A few months ago, our vice president, Allie Almario, headed over to Asia to do some research and development and check out some of the newest hotel properties there. Here, she shares some notes from her trip, as well as some tips for travelers visiting the region.
If you are going to spend 15 hours in a plane hurtling over the vast Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Hong Kong, I highly recommend doing it in Business Class if you can. I'm not usually an elitist, but when Cathay Pacific puts me on standby for a complimentary business class upgrade, I'm not going to say no. And I'm not going to lie - it was very, very nice.
Once in Asia, my trip was a whirlwind combination of early-morning wake-up calls, incessant jet lag, nonstop hotel inspections, and cramming in quick visits to some of Hong Kong and Thailand's highlights.
It was my first time in Hong Kong, and the first thing that struck me was how vertical a city it is. Much of my time was spent going up and down a lot of elevators as I hopped around the city. I lucked out with perfect weather - perfect blue skies and no humidity, typical for November and December.
Ethical Traveler's 13 Tips for the Accidental Ambassador
Travel is most meaningful - and least intrusive - when you approach your destination with openness, respect, and a willingness to adapt and learn. If you behave in an informed, culturally sensitive manner, you'll not only come away with truly memorable people-to-people experiences, but you'll also leave behind a positive impression with your hosts. As guidelines, we present these 13 tips from our friends at Ethical Traveler (www.ethicaltraveler.org).
Be aware of where your money is going. Patronize locally owned inns, restaurants, and shops. Try to keep your cash within the local economy, so the people you are visiting benefit directly from your stay.
Avoid giving gifts directly to children. Give instead to their parents or teachers. When giving gifts- everything from pens to pharmaceuticals - first ask what's needed, and who can best distribute these items in the community.
Learn basic greetings. Learn to say "please," "thank you," and as many numbers as you can. It's astonishing how far a little language goes toward creating a feeling of goodwill
Remember the economic realities of your new currency. A few rupees one way or another is not going to ruin you. Don't get upset if a visitor who earns 100 times a local salary is expected to pay a few cents more for a ferry ride or an egg.
Bargain fairly and respectfully. The final transaction should leave both buyer and seller satisfied and pleased. Haggling is part of many cultures, but it's not a bargain if either person feels exploited or ripped-off.
Learn and respect the traditions and taboos of your host country. Never, for example, pat a Thai child on the head, enter a traditional Brahmin's kitchen, or open an umbrella in a Nepali home!
Curb your anger, and cultivate your sense of humor. Travel can present obstacles and frustrations, but anger is never a good solution. It's perversely satisfying, but won't win respect or defuse a bad situation. A light touch, and a sense of humor, are infinitely more useful.
Arrive with a sense of your host country's social and environmental concerns. Our site will direct you to good profiles of many popular travel destinations. It's also very useful to read the political background section in your guidebook, and the local English-language papers.
Learn to listen. People in other nations often feel underestimated or patronized by travelers from the developed world. This fosters anger and resentment. Be aware that good listening skills and respect help shape the world's view of your country.
Practice conservation. Never be wasteful of local resources - especially food and water. Your efforts at conservation will be noted and respected by your hosts, and will set a good example for your fellow travelers.
"Can you please help me?" This is the most useful phrase travelers can learn. Rarely will another human being refuse a direct request for help. Being of service, and inviting others to express their kindness, is what the phrase "global community" is all about.
Leave your preconceptions about the world at home. The inhabitants of planet Earth will continually amaze you with their generosity, hospitality, and wisdom. Be open to their friendship, and aware of our common humanity, delights, and hardships.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s best line is worth remembering. "Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." Go with the flow, and give free reign to your sense of adventure!
Earn discounts with donations to READ Global Travel philanthropy is a concept embraced and supportedby so many of our clients, and many of you have helped us raise many thousands ofdollars to support READ Global over the years. You have trekked over theHimalayas to help lay cornerstones in the foundations of libraries, you havebrought family and friends to see it in action in Nepal and Bhutan, you've evenasked your wedding guests to donate to READ!
Now, in celebration of READ's 20th Anniversary, whenyou book a new Myths and Mountains trip and donate a minimum of$250 to READ, we will match your donation witha $250 discount on the total land costs of your trip. Joinus in empowering rural villagers in Nepal, India, and Bhutan, andwe'll thank you from the bottom of our hearts (and with our bottomline).
For new trips booked during Oct 15, 2011 - Jan 15, 2012.
You must mention the promo code of READ250 when planning your itinerary with one of our travel specialists.
A booking is defined as one or more travelers booking the same itinerary (i.e. The Smith family travels together to Peru; donate a minimum of $250 to READ Global and we'll deduct $250 from your total land costs for the entire family).
*Applicable only to trips with a minimum land cost of $2000 pp or more for the booking (excludes air).
Your trip payment must include a separate non-refundable check made payable to READ Global for
Travelers to the Andean countries are often surprised to learn that in many areas, the most commonly spoken language is not Spanish, but Quechua. Once the official language of the Inca Empire, Quechua remains the dominant language in much of Peru, including the Sacred Valley. It is is also spoken in parts of Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, although there are significant differences between dialects. All told, about 10 million people still speak Quechua as their primary language, although about 75 percent of these also speak Spanish. Because Quechua was not historically a written language, the spelling of Quechua words varies.
Quechua is related to Aymará, another important indigenous language in the region around Lake Titicaca. Some vocabulary words are shared between the two languages. Quite a few Quechua words have even entered the English language through Spanish, including coca, condor, gaucho, guano, jerky, llama, potato, puma, and quinoa.
Here are some useful phrases to practice if you are heading to Peru or other areas in which Quechua is spoken:
How are you? - Allillanchu? (also used as a way of saying hello) I am fine. - Allillanmi. Goodbye (until we meet again) -Tupananchiskama Excuse me - Dispinsayuway Please - Allichu Thank you - Sulpayki (or Yusulpayki) You're welcome - Imamanta Yes - Arí No - Mana What is your name? - Iman sutiyki? My name is _____ - Sutiymi _______.
Founded by Myths and Mountains' president, Dr. Antonia Neubauer, READ Global (www.READGlobal.org) isa non-profit organization committed to providing individuals in rural areas with access to knowledge, resources, and opportunities to create better futures for themselves and their families. To date, READ Global has established 57 Community Library and Resource Centers in Nepal, India, and Bhutan, reaching more than 1.8 million rural villagers.
The idea for the organization was born when Toni asked her guide on a trek in Nepal what he most desired for his village. His answer? A library. This year marks the 20th anniversary of READ Global's first library. Here, Toni talks about the success of READ and how travel philanthropy can make a difference.
What does giving back mean to you? I'm really an iconoclast when it comes to voluntourism. There's a difference between pity and compassion. There are certain types of voluntourism that I really value, such as Doctors without Borders. I really do not like the kind of voluntourism where people are going in and deciding what's needed. A great many of the projects that people from the West do are liabilities ultimately for the people for whom we've done them. They're the ones who have to pay teachers or doctors, buy medications, and so on.