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TOURS & CRUISES

To Thailand for a Taste of Culture and Commerce

April 01, 2001|KARIN ESTERHAMMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Explore a land of lush hills, remote tribes and ancient temples on a trip to Thailand from July 21 to 30. It starts in Bangkok with a tour of the Royal Grand Palace, the Buddha Temple and the floating market. Then travelers will fly to Chiang Mai, a city surrounded by national parks and mountains.

Activities include watching traditional dance performances and shopping for silks and cottons, jewelry and gemstones.

Cost: $2,395 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, air travel within Thailand, hotels, some meals and guides.

Contact: Shamrock Travel; telephone (949) 470-0301.

Sri Lanka: Festival

The Kandy Perahera festival brings out hundreds of elephants, dancers, drummers and torchbearers each year in the streets of Kandy, Sri Lanka, to carry a relic of Buddha, and you can join the celebration from July 26 to Aug. 10. The relic is encased in a casket of gold studded with precious stones, and it is carried atop an elephant.

The trip includes visits to the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and the tea country of Nuwara Eliya, as well as an elephant orphanage and the wildlife reserve of Yala. The tour ends at the beach resort of Bentota.

Cost: $3,895 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from Los Angeles, all ground transfers, tours and daily breakfast and dinner. Extension tours are available to the Maldive Islands and South India.

Contact: Varini de Silva, Ceylon Express International, 9542 Dumbreck Drive, Huntington Beach, CA 92646; tel. (800) 423-9566, Internet http://www.http://ceylonexpress.com.

France: Music

Music therapist Marie Egeland will lead a tour to Taize, France, June 26 to July 9. Taize is a monastic community where members focus on the development of liturgical chant to be used in modern-day worship.

The monastery is in the French countryside, and the tour group will stay at a nearby farm in a comfortable restored stone barn.

Travelers will participate in the monastic program for four days, which includes chanting, song practice and group discussion. Alternate side trips to the Abbey of Cluny or Lyons are available if some travelers decide not to participate in the intensive day programs.

The tour continues with a drive to the Geneva area followed by visits to Chartres, the Loire Valley, Giverny and Paris.

This tour will be for 10 people, with two leaders.

Cost: $3,299 per person, double occupancy, including air fare from Chicago, accommodations, some meals and ground transportation.

Contact: Intermission Travel; tel. (888) 761-6301, http://www.pack light.com.

Peru: Adventure

In the highlands of southern Peru a network of seldom used dirt roads and ancient paths beckons hardy cyclists. Southwind Adventures offers a 10-night biking trip over the Andean terrain. The ride is for all abilities.

Participants will ride through Quechua Indian hamlets, visit remote villages and see temples built by the Incas. One stop is past the pre-Incan burial towers overlooking the ancient village of Ninamarca. Riders will see expansive views of tropical rain forests in the Amazon Basin. The tour ends with a visit to Machu Picchu.

Accommodations are in haciendas, hotels and tents. There is van support for days when riders need a lift.

The June 15 departure includes the colorful Inti Raymi festival. Additional small group departures are May 18, June 15, July 27, Aug. 24, Sept. 28 and Oct. 26.

Cost: from $2,285 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, all meals and guides. Air fare to Peru is extra.

Contact: Southwind Adventures; tel. (303) 972-0701, http://www .southwindadventures.com.

France: On Foot

Europeds is offering a June 1 to 7 tour called "The Prehistoric Walk in the Dordogne Valley of France." Walkers will visit at least six painted caves along the trails of the Grande Randonee with anthropologists Nick Toth and Kathy Schick. The caves are Pech Merle, Cougnac, Gaume, Les Combarelles, Cab Blanc and Lascaux II. The region, in southwest France, will be the setting of many explorations as the guides interpret Paleolithic art and its significance. This tour includes five full days of walking, for a total trip distance of about 30 miles.

Cost: $3,495 per person, double occupancy, including lodging, transportation and most meals. Air fare is extra.

Contact: Europeds; tel. (800) 321-9552, http://www.europeds.com.

U.S.: Four Corners

The Sanctuary, a store in Laguna Beach, is offering an excursion to Indian trading posts in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Native American artist Anne Weiler will lead the self-driven 10-day caravan, which sets out for its first stop, Cameron, Ariz., on Sept. 14.

Highlights will include out-of-the-way trading posts of the Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, Ute, Zuni, Acoma and Laguna people, as well as rug auctions, visits with artists in their homes, and mini-workshops on how to buy jewelry, rugs, baskets, pottery, kachinas and carvings.

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