contemporary asian art

Testimonials: What our customers say about us

Good practices, dedication, passion and over three decades of experience show that we are doing it right. Our focus is total customer satisfaction and an unmatched experience to locations you never thought possible. Personal and glowing feedback we receive from participants are proof that we don't just make empty promises. We deliver. Our reputation is second to none and we are proud of what we have achieved.

Please read the testimonials we have received below:

Hi Lee,

Sri Lanka was fantastic. We rate it up there as one of the best holidays we have been on. Just loved the culture and the itinerary.

Things that were awesome:

• Negombo hotel – beautiful setting, nice spaces, nice rooms, remote so had to chill
• Fish market tour (pongy but amazing to see)
• Sigiriya Rock and climb
• Bullock/boat ride and magnificent lunch at the village
• Boat ride to monkey island and sitting in the river eating fresh fruit
• Dambulla cave temples
• Colombo Tours – Ananda was friendly, flexible, reliable, professional, responsive. The bus was always clean. (we gave him double the recommended tip)
• Jetwing Wellawaya (OMG!!!! It was exceptional – Greg said it was the best hotel he has ever stayed in!). The rooms were luxurious. The views and the pool were gorgeous. The staff highly trained and attentive. Everything about this place was top notch.
• Staying in Galle Fort (44 by Deco was a good choice)
• Jaffna was a well worth addition. Loved the contrast and the different culture.
• National Museum Colombo (OMG)
• The food everywhere was exceptionally good.
• Jetwing Hotels are amazing. The culture, values , community inclusion, the consistency of the incredibly high standards and the highly trained staff are exceptional and it’s a very Zen experience transporting you to somewhere else the moment you step inside.
• The packed breakfasts were some of the best I’ve had. High quality food, variety of items, always included a bottle of water.
• Very little went awry and the whole trip went like clockwork.v • A fantastic holiday with many OMG moments. Love, Love Loved it!!!!
• Food and drink was modestly priced and super delicious (I don’t think I can have an omelette without Dahl Curry and Chicken Curry ever again)

Thanks for organising such a wonderful travel experience Lee. We enjoyed the diversity of the tour and the friendly people we met along the way. Yes, we did see a lot of wildlife - a few photos included, plus one of Graeme with our lovely guide Priyal. I was delighted to see a large number of elephants on just our second day in Sri Lanka. We also had the excitement of being charged by a well known bad tempered female who left a dent in our jeep and chased us when our driver sped away from her!

Columbus Tours were fabulous. Our van was comfortable, cleaned every day and Priyal went out of his way to please us. He is a fun guy and there was lots of laughter in our van every day. At first we traveled as a large group as we agreed to this on the first day but it become tedious and we asked Priyal if we could break away from this and he happily obliged. Our accommodation was excellent, especially Jetwing near Ella. We loved the chance to plant a tree each at a nearby home.

Traveller, Sri Lanka - Return to Paradise, February/March 2020

Dear Lee,

Thank you very much for a wonderful adventure, splendidly organised and full of joyful experiences. Our guide, Priyal, was superb. Nothing was too much trouble for him and his support was excellent. An example of his care was when I attempted Sigiriya with my soon to be replaced knee, he subtlety came on the climb to help me if needed, instead of leaving it all to the local guide. He told us personal stories, which made the trip more meaningful and he had a wonderful sense of humour and the mischievous, which enriched our time in Sri Lanka. He also insisted on taking me off on my own to see a spot I had a special interest in.

The trip had a very good blend of activities and plenty of free time to do our own thing. It was best when we were a group of five, ie just our van, as early on we wasted much time in a group of fourteen. The accommodation was superb. Thank you very much for that.

Traveller, Sri Lanka - Return to Paradise, February/March 2020

Zen you’ve done it again. Journey through Sudan and Egypt was beyond my wildest dreams. Your attention to the smallest detail to ensure our comfort and wellbeing, the brilliance of our Egyptologists, the unfolding of the mysteries that is the land of the Black Pharaohs and more was a once in a life time experience. I feel so privileged to have been part of this and to have shared the experience with a fabulous group of people.

Sue, Sudan/Egypt - Nile Journey - Lands of the Black Pharaohs 2020

I am sorry that I have not been in touch during our trip, but I have been far too busy having a wonderful time! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done to put it all together. It has been brilliant and everything went so smoothly.

The leadership team was exceptional. As you would expect, Pamela was the quiet, efficient leader making sure everything was on track and everyone was cared for. She is a deeply empathetic person and very intuitive as to who needed that little bit extra when necessary. The perfect ambassador for Zen Oriental.

Abhi’s enthusiasm was infectious and he went above and beyond in his care of us. He worked incredibly hard behind the scenes and spoilt us rotten with all sorts of little treats and extras. Our enjoyment and well-being were always to the forefront of his mind and he would not rest until he was satisfied we were all ok.

The local guides were fantastic. Deep, in India, with his quirky sense of humour and Kazang in Bhutan were both superb. Kazang was Bhutan to me.....caring, organised, gentle, compassionate and a very special human being. Have fallen a little bit in love with him! They both worked so well with Pam and Abhi to make sure everything went to plan.

Let’s not forget the drivers. All first class and highly skilled on the very tricky roads. At no time did we feel at all unsafe. We were in very good hands.

Compliments too on the hotels. All more than adequate, clean, spacious and comfortable with lovely staff.

On a personal level it was a wonderful trip and so varied. The highlights for me were perhaps the little things. I loved visiting the Totoparo tribe. Normally the thought of a village visit with cultural presentation leaves me cold, but this was very special. Talking to the young leaders to hear of their plans to preserve the culture was inspiring and heartening. I was so pleased to be able to enter Bhutan by land.....the instantaneous change from the bustle of India to the calm of Bhutan amazing to experience.

Getting to the Eagle’s Nest was a big thing and thank you for the pony! I loved strolling through the meadows in Phobjika Valley, but most of all I loved learning about how Bhutan has practically put into place their "Gross National Happiness" philosophy. Bhutan is a very special country that is doing many things right.

So you can see you have one very satisfied client. Loved it all. I am sorry not to be able to offer any constructive comments, but it was all so good.

So here we are waiting at Paro airport. We have just farewelled Abhi and our plane boards soon. Once again thank you for everything. You do come up with such fabulous itineraries. I look forward to future trips. I am particularly hoping Ethiopia will become a regular. Can’t do it next year, but hopefully thereafter.

Ann, Sikkim/Bhutan - Journey to the Lands of Thunder Dragon, 2019

Accommodation:

• some really great places, amazing views
• Oberoi was most welcome between our two itineraries
• Hotel Mystic Mountain - lovely setting

Guides:

• Tashi in Tibet very good
• Deip in Sikkim/West Bengal good, but probably overshadowed by Abhi (can't help himself sometimes)
• Keysan in Bhutan was wonderful, especially as support at the border, nothing was too much trouble, he did everything with a smile and good humour - even pulling/coaxing my pony (mule traits) up on the first stage to Tigers Nest

Drivers:

• Harry in Kathmandu - very good
• Dempa in Tibet - very good
• Joy, Roy, Pintoo in Sikkim/West Bengal - excellent drivers as we travelled everywhere "in convoy". Joy, whose English was quite good, acted as a guide if Deip or Abhi were not in his vehicle.
• Yum (I think?) in Bhutan - very good

Highlights:

• too many to list
• seeing Everest on 4 occasions
• the Toy Train
• getting to the Tigers Nest - a test to physical stamina
• hikes
• candlelit dinner - Punakha
• helicopter birds eye view of Bodhnath as we flew into Kathmandu
• Potala Palace
• Sikkim scenery
• and many, many more!!!!

Improvements? I can't think of anything. We certainly got value for our money.

Thank you for all the work you did to ensure we got the most out of our journeys.

Chris, Sikkim/Bhutan - Journey to the Lands of Thunder Dragon, 2019

Well organised and professionally lead tours. Visit places other tours don’t go, stay in central locations providing opportunities to experience authentic accommodations eg. luxury desert camps, charming guest houses, Medina’s, jungle huts, places you reach by boat, 4WD opportunities for leisure time, shopping, meet with locals, visit local schools, art/ crafts. Good value. Zen Oriental seek feedback to continue to provide what travellers are looking for. An opportunity to meet new friends and reconnect with past travellers who appreciate the amazing tours that are created!

Dianne, Morocco - Journey Through Morocco, 2019

Thanks so much for curating the "Touched by the Gods" tour of Gujarat. We had THE most amazing experiences and cultural immersion. In particular the variety of experiences including villages, art and craft, wildlife and history excursions were incredible;

- the opportunity to meet local people in their own environments was very rewarding from nomads on camels and cottage industry to princes in their guesthouses

- the tour guides were exceptional

Vimal's knowledge, enthusiasm and connections were amazing. His ability to spot ad hoc cultural opportunities on the road and stop the bus and allow us to mix with locals was a fabulous bonus.

Abhi was an exceptional Tour Director. He did an incredible job of organising and supporting the group 24 hours a day, which included money changing (a huge saving in time and stress), wi-fi hot spot, negotiator and interpreter; all balanced with a great personality and sense of humour. Ask him about "what did you see? we saw a leopar-da"

Ruth was a great Tour Leader. She did a great job of ensuring the needs of the group were met, while keeping the itinerary on track.

The bus driver was highly experienced, extremely professional and very capable of driving in mostly very challenging conditions often for long hours. We felt safe at all times.

The bus driver's assistant ensured we had cold bottles of water at every stop and spent many hours cleaning the bus each night. Clean windows = great photos, highly important to me and kicked each day off on a positive.

Accommodation:

The variety, standard and authenticity of the accommodation was excellent. I fell head over heels in love with the safari huts! The palaces and historic houses were wonderful.

Highlights:

Our highlights were many and we had lots of WOW moments. If I had to pick one, it would be the Kavant festival, where Vimal's connections got us into the inner field with the tribal dancers!!! It was heady and mesmerising with the tribal body paint and trance like dancing and jingling of waist bells luring me into its rhythm. When the bags and bags of coloured powder became airborne, there was no way I was missing out on the fun and joined in throwing and getting covered in powder. I had THE best time.

I also just loved the visit to the block printing workshop and could have spent so much more time there wandering around inside and out. Watching the process from start to finish was fabulous.

Having a wi-fi hotspot was brilliant!

Small group of 10 was easy going. It was great to get to know everyone in some depth.

Lynne & Greg, India/Gujarat - Touched by the Gods, 2018

Hi Lee, What an amazing trip!

A huge array of fabrics, textiles, colourful embroideries, intricate beading, mirror work - an endless list!

Abundant bird life in trees, on powerlines and at watering holes, rivers and streams. Deer, desert foxes, wild asses and for some, a fleeting sighting of a leopard.

Nomadic goat herders, sheep herders, cattle herders, camel herders. Landscapes - deserts, salt flats, lush agricultural plots, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.

Vibrant colours of festivals and gatherings of villagers from far and wide. Character accommodation - palaces, guest houses, cottages, lodges. Great travelling companions, experienced Group leader, informative and impromptu guided experiences, perceptive driver and bus boy (seat service a rare treat)

We had heard so much of the 2017 tour and their experiences, but I think we experienced even more incidental stoppages to meet people and observed their daily lives.

Mumbai with its 20 million people was a "culture" shock after three weeks of small hamlets, villages and nomadic campsites - but again, eye opening experiences.

Hopefully, we will have an opportunity to again travel with the "new comers" to Zen's tours. They added so much to the fun and enjoyment of our group.

Thanks Lee for bringing together yet another wonderful travel experience. An exhausted, happy traveller, but every minute (early starts, late finishes) was worth the memories gained (and the thousands of photos). Cheers

Chris, India/Gujarat - Touched by the Gods, 2018

Lee, many thanks for sending all the emails and to everyone, huge thanks for a delightful three weeks that I will look back on with a lot of wonderful memories of all we experienced and saw and for the company that you all gave. I shall certainly remember all the fun and laughs on the bus

We would also like to send a huge thank you to Lee whose superb knowledge, communication and meticulous attention to detail allowed us all to experience such an amazing trip in a multifaceted and fascinating country.

How lucky were we to experience the incredible extravaganza at the Rajwada Fort. Wow, what a night to remember. The beautiful desert sunset, which was one of my favourite highlights. Also the fabulous sky festival!! I woke up to Bollywood music and that set the atmosphere all day and at sunset with the gorgeous lanterns floating across the sky to fireworks.

We'll certainly keep a close eye on Lee's future trips and highly recommend his company to everyone

India/Nagaland - Passage to the North East - The Great Hornbill Festival, 2018

Thanks for organising this amazing tour Lee. Many more memories to add to my Zen Oriental store. The Oberoi Grand was fantastic. Loved every bit of it. Definitely a good call.

Abhi was exceptional as expected. The luxury extras such as the travelling wi-fi and the Abhi bank were brilliant and a service above and beyond any other tours. Then add the translations, the negotiations (particularly at the airport check-in counters with our excess luggage and 3 huge boxes of baskets), his generosity and his perfect balance of fun and leadership. He made a sometimes challenging tour every bit worth it.

Tally Ho! Onto the next amazing Zen Oriental Journeys

India/Nagaland - Passage to the North East - The Great Hornbill Festival, 2018

With extra surprises like the gorgeous kite festival and the glowing lights filling the sky, the camel procession into Mandawa and countless other delights. Loved Humayan's tomb, Chandi Chowk was an eye opener in every sense and we were intrigued at the gowns we were given to walk around the Jamu Masjid (they didn't worry about headscarves at all despite our best efforts). Bhanwar was marvellous. He was so informative, genuinely interesting, had a delightful sense of humour, was generous and willing to share stunning photos of his wife and baby son.

Sandra & Brian, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2016

I've had the most incredible time in India. It's been an amazing experience with so many wonderful memories.

Pamela, Anil and Bhanwar have been the best, which has made our trip all the more special. I love India and will return.

Thanks Lee for everything

Jan, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2016

Can't believe that a week has nearly passed since my last email. It now seems that days and cities just seem to run into each other and become an enormous colourful composition, just like a Rajasthani patchwork. Since I last wrote we had a delightful stay at the Ranbankar Palace in Jodphur. We really enjoyed the gentle ambience of the beautiful building and location, away a bit from the bustle and noise of the city centre. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the fort and of course we all chose to spend time walking through the busy, noisy, smelly centre of town to get a glimpse of the old blue city. Banwah organised another visit to the rural villages on our free day, where we all had the opportunity to see the beautiful Black Buck near the villages of the Bishnoi people. The visit to the Jain temple at Ranakpur on the way to Udaipur really blew us away. What an amazing piece of work

Julie, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2016

I think the trip was a success - certainly the itinerary was thorough and covered many fascinating places and cities of diverse appeal. Anil was a wonderful manager and interesting to talk with. And the range and variety of accommodation was enjoyable and interesting. The Haveli in Jaipur and Fort Rawadja were stand outs, and the food was always good.

Rowena, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2016

We have learnt so much about India! Our very grateful thanks to Pam for being such a caring and organised tour leader, and to all our fellow travellers who helped to make Rajasthan a trip we will always remember with very fond memories of fun times together! Thanks must go too to Anil and the wonderful guide, driver and helper. Ganesha Holidays must feel they are well represented by Lee’s great work.

Anil is an absolute gentleman, such a gentle, caring and supportive tour company operator who was always unobtrusively present and ever ready to sort out any challenges. The bus boy was incredible! He was such a diligent worker who was a brilliant support to everyone, especially the bus driver. We were in total awe at the driver’s skills, often in extremely challenging situations on the road! We felt very safe in his capable hands.

Finally Bhanwar, our fabulous “Rajput warrior”, confidently answered our questions and wanted us to ask even more! He worked hard to fit everything in to our daily schedule, cater for our varied interests and keep us moving. He was also flexible and listened to our requests (e.g. when we said that we really wanted to go to the Gandhi Museum) and offered us a variety of optional activities.

There were so many highlights on our trip. Just a few include visiting the beautifully ornate Jain temples, being part of the spectacular wedding celebrations in Mandawa, riding camels at sunset (including drinking rum and Pepsi in flimsy plastic cups, while dancing with Indian musicians at the top of sand dunes, followed by holding on tightly while my camel trotted for home!!), staying at the magnificent Alsisar Haveli and viewing the amazing kite festival in Jaipur … and so I could go on!

Julie & Kim, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2016

Firstly a formal thank you to Lee for organizing the holiday of a lifetime. I have been lucky enough to experience some amazing holidays/journeys in my life, but I think the Rajasthan tour tops all.

Thank you to Anil, Bhanwar and Pamela for all their efforts in making our tour interesting and to run to plan. The most important thing was the safety aspect, which I'm always concerned with, that was paramount in every way possible. Our wonderful driver was "the best".

India - Rajasthan Journey, 2016

"I am sitting here at the beautiful Ngapali Beach reflecting on what has been a magnificent three week sojourn in the wonderful country that is Myanmar. I have been fortunate to travel a lot over the years, but this is way up there as one of the best trips I have ever done, so many, many thanks for all you have done to make this the special trip it has been."

"The care and attention that you put into planning the itinerary has resulted in a perfectly balanced and fascinating trip that has covered so much and yet has allowed time for reflection and to recharge the batteries. We have seen and experienced all the must do’s and have also been able to experience some more remote locations giving us a genuine insight into the lives of these gentle and very special people."

"Zaw has been an excellent guide in every way. He has proudly shown us his country and has accommodated us at every turn. So, you see, one hugely satisfied client!"

Ann, Burma - Roads to Mandalay, 2016

"I think we are all home and well; probably reminiscing about your excellently arranged trip around Myanmar. The unanimous opinion was that it was beautifully choreographed by yourself and Nee Nee, with Zaw putting the extra points to our steps."

"For Therese and I, it was a lovely experience - as you've said the Myanmar people are polite, hospitable and very engaging which gave the usual travelling and sightseeing an extra fillip. The group came together extremely well, with great conversation between us all, in small groups, as couples, and enough time and comfort for anyone to take time aside for themselves. Couldn't have wished for a more companionable travelling group. The No 1 Burma trip!"

Christopher & Therese, Burma - Roads to Mandalay, 2016

"Well I am sitting in our spectacular room at the Four Seasons, overlooking the beautiful river in Kyoto. Everything has gone perfectly. Our guide, Miho in Kyoto has been exceptional, and everything has run like clockwork. We loved all the temples. I especially enjoyed the 1000 Buddha temple, and the Golden Pavilion - and all the gardens are spectacular. Everything has been perfect. Thanks so much for everything. Your help has been invaluable, and the private tours worth every penny!"

Robyn, Private tour, Japan, 2015

"We have never had a program of such richness and depth. This was our 4th tour of Rajasthan and it was all ‘new’, way below the surface touristy things we saw before. The tours you included in Jodphur ticked the boxes. Again the free time to explore the maze ofalley ways of the old blue town, and the market was one of highlights. We enjoyed Manvar, walks into the semi-desert. The resort organised one of the staff to take a small number of us on a walk out to his farm, and around - lovely hospitality. Udaipur via the Jain temple is a long drive, but nice scenery, we didn't arrive till dusk. But whoa! - what a collection of antiquities in the hotel and rooms. We spent most of the night visiting other' abodes to check out the decor."

Bob, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2014

"Thank you for your lovely welcome home note and for organising such a wonderful trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of the experiences and found India to be endlessly fascinating. The surprise welcome at Mandawa was such fun. We were all grinning for a long time after that experience. The New Year's Eve dinner was wonderful. We've never seen so much food and the entertainment was sensational. The accommodation was stunning and we loved it all."

Deborah, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2014

"The group of people were great, diverse personalities, and people with lots of knowledge and experience in Asia travel. Den and I can still not wipe the smiles from our faces!! We loved the trip and it was certainly an amazing journey and a real insight for us as to India’s vastness, diversity, complexity, interesting history, beauty, delicious food, fabulous people and much, much more! We can’t wait to meet our 3 Indian employees at work this week, and share some of our experiences and learnings. They were so excited knowing that we were visiting their country."

Pru, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2014

"I enjoyed an exceptionally wonderful three week tour of Rajasthan in January. Our guide, Sujata, was so knowledgeable and friendly! She has a Master’s degree in Indian history and explained everything so well. Sometimes we had local guides. We often stayed in a part of a palace which has been converted into a hotel. On three occasions the Maharaja was in residence at the time! It is difficult to choose highlights because each day I thought to myself, “It can’t get better than this!” and then the next day held equally amazing sights and experiences. Your organization was outstanding."

Julie, India - Rajasthan Journey, 2014

"It was a wonderful trip, thanks to your thorough planning and advice. Everything went smoothly and enjoyably. The accommodation was excellent. While we would profess to be seasoned travellers, we did enjoy the beautiful Burmese style hotels you so carefully chose. The only slightly less luxurious accommodation in the remote areas (another plus for your tours) still had great appeal and the owners and staff were all generous spirited. Our hosts in Mandalay put on a wonderful complimentary New Year’s Eve party for us, complete with Bing Crosby singing ‘ I‘m dreaming of a white Xmas’."

Susan, Private tour, Burma 2013

"Your leadership, management and organization throughout the entire tour was simply outstanding. You are an encouraging, focused, calm, thoughtful, caring and unbelievably patient leader of people. The program you provided was unique in my (fairly wide) experience of group tours. You took us off the beaten track and introduced us to the cultures of China in a way never before experienced."

 
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