Laos, Cambodia & Thailand

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

July 1 – 19, 2022

Salad prepared in Tigre de Papier oooking class, Cambodia.

Yummy and beautiful Green Papaya Salad, Siem Reap cooking class.

Join us on this exciting SE Asian Textile and Culture Tour! We’ll all meet on July 1 at the airport in Luang Prabang (Laos), probably connecting in Bangkok. Scroll down for flight info and trip price.

HIGHLIGHTS

Go Behind-the-Scenes to see fabulous hand-woven silk and cotton ikat textiles and an amazing traditional festival in little-known north-eastern Thailand! You’ll see the fabulous wax candle festival called Khao Phansa. We’ll also see the carved and painted masks and the costumed dance typical of the Phi Ta Khon festival. The two festivals happen on different dates in two different towns, about a month apart, so we have chosen to attend the most spectacular one. But Neeraha, the friend who owns our hotel, and I are arranging a special mask and dance evening at the hotel, so you can experience the best masks and costumes from Phi Ta Khon, as well as the wax candle procession and candle carving competition. Both these festivals showcase some of the best traditional artists in Thailand. We’ll also see the superb UNESCO site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos.

Cynthia with a talented indigo ikat weaver.

Besides festivals and temples, we’ll see plenty of stunning textiles! We’ll watch weavers at work, and learn how they create ikat-patterned and supplementary weft (khit) 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 first fly into Luang Prabang and check into one of my favorite, comfortable tropical hotels. Next day, with a local licensed guide, we’ll explore the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples and learn about the Lao version of Buddhist practices. You’ll also be able to explore this laid-back, safe and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance!

One day we will spend the afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll chop wood and extract seeds from prickly achiote pods to make natural dyes. Then we’ll dye our silk scarves. We’ll be able to watch talented silk weavers and have a gourmet lunch at the Ock Pop Tok restaurant by the Mekong River. Food is delicious in Laos. At dinners, see if you are brave enough to try the spicy, fermented water buffalo skin condiment! However, the crispy-fried river moss is really delicious.

Dramatic Phi Ta Khon masks in the parade.

The local market is interesting, and nearby there is an excellent new textile museum and shop. 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 golden 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 for our introduction into Lao culture.

Then we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital of Laos, the city of Vientiane. There we’ll meet the driver and van that will be with us for much of the trip. I love to visit the enormous Salat Tao, the daily market for locals, with many stalls of exquisite examples of silk weaving. Then we’ll go with a Laotian textile collector friend, to meet the weavers in a nearby weaving village. We’ll also tour the innovative silk weaving studio called Lao Textiles, started by American fabric designer Carol Cassidy who revived Lao handwoven silk weaving. She has lived in Vientiane for over 30 years, creating an international market and reputation for fine Lao silk fabrics. Vientiane also has fabulous wats (Buddhist temple complexes) that we will visit, such as Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas.

INTO THAILAND

Example of cotton indigo dyeing in Thailand.Leaving Laos, we’ll drive across the Friendship Bridge, over the Mekong River and get our passports stamped at the Thailand border (no visas required). We’ll continue by private van to the village with the important Phi Ta Khon festival traditions.

Working within typical age-old and innovative styles, the mask painters and the wax carvers create stunning festival art. Phi Ta Khon costumes relate to celebrations asking for rain and fertility (thus plenty of phalluses as dance batons!); the name means Ghosts Following People and we’ll learn the whole significance.

The participants receive blessings from Buddha and the local abbot. We’ll go through the small Phi Ta Khon museum that shows the history of the event and some older masks. Our hotel in the festival town (as mentioned) is owned by a friend Neeracha. The place is especially beautiful, with its water buffalo theme (and real creatures too!) and large infinity pool. (Be sure to bring a bathing suit.) Townspeople that she knows, who participated in the June event, will bring masks and demonstrate the dances and the traditions Phi Ta Khon.

After the “Ghost Festival” demonstration, we’ll drive east into the region called Isaan, the local name for the northeast. Lonely Planet describes Isaan: “Here is part of Thailand with all of the acclaimed Thai hospitality, culture, and food but none of the backpackers! Just south of the border with Laos, lies this entire region that has been little-visited  by outsiders. The area is rural Thailand at its best: farmland meets sleepy villages [and lots of textiles!]. It’s proof that Thailand isn’t completely trodden with tourists.”

BAN CHIANG ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE

Typical Ban Chiang pottery, the real stuff. Good reproductions sold in nearby village.

One day, we will take a day trip out to the UNESCO archeological site at Ban Chiang, to learn about the fascinating culture being excavated here. We’ll also go through the museum, full of unique cream-colored  ceramics with rust swirls and spirals. Ban Chiang is considered the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in South-East Asia. Metalworking technology here has proven to be among the earliest discovered in Asia. Preliminary excavations began in 1967 but in 2003, Ban Chiang gained international attention when the United States Department of Justice prosecuted smugglers and museums for trafficking in Ban Chiang antiquities.

The Ban Chiang Archaeological Site consists of a large, previously undisturbed earthen mound which, when excavated, was found to cover a prehistoric habitation site of some of Southeast Asia’s earliest farmers. The site, which had been abandoned and buried underground for at least two millennia, has now been partially excavated by Thai and international archaeologists. However only a small percentage has been uncovered thus far.

Excavations have revealed an unbroken stratigraphy of human habitation, use, and burial over two thousand years, covering the period when prehistoric humans in this part of the world first settled in villages, took up agriculture and began the production of metal tools. Ban Chiang, along with other surrounding villages in northeast Thailand, contains many bronze artifacts that demonstrate that metallurgy had been practiced in small, village settings nearly four thousand years ago.

Blue handwoven cloth with varying weft patterns, in Thailand.

Advances in the fields of agriculture, animal domestication, ceramic and metal technology are all evident in the archaeological record of the site. Also evident is an increasing economic prosperity and social complexity of the successive communities at Ban Chiang, made possible by their developing cultural practices, as revealed through the many burials, rich in ceramic and metal grave goods, uncovered at the site.  The Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is also the richest in Southeast Asia in the number and variety of artifacts recovered from the site. [UNESCO]

INDIGO DYEING IN THAILAND

Indigo dyeing villages are our next destination. There we’ll visit some friends who dye cotton threads with natural indigo.  These Master dyers of cotton ikat, above, will show us their indigo pots and their tying and dyeing methods, as well as the actual weaving process. The weaver above makes her own indigo by fermenting the leaves and later adding overripe star fruits. She has many pots of dye going at once, in different stages of fermentation and readiness. In our mini-workshop, you can make a cotton indigo-patterned scarf with your choice of design!

The weavers love to show off their skills and these visits are fascinating. The weaver in red displays her stunning fabric that shows her ingenious method of varying the patterns on their yardage. She has bound and dyed the weft threads in changing patterns so that the fabric pattern changes every yard or two. Her continual warp is unbound, plain navy blue cotton threads.

WAX CANDLE FESTIVAL

Next stop is the riverside town of Ubon Ratchathani, known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival. The Thais call it Khao Phansa, the start of the Buddhist Rains Retreat.

Another name for Khao Phansa is “the Rains Retreat” because it occurs at the beginning of Thai rainy season; Buddhist monks take this opportunity to retreat inside their temples for a three-month period of study and meditation. This tradition of a “rainy season retreat” predates Buddhism, but it was followed by Buddha during his lifetime, which encourages many to emulate him today.

Many monks enter monastic life on Khao Phansa Day, staying in monasteries and temples until the rainy season ends on Wan Ok Phansa Day, 79 days later.

We’ll arrive a day early to visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are finishing up for the event. Both monks and lay people spend hours working on the wax float decorations. Each intricate wax motif is rolled out then trimmed, as if you were making cookies…see below. You can even make Buddhist merit by cutting around some of the wax shapes to decorate the floats! The embellished life-sized wax figures arranged on the floats represent stories and legends from the life of Buddha.

We’ll spend a few days in Ubon, seeing festival preparations and watching the parade. Alternating with the wax floats are groups of elegant and beautiful Thai dancers carrying flowers  Each wat around town enters a float (that they have worked on for many months). There is a contest for the best float creation, and there are beauty queens chosen also.

Stack of wax decorations ready to adorn float figures for Wax Candle Festival.

As with all festivals, there are food booths with traditional dishes, desserts and soft drinks. Bring a small umbrella or a good sun hat; the sun can be very hot during Khao Phansa. But the fabulous festival only takes place in July! We’ll also head out of the center of town to see some of Ubon’s amazing architectural design in the form of innovative wats and temples that the town is famous for.

AMAZING ANGKOR!

From Ubon Ratchathani, we’ll head into Cambodia, to Siem Reap, to see the fabulous carved stone temples of Angkor Wat! A UNESCO Heritage site, Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples form a world-class temple complex, with sophisticated wall carvings. We always hear about just Angkor Wat but there are hundreds of temples to visit. Tuk-tuks will take us through the park to see some of the most stunning sites. A professional guide will explain the history of each temple. Just the renovation processes, or the lack thereof, are fascinating. The temple at right has been designated NOT to be touched, and to let the forest continue its encroachment. Other temples are being re-built, using ancient stone blocks when available.

UNESCO site info notes that “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.”

SIEM REAP TOWN

Siem Reap is a very pleasant place and we can walk almost everywhere. While visiting Angkor Wat temples and the surrounding sights, we’ll stay 4 nights in this lovely hotel (below) in Siem Reap. It boasts modern rooms, a refreshing pool and a super restaurant. One morning, we’ll learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine (similar to Thai) in an optional hands-on cooking class in a popular local restaurant. First we’ll visit the produce market to learn about some of the more unusual ingredients. Then we each choose a few appealing menu items, and we chop, slice and sauté our way to a delicious lunch! The recipes will be available for us afterwards. And in the market, you can buy some typical spices to make Cambodian dishes at home, or for your foodie friends. We’ll also tour the sobering but important Landmine Museum.

Cambodia also has some of the most intricate silk ikat weaving anywhere in the world. We’ll go into the countryside near Siem Reap to visit the premier silkworm breeding and silk reeling facility. Here we’ll watch the weavers to see how different their ikat techniques are from the Thai and Lao silk ‘mat-mi’ or ikat artisans. We’ll also visit a weaving project near the hotel in town; you’ll see that conditions are very different at the two workshops. Our ‘Farewell to Cambodia’ Dinner will be followed by a performance of Phare, the renowned Cambodian youth circus – no animals – but great acrobatics by young people!

On the day after the Phare Circus performance, July 20, we’ll fly back to Bangkok to connect with homeward flights.

******************************************************************************************************************
This is a 19-night trip. July 19 is the last included night of hotel. On July 20 after breakfast, we’ll fly from Siem Reap to Bangkok (flight included) and then connect to homeward flights.
If necessary, it’s possible to spend the night at a hotel at or near the BKK airport.

MORE about flights later; please don’t buy plane tickets until further notice, when we confirm the flight schedules into BKK and LPQ. We’ll give suggested flights later. Cathay Pacific and Eva have the best deals sometimes.

TOUR COST: $4995   (19 nights in double/twin accommodations)
Single Supplement: $750
Minimum 8, maximum 12 travelers.

Delicious Pumpkin Curry with Tofu; Thailand

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap – Fun!

Includes:

  • Tour begins in Luang Prabang on July 1 and ends in Bangkok on July 20 after breakfast and flight from Siem Reap.
  • 19 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (2-3 hotels have pools)
  • All meals except three lunches and two dinners on days when the group is scattered (we will suggest possible places to eat)
  • All soft drinks and bottled water with meals
  • Group Flights: Luang Prabang to Vientiane, Laos – and flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok.
  • All land travel by private van with professional driver
  • Three days of entrance tickets at Angkor Wat
  • Transportation in the Angkor Wat Park and licensed guide for 2 days.
  • (Another day w/ guide is optional on your own; you’ll have tickets to enter for 3 days)
  • Tips for Luang Prabang and Angkor guides
  • Entrances to temples, archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary,
  • Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap
  • Phare Acrobatic show and dinner (https://pharecircus.org)
  • An 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip!
  • A generous tip per person for the Luang Prabang and Angkor guides for 3 days has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping guides.
Indigo dyeing in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Pat dyes with natural Indigo; Ock Pop Tok, Luang Prabang, Laos.

Not included:

International airfare, driver tip (count on about $35-40 per person), visas upon arrival [Laos USD $35 and Cambodia USD $40] at the airport or at the border when we enter, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, several meals as indicated on itinerary, and between-meal snacks and drinks. We will have bottled water in the van for day trips.

Thailand doesn’t require a visa, just a stamp in your passport and a filled-out simple form that they hand us at the border when we drive in from Vientiane, Laos.

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

TURKEY: Off Beaten Path

 

Balanced stone shapes form the gate to Blaundos.

We’ll visit this interesting and little-known ancient city site in western Turkey.

Rug vendor holds up a handmade blue carpet.

Carpet vendor holds up handmade tapestry rug; Konya.

March 27 – April 13, 2022.
Fly home April 14, 2022.
Scroll down for price. 

Trip is FULL, check later
for 2023 dates.

Off the Beaten Path Tour Highlights:

  • 18-night textile, archeology and cuisine tour, to some fascinating, less-visited areas.
  • Begins and ends in Istanbul; see trip map at the bottom of page.
  • Explore 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites! Ephesus, Çatalhüyük, Hattuşa, Byzantine churches, and more.
  • Watch artisans as they knot and weave carpets in several workshops.
  • Shop in the famous Grand Bazaar for crafts and textiles.
  • See the breathtaking Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
  • Tour historic Ottoman homes; see vintage textiles & clothing.
  • Whip up a Turkish meal in a private home cooking class.
  • Float over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon!
  • Sample all the authentic Turkish foods in each region we visit.
  • See unusual archeological sites in remote areas.
  • Watch the women make tiny needlework flowers for scarves.
  • Visit active archeological sites and famous museums such as Topkapi Palace.
  • Learn about the complex and fascinating history of Turkey. (I’ll give you a cheat-sheet!)

Trip Details

We’ll fly in to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world! Turkish Airlines and others do this efficiently; we’ll send flight suggestions later. Hopefully our visit will coincide with the beginning of tulip blooming season so we can revel in the millions of blooms planted around the city. Our pretty hotel is located in the heart of historical Istanbul, two blocks from world-famous architectural and cultural treasures. For our UNESCO site visit of historic Istanbul, we’ll have a local specialist guide to tell us about treasures such as the exquisite Blue Mosque.

We’ll also visit the nearby Hagia Sophia, and learn its complex story as the superb building was changed from church, to mosque to museum and most recently, back to a mosque. The Grand Bazaar is within easy walking distance to the hotel so we’ll familiarize ourselves with the easy route to that shopping mecca of art, rugs, textiles and jewelry.
Vendors are no longer pushy like in the past; bazaar edicts encouraged a more laid-back attitude and vendors are now very pleasant. In the bazaar, there is a fabulous restaurant owned by some friends, where we’ll have lunch. We may also be able to see a friend’s upscale textile gallery near the hotel.

 

Ottoman era homes in old Safranbolu.

After two nights in Istanbul we’ll meet up with our excellent guide and driver and head east into rural Turkey to begin our ‘off the beaten path’ adventure!

Safranbolu

The UNESCO-designated town of Safranbolu is our first stop. From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East–West trade route. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese were built in 1322. Safranbolu enjoyed great prosperity as a trading center. As a result, it set a standard in public and domestic architecture, with its apogee in the 17th century. The Safranbolu Ottoman styles exercised great influence on urban development over a large area of the Ottoman Empire.

The old Çarşı district contains hundreds of preserved, red-roofed Ottoman houses on cobblestone streets. Cinci Han is a 17th-century caravansary with rooftop views over town. Nearby, Tarihi Cinci Hamam is a restored 17th-century bathhouse, still in operation. You may decide to experience a traditional Turkish soak and scrub!

Lion's gate at Hattusha ruins UNESCO site.

Ancient lion gate at Hattusa.

Safranbolu is famous for saffron of course, and Turkish jelly candy called lokum. We’ll take time to explore the old part of the city with lots of saffron and lokum shops, and we’ll sleep in a traditional Ottoman home-turned-hotel.

Hattusha

Continuing eastward, we come to Bogazkale, and our next destination: Hattusha (Hattuşa), the Hittite capital. The Hittites were an ancient group of Indo-Europeans who moved into Asia Minor and formed an empire at Hattusa in Anatolia (modern Turkey) around 1600 BC. The Bronze Age site consists of the Hittite city area  and the rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya among other sections.

A monumental enclosure wall about 8 km in length surrounds the whole city. Archeologists from Germany and Turkey cooperated to uncover a large variety of buildings such as temples, palaces and dwellings, but also technical and communal installations such as large buried granaries and artificial water ponds. These discoveries have given access to one of the most fascinating ancient cities of the Near and Middle East. The site is impressive and this visit will add another puzzle piece to our view of the complex history of Turkey!

Room at our lovely cave hotel.

Cappadocia

Continuing south, we head to the Cappadocia area with its dramatic eroded landscape. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup village, in cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

We’ll also visit a carpet gallery in Urgup to learn about local styles and techniques. Here most of the women will be knotting lengths of wool for pile rugs. But as we travel around the country, we’ll see them making rugs using regionally characteristic techniques, patterns and colors. We’ll see how they knot a pile rug and weave a kilim with discontinuous weft, or wrap the warp for the cicim  (jijim) technique.

One day in Cappadocia will be spent exploring the astonishing eroded rock shapes and valleys that make the area famous. In one valley of spires and “fairy chimneys” is a large group of fascinating Byzantine-era cave churches, excavated from the soft volcanic tufa stone.

Landscape in Capadocia is even more exciting from the air; Goreme, Turkey.

Exciting hot air balloon ride over the dramatic landscape of Goreme.

It is believed that the first signs of monastic activity in Cappadocia date to the 4th century when hermit-monks lived in rooms dug out of the tufa rock formations. Later, in order to resist Arab invasions, people began banding together and hiding in underground villages which served as places of refuge. They also needed to worship in concealed churches hollowed out of the rock. Though interesting from a geological and ethnological point of view, the incomparable beauty of the decor of these Christian rock-cut churches makes Cappadocia one of the leading examples of the post-iconoclastic Byzantine art period.

Uchisar town at sunset, Cappadocia.

The density of Cappadocia’s cave-houses, secret churches, and subterranean cities within the rock formations make it one of the world’s most striking and largest cave-dwelling complexes. We’ll clamber up stairs to see some of these churches; the saints’ portraits are colorful and superbly decorated.

In Cappadocia you can soar over amazing, eroded stone landscapes on the highly recommended (and included) hot air balloon ride. The balloons float safely and silently over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the unusual “fairy chimney” volcanic formations.

Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.) From Cappadocia, we’ll drive west to Konya. It’s famous for beautiful flat-weave wool rugs (in discontinuous weft, kilim, or tapestry technique), and it has an interesting bazaar and shops in the old town area.

Red and Navy USAK carpet from Metropolotan Museum, NYC. Creative Commons Zero license.

Antique Usak carpet of type made famous in the 16th C by European painters. The designs are still made today.

Konya

Konya is also famous as the home of famous Sufi poet, Rumi. His mausoleum is a pilgrimage site and a fascinating museum. Several stunning mosques and madrasas (traditional Koranic schools) make Konya an interesting place to visit. We’ll also go out of town to see the remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhöyük. There are ongoing excavations and new displays; it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and believed to be the oldest city in the world!

“The taller eastern mound [at Çatalhöyük] contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.” (UNESCO)

From Konya, we will head northwest to Afyonkarahisar for lunch and a view of an abandoned, empty castle on top of the outcropping that dominates the town. Then we’ll continue to Uşak to see the carpets for which it is famous, and a nearby ancient city site that is little-visited but fascinating. Archeologists continue to excavate the site which features the largest known rock-tomb necropolis in Anatolia. A temple, theater, stadium, a colonnaded street and well-preserved city walls are other features of the city. Recently discovered lengthy inscriptions on thick stone pillars in the bath building have thrilled archeologists.

Selçuk and Ephesus

Separating saffron strands from the purple crocus flowers; Safranbolu.

Then we’ll head west to the pretty town of Selçuk (close to Izmir). We’ll visit the hilltown village of Sirince and have lunch at a friend’s country restaurant. Sirince is popular with tourists but still has a charming ambiance and interesting little shops that sell the local wine, baklava and handmade textiles. The famous archaeological site of Ephesus is next to the modern-day town of Selçuk. It is different from the other archeological sites we have seen. This UNESCO site was an ancient Greek city, built in the 10th century BC. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Ephesus was famed for the nearby Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus, and an amphitheater capable of holding 25,000 spectators.

Selçuk also has a number of interesting shops with carpets and interesting crafts on a tranquil pedestrian street in the old part of town. And before we head back to Istanbul, we’ll drive out of Selçuk one day, to attend the local weekly market in a charming town where the women make scarves called yazma, with little flowery oya edging. These were typically worn by women all over Turkey, but yazma are worn more in the countryside nowadays. The little flowers traditionally served as a language to convey feelings that couldn’t be openly expressed, such as ‘I’m not getting along with my mother-in-law, or I’m feeling sad and lonely,’ and so forth.

Back to Istanbul

And finally, we’ll take a quick flight from Izmir back to Istanbul in the late afternoon. The next day in Istanbul (April 13) is a free day – yours to explore the city, see something new, or return to a favorite place. Perhaps walk to the nearby hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or ask a taxi man to drop you off at the exquisite Chora Church with its stunning frescoes – called the Byzantine marvel of Istanbul. You might want to check out The Archeology Museum (an easy walk from our hotel) or the Yerebatan Cistern, right at the end of our street. Or on this free day, you might want to return to admire the Blue Mosque or just wander this beautiful city and see how many tulips are blooming – your choice.

Celsus Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, Turkey, UNESCO site.

Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, another UNESCO site.

(Lunch will be on your own, and we’ll regroup in the evening for our Farewell Dinner at the hotel.)

I’m always happy to return to the Grand Bazaar with whoever wants to shop for final souvenirs. We could also drop in at the yarn bazaar (if we didn’t go earlier) where they sell mostly acrylics but it’s fascinating to see. And/or we could visit the place that sells loads of needle-worked flowery scarf trims. These can be added to a commercial scarf if you are handy with a needle! (Lunch on your own on the 13th.)

(Last included night of hotel is April 13.)

Pack up and organize for flights home tomorrow, April 14. The hotel will arrange departure transport to the airport for you. Good-bye to Turkey!

PRICE: $6285

Single Supplement: $850

Includes the following:

  • 18 nights accommodations (double occupancy, in charming boutique hotels, or good modern ones, when best available.)
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional Turkish native guide accompanying trip with Cynthia.
  • All meals – except 2 lunches and 2 dinners.
  • All non-alcoholic beverages with meals (tea, coffee, ayran yoghurt drink, water, cherry juice called vişne.)
  • Unless a meal is family-style, you may order your choice of dishes in restaurants; see Food Notes below.*
  • Interior flight from Izmir to Istanbul.
  • Hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s surreal landscape.
  • All ground transportation by private Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water available in the van for road trips.
  • Transportation from airport to hotel on official arrival date (March 27).
  • Museum visits to see the textiles and archeology of Turkey
  • Cooking class and lunch in a private home
  • Entrance to all six UNESCO sites on the itinerary: Çatalhüyük ancient city, Byzantine cave churches, Ephesus, etc.
  • SPECIAL! Photo book of your adventure once you return home.

    Route for Turkey 2022 tour.

    Map of the route for 2022 trip.

Not included: Turkish visa fee (around $20 for U.S.), departure airport transportation for flight home from Istanbul; airport transportation for early arrivals, alcoholic drinks, and guide and driver tips (suggested guidelines to come).

Typical scarves edged with needlework flowers called oya.

FOOD NOTES: Occasionally the guide will order a generous selection of different dishes so you can taste everything, to familiarize yourself with delicious homestyle Turkish cuisine. And sometimes in a family-style home-based restaurant, everyone will be served a delicious set meal. At these events, vegetarians will find usually find enough vegetable dishes, fresh breads and pasta to survive quite comfortably.

Vegan diets will be more difficult, but salads are available in many places, and pilaf dishes. Many typical Turkish dishes have a small amount of minced meat, such as stuffed eggplant or stuffed peppers and zucchini. They also eat lots of shish-kebabs of chicken or beef, but not huge chunks of meat like American steaks. More on food later.

Tile rooftops of the Hamam (bath house) in Safranbolu.

Be sure to check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

For more information, E-mail Cynthia: [email protected]
or call 707-939-8874.

Photo Credits: Copyright Cynthia Samake except the following:
Dreamstime.com: Saffron Safranbolu crocus flowers; Mturhanlar
Cappadocia Uchisar hill; Xantana.
Blaundos ruins; Emiralikokal.
Hattusha Lion Gate, Selçuk Koc.
Grand Bazaar by Evren Kalinbacak.
Usak Carpet: Metropolitan Museum NYC, Creative Commons Zero license.
Ephesus Celsus Library: WikiCommons, Binh.
MAP: Rome2Rio.com

TURKEY: Textiles & Tulips

 

Some of the million tulip bulbs planted in Istanbul, Turkey, annually.

It’s said that city gardeners plan a million tulip bulbs in Istanbul every year!

TOUR DATES:  April 15 – 30, 2022.
Fly home May 1, 2022. Few spaces available!

Scroll down for price.

Hand-block printed scarves crated by 2011 group.

Pretty scarf selection printed by BTSA travelers!

Highlights of Tulip Season Tour

  • 16-night textile and cuisine tour, begins and ends in Istanbul.
  • See the breathtaking Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia, now a mosque again.
  • Stamp a traditional block-printed scarf in our workshop.
  • Visit the Byzantine-era cave churches in Cappadocia.
  • Watch artisans knot carpets, make needlework flowers, and print cloth.
  • Tour famous museums and archeological sites such as Topkapi Palace.
  • Shop in bazaars and markets for handmade rugs and textiles.
  • Visit UNESCO Greco-Roman site of Ephesus.
  • Meet a Turkish family for a cooking class of authentic local dishes.
  • Hike in the Ballica Cave nature park and visit the stunning cave.
  • Sample all the amazing Turkish foods in each region we visit.
  • Learn about the complex and fascinating history of Turkey.
  • Explore the traveler-friendly town of Bursa and the Koza Han Bazaar.
Rug vendor holds up a handmade blue carpet.

Carpet vendor holds up handmade tapestry/kilim rug.

Trip Details

We’ll fly from home to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world! Hopefully our visit will coincide with tulip blooming season so we can revel in the million blooms planted around the city, one bulb for each Istanbul inhabitant. Our pretty hotel is located in the heart of historical Istanbul, two blocks from world-famous architectural and cultural treasures. We’ll have a local Turkish guide (expert in Istanbul) to tell us about treasures such as the exquisite Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace of the Sultans. We’ll also visit the nearby Hagia Sophia, and learn its complex story as the superb building was changed from church, to mosque to museum and most recently, back to a mosque.

The Grand Bazaar is within easy walking distance to the hotel so we’ll familiarize ourselves with the easy route to that shopping mecca of art, rugs, textiles and jewelry. Vendors are no longer pushy like in the past; bazaar edicts encouraged a more laid-back attitude and vendors are now pleasant. I have several favorite places to look at textiles in the Grand Bazaar, and we will have lunch with old friends in their restaurant in the bazaar.

Block-Printing Center

Next we’ll fly east, meet our guide for the whole trip, driver and van, and take off into the Turkish countryside. First stop is a small and charming, traditional riverside town with historic architecture. Our hotel is right at the river in a picturesque location. Next day, in a town known for woodblock-printing,  we’ll have a private printing workshop. The master printer will show us how to stamp cotton scarves (above), called yazma–using your choice of the hand-carved wood-blocks traditional to the area. We’ll savor the local foods, including a famous and delicious regional dish called manti, teeny filled tortellini-like pasta shapes.

Nighttime vew of our Cave hotel in Cappadocia.

In this area we’ll walk through and explore one of Turkey’s tentative UNESCO sites: the beautiful Ballica Cave. “…the Ballıca cave provides geological and geomorphologic richness with its unique onion stalactites, well-developed curtain travertines, settling ponds and column structures. It’s unlike other caves because of the huge variety of different stalactites, stalagmites and other formations.

Cappadoccia

Continuing south, we head to the Cappadoccia area with its dramatic eroded landscape. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup village, in cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel, right. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

Delicious authentic dish called Manti, my favorite!

The geological history of the area is fascinating. After the eruption of Mount Erciyes about 2.6 million years ago, ash and lava formed soft rocks in the Cappadocia Region, covering a region of about 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi). The softer rock was eroded by wind and water, leaving the hard cap rock on top of pillars, forming the present-day (phallus-shaped) ‘fairy chimneys.’

You can have the amazing experience in Cappadoccia of silently gliding over these sensational, eroded tufa stone landscapes in a hot air balloon (optional). Manned by an expert Balloon Pilot, the balloons float safely and quietly over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the “fairy chimney” volcanic formations! Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.)

Thousands of years ago, the people realized that these soft rocks could be easily carved out to form houses, churches, and monasteries with cells for monks. One day we’ll visit the fascinating rock-cut churches of the Goreme Open Air Museum. These 9th and 10th century Christian sanctuaries are beautifully painted with saints’ images, often called frescos.

But instead of the fresco method (painting on wet plaster), cave church artists used the technically more simple secco method. This means the pictures were painted on dry plaster.* These pictures are less durable because the color is only a thin external layer, not part of the wall. The churches contain many examples of Byzantine art from the post-iconoclastic period, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The icons of Christ Pantocrator in the churches, dating to 850–1100 AD, are among the oldest surviving artistic depictions of Jesus. Dark Church (Göreme) features the finest images of Christ Pantocrator in Cappadocia. Bright and penetrating, they appear in three consecutive domes. All the secco images are a unique artistic achievement from this tumultuous period.

From Cappadoccia, we’ll drive west and visit remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhuyuk, believed to be the oldest city in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site:  “The taller eastern mound contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.”

Room at our cozy cave hotel in Capadoccia.

Textiles of Turkey

Turkey is famous for exquisite carpets and kilims, historical regional dress of infinite variety, and remarkable little flower edgings on the hand block-printed scarves. Everywhere we go, we’ll explore museums, studios and workshops to see examples of these brilliant creations.

Amazingly tiny and detailed needle-worked flowers trim scarves in Turkey..

Tiny and colorful handmade needle-worked flowers called oya, ready to buy and stitch onto scarves.

Besides making our own hand block-printed cotton scarves, we’ll see rugs being knotted in Cappadocia. And in Konya, we’ll search out the beautiful flat-weave (discontinuous weft, kilim, or tapestry technique) rugs they are famous for. Konya is also the home of famous Sufi poet Rumi and we will visit his mausoleum. From Konya, we will head for the charming town of Selcuk to see the famous archaeological site of Ephesus. This UNESCO site was an ancient Greek city, built in the 10th century BC. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Ephesus was famed for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus (below), and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators.

Later, we’ll drive north to Bursa, where we stay in a cozy hotel in the old town. There we’ll visit the country’s best textile museum with its many fully-accessorized mannequins in traditional dress from all over Turkey. We’ll also visit the old silk cocoon market in a wonderful building called Koza Han, with its hundreds of scarves and textile shops. There you’ll meet some antique textile dealers who will show us the incredible embroidery and needle lace in their collections. Prices here range from moderate to expensive, but there are textiles to buy here that are not found elsewhere.

Back to Istanbul

Celsus Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, Turkey, UNESCO site.

Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, another UNESCO site.

Then we’ll take a modern ferry back to Istanbul to see more of that exciting city. Lunch on the ferry is on your own. Later we’ll see the excellent Archeology Museum (near our hotel) and a friend’s upscale textile gallery. Our final day in Istanbul is yours to see something new in the city, or return to a favorite place. Perhaps try a hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or visit the exquisite Chora Church with its stunning frescoes – called the Byzantine marvel of Istanbul. Or you might return to admire the Blue Mosque or see other stunning architectural wonders of the city – your choice. I’m always happy to return to the Grand Bazaar with whoever wants to shop for final souvenirs and also stop by the place that sells needle-worked flowery scarf trims, above.

Lunch on your own this day; there are many restaurants within walking distance from the hotel where we can have lunch. Farewell Dinner with group at our Sultanahmet hotel. Pack up and organize for flights home. (Last included night of hotel is April 30.)

Fly HOME: MAY 1.    Be sure you check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

Tour Price:  $ 5320    12 people maximum.
Single Supplement: $850

Includes the following:

  • 16 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming boutique hotels, or good modern ones when necessary)
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional Turkish native guide
  • All meals –except 2 lunches and 2 dinners.
  • Unless a meal is family-style, you may order your choice of dishes in restaurants.*
  • Non-alcoholic beverages with meals (tea, coffee, ayran [yoghurt drink], water, cherry juice, etc.)
  • Interior flight to Samsun.
  • All ground transportation by private, high-top Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver
  • Wood-block printing lesson in Tokat; Turkey.Bottled water always available in the van for road trips.
  • Transportation from airport to hotel on set arrival date.
  • Museum visits to see the textiles and archeology of Turkey.
  • Cooking class and lunch in a private home.
  • Entrance to all historical sights on the itinerary such as Çatalhuyuk ancient city, Ephesus, etc.
  • Private Tokat scarf printing workshop with your creation to take home.
  • SPECIAL! Photo book of your adventure once you return.

Not included: Turkish visa fee [$50 for U.S.]; free-day optional activities, airport transportation for early arrivals, departure transportation, guide and driver tips (we will give you guidelines), and optional hot-air balloon ride [pay around $200 directly to the balloon company]. Most hotels have complementary bottled water and free internet.

FOOD NOTE: Occasionally in a restaurant, the guide will order a generous selection of different dishes so you can taste everything, to familiarize yourself with delicious home-style Turkish cuisine. And sometimes in a family style home-based restaurant, everyone will be served a delicious set meal. At these events, vegetarians who can be a bit flexible will find enough vegetable dishes, fresh breads and pasta to survive quite comfortably! But many typical Turkish dishes do have a small amount of meat, such as stuffed eggplant or stuffed peppers and zucchini. More on food later.

*Excellent website on the churches and history of Cappadocia with tips for the church visitors. Information on frescos and seccos and websites below by Jason Borges.

https://www.cappadociahistory.com/post/goreme-open-air-museum

https://www.cappadociahistory.com/post/10-pro-tips-for-church-visitors

For more information, E-mail Cynthia: [email protected]
or call 707-939-8874.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.