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Rejuvenation project scheduled at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda

One of Yangon’s leading landmarks is scheduled to undergo a rejuvenation process in re-plastering its golden sphere. The renovation is planned to take place between October 2018 and March 2019 in which the main stupa will be covered in scaffolds, giving visitors an obstructive view of its 100 plus -meter high stupa and spire from all angles.

According to a statement of pagoda officials, the official starting date of this gold plate offering ceremony of the Shwedagon Pagoda is said to be announced by earliest September 2018.

Asian Trails Myanmar regrets having to inform all concerned about this revered project around the country’s holiest Buddhist site and not being able to give an exact starting date of this massive undertaking. We are keeping close contact with the authorities for further information.

We will operate all confirmed itineraries that include a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda as outlined. Should any changes be needed in offering alternative sightseeing in Yangon during this period, please contact our Yangon office via res@asiantrails.com.mm.

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Bali back to normal after Mount Agung’s ash cloud

Bali is back on track after seeing its international airport closed down for a period of 12 hours last Friday. According to the latest reports, all airlines are operating back no normal, although slight delays were reported over the weekend – this included flight reschedules. Asian Trails’ airport representatives reported that all its customers have been boarded on flights back over the weekend.

The situation around Mount Agung remains unchanged with a safety perimeter of 4 kilometres around the foot of the volcano and alert levels staying at level III. As always, we continue to maintain contact with the authorities on the spot about any changes that may occur.

If you have any questions, please contact our Customer Service manager, Mr Marek Bis, at email marek@asiantrails.co.id or alternatively, contact us anytime at res@asiantrails.co.id or at +62 (0) 361 285 771 during office hours or our 24/7 hotline outside of office hours at +62 (0) 811 386 9377.

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Following the footsteps and teachings of Confucius in Qufu

Unsuspected surprises often lie just around the corner. Although this may not be the case with the vastness of China a few destinations have popped up on the radar, which are within easy reach of the capital Beijing and the metropolitan glimmer and glamour of Shanghai.

It is time to explore one of these ‘surprises’, venture beyond the trodden paths, try out something not on the local tourism radar, has not reached the mass tourism market but has gained fame under the UNESCO World Heritage Site flag and is the hometown of Confucius (551 B.C.- 479 B.C.), one of the world’s leading teacher, editor, politicians and philosopher in Chinese history. I am talking about Qufu (pronounced as Shi Fu), and I am taking the high-speed train to follow in the footsteps of this great Chinese sage.

Qufu’s location, pitched perfectly between Beijing and Shanghai, is one of the main centres in the country dedicated to the works of Confucius. The city was once the centre of wisdom, providing guidance and advice for renowned emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties (around 500 BC) with Confucius playing a prominent role.

Although Qufu is one of the smaller cities in Shandong province with only 650,000 inhabitants, what it lacks in size is made up by its importance as one of China’s famous historical and cultural cities.

The city also misses a proper airport but with Chinese highly-evolved high speed railway track carrying trains running at speeds of up 300 kilometres per hour, taking a plane there is not even a consideration. The train ride from Beijing is just two hours, arriving at the grand Qufu’s railway station – a massive, white-tiled building of almost Armageddon proportions – and receiving a welcome of the same grandeur from my guide Kevin.

The contrary, however, is true of Qufu’s downtown area that is constructed around its new district with Shangri-La Hotel Qufu as a prominent landmark, small businesses, a few Chinese-market orientated hotels and a somewhat dilapidated department store. But the actual soul of Qufu rises right along the main road marked by city walls with four main entrances and inside the old town where the spirit of Confucius comes alive.

Qufu is literally the Old Town where one is suddenly transported back in time walking through a maze of small streets with ‘mamma and papa’ shops selling everything under the sun, retired Chinese men playing mahjong with a large crowd standing behind them giving them advice on their next move and trying one best to avoid the large number of electric bikes, horse-drawn carriages and tricycles when crossing the streets.

It is very pleasant to walk around the Old Town with its hard-to-miss fortification walls. This is a place where hardly any English is spoken, and where one truly gets the feeling that Qufu IS the Old Town. It has a total area of six square kilometres and is home to the UNESCO protected Confucius Temple. Bear in mind that this is actually not a temple but the residence of the emperors, with smaller temples and religious sites on the very large site. The whole temple complex comprises nine different sections, and visitors are free to roam around and take pictures. It takes a good 1.5 hours to see everything and learn the detailed story of the works of Confucius with my excellent guide leading the way.

The same entrance ticket grants access to the residence of Confucius that is directly connected to the temple complex, following the long line of souvenir shops. It comprises a mix of residences, libraries, praying and teaching halls that complement the 2.5-hour tour of the most prominent sites of the well-worshipped and highly-respected sage.

A few good restaurants right at the exit of the Confucius Mansion, which seats up to 60 guests each, show that lunch addresses are also covered for western tourists. However, during my 36 hours in Qufu I have not seen a single non-Chinese person, so I have to take the word of my guide on this.

From the temple guests can opt to take a horse-drawn carriage, a tricycle or one of the shuttle services to the final burial site of Qufu, which is worth visiting and definitely a must on the bucket list of anyone interested in the moving stories around Confucius. The place where he is buried has hit the record books as the largest in the world. We are talking 260 hectares (!) of cemetery grounds for both the man himself and those privileged to be one of his direct descendants. The site where he is presumably buried lies around 15 minutes’ walk from the main entrance but, in good Chinese fashion, there are many golf carts to take visitors to his ‘expected’ burial site. I say ‘expected’ as it still remains a secret, as well as a mystery, where Confucius is actually buried on this vast compound as a protection against grave robbers. For those interested to circumvent the whole cemetery to see the other main and lesser important sites it takes one hour by golf cart and four hours to walk.

Travelling to Qufu on your own may be a challenge, but a very rewarding one if you are interested in the life and importance of this great Chinese philosopher and educator. It is a true depiction of China where the English language is almost non-existent among its residents, where there are hardly any western shops and restaurants and where you get a feeling of what upcountry China really is. For me, Qufu is an authentic mix of a slowly- progressing China with strong roots to its very interesting past and holding tightly, yet not letting the hunger for modernisation take over the city. The feeling of what Confucius has done for Qufu is so engrained in the DNA of the local inhabitants that it simply gives them a strong sense of belonging.

Qufu is a perfect one-night stop when travelling by high speed train –
actually the only functional means to get to the city – between Beijing and Shanghai as there are ample trains leaving and arriving on a daily basis from and to the city. Travel season runs from April/May until September, as it tends to be rather chilling during the winter months to enjoy this UNESCO World Heritage Site in its finest form.

Apart from Shangri-La Qufu, the city’s leading property located in the newer part of the city and less than five minutes by car to the Old Town’s southern entrance gate, there are only a few suitable hotels of a decent 3 star level. The local government has announced a further expansion of hotel rooms but did not indicate when, how and who would enter Qufu.

In terms of food, one has to take into consideration there is hardly any western restaurants particularly in the Old Town that has the most visitors spending a lot of time there. So for tourists it is dining on Chinese food all the way, and this is an absolute delightful experience for those wanting to try something new and exciting. The local restaurants do take into consideration that not all can eat traditional Chinese food; it may be modified to cater for taste but the essence of its cuisines remains in place.

Guided services are almost a must (English-speaking guides only, other language-speaking guides have to come from either Beijing or Shanghai), or else one will not be able to capture the essence and the inspiration of Confucius’ teachings and philosophy.

For tour ideas, one ideally leaves either Beijing or Shanghai in the late morning, arrives 2.5 hours later in Qufu, spends some time exploring the city before enjoying a dinner at a local restaurant. The following morning visit the magnificent well-maintained UNESCO-protected sites in Qufu’s Old Town before taking a 20-minute transfer back to the city’s train station in the afternoon to either Beijing or Shanghai. There are a few other options to fill in the afternoon around Qufu, but this does not really enrich the essence of what Qufu stands for.

Qufu is the absolute pinnacle in China for the Confucius-minded, a joy to venture into the heart of Shandong province and to explore what was once the capital of the Lu State. This city has shown that China has more than enough hidden secrets, away from the well-trodden tourism paths, waiting to be discovered.

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Indonesia shuts Bali airport temporarily on 29 June

Following our newsflash from 28 June in regards to the sudden cloud of ash spewed by Mt Agung, the airport authority of Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport has released an announcement that it has temporarily closed the airport for traffic effective from today from 03.00 this morning and is expected to reopen by 19:00 hrs (7PM).

All departing passengers are required to go to airport according to their travel plan. Passengers are required to re-register themselves and provide the customer service staff at the airport with their contact information. Customers will be able to stay in touch with the airline directly for the latest departure information and whether new departure times can be confirmed after the situation has been the green light.

At this moment, there is no information of any airline offering any complimentary hotel accommodation, since the airport is expected to open tonight.

Asian Trails Indonesia will continue to provide assistance at airport. If you have any questions, please contact our Customer Service manager, Mr Marek Bis, at email marek@asiantrails.co.id or alternatively, contact us anytime at res@asiantrails.co.id or at +62 (0) 361 285 771 during office hours or our 24/7 hotline outside of office hours at +62 (0) 811 386 9377.

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Asian Trails MICE executives attending India Roadshow

Asian Trails, one of the leading DMC’s in East and South East Asia, will be heading to India to meet discerned incentive and project managers this July. Colleagues from growing incentive destinations such as Indonesia and Thailand, will head over to Bangalore (3 July 2018) and Mumbai (5 July 2018) as part of a Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau organized road show.

Stanley Rozario, Asian Trails Thailand’s Manager – Indian Subcontinent, together with Ardy Purnomo, India Market Manager for Indonesia, will present the latest in new and innovative MICE ideas from across our region, highlighting our experience and capacity in handling exquisite itineraries according to the customer’s needs and budget requirements.

Since our inception in 1999, Asian Trails has been known to find innovative means to cater exclusive events for the Indian subcontinent, irrespectively of group size and operational complexity. Our multi-country set-up with dedicated team members, well-versed in the demands of the Indian customers, handles approximately 25,000 guests annually where personalisation of incentives, culinary requirements from beginning until the end and ample experience in the group and individual operation of travel wishes are our forte.

It will be our pleasure to meet you during this high-profile event to discuss the opportunities in exceeding your customer’s expectations under the guidance of Asian Trails. For more information or meeting them in person, please contact Stanley (stanley@asiantrails.org) or Ardy (ardi@asiantrails.co.id)

Kind regards

Asian Trails

About Asian Trails
Founded in 1999, the Asian Trails Group has been on the forefront of operating cutting-edge travel proposals to seamless operational standards that is second to none in Asia. Headquartered in Bangkok, the group continues to provide client-focused destination management services in all of its 9 destinations; Cambodia, China / Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam

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Asian Trails Travel at Thailand Travel Mart Plus in June 2018

We’re ready for the biggest travel business tradeshow, the Thailand Travel Mart Plus event. This year TTM+ will be organized at the amazing gateway, the Ocean Marina Yacht Club, Chonburi province on 13 – 15 June 2018.

All our discerned travel professionals are more than welcome to meet Stefan Bruns, Deputy Managing Director and Sebastian Kromberg, Inbound Manager, who will be representing Asian Trails Travel to update clients about the latest offer with an extensive variety of theme-based programs – ranging from art, history or adventures throughout one or more of Asian Trails Destinations.

As we bring engaging experiences, we hope to see all our supporters for the TTM+ event. However, in case the appointment portal via the TTM+ website did not generate any appointment confirmation, you may contact us via our email to schedule a meeting. For any further information or enquiries please email our representatives Stefan stefan@asiantrails.org or Sebastian sebastian@asiantrails.org.

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Asian Trails affirms renewed attendance at 2018 Get Global in Sydney

With very promising feedback, excellent talks, ideas that stimulate the wanderlust for discerned incentive and project managers with a desire to gain a fresh insight in Asia’s plethora of tailored programs, Asian Trails will make its renewed entrance for the 2018 Get Global MICE and Outbound Travel Trade Show.

On 20 July 2018, Asian Trails Indonesia and Thailand are able to present travel professional the latest in blazing new paths in travel ideas from across East and South East Asia. Represented by Bjorn Schimanski, Managing Director of Asian Trails Indonesia and Stefan Bruns, Thailand’s Deputy Managing Director, we aim to listen, refresh and provide exquisite ideas that fuel interest in our part of the world. This annual trade show for the MICE-minded will be held at Sydney’s The Gallery at ICC Sydney.

For more information, an appointment with one of our colleagues and find yourself brought into a world of awe-inspiring ideas with an exceeding expectations execution from beginning until the very end, please contact us via marketing@asiantrails.org.

Looking forward welcoming you this 20 July at the ICC Sydney and Get Global – where the worlds meets Asian Trails!

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Asian Trails Laos | Change in Management Announcement

The Asian Trails Group today announces that Mr. Philippe Conod, will retire from his role as a Managing Director of Asian Trails Laos, effective 6 June 2018.

Philippe has been with Asian Trails Laos since 2017, and has taken great enormous dedication for his leadership role. As an achievement that he has driven the team for the past years towards success we would like to congratulate him on his retirement and wishing him all the best for the start of a whole new chapter.

Further to the management changes within Asia Trails Laos, we are excited to announce the appointment of Ms. Virginie Kury who will join the team as a General Manager on 16th May 2018. Virginie will report directly to Ms. Thuy Tien, who have taken up the assume role of the Managing Director for both Vietnam and Laos. She has been with the company for approximately 4 years since the time she was a French Market Manager at the Asian Trails Thailand. Bringing a wide range of international background experiences along with her, we do wish Virginie all the very success for this role moving forward.

Laurent Kuenzle, CEO of Asian Trails, said,” Philippe’s endeavours to bring Asian Trails Laos to new heights has tremendously elevated our overall operations on all aspects. I feel it is extremely important to move forward in this direction with somebody who is familiar with the Asian Trails philosophy. The appointment of Virginie as our General Manager in Laos was a logical progression. I am extremely thankful for what Philippe has done in the short time he was back at the helm in Laos, and I wish him nothing but the best in enjoying his retirement. In addition, I am confident that Virginie will succeed in her new role to blaze new paths in travel under the guidance of Thuy Tien”.

From left to right: Ms. Virginie Kury (General Manager), Mr. Philippe Conod (Former Managing Director) & Ms. Thuy Tien (Assume Managing Director) at Asian Trails Laos’ head office in Vientiane.