Mekong River Cruise, an excitingly different holiday

Amanda Sloan, tour manager on the Mekong River Cruise, has filed the below report.

We have just returned from the most wonderful tour through Vietnam and Cambodia including a cruise on the “MV Mekong Pandaw” along the Mighty Mekong Delta.

We started our tour in Saigon with 2 nights at the luxurious Sofitel and then boarded the MV Mekong Pandaw for a relaxing 7 night cruise. The staff looked after everyone so well, the food was wonderful offering everyone the chance to try the local cuisine. To be able to sit on the top deck with a gin and tonic in hand, watching life on the Mekong was the perfect way to travel.

On the Mekong Delta we saw smiling Vietnamese farm workers wearing cone-shaped hats and working in the rice paddies. Often their homes are right on the edge of the river. The Mekong deposits enough nutrients in the Delta to make its name as “the rice-bowl of Vietnam”. Gently undulating rice slopes stretch as far as the eye can see, an amazing agricultural scene. Local villagers work the fields by hand, and wave as you pass. One of the best features of this tour is that it is not overrun with tourists, which enables you to soak up and enjoy the atmosphere.

Shore excursions on The Pandaw included all our sightseeing tours visiting so many towns and villages along the Mekong. When you arrive at the villages the children are so delighted to see you and are always keen to practice their English with you. They love to follow you around and show you their village. One of the visits was to an orphanage in Cambodia where you have the opportunity to meet the children and see the wonderful programs they have including a great arts program. You are able to purchase their work, of course the children are keen to proudly show you which is “their painting”. Three of the staff on the Pandaw have come from the orphanage.

We visited Phnom Penh and had a cyclo tour (someone else does the peddling) around the town visiting the museum and the Palace. The tours also included a visit to a local school and we spoke to the children in their English class as they were so keen to learn. After 7 days of luxury we were transferred to Siem Reap to the magnificent Le Meridien hotel that is set in the most beautiful grounds with an amazing pool that you would normally dream about. We then spent the next two days visiting the temples at Angkor. For hundreds of years these temples lay forgotten, and in many places were reclaimed by the surrounding forest. It was only in the 1800s that French naturalist, Henri Mouhot, brought them to the world’s attention. Angkor Wat was obviously a highlight and should be on everyone’s must do list. The Cambodians have to be the nicest and friendliest race of people in the world.

This is one of the remaining unspoiled accessible travel destinations. The friendly welcome received from the villagers along the Mekong, the leisurely pace, the close look at their culture all make for an excitingly different holiday.

To see details of the latest Travelrite Mekong River Cruises departing in 2011 see the details here.

An amazing time on the Quilting and Patchwork Tour to America

I have just returned from the Quilters Companion tour to the USA with Michelle Marvig. What an amazing time we had sightseeing, shopping and forming lasting friendships.
We had many highlights throughout the tour including the International Quilt Study Centre in Lincoln , Nebraska with a special behind the scenes tour including showings of many antique quilts from the 1800’s, the American Textile History Museum in Lowell seeing many aspects of the textile industry along with a special exhibit of Mrs Betsy Bloomingdale’s collection of designer couture including Oscar de la Rente, Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and many more fine designers, The New England Quilt Museum in Lowell with a stunning collection of Blue and White quilts from 1820 through 1880’s, The Shelbourne Museum in Vermont to see the fantastic collection of Quilts and historic houses throughout the complex and The Fine Arts Institute of Chicago were we viewed many famous Impressionists paintings by Monet, Renior, Van Gogh along with a large collection of American Art and textiles.

We also enjoyed our very special visits to local quilt shops including 3 in the Chicago area -The Quilt Basket located in Downers Grove, Pieceful Heart Fabrics in Lisle and an unexpected visit to Quiltfabric.com with a special thankyou to owner Chris for opening her store specially for our group visit, along with 2 stores near Burlington Vermont being Sew Many Treasures and Strawberry and Rhubarb, Norton House in Wilmington, the famous Keepsake Quilting store located in Centre Harbour, New Hampshire, The Cambridge Quilt shop near Harvard University Boston and our last shop near Houston Airport Its a Stitch in Humble. With the Aussie dolllar being nearly on par with US dollar majority of the group took advantage of this and shopped until our suitcases were so full we could no longer fit another item in!!
I also must mention the beautiful countryside of the New England area we travelled through was just breathtaking and stunningly beautiful. The colours of the trees – reds, oranges, yellows and browns were amazing.
We were very excited to arrive into Houston for the International Quilt Festival held at the George R. Brown convention centre. We are lucky enough to stay within walking distance of the convention centre.Our hotel also offered a shuttle service for those of us who were weary after long days shopping and attending workshops throughout Festival. Congratulations to Adelaide’s Rachelle Denneny for her winning Quilt entry. Good to see so many Australians attending and having Quilts on display at Houston. The American people we found very friendly and helpful which really made our tour very enjoyable.

Article written by Michelle Maher

If you are interested in more information on our Quilting and Patchwork tours please contact Travelrite on 1800 630 343 or see the latest Tours departing to the USA and Japan – details here.

The Best Train Trip in the World – the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express

Sandra and I had the great pleasure to manage a Travelrite International tour on the British owned Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express in August 2010. We departed from Vladivostok in far-eastern Russia and travelled almost 12,000km via Mongolia to Moscow on what must be the most exotic and comfortable train in the world, the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.

Every day for fourteen days we travelled north and then west discovering what Siberia is all about: great areas of lonely plains intersected by grand fast flowing rivers, surprisingly elegant and impressive cities that we had previously heard little about, vast areas of efficient agriculture, mining ventures and many small towns and villages that have lost the battle to be viable.

For most of the trip the Golden Eagle travels by night and arrives in a new town or city each morning. After breakfast we met up with local guides and enjoyed a full day of local sightseeing. Sometimes we enjoyed lunch or dinner arranged by the locals or dined in good local restaurants. Often the locals had arranged folk or classical concerts in interesting locations – the local hall or an old historic home.

Cities such as Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Kazan were all a surprise. Although they lacked the wealth of European and Australian cities, they were all elegant, prosperous and inviting places with impressive town squares and gardens, fine buildings, atmospheric cafes and restaurants, good museums and public buildings and very welcoming people. Our trip around and across Lake Baikal, the largest fresh water lake in the world, was a highlight.

Our 13 carriage train carried just 62 passengers in great comfort. Over the two weeks we saw so much and had such a good time. The gold class cabins were spacious: each couple had a double bed, plus a fold down bunk, a sitting area and a bathroom with a full sized shower and toilet. The 24 hour service was great, meals in the impressive restaurant car were superb, with many local dished being offered, and the club car provided an ideal location for a relaxing drink or a chat with other tour members.

The trip ended in Moscow where our group stayed for a few days to see the sights. This grand capital becomes more impressive and enjoyable each time we visit, and makes you want to keep coming back. Travelrite International will be running another tour on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express in August 2011.

Business Class only flights from London to New York

After Neville and I visited Southampton for the launch of Queen Elizabeth we flew from London City airport on flight number BA1 Business Class only flights to New York. It is a smaller plane seating only 32 business class seats. The flight lands in Shannon Airport, where you go through all of the USA immigration check in, then back on the flight. This takes only half an hour, then on to the USA, landing at the domestic terminal, so you can walk straight out. Great to keep in mind if you are travelling around the world. We enjoyed four days in New York, where we visited the renovated MOMA and Metropolitan art galleries. They have wonderful collections of modern and older paintings. We travelled on the local bus to the very north of Manhattan Island to visit the Cloisters, which comprises building and art works from the middle ages. We took the No. 7 trains to Queens to visit Louis Armstrong’s house, which is now a museum. Very interesting to see home decoration from the 50ies. We were very struck by the high police presence on every street. We hadn’t been to New York for ten years and found the city very clean and prosperous. We also visited ground zero that was once the World Trade Centre and travelled around the whole of Manhattan to see the spectacular skyline of the city on the circular cruise.

Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth

Sandra and I have just returned to the new Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, after attending the naming ceremony at Ocean Terminal in Southampton, UK. The new Queen Elizabeth was named by HRH Queen Elizabeth in an impressive ceremony late on a sunny Monday afternoon. Almost 2000 guests from all over the world cheered as the Queen released a bottle of champagne which hit the ship with a loud bang and set of fireworks and a celebratory display of streamers. During the ceremony we were entertained by the massed bands of the Coldstream Guards and Scots Guards with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus. Lesley Garrett, Britain’s most popular soprano sang, had everybody on their feet as she sang Amazing Grace. It was a great British event!

Queen Elizabeth is sister ship to Cunard’s Queen Victoria with gross tonnage of 90,000 tons, passenger capacity of 2068 and 1005 crew. The decoration is more subdued that Queen Victoria with a concentration on mellow timber colours. The aft sun deck and pool area has been enlarged, a Midships bar has been added on Deck 3, and the popular Cafe Carinthia has been extended. The Queen’s Room remains the central focus of the ship. The Queen checked out a gold bust of herself and a specially commissioned portrait in the Queen’ Room this afternoon Queen Elizabeth sets sail tomorrow on her maiden cruise to the Canary Islands. She will in Australian ports in February 2011 during her first world cruise. She will deliver a wonderfully elegant travel experience to everybody who loves the Cunard style of cruising.

Filed by Travelrite International’s Neville Walliss from Queen Elizabeth in port at Southampton, Monday 11 October 2010.

Travelrite have a range of specials Queen Elizabeth escorted cruises sailing from Australia. Visit  www.travelrite.com.au for details

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Hi and welcome to the Travelrite blog. Here we will keep you up to date with what’s happening at Travelrite and all our tours. We also have 2 other websites offering tour specials.

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