Operators let clients wax creative

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NEW YORK -- Whether clients desire to travel independently or in a group, they'll find a wide range of packages from leading Asia/Pacific tour operators that should accommodate their particular needs.

• The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, much of which was filmed in New Zealand, has brought a torrent of publicity to this two-island nation, leading tour operators to design packages to attract more U.S. visitors to "Middle Earth."

Pleasant Holidays is offering two self-drive packages through Aug. 26. An eight-night South Island package from Christchurch to Queenstown begins at $1,785 per person, double, while a 17-night combined North and South Island package begins at $2,015.

Both packages include roundtrip air fare from Los Angeles on Air New Zealand, a compact car rental for the duration of the stay and a Silver Go Kiwi Hotel Pass. Call Pleasant Holidays at (800) 448-3333 or visit www.pleasantagent.com.

• Absolute Asia, long a pacesetter in encouraging Asia-related tourism, has developed many multicountry tours.

Among them are the 16-night Ancient Kingdoms, Fallen Empires tour that visits Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, and the 18-night Palaces, Parks and Gardens package that takes clients to the imperial centers of China and Korea as well as to several sites of natural and man-made beauty. Call Absolute Asia at (800) 736-8187 or visit www.absoluteasia.com.

• Pacific Delight Tours' Design-a-Tour package is ideal for independent travelers who want to create their own China itinerary. It offers nine two- to five-day land modules that can be combined in any order to produce everything from a short stay in Guangzhou to a monthlong exploration of the country.

Priced from $167 to $689 per person, double, each module includes private car airport transfers and private tour guides.

Modules include four days in Beijing from $239 to $509, four days in Shanghai from $249 to $580 and three days in Xian for $178 to $261. Prices depend on the properties selected.

Design-a-Tour packages are offered through March and soon will be expanded with additional segments available throughout Southeast Asia. Call Pacific Delight Tours at (800) 221-7179 or visit www.pacificdelighttours.com.

• Another package with a China focus is Ritz Tours' 17-night Silk Road & Yangtze River Cruise, valid through October, that encompasses a wealth of China experiences. With rates beginning at $2,799 per person, the itinerary features visits to the Great Wall and Forbidden City, followed by stays in the oasis town of Turpan in the Gobi Desert and a stop at Xian, where the Silk Road began, for a look at the Terra-Cotta Warriors and the 1,300-year-old White Goose Pagoda.

The package continues with a cruise aboard a Victoria Cruises vessel on the Yangtze River and concludes with a visit to Shanghai. Call Ritz Tours at (800) 900-2446 or visit the Web site at www.ritztours.com.

• Clients on the West Coast considering a visit to Japan can take advantage of Jalpak's five-night package priced at $890 that includes roundtrip air from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Las Vegas plus five nights at the Hotel New Kyoto and all transfers. For those on the East Coast, the Kyoto five-night package is priced at $928.

Jalpak, sister company of Japan Airlines, has similar packages available to Tokyo. Call Jalpak at (888) 727-8785 or visit www.jalpak.com.

• Malaysia is another Asian nation attracting increasing interest from the U.S. market. Among the products are 25 customized packages offered by Golden Holidays, the new vacation wing of Malaysia Airlines, that are built around themes such as spa, adventure, romance, golf and diving.

The packages are flexible when it comes to adding or subtracting itineraries. Call Golden Holidays at (866) 465-3088 or visit www.goldenholidaysusa.com.

• Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar remains strong against the Vietnamese dong, making travel to Vietnam extremely affordable. Vacation packages include a 19-night tour of Vietnam offered by Djoser, priced from $1,895 out of New York.

This tour visits 11 destinations in Vietnam, from Hanoi to Hue, and includes roundtrip air and hotel accommodations. For more information, call Djoser at (877) 356-7376 or visit www.djoserusa.com.

To contact the reporter who wrote this story, send e-mail to [email protected] .

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