Tours in Review

I took the 15-day tour “Land of the Golden Fleece,” June 24-July 8, 2006, with Explore (booked through Adventure Center, 1311 63rd St., Ste. 200, Emeryville, CA 94608; 800/227-8747,

The land price of the tour, $1,550, included breakfasts and most dinners. (The tour in 2008 is 14 days and $1,690.) Additional meals, local fees, tips, etc., came to $400. Airfare from San Francisco on United and Austrian airlines (the latter was very good, even in economy class) cost $1,800.

My trip had an abysmal start. I left my itinerary and voucher on the...


I spent three wonderful weeks in Viet Nam, Jan. 28-Feb. 19, 2007. I had never before taken a custom, privately guided tour and it was not my intention to do so this time. However, after contacting Vietnam Orient Tours (Fremont, CA; phone 510/794-8989, e-mail or visit, I found myself letting them put together the whole trip.

Chi, the owner, was quick to help, make suggestions and advise me. Her first suggestion was to begin in Hanoi in the north and work my way south to arrive in time for the Tet holiday at Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, the...


My wife, Diana, and I experienced an incredible wildlife photo safari, Aug. 30-Sept. 11, 2007, arranged through Borton Overseas (Minneapolis, MN; 800/843-0602, www.borton The ground operator in Africa was Wilderness Safaris (Johannesburg, South Africa; phone +27 11 257 5133, fax 11 807 9733, Land and internal air for our 12-day safari cost about $7,200 per person.

We started at the luxurious River Club near Livingstone, Zambia, where we took an evening cruise on the river and later crossed into Zimbabwe to tour Victoria Falls. We paid the...


Our family of four took a 10-day trip to Egypt, Nov. 16-27, 2006. We booked it with Prem Sharma of Somak Safaris (2700 East Imperial Highway, Ste. N, Brea, CA 92821; 714/985-3456, (We had also traveled through Somak in 2004, to Tanzania.)

The cost of $3,060 per person included round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Cairo (via Frankfurt), three nights in Cairo (including the sound-and-light show at the pyramids), the flight to Luxor, four nights and five days on the Nile cruise ending in Aswan, two nights in Aswan, an optional trip to Abu Simbel, the return...


Ethiopia and its people are poor. There is malnourishment and there is begging, though it’s not as bad as in India.

Addis Ababa, the capital, is described in the Lonely Planet guide as “massive and incoherent,” which seems apt. Modern, Western buildings are interspersed with shacks with corrugated-metal roofs. Major streets are paved, but the side streets often are dirt lanes.

Around Bole Road, where our tour stayed (at the Central Shoa Hotel — basic but with a good restaurant), there were villages seemingly transplanted from the countryside complete with goats,...


As my husband, Manley, and I are somewhat limited physically, we wanted to see as much of Bhutan as possible but without a lot of physical demands. For a 15-day tour that we took with a friend, April 21-May 6, 2007, we used the superb services of Blue Poppy Tours & Treks (24 Lonsdale Sq., London N1 1EN, U.K.; phone 020 7700 3084 or fax 7609 2029… and Box 1296, Thimphu, Bhutan; phone 00 975 2 333540, fax 333541,

Blue Poppy is co-owned by Mr. Choki Dorji, who lives most of the year in London, and Mr. Karma Wangdi, a resident of Bhutan. Choki, who is...


My husband, Jerry, and I, and our friends Barbara and Harvey Hellering wanted to visit Toulouse, Carcassonne and the Dordogne region of France. Since none of us wanted to drive, we decided to hire someone to arrange the trip and do the driving. Through ITN, we found Connie Wilson, an American living in France and proprietor of France à la Carte (La Chaîne Soulière, 37240 Manthelan, France; phone +33 [0] 247 921 640,

From the first e-mail, we knew that we would be pleased with Connie’s services. She listened to requests and was flexible and resourceful....


I took a trip to Egypt with Explore, booked through Adventure Center (1311 63rd St., Ste. 200, Emeryville, CA 94608; 800/227-8747), in December ’06-January ’07. Adventure Center is a broker listing hundreds of trips run by other operators. Explore is a British company specializing in low-cost small-group tours.

I wasn’t aware of it in advance, but our 17 days on the ground comprised two tours, one from Cairo to Sinai and the other a Nile River cruise, with much of the group leaving and being replaced with another group in Luxor before the cruise. The starting tour group was 13...