Bangkok is a hub of travel for Southeast Asia and the most visited city in the world. Despite weeks of anti-government demonstrations and the recently declared state of emergency in the city, the unrest has been confined to very localized areas and is not affecting international visitors.
We at Myths and Mountains receive frequent reports from our Thai tour operators and guides in Bangkok. They are monitoring the situation around-the-clock and are prepared to make changes in touring itineraries quickly if the need arises. Thus far, no alterations have been necessary. As one traveler told us, "The city is operating beautifully." Wandering on his own, this traveler accidentally bumbled into a demonstration, which he described as, "Peaceful...lots of families, people selling things like a Night Market, including T shirts with 'Shut Down Bangkok' written in English!"
For tourists, the main issue is the inconvenience of traffic disruptions. Our contacts in Bangkok say that some streets where protestors are demonstrating are blocked, but these can be avoided. Traffic is always horrendous in Bangkok, and now it is just more so, particularly in the core downtown business center and spaces near government buildings targeted by protesters.
Nevertheless, Bangkok is a very large city, and business in most areas is unaffected, including the riverfront area where Myths and Mountains clients usually stay.
Important sites -- the Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, the temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Chatuchak Weekend Market to name a few--are open as usual and safe for visitors. Banks, hotels, spas, and restaurants are open also. So are schools and colleges. No curfew has been imposed. However, shops and restaurants downtown may close during a demonstration if necessary.
All airports are open and operating on schedule. Pick up times for transfers to the airport are four hours prior to departure as a precaution in case of any road blockages or diversions.
Public transportation--the Skytrain, subway, boats, ferries, and buses are operating. Taxis carrying visitors are issued stickers that allow them to pass through areas that may be blocked.
Of course, anyone visiting Bangkok needs to be flexible and vigilant. Although we're told that the protests are generally peaceful, we advise you to avoid joining the demonstrations and to stay away from those sites, especially at night.
On January 19, the U.S. Department of State joined 45 other countries and issued a travel alert, cautioning Americans about the potential risks of traveling to Thailand, particularly Bangkok. Thai officials issued the state of emergency on Sunday, February 2, as a result of disruptions at voting polls.
We at Myths and Mountains are keeping a close watch on the situation in Bangkok and throughout Thailand, and will keep our clients and friends informed. Along with news and government reports, we rely on our contacts on the ground in Bangkok for information. They are monitoring events 24/7 and reporting to us frequently on the situation in the city. We will be passing that information on to Myths and Mountains clients regularly. As always, we are available any time if you need further information.
What is THAT noise? I struggle awake and check the time - it's just past 6 am and I realize THAT noise is the sound of horses neighing. I rip open the curtains which reveal a window framed by a giant vase of gorgeous handcut pink-tinted roses and beyond, the Andean mountains, shrouded by morning clouds. Right below my window, Hacienda Zuleta's stable of horses is being brushed and fed. As they stomp and shake their manes, I can see steam rising from their glossy coats.
Breakfast is served in a private dining room - a selection of fresh cheeses and artisan breads made right on premises, served with eggs made to order. The coffee is thick and rich with flavors, and the fruit juices are freshly squeezed. I opt for the "Moro", a type of tart but delicious blackberry. I'm joined by the owner, Fernando, whose family has owned and operated this working hacienda for over a century. The family touches are everywhere, from personal photos of children, the friendly family dogs who faithfully follow guests on hikes, and the many fireplaces in the house, always lit to warm its guests.
We set off on a leisurely hike past the organic gardens, wave to farmers tending to the farm's many horses and cows, and follow cobblestone paths that meander the paramo under towering mountains. If you're lucky, you might spot a spectacled bear. The resident naturalist knows each one of them by name and can recognize each bear by their unique facial markings. The naturalist, a blonde Brad Pitt lookalike from France, is also in charge of the Andean condor rehabilitation center on the property. He shares fascinating information about these gorgeous raptors, who boast wing spans of close to nine feet. In the horse fields, we meet two American archaeologists who've spent weeks uncovering ordinary looking grassy mounds. Underneath are hidden the remains of clay homes, revealing facts about how the indigenous cultures lived many centuries ago. Pointing at me, he notes, "You're actually standing on an unmarked grave right now."
Today I learned the Spanish word for ghost - it's "fantasma."
I hopscotched across four different time zones, finally arriving In Quito's newly opened airport at 10:30 pm. I'm here in Ecuador to attend the largest meeting of Latin American travel specialists and the top outfitters and hotels in the continent. But first, a little overnight break to commune with nature. Why not? Ecuador boasts the highest biodiversity in wildlife anywhere in the world.
A driver named Christian is happy to meet me but when he tells me that the country hacienda I'm staying in is still a two-hour drive away, I try to steel myself to stay awake just a wee bit longer (not easy considering my 4am wake up call that morning!)
We roll through a darkened countryside, a nearly full moon highlighting the steep canyons and never-ending rolling hills. The last 35 minutes of the drive is on a deeply rutted dirt trail, once a cobblestone road. It's a bone-rattling, teeth-jarring, hang-on-to-the-seat-of-your-pants ride. I laugh and grip tightly to my seat. What a welcome!
Finally, at about 1am, we enter a private gated entrance to Hacienda Zuleta, a working ranch/country estate that was once a presidential retreat. Rodrigo, the night watchman, takes me and my luggage to my room, where a roaring fireplace has died down to warm embers, a king sized bed with a fluffy duvet is covered with rose petals, and a delicious bag of buttery cookies and chocolates await me.
I sink into the bed, exhausted and excited to see what tomorrow brings.
Summer is coming, and there’s no better time of year to visit Himalayan destinations such as Tibet, Ladakh, Kashmir, and the Spiti Valley. Not only is it a beautiful season in the mountains, but it’s also a time of many cultural festivals that bring the region’s traditions to vibrant life.
Travelers interested in Buddhist traditions often think first of Tibet when choosing a destination. The region is currently open to travelers, although the many summer festivals are somewhat dependent on the ever-changing political situation. But whether or not they occur as scheduled, the region is still a wonderful place for visiting monasteries, exploring the local culture, and trekking through the incomparable alpine landscapes.
Beyond the region most travelers think of as Tibet – Lhasa west to Mount Kailash and south to Nepal – is a much broader area of Tibetan culture. “We refer to the area as Tibetan Lands because there are whole areas to the east of the Tibet Autonomous Region that are now in Yunan and other parts of China but used to be part of Tibet,” says Myths and Mountains President Toni Neubauer. “These areas are a very different world and a very different ecosystem.”
Our Myths and Mountains family is made up of intrepid travelers who inspire with the way they embrace new cultures and experiences with open arms. We take great pleasure in crafting unforgettable, personalized adventures and sharing the joy of discovery, every step of the way. Here are 25 of the most amazing experiences our travelers have enjoyed during Myths and Mountains’ first 25 years.
1. Circumambulating the sacred peak of Mount Kailash in Tibet
2. Trekking to Everest Base Camp
3. Getting married in special destinations like Bhutan, the Galapagos Islands, and Cambodia