India: Textile Heaven!

September 1 – 17, 2018  •  Depart for home from Mumbai on September 18.
Our popular India Textile Tour is back for 2018!   (The 2017 textile tour was a huge success!)

INDIA famiy in RajasthanHIGHLIGHTS: We’ll welcome you to India at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. After a good night’s sleep, we’ll head west to the famous textile and art producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. There we will visit many textile artists in their work places and homes and will stamp or dye our own creations in three workshops. We’ll travel to the Little Rann of Kutch, a very interesting area, and stay in traditional round bungalows. Then finally we head south to visit coastal Cochin and spend twenty-four hours on a beautiful houseboat in the tropical lagoons of Kerala. Cynthia LeCount Samake and specialized local guides will accompany the itinerary. In order to make the most of our time in the country, we will fly to several destinations.

DETAILS: Master textile artists will hold private textile workshops, just for our groups: block-printing, tie-dye on silk, and  indigo-dyeing! We will learn several dyeing and printing processes, beginning with a visit to the place where slabs of wood are carved into intricate designs for the printing blocks. At the block-print studio, we will be welcomed to watch the artists stamping designs with precision onto the cotton fabric. In our dye workshop, we’ll make silk scarves, tying off or stitching the areas to be resisted from the dye. We’ll tour the world-famous Calico (textile) Museum in Ahmedabad, with its exceptional cloth and clothing collections, and we’ll meet the famous double-ikat weavers of Patan. Seeing their complex dyeing techniques and finished masterpieces is totally fascinating.

Silk tie-dyed scarf before white threads were taken out.

Silk tie-dyed scarf before white threads were pulled out.

During the trip, we’ll travel by private van, and stay in fascinating Heritage hotels in towns, [even a Majarajah’s palace!] and new, traditional bunghas in the little-visited rural northern Gujarati area of Kutch. The round earthen bunghas with thatched roofs are embellished with floral scrolls of bas-relief mirror and mud decorations around the windows and doors.

We’ll also meet local women who do intricate shisha mirror embroidery, in northern Gujarat. We will visit many ancient temples and other architecturally fascinating sites such as the famous Adalaj and Rani Ki Vav stepwells. These ancient and elaborate fresh water wells were built between the 11th and 16th centuries, with carved marble columns, decorated niches, and other details.

In Jaipur we’ll meet the director and the girls at a workshop/home established to help girls stay in school and learn skills – to sew and make crafts, to eventually make a living on their own. If you’d like to bring them some sewing or school supplies they would be thrilled! They need good quality scissors like Fiskar snips, trims, cloth scraps, and so forth, as well as pens and pencils and notebooks. In Jaipur, we will also visit the excellent Anokhi Printing Museum for a great introduction into our next workshops of wooden blockprinting! In a nearby village, we’ll visit an expert block print artist for a complete introduction into block-printed or stamped fabric. At his studio, we will have the option to print 2 yards of light cotton cloth suitable for clothing or a tablecloth, or you can print a cotton scarf.

When we have made some wonderful projects in our workshops, and have seen all the art and architecture that we can possibly absorb, we will fly south to the state of Kerala, and the pretty coastal town of Cochin. We land in Cochin, see the Chinese fishing nets at the beach, India’s oldest synagogue, and Mattancherry Palace. The palace was a generous gift presented to the Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma (1537–61), as a gesture of goodwill by the Portuguese in 1555. There is also an excellent privately-owned folk art museum that we will visit, and we’ll see traditional Kathakali dances. Then we’ll head to the gorgeous backwater lagoons and spend twenty-four hours floating on luxurious, private wood and wicker houseboats with our own chefs!

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Deepak.BaghruBird life is abundant on the water; we will float by trees full of weaver bird nests, as we enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Bring a ‘real’ book or a book on your iPad or Kindle, your knitting, or your yoga moves! Thoroughly relaxed from our houseboat cruise, at the end of our great tour, we return to our modern hotel on the water,  for the Farewell Dinner. Next day, we fly home from Mumbai -on September 18th. Plan your flights to depart BOM anytime after 9:30 pm.

TRIP PRICE:  $4960    (Single Supplement: $875)    Maximum 12 travelers.
Includes: 17 nights accommodation (double rooms with private bath) in charming heritage hotels, modern hotels in cities, and clean local hotels in remote areas. On the houseboat, the comfortable, A/C cabins are double share (singles subject to availability).
The itinerary has been carefully planned to cover a lot of ground, but also not to move around every night. We spend 2 or 3 nights in each destination; for example, 3 nights in both Jaipur and Bhuj.

There will be a post-tour of the Taj Mahal and SOS Bear  Rescue Center in Agra for those interested, at a modest extra cost. Info to come after you’ve signed up.

We relax on houseboats in the tropical lagoons.Also included are all meals and tea breaks, water/tea/coffee and soft drinks with meals; all local transportation in good vans with professional, good-natured drivers. Also all interior flights, bottled water on road trips and houseboat; all village visits and museum entrances as on itinerary; all temple and cultural site visits as on itinerary; airport arrival and departure transport (on group arrival and departure days), luggage porter tips, professional English-speaking guides, with an Indian textile expert in the Gujarat region; and American Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary– plus WOW! a custom travelogue photo book sent to you after the trip. Lunch only included on September 18, departure day.

Not included: International airfare, visa for India, required travel insurance (recommend Travel Guard); alcoholic beverages, tips for guide and driver, laundry, between-meal snacks and water (although we will have bottled water in the van for all the day trips); internet charges if any, and camera/video fees if required. You will need a visa for India; information will be forthcoming for online application.
Tipping Guidelines will be sent with trip information.

India woodblock carver

 

Laos, Cambodia & Thailand

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

June 17 – July 3, 2018

3 PTK edited-CalendarYou’ll be met in Luang Prabang (LPQ) on June 17 at the airport, and we’ll all fly home from Siem Reap (REP) on July 4.  More flight info later.

Go Behind-the-Scenes to a fabulous festival in little-known northern Thailand. See the superb UNESCO site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos. This is more than a textile tour, but there will be plenty of textiles: We’ll watch weavers at work, and learn how they tie and dye threads to create exquisite ikat patterned fabric in both silk and cotton. We travel in a big loop, seeing the best of all three countries — the most interesting textiles, architecture, archeology and culture — including three UNESCO World Heritage sites.

TRIP DETAILS: We’ll fly into Luang Prabang, Laos, on June 17, to see the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples, and you’ll have a free day to explore this laid-back and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance: we will spend the afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll make natural dyes and dye silk scarves, and also watch talented silk weavers.  Ock Pop Tok also has a couple of excellent shops near our hotel. Dinner by the Mekong; see if you are brave enough to try the fermented water buffalo skin condiment! The fried river moss is actually delicious.

The local market is interesting, and there is an excellent new textile museum that we will enjoy. You can try shopping at the Night Market with all its handicrafts and art; although it is getting rather commercialized, there are still some interesting things to be found. Along with the magnificently decorated temples, a significant part of the old town’s appeal is the many French provincial style houses, the riverside location, and the tropical ambiance—Luang Prabang is a delightful place to relax and learn about Lao culture.

Yummy chicken curry in a Thai pumpkin!

Then we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital of Laos – Vientiane – where we’ll visit the enormous textile/fabric market, and meet the weavers in a nearby weaving village with a Laotian friend. We’ll also tour an innovative silk weaving studio, and see the the famous Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas. Later we cross the Mekong into Thailand, and continue southwest to a village known for its raucous and entertaining PHI TA KHON parade of fabulously masked dancers. Phi Ta Khon, means “Ghosts Following People,” and the celebration commemorates a joyful event in young Buddha’s life, as a prince. Dancers create sensational costumes and masks, and cavort with  phallus-shaped swords, related to the fertility emphasis of the festival.

The masks are true works of art, taking some artists months to make from a hard, woody coconut palm tree sheath (the end of the big stem, where it attaches to the tree trunk), with a sticky rice basket stitched on top. Then the masks are carved and/or painted with great care in a traditionally ornate style, see photo above. Despite the many playful aspects of this two-day event, it also has very serious significance for the animist locals. You will see the Spirit Medium dressed in white, riding in the parade, and you’ll learn about the ceremonies, both Buddhist and animist that give meaning to the festival. This is sure to be a favorite part of the trip! While in the festival village, we stay at a beautiful country resort with infinity pool, owned by Cynthia’s friend, Neeracha.

Angkor Temple-ROOTS

One of many overgrown temples at Angkor.

After the festivities, we’ll drive south to Udon Thani, and then to the town of Ubon Ratcha- thani. Ubon is known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa, and we’ll visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats (above) they are preparing for the event next month. Finally we head south to the O’Smach Border post, into Cambodia, to Siem Reap and the fabulous Khmer temples of Angkor Wat! A UNESCO Heritage site, Angkor Wat and the surrounding wats form a world-class temple complex, with sophisticated wall carvings.

Golden Banana

Our pretty hotel in Siem Reap. Cambodia.

“Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including the surrounding forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.” (UNESCO site info)

We’ll stay 5 nights in this lovely hotel with pool (left) and have an optional hands-on cooking class to learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine. Our Farewell Dinner will include a performance of Phare, the Cambodian youth circus, no animals, and great acrobatics.

TOUR COST: $4395   Single Supplement: $775
Minimum 6, maximum 12 travelers.

Supplementary weft piece of silk weaving, Laos.

Includes 17 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (a couple of the hotels have a pool), all meals except three lunches and two dinners in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang on days when the group is scattered (we will suggest possible places to eat), all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, all in- country travel by private van with professional driver, three-days entrance fees at Angkor Wat, all transportation in the Park, entrance to the archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary, a Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap, the Phare Circus show and dinner, and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip!
Fly into Luang Prabang (LPQ) probably connecting in Bangkok, and home from Siem Reap (REP).

Not included: International airfare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry charges, luggage porter tips and between-meal snacks and drinks. A generous tip per person for the Angkor guide and the van driver(s) has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping!

Anyone who helps transport your bag should be tipped the local equivalent of $1 per bag.

Cambodian Cooking class in Sim Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap. We make our own delicious lunch! Cambodia.

Interesting silk ikat piece with decorative loops, on the loom at Carol Cassidy studio. Laos.

PERU: Cuisine, Textiles and Machu Picchu

 

March 10 – 23, 2016 (Arrive March 10; depart for home March 24)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOWThis trip includes the Cuzco Festival of ‘Lord of the Earthquakes,’ textile villages, exquisite cuisine, and Inca architecture at Machu Picchu.

Trip Highlights:
•  See the spectacular ‘Lord of the Earthquakes’ festival in Cuzco.
•  Visit textile villages to meet the knitters and weavers, dyers and spinners.
•  Dine in Peru’s most celebrated restaurants.
•  Thrill to Machu Picchu’s Inca engineering marvels.
•  Learn to prepare Lima’s specialties with a renowned Chef.
•  Savor a traditional village lunch with a local family.
•  Toss good luck red flowers onto the Christ statue in the procession.
•  Remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a custom Recipe
and Photo BOOK documenting your trip.

 

Vero and CynThis exciting new trip focuses on experiencing cuisine in Peru from a wide variety of cultures, influences, and climates –  from Lima’s haute cuisine spots to a typical savory soup enjoyed with Andean highland villagers. In between we’ll eat at neighborhood warikés (small out-of-the-way places) known locally for their superb food.

We will sample foods from the jungle to the highlands, and from the desert to the coast. Cuisine differs markedly from Trujillo in the north, to Arequipa in the south, and from dry coastal Lima to the verdant Amazon region– with many fusion elements in between.

MercadoOCTOPUSThis trip is organized and led by Cynthia LeCount Samaké (with 30 years travel experience in Peru)  and Peruvian Veronica Samanez, above.  We will see traditional Andean foods growing in the fields, such as red amaranth, quinua and quiwicha, native potato varieties, fava and lupine beans, and we’ll try various dishes incorporating them.

You will be able to decide what dishes to order. Adventurous meat eaters can try new and surprisingly delicious dishes such as herb-stuffed guinea pigs and grilled alpaca, or old favorites like Pollo a la Brasa. In a village high above Cuzco, we will watch the knitters and weavers, then share a traditional lunch of soup and boiled corn with indigenous Quechua speaking friends living there, photo below.

gastroSeafood lovers flock to Lima for the tender lime-drenched ceviche, paired with a savory yellow potato causa layered with a mixture of crab or tuna and other ingredients; right. The list is endless! Peru has a lively restaurant scene and we will dine in some of the oldest and most famous, as well as some of the newest and hippest places.

TRIP COST:  $4250

Single Supplement  $395

_DSC3062

INCLUDED:
• 14 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 3 meals on your own in Cuzco)
• Bottled water in the van on day trips
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flights
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Natural dye workshop in village (you purchase the white alpaca yarn)
• Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.
• Cooking class and demo in Lima
• Photo and recipe book documenting your journey!

_DSC2939

Peru: Textiles & Festival

March 10 – 23, 2016 (Arrive March 10; depart for home March 24)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOWThis trip includes the Cuzco Festival of ‘Lord of the Earthquakes,’ Andean highland textile villages, exquisite cuisine, Machu Picchu, and beautiful, colonial Cuzco.

Trip Highlights:
•  See the spectacular ‘Lord of the Earthquakes’ festival in Cuzco.
•  Visit textile villages to meet the knitters and weavers, dyers and spinners.
•  Dine in some of Peru’s most celebrated restaurants.
•  Cooking class and Pisco-tasting in a private home in Miraflores.
•  Thrill to Machu Picchu’s Inca engineering marvels.
•  Savor a traditional village lunch with a local family.
•  Learn about ancient Peru at excellent museums.
•  Remember your fabulous experience with a custom Recipe
and Photo BOOK documenting the trip.

This adventure is organized and led by Cynthia LeCount Samaké (Andean knitting/textile expert with over 30 years travel experience in Peru) and Peruvian, Veronica Samanez from Miraflores, Lima.

Andrea + Little Cynthia-low

Andrea and Little Cynthia!

TRIP DETAILS:
Cynthia (or the hotel driver if after 10 pm.) will meet you at the Lima airport, upon arrival, on March 10. Check into the Hotel El Patio, below, for a good night’s sleep in this charming and cozy place that is overflowing with flowers and greenery, in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood.

In the morning, we’ll all meet at breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs breakfast room. A friendly money-changer will come to the hotel lobby to change our dollar bills to soles, the Peruvian currency. Cynthia will hand out currency conversion charts to use until you get used to the money exchange. The van driver will pick us up at the hotel to begin our adventure in Lima, Peru’s bustling and prosperous capital city.

EL PATIO-LIMALima has world-class museums, flowery parks, and interesting architecture. We’ll spend a very full first day in Lima, seeing the wonderful ceramic and textile collections of the fabulous Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, housed in a beautiful old mansion with flowery gardens. It has been renovated recently, and the presentations are superb, but we still love the old storage section with the floor to ceiling glass shelves of Moche ceramics, like a huge library of pots, all carefully arranged and grouped by subject, crab pots, squash-shaped pots, llama pots, etc. After lunch, we’ll go to the private Amano Museum which has some of the world’s best textile collections–drawers and drawers of amazing pieces. Our Welcome Dinner will be tonight at one of Lima’s many excellent restaurants.

Vero and Cyn

Cynthia and Veronica toast over a plate of causa.

Scallops.Lima.JPG

Next few days in Lima we’ll see the fascinating adobe pre-Inca ruins south of town called Pachacamac, and the huge pyramid right in downtown called Huaca Pucllana. We’ll visit overflowing local produce and food markets where  Limeños shop for everything from purple potatoes and cocoa pods to exotic cheeses and meats.

_DSC3061In Lima, we’ll have a Pisco-tasting and cooking class at a private home in Miraflores. And in our restaurant forays, you will be able to decide what dishes to order. Adventurous meat eaters can try new and surprisingly delicious dishes such as herb-stuffed guinea pig or grilled alpaca, or old favorites like Pollo a la Brasa, grilled chicken.

Peru has a lively restaurant scene with internationally known chefs. In both Lima and Cuzco, we will dine in some of the oldest and most famous, as well as some of the newest and hippest places. Seafood lovers flock to Lima for the tender lime-drenched ceviche, paired with a savory yellow potato causa layered with a mixture of crab or tuna; below. The list is endless! Cuisine differs markedly from Trujillo in the north, to Arequipa in the south, and from dry coastal Lima to the verdant Amazon region– with many fusion elements in between. We’ll sample foods from the jungle to the highlands, and from the desert to the coast.

Best Causa LOW useNext we will fly over the Andes to beautiful Cuzco, 1 hour flight. Then we will drive directly down to the Sacred Valley at lower altitude which will help us to acclimate. Relax at the hotel and the next day we’ll board the train for a ride through beautiful scenery to Machu Picchu National Park (UNESCO Cultural Heritage site). We’ll visit the magical place with a professional English-speaking guide, then have free time in the ruins; overnight in Machu Picchu Village.

Time next morning to visit Machu Picchu site again. The first shuttle bus departs for the site around 5:30 am. People talk of the ‘sunrise’ at MP, but in reality, it is most often clouded over. Maybe you’ll be lucky! Note that you now need a separate ticket to climb Huayna Picchu (the peak in back of MP with a fabulous view of the site) and they are limited. (If you are interested, let me know as soon as possible; so I can get the details to you.)

Hotel Marqueses in Cuzco

Hotel Los Marqueses in Cuzco

The climb to Huayna Picchu is easier than it looks, because there are steps the whole way, and even a firmly attached chain to hang onto, on the steepest part. I have climbed it 3-4 times, and the view is absolutely spectacular from the top! Climbing up to the Gate of the Sun gives a similar breathtaking view. Take the VistaDome train back to Cuzco in the afternoon and check in to our centrally-located and heritage building hotel, right. Eat lunch then stroll around city to acclimate. We’ll stroll downhill to visit Nilda Callanaupa’s excellent Museum at Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco, CTTC. Buy white alpaca yarn from the Michell alpaca shop, around the corner from the hotel, for dyeing later in our workshop.

Ocongate-KARIIn the next few days we will drive through beautiful rolling hills of quinua and potato fields, into the highlands to several Andean villages to meet good friends who are amazing knitters and weavers. Picnic lunch in the Pitumarka weaving compound one day, and visit the famous little Andahuaylilas church with its ornate painted ceiling and altar from the 16th C.

In another village high above Cuzco, we will watch other knitters and weavers (every village uses different techniques and motifs for their textiles), then share a traditional lunch of soup and boiled corn with indigenous Quechua speaking friends living there. We will also see traditional Andean foods growing in the fields, such as red amaranth, quinua and quiwicha, native potato varieties, fava and lupine beans, and we’ll try various dishes incorporating them at our village lunch.

We will have a half-day natural dye workshop with the ladies in one village. Color your white alpaca yarn with cochineal, one of their favorite dyes, or another choice from their supply of flowers, leaves and lichen that make their rich colors.

Cuzco cathedralIn Cuzco we’ll peek into the Cathedral to see the famous ‘Last Supper with Guinea Pig’ tableau, continue across the Plaza de Armas, to the street of the 12-angled stone, one fabulous stone in a whole foundation of amazing stonework walls. Walk back down and have American food for lunch at Jack’s, just in case anyone is feeling homesick! Later, walk down Triunfo Street, visiting favorite jewelers, and the suede/textile bootmaker.

Before the festival, there will be time to see Sacsahuayman, the spectacular Inka fortress /ceremonial site above Cuzco. Sacsahuayman is known for amazingly huge stones fitted into zigzag walls, set around a grassy central area. We eat lunch in a restaurant (a friendly place where we go annually) overlooking the main Plaza de Armas, where the statue passes below, and we will have a basket of the traditional red flowers to toss down from the balconies onto the passing statue in the procession–for good luck! You can get some amazing photos by shooting from the restaurant vantage point on the balcony. Once the statue passes below the restaurant, the procession continues to 3 or 4 other churches where the statue’s loincloth is changed in each. The festival is very exciting because of the large numbers of people participating, and the huge and very heavy black Christ statue being carried by over 40 men, who change off every 1/2 block or so to allow another group the honor. The Lord of the Earthquakes is an important religious event for the people of Cuzco.

At the end of the trip, we fly back to Lima and connect with flights for home.  Details on suggested flights to come.

Llama+babyTRIP COST:  $3850
Single Supplement  $450

INCLUDED:
• 14 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 3 meals on your own in Cuzco/Machu Picchu)
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flights
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Visits to Andean highland textile villages to meet knitters and weavers
• Natural dye workshop in village (you purchase the white alpaca yarn)
• Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.
• Pisco-tasting and cooking class in private home in Miraflores.
• Photo and recipe book documenting your cooking class and journey!

NOT INCLUDED:

International airfare, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry and internet costs (most hotels now have free wi-fi), second day entrance and shuttle to Machu Picchu, entrance fee to climb Huayna Picchu.