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Asia packages offer deals aplenty

ON A BUDGET

Tour operators have negotiated some unusually low prices for trips to the South Pacific and the Far East.

November 24, 2002|Arthur Frommer | Special to The Times

The recent terrorist bombing of a nightclub in Bali, a beautiful destination, has removed that island -- temporarily, let's hope -- from the world of international tourism.

Elsewhere in the South Pacific and along the Asian rim, tourism continues at a decent pace. It's been aided by the growth of appealing air-and-land packages created by tour operators that negotiate with airlines and hotels for radically reduced rates and then offer overall prices that are irresistible. Among the leading opportunities for the coming months:

Tahiti for $699 per person: Locked in a price war with its competitors, Discover Wholesale Travel, (866) 215-4625, www.discoverwholesaletravel.com, has lowered the price of its classic package to otherworldly Moorea. It flies you from Los Angeles on French-owned Corsair to Tahiti's capital of Papeete, then ferries you to neighboring Moorea for seven nights at the beachfront Hotel Kaveka on Cook's Bay. The $699 price is through Dec. 9; it then jumps to $728 from Jan. 7 to March 31 -- $70 or so less than what has been charged for many years.

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, for $880, comes next: The bargain package from Pacific Delight tours, (800) 221-7179, www.pacificdelighttours.com, will fly you from Los Angeles on Thai Airways and then puts you up for six nights with daily breakfast in the first-class, high-rise Century Park Hotel. You also receive transfers and two escorted city tours: one to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the other to the floating market. Departures are approximately every week and are available at the $880 price from Jan. 12 though Feb. 27.

New Zealand for $1,064: The Middle-Earth in the "Lord of the Rings" films is more than just a fairy-tale setting: It's New Zealand's landscapes. The best way to explore this dramatic land is in your own RV. Several companies offer this arrangement, but no one beats the prices from Sunspots International, (800) 334-5623, www.sunspotsintl.com, which flies you midweek from L.A. on Air Tahiti Nui to Auckland, where you settle into your Spirit 2 motor home for seven nights with unlimited mileage. The $1,064 price is good through Dec. 15; the rate is available again January through February.

Six Chinese cities, 10 nights, $1,079: Tour operator China Focus, (800) 868-7244, www.chinafocustravel.com, keeps surprising the world of travel with its low-priced China itineraries. On the one called Historical China, you sample six locations on an escorted, all-inclusive (that's three meals a day) trip that hits Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Jinan, Taian and Qufu for $1,079 per person, plus taxes. That's out of San Francisco on Air China in December, January and February, but not during the Christmas period.

Finally, Vietnam for $899: From Jan. 7 until March 31, Escapes Unlimited, (800) 243-7227, www.escapesltd.com, has this price to Vietnam from L.A. or San Francisco on Air China. You fly to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), receive all transfers, five nights in the modern Huong Sen hotel in the heart of downtown, breakfast daily and a half-day sightseeing tour.

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