What is the best time of year for travel to these destinations?
Overton: For Southeast Asia, the best time of year is our winter, November through February. It’s dry and not too hot. In India, during our summer, May through September, there are a lot of areas where it’s too difficult to travel in. But if you’re traveling in the Himalayas, it’s only possible to get there in summer.
Andrews: Because Asia covers such a large area, it’s not one-size-fits-all. Japan is best from March through October, though we have fewer departures in June through August because of the heat. In India, we go January through March, then return again in October to avoid monsoon season.
Louy-Nasty: In the fall, you’ll want to go to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Burma. In the spring and fall, Japan is great. In spring and summer, Indonesia and Mongolia are fabulous. The Himalayan region is great in the spring and early fall. India we travel to quite a bit in the fall and winter.
What are some of the best places for first-time international travelers to get a taste of Asia?
Overton: Thailand is a great starter Asian nation. It has never been colonized, but it has welcomed travelers for hundreds of years. It has an incredibly warm and social culture. The people are warm and welcoming. The tourism infrastructure is really superb, but you also get the fact that you’re someplace very different. You can do a great trip and get your feet wet by going to Bangkok, going up into the mountains and then ending up in the south on a beautiful beach resort.
Andrews: If I had to pick one, I would say China. Not only does it combine history and culture, but it’s incredibly relevant and influential today. Most people are somewhat familiar with China. They know about the Great Wall, and they might know about the terra-cotta warriors. If you’re a first-time traveler, seeing a place you’re somewhat familiar with already will be more attractive.
Louy-Nasty: Our Indochina trip. You get three countries in one trip — Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. On the surface, they might seem similar, but when you go in and experience each destination, you get something very different inside each country. In roughly two weeks, we go into Vietnam, then head into Laos, where it’s very tranquil and there’s lots of spirituality and ancient Buddhist culture. Then we go into Cambodia. You can’t go there without seeing Angkor Wat, so we culminate the tour there. You get a real taste of what Asia is like from these experiences.
What is a great Asian destination for more experienced international travelers?
Overton: It used to be Bhutan, because that was one of the most difficult destinations to get to, and in some ways, it still is. There are some very long drives, but the tourism there has developed at a very luxurious level. It’s a beautiful culture, but you have to really immerse yourself in it.
Andrews: Myanmar is such an emerging destination, and it’s one of the few countries in the world where people are still curious about foreigners. It’s breathtaking and magical. But it’s a destination for someone who has already traveled in Asia.
Louy-Nasty: We have a wonderful tour to Mongolia, which is kind of out there geographically. People don’t usually have it on their radar, but it’s a fantastic destination. There’s a lot of cultural interaction and lots of wildlife and birding. Travelers get to stay in yurts and meet the local people who run the camps. They get to go out and see reindeer culture or go to an excavation site where they’re digging bones and looking at old artifacts.
What is an unforgettable experience that travelers should seek out when touring Asia?
Overton: Interacting with the locals. Throughout Asia, all of the cultures are so warm and welcoming, and people really want to take care of you. After the tsunami in Japan, people whose own homes were destroyed were making sure that tourists were cared for. Everyone smiles and wants to chat about you and learn a little bit about you and your world. That’s really part of the specialness of Asia.
Andrews: In Myanmar, I would say the hot-air balloon ride over the temples in Bagan. But in Vietnam, anyone who enjoys U.S. history would enjoy Ho Chi Min City. In Japan, people might enjoy the tea ceremony or interacting with the geisha. Nature lovers would enjoy the tiger safaris in the national parks in India..
Louy-Nasty: We’re all about connecting with the people. Our leaders and guides get us into people’s homes. We get to meet families, farmers, restaurant owners, chefs and scholars. Whether it’s in a local, rural setting or a sophisticated place, those are the most unscripted experiences you can have. Our travelers remember those experiences way more than some of the iconic attractions. Those exchanges are priceless.