This travel agency is based in Siem Reap, Cambodia and run by an American as well as talented Cambodian staff. It was planned relatively late compared to the departure date as a solo trip because a previous trip taken with my spouse got interrupted and I had some extra time.
The bottom line is that I was very happy with the trip and would gladly use them to plan travel to this region again. Below, I describe more specifics about my view of their services, including one preventable hiccup. Despite this one glitch (that was far from a major tragedy), it was a terrific and memorable trip with high-quality accommodations, guides, and planning.
The hotels they suggested in each place were excellent choices. The hotel in Kathmandu was a historic and interesting building with character but also had all the mod cons and was an oasis in a very chaotic and dusty city. In central Bhutan, the choices are more limited but the places they picked fit my needs and budget well and were fine for me. I loved the hotel in Siem Reap. Amazing service and luxury in a central location.
Guides and Drivers
The guides and drivers in all places were very good to super. I had been to Bhutan before. The country has first-class guides and my guide was even better than the guide on my previous trip. Just a really nice guy who did his best to show me an area of his country that was new to me. He was very good at organizing yet also able and happy to fit in additional stops on the fly, assuming they were feasible. The guide and the driver also found very good places to eat - a big improvement over my travels 10 years ago. It was an honor to stop and have our picnic lunch at the home of my very kind and good driver. On our more difficult hike, they were extremely patient and very helpful with this in-shape American 50-year old who isn't quite used to the air or such steep uphill climbs.
My guide in Cambodia was also excellent. Both he and the driver showed and taught me more about their country, as well as giving good advice when I wanted to spend some time navigating Siem Reap on my own. A real highlight was when a Khmer-American who is an expert on Angkor gave me a tour and accompanied me to lunch afterward.
The guide in Nepal was fine, though not quite as fluent in English. He was a bit younger, though still knew a lot, and it was interesting to get a youthful perspective on the country. The car was a relatively aged Fiat but in good condition and the driver was excellent. My impression is that Nepal is a bit more difficult for tourism and I didn't see tons of other tourists going around in massively better vehicles (car import taxes are extreme) or with better guides. Like all of my guides, he took far better photos with my camera than me (and he was thrilled to play with it).
Itinerary and Responsiveness
Originally, I had thought of going to Laos but was happy they steered me to Nepal instead. It was a whole lot more interesting than I expected - I was more keen in Nepali history and culture than trekking. I'm glad I went because it was both interesting and fit in well with the rest of my itinerary as Kathmandu is one of the places you can stop at on the way to Bhutan.
The itinerary was generally put together very well. The amount of time in each place was really just right. I had been concerned that I would not have enough time in Bhutan's Bumthang Valley but they got it exactly right and the plan was very good.
There was only one major hiccup. I had expressed concern about spending a night in Nagarkot, a hill town in the Kathmandu Valley, with great views of the Himalaya because the smog in the valley prevents views in the season I was traveling according to Lonely Planet. Unfortunately, Lonely Planet was right in this case as the smog killed all views even in fine morning weather. Getting to the hotel also proved one of the more unpleasant and long car journeys. The ride back turned out much better, as we broke it up by visiting Bhaktipur before returning to Kathmandu.
I was pleased they left appropriate (but not ridiculously long) amounts of time for flight changes within Asia, as this prevented worries over making flights and gave me time to store and to retrieve a bag with souvenirs in the Bangkok Airport (very easy, btw). When I was able to take an earlier flight to Siem Reap, they arranged to have me picked up at that flight with no problem at all.
Additionally, during the planning stage, the agency was very responsive to my wishes yet also good at making suggestions and explaining alternatives. My travel agents kindly hosted me to a fun high tea in Siem Reap.
There were so many it was hard to say! But there were a few in each country that really stood out. It was hard to beat sitting in on evening prayers in a Bhutanese monastery on my first night in Bumthang and or seeing parts of Buddhist services at a stunning cathedral-like temple and another in a small chapel with a Rinpoche (incarnation) that my guide knew and happened to be there. I'm not a Buddhist but it was amazing.
In Cambodia, Angkor more than lives up to the hype. I enjoyed biking around Angkor Thom and getting a tour of Angkor Wat with a real expert the next day. The lovely hotel was heaven for relaxation. I very much enjoyed the hotel in Patan and in Nepal.
There was only one major hiccup. I had expressed concern about spending a night in Nagarkot, a hill town in the Kathmandu Valley, with great views of the Himalaya because the smog in the valley prevents views in the season I was traveling according to Lonely Planet. Unfortunately, Lonely Planet was right in this case as the smog killed all views even in fine morning weather. Getting to the Nagarkot hotel also proved one of the more unpleasant and long car journeys. The ride back turned out much better, as we broke it up by visiting Bhaktipur before returning to Kathmandu.
I would also spend more time in Siem Reap. It was just a fun town to relax in despite the heat and you can always see more of Angkor!
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