Travel Weeklys Asia-Pacific E-letter: February 23, 2006

BIG FIVE TOURS & EXPEDITIONS introduced an eight-night program to Kerala, India, designed to offer an in-depth experience of what the tour company is calling an increasingly popular region. Guests stay at a heritage resort on Coconut Lagoon and at a hillside retreat near the tea plantations of Munnar that offers massages and Ayurvedic wellness regimes. Also included is a houseboat cruise, a boating safari through Keralas Periyar Sanctuary and a stay in Cochin. The land-only price starts at $1,190 per person, double occupancy. It includes hotel and houseboat accommodations, sightseeing, the services of a professional guide/driver throughout the tour and daily breakfast. For more information, call (800) BIG FIVE or log onto www.bigfive.com.

JOURNEYS WITHIN, a boutique tour operation based in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is re-launching its Mekong Experience tour, on the heels of its successful run in 2005. The 30-night program follows the Mekong River from the Yunnan Province, China, to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, crossing six countries -- China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam -- and including accommodations in a variety of options from luxury teakwood boats to five star hotels and from a basic communist hotel to small longtail boats. The price of the trip is $5,450 per person, double occupancy, and with departures Oct. 26 or Nov. 9. For more information, see http://journeys-within.com or call (877) 454-3672.

INDUS TRAVELS, based in Richmond, British Columbia, created the 14-night Festivals of Sri Lanka & South India tour, departing Aug. 3, spotlighting the Kandy Esala Perahera in Sri Lanka, when locals give thanks for a bountiful harvest with elephant parades, and the Nehru Boat Race in Alleppy, an event with music and folk dancing surrounding a backwater boat race. The package is priced from $1,795 per person, double occupancy, and includes accommodations and daily breakfast; sightseeing; entrance fees for the Kandy Temple & Cultural Show and a Kathakali dance performance in Cochin; a boat trip at Periyar National Park; one night on a houseboat in Alleppy; and taxes. For details, call (866) 978-2997, e-mail [email protected] or log onto www.industravels.ca.

THE INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS GROUP signed contracts to manage six new hotels set to open in 2006 and 2007, collectively totaling more than 4,500 rooms in China. Owned by Chengdu International Exhibition & Convention Group, the properties are in Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou in Chinas Sichuan province. Of the six hotels, two are InterContinentals, three are Holiday Inns and one is an Express by Holiday Inn. Now one of the largest international hotel operators in China, IHG first entered the country in 1984 with the opening of a Holiday Inn.

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