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April 13-29, 2007

Hi Deborah:

How do I convey to you the pleasures and joys of our Betchart trip along the back roads of China... Yunnan?

The journey was all I could have asked for... and then some.

Our small group harmonized perfectly - and with David in the lead - we never had a moment's doubt that every day would bring new experiences that we will all treasure for the rest of our lives. As you probably
guessed, I was concerned that I would be, for the first time, the oldest person in the group --- but to my amazement found that I was almost a 'junior'... so sharing with Peter Cole was just fine. This reminded me of a day when walking in the swiss alps, I fell into stride with a local man, an old fellow, and tried to ask him how far he had walked that day... But my german isn't very good and he answered instead with his age...72. And he added, 'How old are you?' . When I said 52, he smile broadly, looked me straight in the eye, and said: 'Ah! Kinder.'

I've traveled extensively around the world - but never as well as this. As someone remarked, we didn't have a picky eater in the group and we all used chopsticks as though born to them. And David made sure we got to try them out on the most varied and delicious local food available.

Furthermore David seemed able to effortlessly cater to each of our special interests... always knowing some contact that could arrange for anything mentioned by us. Along with the planned visits to meet the local people, schools, folk performances, etc... we met a successful orchid grower, found the best tea in Yunnan, mingled in with local people at country markets and enjoyed the spontaneous fun at various village celebrations.. And as I requested, we got to visit the Bamboo Temple in Kunming. This turned out to be arguably the finest of any that we saw and all of us that went agreed that it was best seen at the end rather than beginning of the trip... as it could perhaps set too high an expectation regarding the others?

The only parts of the trip that could possibly be improved involved the two villages visited and the boat ride on Days 8 and 9. The villages chosen were not particularly pleasant or interesting... and the boat trip, while pleasant enough (in spite of less than perfect weather), was of no real interest to bird watchers as the course set must be too far from the shore.

The Ankor Wat extension was an amazing contrast and enjoyable, for me especially, since it reminded me somewhat of the Malaysia I knew in the late 70s. Unfortunately, our local guide, as appointed by the hotel, was not the best and was impossible to understand... however hard we concentrated on his speech. The time after the group left, when I traveled about on my own, worked out well for me... the Ankor Century staff were delightfully helpful... and Vietnam Airlines and especially Bangkok Airways ('The Boutique airline') offered that older style of graceful service that I remember from earlier days of travel in Asia - uncrowded and hassle free - service levels long lost in Anglosaxonia.

So thank you Betchart for a memorable journey. Thank you Deborah for your patience and enthusiasm to get me signed up.

Cathay Pacific did indeed request to see the visa card that you used to purchase my Dragon Air ticket from HK.

And I found out that the hardest part of the trip is not 'the packing before you leave', but it's trying to get your suitcase closed on the way home. :-))

Kindest regards

geoff davies


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