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TOURS & CRUISES

Discovering Nature and Art in Japan's Gardens

September 17, 2000|KARIN ESTERHAMMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Japanese gardens are regarded as representing the universe and its elements and expressing a specific philosophy. Some of the most highly acclaimed are in the ancient city of Kyoto.

From Nov. 9 to 19, a garden tour will be led by Lennox Tierney, curator of Japanese art for the Utah State Museum of Fine Arts. He is also the author of "The Nature of Japanese Garden Art." Guests will tour gardens and temples, such as the Gold and Silver Pavilions, the Old Imperial Palace, the National Museum of Kyoto, the Todai-ji and Byodo-in temples in nearby Nara and the Japanese Folklore Museum in Kurashiki.

Cost: $4,998 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, eight nights' accommodation at the ANA Hotel in Kyoto, one night at a ryokan, breakfast daily, one lunch and four dinners, a tea ceremony, transportation and entrance fees.

Contact: SterlingTours, 2707 Congress St., No. 2-G, San Diego, CA 92110; telephone (800) 727-4359.

Iceland: Culture

Travelers can experience the cultural side of Iceland and learn about its history, cuisine and art on a tour Oct. 15 to 21 offered by the Educated Traveler. (Another tour may be available in April.) Participants will stay in an Art Deco hotel in Reykjavik, as well as in cottages in a small village to enjoy the Icelandic countryside.

The average temperature in October is 42 degrees, with lots of fall foliage. Activities include a private reading with one of Iceland's popular writers, a meeting with local politicians, a demonstration of Icelandic cooking, a lecture by a geologist on Iceland's high volcanic activity, a concert and shopping for handicrafts.

Cost: $2,995 per person, double occupancy, including hotels, most meals and excursions. Air fare is extra.

Contact: The Educated Traveler; tel. (800) 648-5168.

Bolivia: Rain Forest

Join the naturalists of GreenTracks, Oct. 21 to 29, for an expedition into the remote rain forest of Bolivia's Madidi National Park.

The journey to this reserve begins with a one-hour flight from La Paz to the town of Rurrenabaque. From there the group will travel in motorized canoes for approximately five hours on the Beni and Tuichi rivers into the heart of the park.

Participants will hike to a small lodge next to a lake that will be the group's base camp for the week. The lodge is owned and operated by the Quechua-Tacana people, who also give guided tours through the rain forest, pointing out birds, mammals and plants. Day hikes, canoe trips and overnight camping trips are planned.

The tour is open to anyone in reasonably good health.

Cost: $1,895 per person, double occupancy, including ground transportation, lodging, meals and guides. International air fare is extra.

Contact: GreenTracks, 10 Town Plaza, Suite 231, Durango, CO 81301; tel. (800) 966-6539, Internet http://www.greentracks.com.

Vietnam: Cuisine

Absolute Asia is offering a gourmet tour led by culinary expert Tony Tan, a food historian and writer who trained as a chef in France and Australia.

The tour begins in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) on Oct. 16 and concludes in Hanoi on Oct. 27. The group visits the Mekong Delta, Dalat and its nearby hill tribes, Hue, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Danang and the French colonial streets of Hanoi. Touring will emphasize regional cuisine through visits to food markets, cooking demonstrations with leading chefs and daily educational discussions led by Tan. Daily dining takes place in small restaurants specializing in local cuisine, elegant French Vietnamese restaurants and private homes.

Cost: $4,950 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, most meals, sightseeing, transfers, flights in Vietnam and a Vietnam visa. Air fare is additional.

Contact: Absolute Asia, 180 Varick St., 16th Floor, New York, NY 10014; tel. (800) 736-8187, Internet http://www.absoluteasia.com.

Mexico: Christmas

"A Mexican Christmas Posada" is a holiday trip that departs Dec. 18 for 10 nights. Guests will join in the festivities and performances in Oaxaca and Puebla. Included is a tour of Ft. Loreto, shopping in artisans' villages near Oaxaca, Christmas carol concerts, a Christmas Eve party and a visit to the Monte Alban ceremonial center.

Cost: $1,245 per person, double occupancy, including hotels, two meals daily, bus transportation from Mexico City and guided excursions. Air fare to Mexico City is extra.

Contact: Global Adventures, 350 N. El Camino Real, No. 36, Encinitas, CA 92024; tel. (800) 347-9468.

Thailand: Biking

"Northern Trek and Cycle" is an eight-day small group adventure that includes a mix of cycling and trekking with stays in village huts and camping in tents in Thailand. The group heads along the Kok River in the north and then goes to the "Golden Triangle," where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet. Travelers meet the hill-tribe people in their villages. The tour is available year-round.

Cost: $894 per person, double occupancy, including lodging, meals and guides. The price excludes international air fare.

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