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Tours & Cruises

When in Fiji, Learn to Do as the Villagers Do

August 18, 1996|KARIN DOMINELLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Discover traditional Fijian village life with the women of Nasinu Village on the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island. Two dates are scheduled: Oct. 1 to 12 and Oct. 22 to Nov. 2. This for-women-only excursion is led by a California teacher, Carolyn Lucento, who now teaches preschool in this village. Lucento will escort participants, limited to six, into this remote village to learn mat weaving, net fishing, shellfish gathering, open-fire Fijian cooking, tapa cloth making and storytelling. Accommodations are at an oceanfront plantation house with modern conveniences and views of Natewa Bay.

Cost: $2,000 per person, including round-trip air transportation from Los Angeles, all meals, local boat rides and craft materials. Part of the fees go to the village women of Nasinu. Contact: Karen Lewis, P.O. Box 790, 29000 Navarro Ridge Road, Albion, CA 95410; tel. (707) 937-1929, or write Carolyn Lucento, c/o Sea Fiji Travel, Savusavu, Fiji.

Swiss Trains

Climb aboard "The Southern Trail," a train tour that extends from Switzerland into Italy. The seven-day independent itinerary begins and ends in either Geneva or Zurich and year-round departures are available. The tour takes guests through the Gotthard Pass to Locarno. It continues from there by narrow-gauge train through the Centovalli Valley to Domodossola, Italy, then by express train through the Simplon Pass to Brig and by cogwheel rail up to Zermatt, the Alpine resort dominated by the Matterhorn.

The tour continues by express train to Montreux, on the shore of Lake Geneva.

At each stop there is time for exploring the towns en route

Montreux, where the final night of the tour is spent, offers a boat trip to Chillon Castle.

Cost: $1,060 per person, double occupancy, including transportation by first-class rail, accommodations in first-class hotels and breakfast daily.

Contact: J.F.O. CruiseService Corp., 323 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102; tel. (415) 392-8817 or (800) 858-8587.

Golden Pagodas

WindSong Tours of La Habra is offering an excursion of Myanmar with additional stays in Hong Kong and Thailand, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 11. The itinerary from Los Angeles stops at Hong Kong, visiting Victoria Peak, Repulse Bay and Stanley Market, with opportunities to explore the outer islands.

A five-day stay in Myanmar will include Rangoon (now called Yangon), Pagan (also known as Bagan) and Mandalay. In Yangon, guests see the Shwedagon Pagoda, and its saffron-robed monks. In Pagan, the group visits archeological sites, gilded shrines and small villages, including a local market and a lacquerware crafts center. In historic Mandalay a full day of sightseeing will include the ancient royal palace; the Kuthodaw Pagoda, housing 700 marble slabs of Buddhist scriptures; and local teak and tapestry industries.

The Thailand portion, based in Bangkok, will take guests to the Grand Palace complex and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, containing a revered statue carved from a single piece of jade. A long-tailed boat trip up one of the canals is also scheduled.

Cost $2,988 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from Los Angeles, accommodations in deluxe and first-class hotels, most meals, all transportation and entrance fees, and services of professional guides throughout. Contact: WindSong Tours & Travel, 1500 Greenview Drive, La Habra, CA 90631; tel. (714) 529-1947.

Thai Cooking

Bolder Adventures dishes up an opportunity to learn about Thai cuisine while experiencing traditional Siamese life in a private teak villa. Departure dates are flexible. Travelers can participate in a four-day cooking class surrounded by rice farms and orchards at The Thai House, 30 minutes from Bangkok. Built in traditional Thai style, with a wing-shaped roof, the villa accommodates up to 16 guests. Aspiring chefs can accompany their instructor to market each day to select the day's fare. Classes, taught in English, cover herbs and spices, locally grown produce, salads, soups and noodles, curries, and fruit and vegetable carving.

Cost: $795 per person, double occupancy, including six nights' lodging, cooking instruction, three meals a day (two of which you will assist in preparing) and transfers. The trip can be booked by itself or as an extension to a longer vacation. Air fare is not included. Contact: Bolder Adventures, P.O. Box 1279, Boulder, Colo. 80306; tel. (800) 642-2742.

Rail and Sea

Combine a rail ride with a California coastline voyage on a Santa Fe to San Francisco Bay trip. Two nine-night excursions, departing Oct. 11 and Oct. 21, begin in Santa Fe, N.M.,where participants will board the American Orient Express train. The journey to the ship includes stops and tours at the Grand Canyon, Wupatki, Sunset Crater National Monument, the Filoli Estate and Gardens, and Stanford University's Rodin Sculpture Garden. Once aboard the Yorktown Clipper, guests explore the inland waterways of Northern California, stopping at Sausalito, Sacramento, Napa Valley and San Francisco.

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