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Announcing the winner of our Exotic Malaysia & Thailand Sweepstakes

Can you believe it? It’s time to announce yet another winner of a free Friendly Planet tour! This one has to be one of my favorites: our Win Exotic Malaysia & Thailand Sweepstakes will award one lucky traveler a free trip for two on our Exotic Borneo & Bangkok tour.

Our winner will get to explore the fascinating culture, natural beauty, and unique history of these Southeast Asian destinations. Whether it’s walking the streets of Bangkok in Thailand, a bustling metropolis with to-die-for cuisine, or exploring Borneo in Malaysia, where a mosaic of indigenous tribes, intriguing history, ancient rainforests, and diverse wildlife await — trust me, this winner is lucky indeed.

Are you ready to find out who this winner is? Here it comes! The winner of our Exotic Malaysia & Thailand Sweepstakes is …

Sara Morgan from Oregon — Congratulations!

We called Sara to let her know about her prize, and she was so sweet. She loves traveling to explore different cultures and experience new things, but doesn’t get the opportunity to do so often. She’s never been to Asia, and works with some Asian species of bears in her role at a zoo, so she’s looking forward to getting to see them in person! She’ll be taking her husband on her exciting adventure to Southeast Asia!

Congratulations again, Sara. I know you’re just going to love your vacation.

Thanks to everyone who entered our sweepstakes. Although you couldn’t all win, we have some great news for you about our super Cyber Monday sale, which will make it possible for you to save BIG on every Friendly Planet tour, so stay tuned. More details coming soon.

Exploring the wonders of Thailand with a devoted and passionate local guide

I always look back on my trip to Thailand with fond memories. One of the biggest reasons why I had such a memorable experience is due, in large part, to our local tour guide Lek, who was warm, welcoming, and extremely knowledgeable about Thailand’s history, attractions, and culture.

Now, as we end our Exotic Malaysia & Thailand Sweepstakes, is a good opportunity for Lek to share with our readers what makes Thailand special from a native’s perspective, and what travelers can look forward to seeing when they visit. Read on for our Q-and-A with her.

Q: Lek, could you please share a bit of your background with us?

A: I was born, raised, and educated in Bangkok. After graduating from high school, I attended the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus [for college]. I was a secretary major, and then joined the travel industry. I’ve worked for several agencies, but I’ve been with Exotissimo, Friendly Planet’s local supplier, for almost ten years!

Q: What made you decide that you wanted to get into the travel industry?

A: When I was young I had contact with foreigners because I attended Catholic school. The nuns who came from abroad taught me English, and I got to know them. My interactions with the nuns and priests sparked my interest in travel, and I envisioned joining the travel industry by possibly becoming a flight attendant.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide? (more…)

Finding the spiritual side of Thailand

Most visitors to Thailand are struck by the obvious spirituality of the place, a paradox in a way, because life, particularly in Bangkok, is as frenetic and modern as anywhere in the world. Over 93 percent of the population in Thailand practices Buddhism, according to the Pew Research Center, and this religion permeates almost every aspect of life there – from the culture to the architecture to the people.

It’s a very special place, and one lucky traveler will get to experience it for free through our Win Exotic Malaysia and Thailand Sweepstakes. Be sure to enter to win a free trip for two now if you haven’t.

Visiting Thailand was also a very special experience for Liz Hutchins, a member of the Friendly Planet Travel Reservations Team and our resident SE Asia expert. We shared her first-hand account of her trip to Vietnam earlier this year in a blog post, as well as some of her photography and her review of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. But her trip to Thailand was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Liz, and you’ll see why when you read her account of her trip to this fascinating destination.

“My trip to Vietnam last year helped me realize that I absolutely love traveling to Southeast Asia. Once I was advised I was being invited by the tourism board to see Thailand, I literally jumped at the opportunity. The spiritual side of Asia has always been a big part of its draw for me. I was brought up as a Christian, but I have always appreciated and respected all religions, Buddhism in particular. Getting to immerse myself in the Buddhist culture was very eye-opening, and as you can see, was right on time, for I was about to enter a new chapter of my life …

Our tour started in the busy city of Bangkok. Here we saw popular sites like the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha. Because of their enormous significance, each site had more tourists than the last, which made our experience feel very fast-paced and exciting. But my favorite temple that we visited was Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep.

(more…)

How you can win a FREE trip for two to Malaysia and Thailand!

If you didn’t come out on top of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes, don’t fret. We had so much fun putting that sweepstakes together that we’ve got another surprise in store — we’re giving away ANOTHER free trip for two!

This one is a real treat — an 11-day adventure to Malaysia and Thailand on our Exotic Borneo & Bangkok tour. And since we’re conducting this sweepstakes in partnership with Tourism Malaysia and Tourism Authority of Thailand, you know you’ll see the best these countries have to offer. If you don’t need to hear more and want to enter now, simply visit our Facebook page, Like us, and enter your information in the Win Exotic Malaysia and Thailand tab for your chance to win this prize, worth up to $4,900! Since this is a brand-new contest, you’ll have to enter your information (whether or not you participated in our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes) to be eligible to win this prize.

Thailand is a beautiful country that’s flush with exotic wildlife, spectacular islands, and rich history. In fact, it’s one of the most visited destinations we offer. On the other hand, Malaysia is an up-and-coming hot spot that offers visitors a fusion of cultures, cuisine, beauty, and adventure that travelers need to see to believe. The lucky traveler that wins this tour won’t be disappointed with all there is to see and do in these countries.

Our grand prize package includes:

  • Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or New York including fuel surcharges, taxes, and fees
  • All intra-Asia flights and ground transportation
  • Accommodations in deluxe and superior first-class hotels
  • Buffet breakfast daily and five lunches
  • Comprehensive sightseeing tours
  • Professional English-speaking tour guides

So read the full itinerary and then be sure to visit our Facebook page to put your name in the hat! Don’t forget to invite your friends to enter! You’ll earn an extra entry for every friend that enters through your invite, increasing your chances of winning.

The sweepstakes will close at 11:59 p.m. on November 15, and we’ll announce the winner soon after. To all of our travelers, good luck!

 

Why Thailand owns the title ‘incredible’

We recently announced new departure dates for Friendly Planet Travel’s Incredible Thailand tour, and they’re already selling out! However, I’m not surprised. Thailand is beloved by our travelers, including Dr. Ak Schmidt, a long-time Friendly Planet traveler who just returned from our Incredible Thailand tour.

She sent me an e-mail telling me why her tour was so wonderful, and gives some excellent advice if you’re traveling to Thailand. I copied the e-mail below (verbatim).

“the trip to thailand was indeed incredible! it sounds great on the friendly planet overview but it’s so much more! i don’t know where to start. hotels were great. everyone should stay at the dusit thani. we went back there for a weekend on our own.

our guide was awesome. she made extra stops for us along the road for things like sticky rice cooked in bamboo (loved that) and always asked if everyone had their passports, etc when we went to a different place. she took us on a boat to laos and everyone got their passports stamped and of course we got to shop a little.

as far as shopping goes, i’d say watch out. thailand has everything and you’re gonna want it all. bangkok is easy to get around in and has a super mall close to the dusit thani. one thing i would say too is that the golden buddha and the white temple should be emphasized more in the advertising because they are unique and more than amazing – truly incredible!!

i’ve been to egypt, borneo, morocco, cambodia, vietnam, kenya and now thailand with fp. going to south africa this summer. guess that tells you something. ps. will send pix if any are good, but jim yancey is gonna have the best pictures. you should pick some for your website. ps2, our guide, lek, was the best i’ve ever had and y’all have some good ones. and noni, her assistant had a cooler with ICE and COLD soft drinks and water. i can’t tell you how wonderful that was. a really great practice where it’s so hot.” — Dr. Schmidt, La Grange, Texas

Thanks Dr. Schmidt for the kind words! I look forward to hearing about your trip to South Africa with us. If you’re interested in experiencing Thailand, you can still book a departure date for the 14-day Incredible Thailand tour. But hurry, space is limited!

Gary Arndt’s lessons to take with you on the road

A few months ago, we caught up with Gary Arndt, author of Everything Everywhere, in a podcast. We talked to him about how he quit his job, sold his house, and started traveling the world. For the last three years he’s been documenting his travels on Everything Everywhere, which was voted one of Time Magazine’s 25 Best Blogs of 2010.

The reason I’m bringing up Gary is that I stumbled upon a guest post he wrote on the The Blog of Tim Ferriss, called “20 Things I’ve Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years.” Everything he’s learned I can say I, too, have learned in my 30 plus years of traveling.

Not only that, but a few of his lessons are the very same ones I am constantly preaching, such as everyone should travel. Traveling exposes you to different cultures, but it also teaches you that despite where we come from, we’re not all so different from one another.

Gary also brings up an important point about the political protests we covered in detail when they occurred earlier in the year in Bangkok, Thailand. He was in Bangkok at the time of the protests, and he witnessed firsthand, that unless you were in the area where these protests were occurring, you would never know they were happening.

Bangkok is a sprawling city, and these protests were occurring in isolated areas. It broke my heart when tourism to this magnificent country suffered because of reports that led travelers to believe it was unsafe to go there. Fortunately, tourism to Thailand has been rebounding beautifully and all has returned to normal.

Jump over to the article to read more about what he’s learned on the road. I think a lot of travelers will be able to relate with what Gary says. And in case you missed the podcast with Gary the first time around you can still listen to it or read the transcript.

Is there anything you’ve learned from traveling that Gary doesn’t mention? Leave a comment on this post letting us know what it is.

Talking Thailand on Around the World Travel Radio

Last week I got the chance to share my passion for one of my favorite places in the world, Thailand, with Arthur von Wiesenberger from Around the World Travel Radio. We talked about how well tourism is bouncing back after the political protests, what makes Thailand one of the most beautiful locales in the world, and Friendly Planet Travel’s three tours to the country.

Listen to our conversation on Around the World’s website. Thanks to Around the World Travel Radio for chatting with me!

Travel to Thailand bouncing back

It warms my heart to hear the news that tourism to Thailand is making a strong rebound from the political protests that disrupted this normally peaceful country from March to June. eTurboNews reported that tourism is up by almost 14 percent and Thailand hopes to reach the 14 million visitors goal it set for 2010.

We followed the unfolding situation in Bangkok from day one to give you the most up-to-date information about what was happening on the ground. And as soon as the U.S. Department of State lifted its travel warning to the country we resumed our tours to Thailand to help the country rebuild the tourism infrastructure that it relies so dearly upon.

The country is also a top tourism destination. Travel and Leisure recently gave Bangkok its Top City award in its August issue. And Friendly Planet Travel loves it for its beauty, spirituality, and fascinating sights and sounds. Most of all, its welcoming, warm people make every visitor feel at home.

So that’s why I’m excited to give travelers more chances to experience the islands, cities, ancient ruins, and exotic architecture that make Thailand one of the best places on the planet to visit at an unbelievable price. Friendly Planet Travel’s nine-day Taste of Thailand tour is now just $999 (which is less than a weekend in Las Vegas when you think about it!).

Not a single corner is cut in the price tag. Included is round-trip airfare from Los Angeles via China Airlines, including fuel surcharges; intra-Thailand transportation; accommodations at first-class hotels; full American buffet breakfast daily and one dinner; sightseeing tours as per itinerary and all transfers; professional, English-speaking tour guides; optional extensions to Angkor Wat and Phuket Island; and more.

The Taste of Thailand tour takes travelers to three of Thailand’s most dynamic and awe-inspiring cities: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Kanchanaburi. I’ve told you all about these locations before, so flip back to my previous post on Thailand to read all about them, or visit our website for the full tour itinerary.

I expect this tour to be one of our most popular, so don’t wait an extra second to book the nine-day Taste of Thailand tour for $999 price. If you have questions, visit our website for the full tour itinerary, write to me, or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Travel and Leisure readers name Bangkok Top City

Travel and Leisure gave Bangkok its Top City award in its August issue. Some people were surprised to hear this because of the political protests that took place in the city from March to June, but I wasn’t.

Keep in mind that from December to March, 16,000 Travel and Leisure readers voted for their favorite city for this issue. So the protests that disrupted tourism in Bangkok had not yet occurred.

But honestly, even if the survey had been taken in the midst of the demonstrations, I doubt the results would have been different. Bangkok is simply a spectacular city, and this award clearly demonstrates how much it is loved by travelers.

Unfortunately, the protests did put a dark cloud over the city, and even though peace has been restored, tourism to Thailand is still suffering as travelers cautiously reconsider traveling there.

While I’m sure tourism will soon rebound and exceed previous levels, it still saddens me that for now, some people are missing out on opportunities to experience the islands, cities, ancient ruins, and exotic architecture that make Thailand one of the best places on the planet to visit.

I hope this award reminds travelers of what makes Bangkok so alluring. I love that it’s a microcosm, a city with something for everyone. You can tour the city, admiring the modern buildings, malls, and plazas.

Or you can shop and explore the numerous street markets, travel the canals to see traditional Thai homes and people going about their everyday lives, and eat the most amazing food you’ll ever taste. (I’m terribly fussy about what I eat, but I love Thai food.) Just a few hours from Bangkok are gorgeous, and not terribly expensive, beach resorts as well as historical sites, complete with intricately carved temples.

The value for your money in Thailand is incredible. I like to tell a story of when I needed a new suitcase to bring home all the treasures I had bought in Bangkok. I wanted to buy a good-quality suitcase so I could use it for future trips, and I was prepared to spend what I thought would be at least a few hundred dollars.

My guide brought me to a luggage store in a lovely, upscale mall. I looked around, examining all the various options and then proceeded to buy the best (most expensive) suitcase I could find. It had all the bells and whistles on it, including hidden compartments, zippers galore, non-rip material, and locks with keys. It only cost me $29.

I’ve been using it for two years now, and by the way, it has held up better than any other suitcase I own. And the value Thailand offers to travelers goes way beyond goods to all areas of tourism infrastructure, including hotels, meals, entrance fees, and every other cost item associated with a trip to Thailand. The genuine warmth, friendliness, and goodwill of the Thai people toward their visitors is the value added that is absolutely for free.

Friendly Planet Travel has been selling tours to Thailand since 2003 because we believe in it as a destination. This award proves that we’re not the only ones who think so. Shortly after the political protests ended we felt it was safe to re-enter Bangkok. So we reinstated our programs and even launched a new tour, giving us three different tours to Thailand.

My goal is that they will help boost tourism back to its previous levels and hopefully beyond. With all my heart, I hope Travel and Leisure’s award brings to people’s attention that Thailand is ready to welcome tourists back.

And for those travelers ready to go, please check out our three wonderful tours. A Taste of Thailand, Incredible Thailand, and Treasures of Thailand all have available departure dates and will cost you less than a weekend in Las Vegas.

Friendly Planet resumes tours to Thailand

In my last post about Thailand, I told you how I couldn’t make an official announcement about new tours we were planning — but I can now! Today we officially re-launched the Taste of Thailand tour starting at $999. There are only two dates available right now at that price, so book your trip before it sells out.

I’m thrilled about this news! :) We issued a press release that hit today. Read on to get the details on why we decided now was the right time to go back to Thailand and what’s included in the price.


Friendly Planet Travel Resumes Tours to Thailand

With travel warnings lifted for Thailand, Friendly Planet Travel re-launches its nine-day Taste of Thailand Tour for $999

JENKINTOWN, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Friendly Planet Travel has resumed its tours to Thailand after the U.S. Department of State lifted its travel warning to the country. Friendly Planet is re-launching its nine-day Taste of Thailand tour for $999 with the first departure on Aug. 25, 2010. Two months ago, Friendly Planet cancelled all of its Thailand tours without any penalties to its customers when travel warnings were issued due to political demonstrations. With demonstrations ceased, the U.S. and other countries have lifted their travel warnings and the Thai people are welcoming back travelers to restore its tourism infrastructure.

“The U.S. Department of State has given us the OK to resume travel to Thailand as the political unrest has died down,” says Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel. “We’ve also been working closely with our partners on the ground in Thailand to monitor the situation.

We’ve been in business for 30 years, and over that long span, have experienced many travel warnings for points around the globe. The determining factor behind all of our actions is always safety. We would never send our travelers into harm’s way. So rest assured, anyone traveling to Thailand with Friendly Planet Travel will safely enjoy the country’s intense beauty and rich culture.”

The Taste of Thailand tour takes travelers to three of Thailand’s most dynamic and awe-inspiring cities: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Kanchanaburi. Included in the price are: round-trip airfare from Los Angeles via China Airlines, including fuel surcharges; intra-Thailand transportation; accommodations at first class hotels; daily American buffet breakfast; a welcome dinner; sightseeing tours as per itinerary and all transfers; and professional, English-speaking tour guides.

The tour begins in Bangkok, Thailand’s sprawling capital city, also known as “Venice of the East.” Travelers will take a canal boat ride on Bangkok’s waterways for a close up view of traditional Thai life. But to fully understand Thailand, it is essential to experience the fabric that binds together its national identity: its temples. Travelers will visit some of the country’s most important temple sites, including Wat Po, the oldest temple in Bangkok, and Wat Trimitr, where the 5-ton, 700-year-old Golden Buddha resides, the largest in the world.

Then it’s on to Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s best known for Bang Pa, King Rama IV’s summer palace. It represents an appealing fusion of Thai, Chinese, and European architectural styles. Next up is Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai, where visitors can ride an elephant through the lush jungle and enjoy a bamboo raft ride down the gently flowing river.

Travelers can also choose from two optional extensions. The first is Phuket Island, Thailand’s largest island, also known as “the Pearl of the Andaman Sea.” This stop includes a relaxing stay at Thailand’s famous Novotel Resort with plenty of sun-drenched days on the pristine beaches of Kalim Bay. There’s also an optional tour to the astonishing Angkor Wat in Cambodia for travelers looking to explore one of the most magnificent archaeological sites in the world.

For more information visit Friendly Planet Travel’s website at www.FriendlyPlanet.com, the blog at blog.friendlyplanet.com, or contact Jackie Zima at Gregory FCA at 610-228-2138 (office), 215-534-2973 (mobile), or write to Jackie@GregoryFCA.com.

ABOUT FRIENDLY PLANET TRAVEL

Friendly Planet Travel (http://www.friendlyplanet.com/) makes high-quality exotic travel affordable for everyone. Since 1981, Friendly Planet Travel has been arranging all-inclusive escorted discount vacation packages and cruises to the most exciting destinations in the world at the lowest possible prices.

Each year, Friendly Planet Travel offers more than 30 different group travel packages to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America — at discounts of hundreds of dollars off similar vacations. With no hidden charges, add-ons or surprises, Friendly Planet Travel vacations include convenient flights and airfare, carefully-selected first-class and superior hotels, knowledgeable English-speaking guides, many meals, and itineraries as well as friendships and memories that last a lifetime.

Friendly Planet Travel offers its extensive, economical travel services to private groups including universities, religious institutions, alumni associations, and families. Groups who wish to travel together can count on Friendly Planet Travel’s three decades of experience to operate their group travel program expertly and always at the very best possible prices. Visit us at www.FriendlyPlanet.com.

Press contact:
Gregory FCA
Jackie Zima
Account Supervisor
610-228-2138
Jackie@GregoryFCA.com

Company Contact:
Friendly Planet Travel
Peggy Goldman
President
215-572-9594
PMGoldman@FriendlyPlanet.com

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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