Flashes of the Unusual / Immersion in the Exotic Define Work of Asia Transpacific Journeys

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Elephant polo is window on culture for travelers seeking highly unusual memories in Asia. Asia Transpacific Journeys' calendar includes elephant polo in Thailand in September.

Flashes of the unusual and immersion in the exotic … The discerning eyes of Marilyn Downing Staff and her team at Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ) leave no stone unturned when seeking out and providing experiences for their traveling clientele in sought-after regions of Asia and the Pacific.

For example, folks who travel on customized itineraries with ATJ early Fall 2006 can attend an annual Elephant Polo tournament held Sept. 4-10 in Chiang Saen. The tournament takes place at the Anantara Resort, located approximately an hour from Chiang Rai where guests can lodge in comfort with private balconies overlooking scenic mountains.

ATJ reports that Sept. 1-3 are practice days leading up to a 30-elephant parade through Chiang Saen on Sept. 4. The tournament ground is a school play yard in town. Entry to the tournament is free; donations go to the National Elephant Institute which provides medical care, sustenance, employment and welfare to Thailand's elephant population.

Elephant polo is similar to horse polo. Two teams of each three players on elephants try to put a small ball into a goal wielding a stick of two meters. Playing time is two halves (chukkas) of 7 minutes with a 15-minute interval. Players will come from all over the world (16 teams have registered up to now) and elephants will come from several elephant camps, from as far as Surin in the south.

“We take exceptional effort to assure that the events and festivals showcased to our travelers are programs of integrity that have a positive local and regional impact and community benefits,” says Staff, CEO of the company that has been conducting trips to Asia for 18 years.

She says that the most important rule of elephant polo is protecting the health and welfare of the elephants used in the tournament. Abuse of the elephants is considered to be the most serious offense.

“Witnessing an event like elephant polo,” she says, “reveals many facets of a culture in just a day or two. It’s incredibly insightful to join in on these occasions, and it’s a lot of fun. And it’s also possible to take a jungle trek through the surrounding countryside atop these graceful and intelligent creatures.”

The tournament is sponsored by Anantara Resorts, who maintains an Elephant Camp on its premises near Chiang Saen.

She says that travelers on both private Custom Journeys and Small Group Trips of up to 16 people experience a range of events and festivals throughout the year.

Clients on Custom Journeys to Thailand can expect to pay per person daily from $250 and up for land costs that include beyond-the-ordinary lodging, meals, transport and private guide. Rates for these customized itineraries vary, are calculated on programs and activities requested.

Asia Transpacific Journeys has been crafting private Custom Journeys and Small Group Trips to the Asia/Pacific region since 1987.

Says CEO Downing Staff: “Our intimate, in-depth style promotes cross-cultural understanding, encourages environmental sustainability, and fulfills long-held personal dreams.” She notes that ATJ’S regional expertise also makes ATJ the operator of choice for dozens of America’s most demanding universities and museums.

For 2006 ATJ’s ever-expanding itineraries of 18 Small Group trips and Custom Journeys encompasses 20 countries in North Asia, South Asia, SE Asia and the Pacific. Some trips also support global conservation and cultural preservation. ATJ’s own non-profit Asia Transpacific Foundation, established in 1998, works with rural Asian communities to provide clean drinking water through locally made ceramic water filters.

For more information please see http://www.asiatranspacific.com or call toll free 800-642-2742.

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Sara Widness
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