Friday, June 17, 2016

Viator: victory and variety with lively, well organized tours

Singapore's sound and light show attracts visitors from all over the world. Highlights are these magical "lit-up trees." 
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is best visited through a tour.  Our Viator
cut through the throngs. If you're with a tour, there's power in numbers.



IN OUR COMBINED decades of global travel, we have always taken tours, chiefly as a way of introducing ourselves to the new.
Tours are as different as places and people. One should choose them carefully, educate before booking and be prepared to enjoy -- by putting complete energy into the activities, making the most of it.
Our recent five-week foray to the Far East proved again that well planned tours are our way to go.
Keller and Cookie pause in Hong Kong, part of a lively 
half-day tour which hit a half-dozen highlights of the city
Unless you are meeting family or friends, and plan to be hosted for full, active touring, you'll find that reputable tours afford many benefits. We chose Viator because we like the variety it offers and all but one of our seven tours had excellent, engaging, witty guides.
Again, do some homework to find a good fit but Viator knows its stuff.
EVEN DIE-HARD "on my own" kind of travelers find Viator a good way to get to know a city or region.
If you enjoy participating in planned activities, meeting new people from myriad backgrounds, and having the peace of mind that someone else has booked the tickets and planned the transportation, tours are up your alley.
Tours, like most of life, are what you make them.
Tours often incorporate a meal, a great way to sample
the culinary wonders of wherever you are on the planet.
For us, they're a great way to travel, because they get us out of the hotel room (we're usually low-key in the morning, with our coffee, books, exercise, walk and a bite before noon).
TOURS ARE not for everyone, But particularly when in a new city, we love a half-day tour for the overview and to ground us. Often we return to a neighborhood, museum or eatery on our own.
Other advantages of touring include large-scale coverage of an area. You might be 100 miles away in a few hours, and on your third stop. Tours cover a lot, and are excellent for first or second visits to a city. For us, they're an educational alternative to lazy mornings.
Colorful Singapore street displays
were part of an evening tour.
Organized tours can be theme-oriented, too, to concentrate
on museums and the arts.  In Bangkok, a night tour 
included a traditional Thai dance presentation.
Our day trip to Mt. Fuji incorporated a morning drive from busy Tokyo into the lovely countryside, a trip to the famous mountain (kitschy gift shop naturally, but easy to grab magnets and other flat, small gifts.) We enjoyed a beautifully presented bento-box lunch at a traditional Japanese inn, an exciting aerial tram tide over the volcanic cone of the Hakone Range, and a short but lovely cruise on Lake Ashinoko.
This Hong Kong jeweler was part of a morning tour
to a jewelry store (Hong Kong has the world's most.) 
OUR HALF-DAY Hong Kong tour included a sampan ride to the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a drive to Victoria Peak, time at Stanley Market for shopping and wandering and a visit to a famous jewelry store to watch artisans.
Cookie and Keller at Victoria Peak, part of an organized Hong Kong tour.
We took organized tours in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Saigon and other cities on our recent Far East foray.  We saw three to four times as much as we would have on our own.
Especially in new terrain, having someone else do the planning is wonderful, too. The tour
assembles the itinerary and allots the time. Without a tour, we might spend 3 or 4 hours in a single place. A tour gets you in and out in an hour or 90 minutes, frustrating if you want to linger. (If you're in Paris, tours won't spend a day at the Louvre. But come back.)
A good tour incorporates variety -- say, an hour on the river, a tram ride, stop in a museum or specialty shop to watch a craftsman, maybe an interesting lunch.
TRANSPORTATION is a key part. The tour company gets you from point A to point B, so you don’t worry about getting lost, renting a car, finding a subway or hailing a cab.  You can usually arrange to leave the tour early -- if you wish to remain somewhere -- and make your own way back.
LANGUAGE EASE is another plus to a tour.  You may enjoy using Berlitz French, Italian or Mandarin, but it's lovely to have an English speaking guide to tour you around Ephesus, the Vatican or the Great Wall. We always get to know our guide and ask questions. (Don't forget to tip; guides rely on this. And fill out the evaluation. They're read.)

Rosina Reynolds, a familiar face in all the theater
venues around San Diego, plays Golda Meir.
DON'T MISS: Golda Meir made history as Israel's prime minister.  The brilliant, ground-breaking woman is beautifully portrayed in "Golda's Balcony" by the gifted Rosina Reynolds. She does a marvelous job in bringing life to this multi-dimensional icon, managing to be both "large" and intimate in the wonderful, small space of New Village Arts Theatre, Carlsbad.  Reynolds' Golda is both tough and tender, seeking peace in the world and in her marriage. Todd Salovey of San Diego Repertory Theatre and the Lipinsky Jewish Festival directs this masterful production, with photos of the seminal events of which Golda played a part, and the all important "Golda wig" to keep us focused. Not that we need it with Reynolds in command. A bravura performance and you may catch it and a "Golda Gin and Tonic" through June 26.

Alexander Calder is one of many famous names you'll
find in the sculpture and music roster at Tippet Rise.
UP NEXT: Two wealthy philanthropists who love nature and the arts equally have dug deep into their ample pockets to bestow a grand gift on Montana and the world. Tippet Rise, near Fishtail, Montana, has a grandeur and beauty about it with world class musicians, state-of-the-art acoustics and buildings and outdoor sculpture to knock your socks off.  An Alexander Calder sculpture sets the tone for a wonderful evening of exploration and discovery, merging landscape, art and music. Cathy and Peter Halstead are on hand to launch their long dreamed of endeavor. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend. The Tippet Rise piece will post next Friday afternoon.

1 comment:

  1. Obispo GlobetrottersJune 18, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    Wonderful, an unsolicited endorsement for organized tours. People who DON'T travel widely often pooh-pooh them, but we savvy travelers know they're the best way to acquaint oneself with new territory. Well done. And fun photos.