I have already told several people that if they plan on going to SE Asia any time soon they should use your services. I received your note and I would love to see you the next time you are in Portland.
Wendy Smith Novick
Good evening, Irene,
We returned home from our wonderful trip to Thailand last night. I have to say that I feel that everything about the trip was excellent. I could not be more pleased!
The guide services were great. The guides and drivers were always there to greet us and were always on time or even early. They were courteous and professional and very knowledgeable.
The transportation was wonderful. They provided either a nice new car or van for us, and always had cool washcloths and a bottle of water for us.
The itinerary that you put together for us was fabulous! We experienced so many interesting things. The hotels and restaurants used were all lovely.
I will remember this trip forever! Yes, the day at the elephant farm is one of my favorite memories!
Thank you for working so hard to plan our fabulous trip!
Ron and I would like to tell you how wonderful it was dealing with you. A first rate company and tour manager that we will continue to recommend to our friends and business customers for Asia travel. The professionalism that we experienced beginning with you continued throughout the entire trip. Each guide knew our names, knew where we had been and knew where we were going. They not only had a copy of their responsible dates but also our previous schedule, and we knew they had studied it from their comments and questions.
The itinerary planning was exactly what Ron and I were looking for. The fact that you were able to personalize it made a huge difference, and allowing for flexibility within the schedule was a very positive factor.
The guides were all very good and of course like everything in life there are some individuals that are excellent at what they do. “Tung” in Northern Vietnam was absolutely excellent. Very well versed in the history, superb English and vocabulary, funny and sincerely interested in us. He also has very good relationships with the Vietnamese people. He ensured our departure was in order and stayed with us until we passed through security. You Must keep him!!
“Van” in Central Vietnam was also professional, helpful and right on top of things. A lovely young lady who continually checked with us to make sure our itinerary was to our liking. Very educated and helpful with local customs.
In the south Anh or Jacky as we called him was a delight. Funny, young, educated, good command of the English language and an excellent customer advocate!
In Cambodia, both Pahl in Phnom Penh (his nickname) and Mon in Siem Reap were very good. Always prompt, ensuring that the itinerary/schedule was about us and what we wanted to get out of it. Sometimes it was a little difficult to understand their English when they would rattle off some history, but we managed for the most part to get the gist of it.
During our stay in Vietnam we always got a call at a different hotel from a manager thanking us for using them. That was a very nice touch.
Car Services were good until the last two vans in Cambodia that we had. Seat belts were not working and the cars were older than those used in Vietnam. The two countries are different in many ways, just a small detail but worth noting. All the drivers were good.
The Sofitel Metropole Hotel in Hanoi was definitely a 5 star hotel. Everything about it was excellent.
For us Sapa was a “must see” and a wonderful experience for us. Only downfall was that the Victoria Express did not have heat in the lobby, lounge or restaurant and it was quite cold during our stay. There was heat in the room however, and it was a nice place. We enjoyed every minute in Sapa. It was wonderful walking through the ethnic villages, learning about the H’Mong people, viewing the landscapes, it was absolutely awesome. Our guide Tung made this a very special visit.
We found that the drive to the Cao Son market was very long. It is certainly a huge local market, but after seeing so many others (although different), for most people it would be quite a jaunt.
We were sorry about not being able to take the boat trip on Chay River, but with no water makes it a little difficult. Perhaps this could have been communicated earlier in the week by our guide so as to make alternate plans on the schedule. Nonetheless, we appreciate the hotel room in Lao Cai to freshen up and for the dinner that evening before the train back to Hanoi. Very nice gesture.
Hue and Hoi An were also highlights of our trip. The combination of walking, cycling, driving and our own time was perfect!! Both hotels were very nice and great locations.
Ho Chi Min city was interesting and the time we spent there was right on. The war museum was very interesting but very sad, a must see to understand some of what took place. This was not originally on our schedule but Ms. Lan who met us on behalf of Jacky advised that we see it, and she was right. Park Hyatt Hotel was extremely nice!! Another very nice gesture was that Jacky picked us up and drove us to a garden restaurant for dinner. This was not originally on our itinerary but he felt bad that he was not able to meet us at the airport upon our arrival, due to an airline delay that he experienced. Lovely restaurant that both Ron and I enjoyed very much.
The tunnels are another must. Hearing how they were made and how far they went was mind boggling. It was all about survival for these people and they were crafty!
The Mekong Delta tour was wonderful and it was great stopping at the various homes to see the making of rice popcorn, candies, rice paste, etc...We bought a whole bunch of snacks here! The Victoria Can Tho Resort was so nice we would have enjoyed another day there!! Nice pool.
The boat ride to Phnom Penh was a perfect way to travel. The boat was comfortable and I would highly recommend this over air travel. Our tour of Koh Dach was a highlight. We traveled there by private big boat and then cycled around the island with our guide Pauhl (Mr. Thearith), absolutely excellent. Two days was plenty in Phnom Penh as we also walked the city visiting the Royal Palace and other sights.
Siem Reap was probably the highlight of our trip. The temples were fabulous and the Angkor area is too phenomenal and unreal to describe. One must visit this unbelievable piece of history. Our guide did nice job with the entire itinerary in Siem Reap. The drive to the boat area on Tonle Sap lake was very dirty and rough. Lots of potholes. But the cruise through the mangroves and seeing the floating village was amazing. La Residence was in a good location and a very nice room, but there service was absolutely terrible. We were very tired by our last day so we signed off on the Monk blessing and the massage.
I guess the thing that we liked least was the long drives especially on rough roads/dirt roads in construction areas. But sometimes one needs to sacrifice comfort to get to see the gem at the end of the road. We will remember this trip for a life time.
Hope the above helps and thank you so much again for all your follow up, your professionalism, your personal note at the Raffles Hotel (which we loved) and the recent note you sent us. We were in very goods hands with You and Red Lantern Journeys.
All our best.
Tara & Ron
Thetis Island, British Columbia
We have had a trip beyond our expectations!
And we have you to thank for this. Everyone in the Band of 13 raised glasses to your extraordinary competency and professionalism. i.e. “She responded on a Sunday; she responded within two hours; she put everything together in hours”.....
Then we saw your photo in the brochure...now we really know you!!!
Nina was a sparkling and personable guide. We can't sing her praises too much. She has a huge professional future with Red Lantern in Myanmar.
Because Liz and I conducted tours to Ireland, I have a few musings on the trip for you...hopefully they are helpful.
Suggestions to tell participants before the trip:
There is general Wifi in the hotels...people want to know...you may want to find out who has it etc. This was always the first question.
Cell phones...need info: do not use...lots of roaming costs. But can use for camera. Participants need information.
Good info on sickness pills: we had a fair amount of illness...what to bring... a list.
Pagodas: Wear velcro shoes or slip off shoes; some allow socks.
Socks: very imp. for the pagodas and for mosquito control...can't stress socks too much
Hotels: I want you to know that everyone LOVED our choices...there may have been better ones...but these were sensational.
Lunches were the most important meals...pls include as many as possible. Often, we didn’t need dinner.
We arrived back in Boston late Wednesday night from the Myanmar trip. Some of us came directly home, others (as you know) are continuing their travels.
The trip to Myanmar was absolutely wonderful, well- planned and executed.
Our hotels were all excellent; two were outstanding..."The Strand" in Yangon, and the beautifully-situated "Inle Princess Resort." The boat trip on the RV Paukan was comfortable and fun. All the hotels were well run, clean, attractive, and comfortable.
Our guide, Nwe Ni Thein (known to us as "Nina"!) was excellent. Her smiling face met us at the airport in Yangon upon arrival, and she led us through Myanmar with grace, efficiency, good humor, and patience. She was with us at all times until she said good bye at the airport upon our departure. Her English was excellent.
The food was good everywhere; wine and beer always available to those of us who wanted it.
All the logistics of the trip: transportation, buses, boats, etc. were on time, there when we were ready, comfortable and modern. Nina made everything work like clockwork!! The balloon trip was a delight.
The people everywhere were friendly and welcoming.
The only "negative," that was mentioned during the trip was that we wished we had been able to have a few lectures about the country, more in depth than Nina was able to give us. Topics that were mentioned that we wished we had heard more about were: Buddhism, the role of pagodas, the differences in culture and the languages of ethnic groups, the role of the British occupation; Burma in WWII, etc. I think some of us wished we had had more time to relax and enjoy the pleasures and the beauty of some of the hotels, particularly the Inle Princess.
A few of us, myself included, succumbed to the "tourista" ailment along the way, just an unavoidable hazard of travel in foreign lands, nothing serious. The majority of the group avoided it.
It was a great treat for all of us to see this lovely country emerging from a failing economy, vibrant and clearly on the move. In many places, it was a step back in time. I think that Myanmar in ten years from now will be a vastly different country. We were all glad we had the chance to see it at the beginnings of its re-birth.
All of us enjoyed working with you in putting together this trip. You could not have been more helpful and efficient. We shall certainly turn to "Red Lantern Journeys" anytime we travel in the future in your part of the world!
Liz Shannon and Steve Freidberg
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
We wanted you to know that we were very pleased with our trip. Actually it was amazing! We credit the tour company for much of our satisfaction.
We were met each time we disembarked from or were put on a train or airplane.
Most of the time there was a tour representative to assist us in checking into our hotels. We were pleased with the guides (actually one was mediocre, but on the others were great). We liked that we had guides from different backgrounds: Hindu, Jain, Protestant (practicing and not) and Catholic.
We liked our drivers. Their English wasn't as good of course but we felt safe and well taken care of (and that's saying something on those roads).
Since we'd chosen to sometimes stay in Heritage Hotels, we had a mix of quality with our hotels but we were happy with our choice. We found the heritage hotels to be interesting - balancing out the lack of luxury.
The tour company phoned us every few days to make sure everything was going well - impressive.
I did visit a doctor once (in a hospital) which was an adventure in itself. A young man from the tour company walked us through the whole process. We felt very safe and protected. We were taken to the front of a long waiting line (actually we felt bad about it but it definitely helped us stay on our schedule).
We LOVED our houseboat and the crew was great! I hate to complain about a small item when the experience was amazing.
By the way, our top 5 things from the trip were:
1. The Taj Mahal (we thought it lived up to its reputation)
2. Amber Fort - a beautiful day and scenery and the ride up on the elephant were so memorable
3. Manvar Desert Camp - a quiet and private camel ride this time, a great jeep safari, nice accommodations, entertainment and food.
4. The houseboat experience - relaxing, interesting and some of the best food we had - and it was all good
5. Walking/driving/ riding the train - and watching the life around us - fascinating.
We're kind of sold now on this type of individual travel (supported by guides & drivers of course). Thanks very much for your help.
Gordon and Mary Buboltz
Blue Springs, Missouri
Thank you for organizing a wonderful trip for us! We were delighted with most of the arrangements.
Favorite experiences were:
1. The Ha Long Bay excursion; the junk was very nice, food good and un-ending, the cave was amazing with great candlelight dinner, staff were attentive, the on board guide aimed to please, although his English was a big hard to catch.
2. Hanoi: The residence of Ho Chi Minh and the guides extensive history of this man and the war from the Vietnamese perspective.
3. Angkor Wat: The guide did an excellent job in introducing the three major sites to us, explaining their history and significance and even pointing out the best vantage points for photos.
4. Hotels were all great and strikingly economical. The Hoi-an Life Resort and Borei Resort were most outstanding. In Sapa, we would now recommend the Victoria in Sapa town; the Eco-Lodge for all the hype didn't even have fireplaces which the Victoria did.
The guide for North Vietnam was very knowledgeable, considerate, thoughtful and made that portion on the trip most enjoyable- it was like having a congenial, knowledgeable companion with us. The guide in South Vietnam was more rigid, less genuine but he did an overall good job. The guide in Cambodia was highly experienced, very professional, took care with every detail including our safety at every turn. The customer service rep in North Vietnam who handled the sudden change in plans was very efficient in getting this done and very helpful and pleasant about it all; we really appreciated her. Also the lead person from your company in Siem Reap came with the guide to meet us at the airport, and came to the hotel to say good-bye when we left, nice gestures.
What else, Irene... overall we are so appreciative of how you have worked with us; always prompt to answer questions or check out information. Gail has already recommended your services to others. In planning a trip, it is very nice to be able to mold the trip to what you think you want, but also to have expert advice and guidance based upon experience which you provided very effectively.
Patti and Gail
I was very pleased overall with how the trip went. I had a truly wonderful time - this was really a dream trip for me. I would have no reservation recommending Red Lantern to my friends in the future. I was very pleased with the experience and the service. I found Irene, above all very responsive and detail oriented. Thanks so much for helping create such an awesome experience!
Miami Beach, Florida
Ambrose, just a quick note to thank you for a great trip. Himalaya Holiday did a super job for us. Our guide, Arjun, and porter, Him, were the very, very best. Amar Rai and Barun Bhandari did a fine job in Kathmandu. Hotel Tibet in Kathmandu felt just like home. We revised our Pokhara stay a bit and both Fishtail and Mt Kailish were fine hotels.
We flew Korean Air and they also did a fine job.
The trip could not have been better.
It was an awesome trip. The hotels (especially in Beijing and Yangshuo) were each special in their way. The guides were exceptional. (All but one anyway. She was ok though.) The sights and extra side tours were most meaningful, too.
Thank you, Ambrose. We cannot say enough about the process and the trip. You have an organization that works flawlessly.
Bobbie and Wyley Beatty
A belated thank you for a wonderful trip. Your work in putting together a first rate tour of Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos was outstanding. Your associates in Myanmar was wonderful and was an exceptional help with the problems we ran into in getting from Yangon to Saigon. Your routing did what we like - get a lot of the intense travel over in the first part and then have some more flexible time as we neared the end. We particularly liked Luang Prabang at the end as it was a quiet and relaxing place with things to do. From a personal point we would avoid Saigon and Hanoi, for the most part because they are big cities and the motorcycles and traffic were just too much. All of your associates provided top drivers and guides who were well versed in their countries. Kim in Yangon and Mandalay was an exceptional guide, explaining the people, the tribes and he had an exceptional strong belief in his religion, Buddhism, which he was able to talk about and to explain its role in the life of the people of Myanmar. We enjoyed Hoi An and might have enjoyed one more night there rather than two in Hue..... which had all the traffic problems of the larger cities. And, what can we say about Halong Bay and Lake Inle - truly National Geographic experiences. Hotels were great as was the food, everywhere.
We have no hesitation whatsoever in strongly recommending your firm to people wanting to travel to your areas of expertise.
Joe and Mariellen Martin
West Vancouver, British Columbia
just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that all the tours and arrangements went well. We enjoyed our tour guide Thruya in Bagan, his English was very good, and he really knew the history well. Favorite activity by far was the balloon ride. I had never done that before, and going in a balloon over the temples was a memorable experience.
Thanks for all your help.
We are back in New Jersey following our wonderful trip to Bhutan! The entire trip was magical not only because of the beautiful country and its people but also because of the excellent planning on the part of Red Lantern/Bhutan Eco tours.
Our guide Sangye and driver Namgye were exceptional in their knowledge of local customs/traditions/history. They went out of their way to ensure that we were comfortable and that any request we had was met. We got to know them, their lives and aspirations and this interaction was perhaps the best part of the trip. On our 25th Anniversary Sangye and Kencho arrived at the hotel with a cake and wine- this was a complete surprise to us and we were delighted to celebrate this occasion with our new friends.
All the hotels were very nice and we were pleasantly surprised by the KhangKhu hotel in Paro – this is newly built, fresh and clean with courteous and friendly staff who went out of their way to prepare excellent vegetarian food for us. Our suite was spacious and comfortable with awesome views of Paro valley including the beautifully lit (at night) Paro Dzong and National Museum. We enjoyed our stay here and have no hesitation recommending the KhangKhu to future travelers.
The Docula Pass resort was really nice too, quaint with a wood-burning fireplace in the room and again a very helpful and friendly staff. The views from this resort were fantastic although obscured by clouds in the morning. However, as the sun rose, it revealed the splendor of distant mountains and valleys allowing us to enjoy the views.
The Migmar was perhaps the hotel with the most amenities (including central heating although all hotels were generous with space heaters and we were always comfortable). In general, we noticed that at all hotels and restaurants food was especially made for us due to limited vegetarian options in the buffet and we really appreciated the effort.
We also want to thank you for all your efforts in making our trip as wonderful as it could possibly be. The entire trip was made possible because of your efforts and we cannot thank you enough.
Rupa & Uday
First, of course, thank you for everything, but thank you today for the beautiful flowers. It was so odd when they arrived because I had no idea whom they might be from. It is my daughter's 24th bday and a lot of students owe me for all kinds of things, including one named Laura, and I thought, well, maybe...but then I saw it was from you and Red Lantern. I have to say that was a very nice touch and made me really happy. My husband said he's never seen a company do this for anyone. I don't know if this is just something you do, but I really really appreciated the gesture.
I had an absolutely amazing time. Accomplished all I wanted to and more. There were great moments, terrible ones. But you made a terrific journey for me. It was unique. I loved all the places I stayed, except it was freezing! Charlotte was great. Loved the Ganges View hotel. All the guides, drivers, etc. were wonderful.
My only negative was the night train to Varanasi...really, it was awful on more or less every level. My only suggestion would be if you have to book something like this next time, be really up front about what it entails. I was not prepared and I am usually pretty prepared. I was also incredibly sick the entire time I was there with a virus so it didn't help. But the night train will make a great anecdote in my book.
So again I can't thank you enough. And I really could NOT have done this without you. That's the truth. I will definitely send people your way and promise you a great big thanks both in my book and on my FB page, etc etc. Actually I'll do a TripAdvisor review asap.
Very professional; very nice. We'll do it again. best to you and Ben from Charlotte. and me.
We've just returned from our trip to Cambodia, and I must say we were blown away. This trip exceeded all my expectations.Every moment of doing, and not doing was wonderful. The hotel Angkor Village Resort in Siem Reap was perfect.We loved the staff, bungalow, and snake shaped pool that moved through the whole resort. The restaurant food was delicious. We had set a daily rhythm for ourselves, up before sunset to get to the ruins early, before it was too hot, rest at the pool in the afternoon, and go out later when it cooled down. Our guide was happy to accommodate this schedule.
We especially loved our guide in Phnom Penh, Thida. She took such good care of us. She anticipated our needs before we did. Thida would stop and buy fruit, prepared with a knife, and have us stop for a snack when she sensed we were getting tired. She'd stop for a rest, telling us pertinent stories while we did, when she sensed we were overheating, not willing to start walking until she felt we looked better. Her stories of survival from the Pol Pot regime added an element of education we felt honored to have experienced. Although I am older, I felt like I had a Cambodian mother while in her care. We would have loved have her accompany us for the entire trip.
Red Lantern, particularly Ciara's help with planning this trip was phenomenal. Despite my initial nervousness with planning my own trip, she was patient, and came through with everything. Sending flowers the day after we returned was a professional touch I especially appreciated. It was these same type of stories on their web site that convinced me to try Red Lantern, and I'm so glad I did. I would definitely recommend, and use them again in the future.
With Fond Memories,
Without using too many superlatives, it is hard to describe how pleased we were with Joom, our guide in Bangkok. His English was superb, but that was the least of his skills. He was very helpful, very knowledgeable and very clever. He may be the best guide we have used, not just on this trip but of all. Very professional, friendly and bright.
I had sat out on the patio by the river for dinner the first night and had an allergic reaction to insect bites all over my arms and legs. He took me to his pharmacy for creams and pills and the swelling and itching had subsided by the next day. He went out of his way to make sure that all things went well for us.
We were very pleased with our experience with Red Lantern. It’s one thing to plan a lovely excursion with terrific hotels, drivers and guides, but it’s another to get prompt responses from you when things did not go perfectly as with our guide in Saigon, Ty, and with the strange, bad experience with the Buddhist nuns that were not there for dinner in Hue. While those were small matters, I felt that you were “there for us” because you were so responsive and that if we had truly had a problem, you and Red Lantern would be there to resolve it.
Nichols Hills, Oklahoma
Just a quick note to thank you for the flowers and planning a superb trip!!
David and I want to send you a summary...Hue and Mr. Vuong (sorry, forget
his first name) were amazing. You and Red Lantern should know that you were
well represented. The two guides were truly fantastic. Most people had said
that Saigon was not a highlight, but we felt it was due in part to Hue.
Every city was a highlight and the hotels were great. We had an amazing time
and a birthday to remember forever!! Every time a small situation arose,
Indochina jumped all over it. We had a big problem in Pho Quoc as they
cancelled our flight, but between us, La Veranda and the Hanoi office we
were able to make it happen.
Can't wait to plan another adventure with you.
Toby and David
New York, NY
I just got home from New York and was welcomed by your beautiful flowers. Thanks for such a nice touch. It was a fitting ending to a wonderful trip.
The travel experience was excellent and exploring Indochine was simply unforgettable. While Cambodia and Laos were my two favorite destinations, and spending New Year’s Eve @ Halong Bay took my breath away, overall I was impressed with the people of the fascinating Southeast Asia region, all of whom were so kind and attentive.
I especially enjoyed having a private guide to take us by the hand in each city, giving us inside information of each location and allowing us to relax and forget about transportation logistics so we could truly enjoy every moment to its fullest. It really made all the difference in the world, specially being in that part of the world.
We had 6 different guides (3 males and 3 females).If I were to grade them, I would say that Mr. Hua (Hanoi/Halong) and Mr. Chang (Luang Prabang) were simply outstanding.They were not only very knowledgeable but also went out of their way to help us solve certain situations that arose and make us feel at home. The female guides were all very nice (JJ in Bangkok, Thuy in Saigon and Kim in Cambodia). The only one that was average was Tom (Hue/Hoi-Ann), mostly because his thick accent made it very difficult to understand him.
In terms of hotel choices, I was also very impressed, both because of their wonderful location and truly five-star services. The Shangri-La (Bangkok) and the Sofitel Metropole (Hanoi) were an attraction in itself. Also, the Maison (Laos), the Majestic (Saigon) and both Victoria properties (Hoi Ann & Seam Reap) were very cozy & charming. However, Hue’s Imperial Hotel, while it was rated as a 5-star, it was not up to par with the other hotels. It seems to cater to a more local clientele and both the food and facilities left much to be desired. I believe the classic La Residence or the modern Mercure would have been a better choice.
Overall, I can say I’ve been spoiled by Red Lantern’s way of travel and I would definitely recommend it to my friends or to serve as reference for your potential clients.
Marty and I wanted to thank you again for your super-meticulous planning of our trip! It really was incredible how everything, and I do mean every plan we made with you, came to pass on our madcap journey through India! You really heard our desires, and we experienced more richness than we had hoped for in the short time we had.
I had read every travel book, had dreamed about going for years, and was at a loss how to pull it all together. You eased the burden of choosing by arranging it all for us; having a guide in each stop to get us quickly in-depth added pleasure and knowledge to our experience. The guides themselves were charming and passionate, taking great pride in sharing their country with us. The time we spent on our own was perfectly balanced with these guided experiences. Really, Ambrose, I wouldn't think twice about signing on with you again for another Red Lantern Journey. It was a vivid dream come true for us!
Ki G. and Marty C.
From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for the wonderful time that I had in Thailand. There was not a single thing that I wanted to add or change in my itinerary. I also want to thank you for the lovely flowers that I received yesterday!!
From the restaurants that you 've recommended I loved Sirocco the best. It has breathtaking view on Bangkok and very good food as well. You have to arrive there at 6 p.m. if you plan to take pictures. I reserved it for 7 p.m. and it was too dark at that time, so I returned for more pictures in 2 days.
Vertigo - is also worth going to. I think the food is not that great there, very ordinary, and they try to fit as many people in a dining room area as they can, but for people who drink - they can hang out in the bar and enjoy magnificent views of night Bangkok! The atmosphere in BanyanTree Hotel is great.
I enjoyed Floating market, trip to Chiang Mai and Rai. Golden Triangle is beautiful!!
I was very happy in Karon beach in Phuket. It is not as busy as another one. I also had fun in Simon Cabaret:)
My guide in Chang Mai was wonderful, but I did not think that one in Bangkok was trying his best. I had to ask a lot of questions , otherwise he was not offering a lot of information to me.
I will definitely use Red Lantern again for my next trip to Asia, which I am planning again for August 2010. Keep me posted if you will have any good deals. I am interested in Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia. And thank you very much again.
The trip was amazing, all of the services in Thailand were excellent, the car was always there to meet us, and the guides were excellent-they knew so much and were so helpful to us, we had no problems with our flights or any of the tours set up for us. We gained weight with all the buffet lunches we ate!
We were not too crazy about Patong Beach, it was like Spring Break on steroids!. I read in a book that you either hate it or love it because it is the center of non-stop night life. The resort was fine but I think we would have rather been at a quieter town. The first day in Bangkok they had record breaking heat. Of course we had no idea and thought it was going to be that hot every day. We felt that too much was packed into that one day and would have liked to do a couple of indoor things. We loved Chiang Mai. The elephant ride and bamboo rafting trip were awesome. The Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle trip was interesting but it involved a 4-5 hour car ride each way and about two hours of actually visiting the town and sites, so I would say that it really wasn't worth the long ride.
We thought that the trip was wonderful -we have done a lot of traveling but we have never done a tour before. We did not want to waste a lot of time trying to figure things out and deal with all the details so we were extremely happy with the quality of the service and the overall experience. The worst thing I can say about it was that we needed way more time built-in to shop! I took a chance with Red Lantern Journeys because I just picked you out from the internet because the itinerary most closely matched where we wanted to go and the time that we had to spend in Thailand-Thanks for a great job and thanks so much for the lovely flowers.
Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
My goodness, what a nice surprise the flowers were yesterday. Thank you! A very nice touch to complete a wonderful trip. We had SUCH a great time.
I thank you for the well planned trip with dates and times that worked out great for such a very fast moving excursion. I blessed you often throughout the trip. The tour companies in India were very responsible and willing to provide their best. They did not miss a beat. We were greeted by their representatives on every occasion. The drivers cared for us (best they could in such crazy driving conditions) even had driver assistants on occasion, and the tour guides were not only informative but went out of their way to listen to any special request we had. Everyone really tried in every area. We were very well taken care of not to mention the superb accommodations. We have done a lot of traveling over the years and we put this trip up to being one of the best.
Ambrose, you did a beautiful job. I appreciated your close communication throughout. I plan to look into other trips your company offers in the future (a sure sign of traveling addiction as we haven't even gotten out of our suitcases yet from this adventure).
Again, thank you for memories of a lifetime. Wishing you the best for the new year.
Kathie L. and family
Your help planning our trip through Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong was amazing. I appreciated your ability to adjust our tour departure times and regional flights so that we didn't have to get up too early in the morning! Planning a multi-country trip like this is very daunting and you took away the stress of doing it ourselves.
The best part were the hotels we stayed in and the research you did to get us the best rooms. The Imperial in Tokyo was our favorite. The Ryokan in Kyoto was a great experience. The Oriental in Bangkok was also great. There was a film festival in Bangkok while we were there and we got to rub shoulders with several celebrities and the president of France!
The unexpected extras, like room upgrades and tour add-ons made this trip very special.
Robert G. and Steve F.
Thank you for such a wonderful trip. Everything about our tour in Thailand went smoothly (except for the mistake I made on my arrival date--but the tour operator didn't miss a beat and was still there to meet my wife!). All our hotels were in very good locations, the tour operator took great care of us, and the elephant ride and rafting trip from Chiang Mai were beyond what is offered most tourists.
San Francisco, California
Thanks for the flowers!
Narun in Cambodia was great. He has some of the most amazing stories I've ever heard. The guy was an attraction by himself.
I think the only negative feedback we had was that some of the days ended too early. In Chiang Mai we were done by 3 on both days, so we probably could have combined some activities and done a few more things. I think we ended a little early one day in Cambodia as well, but Narun took us to another temple.
The restaurants and food was fine. The hotel in Chaing Mai was great, the other two hotels were good. No problems with any of them.
We never waited on the guides, they were always on time. Car service was good too. Everything came together well, it made the trip almost too easy.
New York, NY
Thanks very much for the welcome home flower. We got home safe and sound last evening. Our bags flew and traveled all over India with no trouble, but Air Canada lost them between Toronto and Vancouver, however they arrived about ten PM last night, so all is well.
We had a wonderful time and again I can't say enough about your services and those of Go India. We have absolutely not a single complaint with respect to our guides, hotels and arrangements. The only troublesome aspect was the heat and humidity which, of course you mentioned too. I would certainly advise anyone who is planning this sort of trip to be out of India by the first of March. We coped quite well, but there were some very sweat soaked days.
Too early to talk about future plans, but be assured you will be the first to know when we plan our next adventure and we will certainly pass your name to anyone we know who wants a first class travel advisor.
Bob & Mary P.
I haven't done this sooner because I am just now having time to sit down and process the China trip. I did want to make sure that I took the time to let you know what a fabulous trip it was. I'm sure being with a great group didn't hurt, but we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Essentially there were not hitches to be found, even though we kept adding things willy nilly and didn't have the simplest itinerary. Michelle, our guide in Beijing, was superb. She was professional, yet friendly, knowledgeable, and very flexible in her heroic attempts to satisfy our every whim. We kept her busy keeping us busy from dawn 'til way past dusk - I do remember the look of relief on her face when we assured her that we didn't expect her to hike the section of the wall with us. I am sure that if we'd wanted her along she would have come.
I was interested to see how being in China during the October national holidays would affect our trip and, I can say wholeheartedly, that it made it better. I consider myself a somewhat experienced traveler but I'd never been to China and expected it to be a lot more overwhelming than it was. Really, I think I could live there in a heartbeat. I loved the fact that we visited places like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace with hoards of other people - and that most of them appeared to be Chinese, if not locals. There was this party feel in the air and plenty of subjects at which to point my camera. Guilin, the Li River, and Yangshou were more unique and beautiful than I imagined and I specially enjoyed the river cruise.
I won't say that, in some ways, I'm not glad to be home but you can be assured that I will recommend Red Lantern Journeys to my friends and family and will keep you on the short list for further trips. (Kevin mentioned that you are working on including Mongolia in your future offerings - I've always wanted to be able to resurrect my horsemanship skills and race my Mongolian war pony home to my yurt for supper). I'll also be sure to include a review and recommendation of RLJ on my blog once I get around the posting about the trip. (Yes, I'm slow I know - work just keeps getting the way).
Red Lantern Journeys Note: You can visit Heidi's blog here and see more comments and photos about her trip (scroll down to the Hong Kong and China part): highflung.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html.
The Pushkar Fair tour was fabulous! Everything we had hoped for and more. The flowers when we got back were a nice surprise and really special.
Charleston, South Carolina
I meant to write you. I had a great trip in Thailand! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Everything was top notch.
Guides were great, hotels were excellent, tours were fun. Always punctual, always friendly, and never had to worry that they weren't going to show up.
No problems whatsoever. Thank you for an excellent experience. If you want to use me as a reference for anyone who is thinking about a trip, let me know. Would be more than happy to give you guys the big thumbs up!
New York, New York
The trip to China was fantastic! I'd rate it 10/10 for any category. This was a great experience, and a wonderful value. We're assembling our slide show now, and expect to have it complete by next week. The hike on the Great Wall was fantastic; being that far away from the "tourist" area was just what we wanted. The hike was about 11km and we took the cable car down from the last tower (tower 28) to save time.
By the way, we found an excellent scooter rental place in Yangshuo. We rented electric scooters and went about 15km outside the city area. We saw lots of fantastic countryside with rice fields, small villages and livestock. The e-scooters are the way to go! We made much more ground than we could have with bikes, allowing us to photograph more things.
You get an A+ on everything that you planned and had control over. We had a marvelous time. The lodging, cars and drivers, and (with one exception in Pondicherry itself) the guides were top of the line. The trip exceeded our expectations. We're planning, sometime in the next couple of years, a Japan trip. Do you "do" Japan? Because we would feel very happy to use you again. We're also, in the same time frame, thinking about another trip to India. Best, and thanks,
Note from Red Lantern: Yes, we do "do" Japan.
My trip was wonderful. The guides in Bangkok and Chiang Mai were exceptional. I truly felt cared for and valued. The Radisson in Bangkok was a flash hotel, it was a shame it was so far removed from the city center. The night time traffic was so significant I remained in the hotel by night. However, the restaurants were superb. Chiang Mai was perhaps my favorite leg of the journey, a terriffic mix of history, spiritual experience and adventure. Again my guides in Chiang Mai were amazing. The only disappointing aspect of the trip was the arrangements for transfer in Phuket. The work seemed to have been contracted out. Yes i was transfered to my hotel and picked up, but I had to call a Mr T. to confirm other arrangements and had no vouchers. The Amari Coral Resort on the other hand was spectacular. It was an oasis in Patong. My guidebook suggested the only thing you could not find in Patong was serenity. You could at the Amari Coral. The cooking school in Samui was awesome. I learned a great deal. What a terriffic staff, gracious and generous. I am sure i will be able to utilize much of what I learned for years to come. It was an incredible surprise to have a transfer to and from on Koh Samui. I would highly reccomend your service to anyone. thanks again for a brilliant trip.
West Cape May, New Jersey
Thank you for the follow up. The trip [to Vietnam] was great, all went very well. Our guides were very reliable and showed up on time. The vehicles that were used were in very good order and the drivers did an exceptional job. All of the hotels were very good. The two outstanding hotels were the Victoria [in Hoi An] and the Imperial [in Hue]. The amount of time we spent in each city just about right for us.
We thank you for all you did and plan on recommending you.
Bob & Robbie D.
Mooresville, North Carolina
I am still daydreaming about Vietnam. I loved everything about it. It's on par with my trip to Africa. Seeing a different culture, government, lifestyle etc... incredible.
Thank you for all your help!!!
I have already recommended your company to everyone and am glad I found your services. Thank you and we will be in touch our next go around to Southeast Asia.
Kelly V. and John S.
Los Angeles, California
Everything was really great....You did a wonderful job.. and we were very happy with all aspects of the tour..
Just one thing.. The last hotel in Phuket .. I would not recommend.. They have a list in the room of items for sale, i.e. pictures on the wall, towels, sheets, pillows, etc. My husband and I thought it was funny.. Until we went to check out.. We were in the lobby and she had us wait, while supposedly some one went to the room.. She then proceed to tell me our ash tray was missing and it will be 250 baht.. I explained to her the ass tray she was referring to was never in the room.. and she said we took it and needed to pay her.. Our driver was waiting to take us to the airport.. so I wound up paying her the baht to leave. 250 baht really isn't that big of a deal, it was just really slimy the way it was done...
I just wanted to let you know because, really, that was the only negative thing about the trip. The food and tour guides were exceptional and it was a trip we will always cherish.
Thanks again, and I will recommend Red Lantern to anyone who travels to Asia.
Amanda and Wesly Y.
San Leandro, California
Note from Red Lantern: We listen to our clients. As a result of their experience there, we will no longer use the Patong Lodge due to this issue.
We had a great time on the [Everest Base Camp] trek. Buddi Rai was a very good guide and we had a really good time with him and the porters. I would recomend you anytime.
Also, the rafting was a lot of fun! We both got swept out of the raft twice, but it was a good time. The others in our group helped make things interesting. It was fun though and the guides were great.
David and Jeff T.
I was planning on calling you! We returned a couple of days ago [from Bhutan] and are settling in after a long and fantastic trip. A very special thank you to you, your sister Jenny and your mother for having us over for dinner [in Kathmandu--Jwalant's family still lives there and runs a trekking agency]. It was absolutely delicious and it was a fantastic beginning to the trip. In fact, Jessica and I were thinking it would have been nice to spend a couple more days exploring Kathmandu (we know you originally suggested and you're probably saying "I told you so" but now we know for a future trip). In fact trekking Annapurna sounds fascinating so I may be contacting you again next year.
Thanks for all your hard work Jwalant! Your effort enabled us to experience a trip that we envisioned for quite some time. If you're ever in San Francisco, we would love to meet you in person and treat you to dinner. Also please give our thanks and best regards to Jenny and your mom.
All the best,
Nina W. and Jessica S.
San Francisco, California
Our recent trip to China surpassed our expectations. This an experience we will always cherish and are very glad we chose your travel agency. Thanks to you and all the members of your team for making this a great success. We hope to count on you for our next trip.
Loved the flowers,
Angel R. and Carmen M with Luis and Emma Z.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Miami, Florida
Thank you for the flowers and all the arrangements for our China/Tibet trip. It was a great journey with countless memorable stops. If we need a trip in the future to China we will think of you.
Szabolcs and Iza P.
We had the time of our lives [in Thailand]. It was truly mystical, educational, emotional, and also relaxing. Our guide in Bangkok, EK, was the best. You should request him all of the time. I will recommend, and already have, your services. thanks for everything.
I am writing to commend Red Lantern Journeys, and to thank everone at RLJ, for making our trip to Nepal so special. From start to finish, we were provided with expert, caring service, which made the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable.
Jwalant offered comprehensive and responsive pre-trip information, so that we were completely prepared for our journey. When our flight into Kathmandu was delayed, he immediately arranged a different pickup so that we were met and cared for at the airport by Ram Hari. When he learned that I was planning to propose to my girlfriend on the trek, he thoughtfully arranged for a ceremony at a Buddhist nunnery to bless our engagement -- a truly unexpected and unforgettable experience.
Our trekking team was first rate. Our guide, Buddhi Rai, was as knowledgeable, considerate, patient and friendly as anyone we have ever met. Each day, he provided us with interesting information, useful insights, much-needed reassurance, and energizing entertainment & laughter -- all as if we had known each other for years. Like a good friend, he looked after our physical and mental well-being to ensure that we were in the best condition to complete and enjoy every stage of the trek. If only Buddhi could guide us on our journey through life, we'd be healthy and happy always!
Our porters, Pesal and Krishna, were total professionals. Pesal was particularly attentive, especially during mealtime when he was consistently on the spot with whatever we needed -- often before we even realized we needed it.
Our accommodations were seemingly the best to be had. Pesal would secure for us not only the nicest lodge in town, but usually the best room in the nicest lodge. The quality and variety of the food at our lodges was also very good. Following Buddhi's recommendations, we enjoyed well-balanced meals, got the proper nutrition for high-altitude exertion, and never had any GI issues. In fact, we've never felt so well-rested and well-fed.
Our team seemed to be better equipped and more experienced than the others we encountered along the circuit. Quite tellingly, we noticed that other trekkers, including those with guides of their own, often looked to our team for additional expertise. For example, other trekkers tended to see which lodge we booked and then followed suit on the assumption that it was the best choice available. Similary, other trekkers would eavesdrop on our nightly strategy sessions with Buddhi in order to learn what to expect from the following day's trek and how to plan accordingly. Of course, Buddhi, the true "people person" that he is, would happily respond by offering information and encouragement to anyone within earshot.
The tour of Kathmandu unexpectedly turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. The tour leader, Binaya, was both knowledgeable and personable. Like so many at RLJ, he quickly became a friend to us; and we will always remember the day spent with Binaya and his wife, Minakshi, at the hilltop nunnery.
All arrangements within Nepal were fastidiously handled by Jenny. Whereas so many at RLJ seemed to us like old friends, Jenny seemed like a long-lost sister. Moreover, she is scrupulous and competent beyond compare. The bottom line is that there is no one beside Jenny to whom I'd more willingly entrust my passport, my extra luggage, or indeed my plans for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
We're back home in Chicago now, but we feel strangely homesick -- for the places, and especially the people, we got to know on our trip. Thank you, Red Lantern Journeys, for making us feel at home, among family & friends, in Nepal.
Hi and thanks for the great trip you planned for us. All of the plans worked out well, we were most impressed with all of our guides, they were well informed, spoke English well and welcomed us with enthusiasm.
The cruise on the Yangtze was awesome, we got a free upgrade to a suite and found it most comfortable. The weather was a challenge but the only change to our itinerary occurred in Shanghai where we spend the second day in Shanghai at the museum, the French quarter and the Urban Development Centre instead of going to Suzhou. We almost got stuck in Yichang as the airport was closed when we disembarked from the boat but the airport opened for about 5 hours later in the day and we got out and arrived in Shanghai. The next day both airports were closed so we felt most fortunate.
The weather was cold and we found the heat in the hotels in Southern China to be poor. However, we had warm clothes and survived it all. We realize that the weather conditions were the worst in 60 years.
The only hotel that we would not recommend for use again is the Yangshou Tang Ren Jie, the hotel itself was fine but the management was poor, not responsive to our concerns. Our experience was confirmed by our guide as well.
We found China to be a surprise, most signs are in both Mandarin and English, many people in the tourist industry know some English so it was easy to get around and the general population seemed very friendly, wanting to have pictures taken with us and smiling at us as we saw them on the street. In Yangshou, we arranged for our guide to take us into the country side and we met an elderly woman who shared her home with us for an hour or so. We valued that insight into country living. We left Yangshou in the morning and spent most of the next day in Guilin where we visited a silk factory, a pearl factory and a tea institute where we participated in a tea ceremony. We enjoyed the day immensely.
In summary, we would recommend your company to our friends and thank you for the planning you did for us. All the hotels except for the one (Yangshou) were excellent; clean, comfortable, friendly staff and good food and the guides were all punctual, hospitable, friendly, well informed and spoke English well.
Thanks again for planning a good trip which has left us with many great memories and wonderful pictures. Your timeliness in responding to our emails was most appreciated, particularly when we were on the road and did not always have ready access to emails. You did a great job for us!
Irma and Al
Victoria, BC, Canada
We just got back from Japan, literally like an hour ago, and wanted to tell you and Ambrose that we had a wonderful time. The rooms were really exceptional, the tours just what we wanted, the right amount and length, and all obstacles were overcome.
We also had the worse meal for the most amount of money we've ever had, but that is Japan's problem (and ours), not yours. I happen to like Japanese food, so twice I sprang for the $30 it cost for a Japanese breakfast. Even got compliments on my chopstick style!
You guys did splendidly. Be proud.
Thanks for the flowers!
Narun, our guide in Cambodia was great. He has some of the most amazing stories I've ever heard. The guy was an attraction by himself.
I think the only negative feedback we had was that some of the days ended too early. In Chiang Mai we were done by 3 on both days, so we probably could have combined some activities and done a few more things. I think we ended a little early one day in Cambodia as well, but Narun took us to another temple.
The restaurants and food were fine. The hotel in Chaing Mai was great, the other two hotels were good. No problems with any of them.
We never waited on the guides, they were always on time. Car service was good too. Everything came together well, it made the trip almost too easy.
New York, NY
Thank you for the beautiful welcome home flowers. The trip exceeded our expectations and the service was exceptional. I have only one comment which is regarding the possible reduction of one day in Kathmandu. I believe that arrangements could have been made by the Nepal agency to schedule our departure after seeing the breathtaking Mt. Everest. Other than that, the trip was 110% excellent. Thank you for your guidance.
Looking forward to meeting you when in Seattle. You are always welcome to visit us in Atlanta.
With personal regards, I remain, very truly yours,
Just wanted to thank you and everyone at Red Lantern for a terrific trip! And for a lovely bouquet of flowers too.
Everyone we worked with at every stage of the trip was exceptional, from our airport transfers down to the trek itself. The Nepal people were an absolute pleasure and were extremely accountable, as were our guides, Ram and Kami. Everyone took care of us beautifully and often went above and beyond the call of duty.
Hopefully I will get around to sending a more detailed report soon, but before any more time went by I just wanted to let you know that we really appreciate all your work in making this trip happen. It was very special for all of us.
Thank you so much for the flower arrangement. We arrived home today, and it was such a nice surprise.
Our SE Asia trip was wonderful, and everything went without problem. Our guides were so nice and very helpful, and the hotels were beyond expectation.
I will talk with you at the beginning of the week with probably way too much detail.
Jim took lots and lots of pics including each of our rooms and the hotels. Eventually we will organize and forward to you.
Again thank you so much for the flowers, and for doing such a great job arranging all.
We are back safe and sound from our Asia adventure. We enjoyed the private tour you arranged for us very much – it was so reassuring to have someone meet us at our destination points, do the driving around those crazy cities (!), take us to the best spots, and ensure that we got to the right airline counters for the onward journeys.
Everything went according to plan and our tour guides were great – often taking us to unscheduled spots! Thank you very much.
Debbie and Greg B.
Thank you for the flowers that were waiting for me at the conclusion of my beautiful journey to Bhutan. What a special trip. Bhutan is incredibly beautiful, the people spontaneously friendly, the culture gentle, spiritual and inspirational. I was deeply touched by it all and had a wonderful time. Whenever life gets too hectic, I close my eyes and imagine myself gazing at Tiger's Nest from that wonderful viewpoint just before beginning the stone steps.
Your agent in Bhutan did a great job for us. The guides were sensitive, knowledgeable and accommodating. We got to know Bhim and Dorji (driver) best. The accommodations ranged from very nice to modest, but that was okay also. I only wish that we could have had more time - an extra day in Trongsa, and time to walk into the Phobjikha Valley - perhaps overnighting there. Maybe I will be able to return in the spring some time to do these things.
Special moments included
temple blessings each day
river rafting on the Pho Chu river
the all-day climb to Tiger's Nest
hanging a prayer flag at the top of Yotang La
meeting the Queen Mother at Kichu Lhakhang (near Paro)
visit to an elementary and a high school in Trongsa
attending the Wangdue and Thimphu Festivals
Thank you again.
Pacific Grove, California
First let me say you run a "class act". The lovely orchids arrived yesterday afternoon; what a pleasant and thoughtful surprise.I had intended to write you as soon as I recovered and got organized, but will do so now though still in early stages of readjusting.
Bottom line, the entire trip could not have gone better, no significant problems and it was all we had hoped it would be. A few minor flight delays, but all connections were made smoothly, especially considering all the opportunities for something to go wrong. One very minor issue: our transfer man in Kohlkata really looked after our every need, but was a bit overly agressive in his ways, especially compared with all the many others throughout our trip. I felt he was pushing a bit too much for the tip. We were very tired when we arrived and just wanted to get to our hotel. He suggested a one and a half hour tour of the city on the way. After some debate Marlys and I decided it would be good if we could do it in an hour, to which he agreed. It lasted 2 hours. This is such a minor issue Ambrose I hesitate to mention. I do so because his style was so unlike everyone else. Probably a matter of the big city versus the country.
Bhutan was very special. Weather was perfect and a welcomed change from Bangkok and Assam; liked the accommodations, especially the Tenzinling, (we had the usual? barking dogs in Thimpu); enjoyed all the food; Kencho was an absolute delight and went out of his way to make the best use of every minute we had, adjusting the times and agenda to fit our wants and needs. Marlys sat out certain activities as planned. As a photographer you can imagine how often we stopped so I could do my thing. As I did not make the climb to Taktsang - which apparently we all (you, me, and Kencho) had concluded adviseable, we were able to see that much more. I think because we established good rapport with Kencho we twice lunched at the Plum restaurant where his wife Lhamo works. As she hopes to visit a Bhutanese friend in California next year we have invited her to come be our guest.
Three days is not long enough to really see any place like Bhutan, but I really feel that thanks to our personalized treatment, and considering Marlys's limited mobility we came away with a very good understanding and appreciation of this very unique country, its people and culture. With what I know now, and given more time, I would love to have made a 7 to 10 day drive across the country. But we did not have the time and realistically Marlys would not have been up to it.
I have already recommended Red Lantern to my brother and a lovely Irish couple we met on the Brahmaputra cruise. I expect to have the chance to do more. I also, want to make a special pitch for Kencho, he is not only very good at what he does, he is fun to be with. I would be pleased to be a referrence for you, should you have the need.
Thanks again for a great tour and I wish you continued success with Red Lantern. If you ever get our way give me a call. It would be a pleasure to meet you.
The trip [to Thailand and Cambodia] was wonderful. International flying is always long and tiring. Bangkok was fun, shopping night bazaars and visiting the temples. The Peninsula was a great hotel and they upgraded us to connecting suites for us and the children! The dinner show at sala rim nam across from the Oriental and next to the Peninsula was expensive and not very authentic. Cambodia was very very good and the Victoria Hotel was just right - not too touristy and off the main street. Chaing Mai was also fun and the Dhara Dhevi was one of the best hotels we have seen in the world. The elephants were the highlights of the trip. The long long 5 hr. drive to the hill tribes was the worst point of the trip - depressing, tragic, begging people with little cultural integrity. Would not recommend that to anyone, except that we did go to the golden triangle and across to Burma shopping at the bazaar. That was fun. The Airport Novotel gave us a complimentary 8pm check out which made the midnight plane tolerable. My DVD is in progress.
Thanks for the flowers
Michael V. and Family
Just a quick note to thank you for the lovely detail of the flowers I received today.
Net-net: The trip [to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos] was absolutely wonderful. Everything went as planned. Guides on each city were absolutely fantastic, and overall, the whole flow of the trip was just right (one hectic place, one mellow place, one hectic place, one mellow place...). Hotels were marvelous.
I am totally pleased with the experience. It exceeded all my expectations. Definitely, you will be hearing from me when planning my next trip.
Anyway, hope to have some time by the end of the week to write and provide details of my experience.
Thanks again Ciara,
New York City
Dear Ms. Sampaio
I've been back from my Far East trip for almost 10 days now. Still jet lagged a bit. I am a seasoned traveler, I have been to over 80 countries around the world. This particular trip was amazing, one of the best and most exotic journeys I have ever taken. I would like to briefly review my specific impressions of the trip:
The Oriental Hotel lived up to its reputation. A beautiful place. The local guide for a brief city tour was adequate. I believe that their fee for a short city tour was little too expensive.
Beautiful, mysterious country, fascinating culture, the best kept secret in Asia, excellent organization of my trip.
The Uma Paro Hotel was superb! Beautiful place, tastefully done, excellent service, amazing meals, perhaps little too expensive ($11 USD for a glass of multi vitamin fruit juice! Ouch!).
The Migmar Hotel was mediocre in terms of accommodation, but the service was really excellent. The staff and their manager did everything in their power to make my stay comfortable.
The local guide in Bhutan, Sangay Dorji was terrific: very knowledgeable about his country and culture, easy going, friendly, spoke excellent English, overall did an excellent job. So was the driver, Tenzin Gyeltshen, who was very kind, polite, patient and friendly. The Bhutan Eco Tours should be happy to have them on their team. Superb job!
Very exotic, beautiful country, still untouched and undiscovered, kind, gentle people, fascinating history.
The Tamarid Agency owner, Ms. Cho Cho Lwin was extraordinarily kind. She welcomed me personally at the airport, called guides many times to ensure that everything was going well during the tour, came to say good bye at the end of my trip and even gave me a beautiful gift!
The Strand Hotel in Yangon was a great place, perhaps little past its former glory, but very charming never the less.
The Mandalay Hill resort was a good hotel, perfectly adequate.
The Aureum Palace Hotel was an extraordinary hotel. Beautifully designed, with excellent service and superb food. One of my favorite hotels of all times.
The local guide in Yangon and Mandalay, Si Thu Win, as well as the guide in Bagan, whose name I can not remember, were both very professional, kind, easy going, well informed. They did a great job.
Overall it was a great, great trip. I am very grateful to you and your tour operators for arranging such a wonderful journey. I will highly recommend you to all my friends.
Thank you once again,
We were very pleased with all of the arrangements you made on our behalf. Thank-you so much. Not sure you are back from India yet. Thank-you so much for the beautiful flowers. They are really appreciated.
It was such a thrill to see my 80 year old mother-in-law Ruth act like a school-girl when she saw the Taj Mahal. The accommodations at Agra were especially meaningful with a beautiful view of the Taj since Ruth simply stared at the Taj all the time she was in her room. So an excellent choice. The accommodations in Jaipur were especially authentic and full of character. We really enjoyed them and the choice for the Tiger preserve was very special and serene. We also liked the Delhi accommodations.
Kudos to 'I go India' for managing the Commonwealth Games travel contract. They are well organized.
I have a couple of suggestions for you and please take them in the spirit they are given. When people want to go to the Taj Mahal I think it is important for them to know that they might really appreciate it more if they saw it more than once at different times of the day. We changed our itinerary and saw it at dawn as well as late morning. Our guide for that part of the trip was incredibly responsive to us. We were so pleased we saw it more than once. Our driver for most of the trip was very friendly and responsive to Ruth's needs. Ruth actually made the morning tours but rested at the hotel in the afternoons.
We enjoyed the son et lumiere in Delhi and the one in Jaipur looked like it had even more potential.
We added an extra jeep safari and saw a male and female tiger on two different drives. It was the highlight of the trip for me. The cat population is now down to 38 in that preserve. Two cats were poisoned last week.
You and your agency made this trip of a lifetime for all of us. Thank-you so much.